Sunday midday coffee pot post

Sandy noticed this first – look what the Virginia creeper vine snagged from my rock collection at the front steps. Normally I would tear this vine down after it loses its pretty red leaves but I’m going to see how long it holds on to its booty. Love those little feet. I’ve made random weave baskets from Virginia creeper vine before.

This week has been fraught with emotions, since one of our students became so sick with anxiety that she had to drop out. Not only was it very sad, but I empathized so much. How many times did I think that this might be the time I would not be able to push through and get back to functional life? But I have, and I am grateful for it. When I was this student’s age, I self-medicated with lots of alcohol. That was not a good solution and not one that I choose these days. I know that I could not have gotten through graduate school at that age, despite having the smarts for it. However, I am in a good mood this weekend, so I hope that it is a permanent lift.

The t-shirt quilt hit a snag, quite literally. I think that I will get my Brother machine back out and see if it winds a Singer bobbin. My goal is to get all these panels put together somehow by the end of the day, even if it means with pins and hand basting. I want my floor loom and worktable free for other projects.

There are too many distractions here and I need to focus. I need a cook and a maid! We are getting caught up on house cleaning little by little. Sandy subscribed to one of those meal prep services that come by mail. If it will teach him to cook and he takes over some of that it might be worth it. We’ll see. I’m picky about the sources of my food but this is his expense and something he decided to do on his own, and I grew weary of cooking a long time ago.

Yesterday was a beautiful day after so much rain and I got into the garden and worked for a couple of hours, taking lots of breaks so that I don’t overdo it and undo my physical healing after many days of inactivity. I’ve gained several more pounds from my retreat to bed every night and eating too many sweets and peanut butter.

I pulled up all the tomato, squash, weeds, and annuals from the “permaculture” bed as I think of it. The guy who designed it intended for it to be heart-shaped. I think it looks vaguely like a heart, but more like a womb, which seems fitting. I didn’t plant it with permaculture principles in mind, though, and this year will be different. I’m going to keep those groundhogs in mind, and plant the womb with perennials and biennials and self seeding plants. I already have asparagus, elephant garlic, foxgloves and one artichoke there, along with a few plants that may or may not make it through the winter such as stevia. I have plants in the hugelkultur bed in the front such as hollyhock, evening primrose, coreopsis, and mints that I will move to the womb. And I will leave the the dandelions alone from here on out. They are important plants in the garden, pulling up nutrients from deep under the surface, breaking up the soil, edible, and food for the pollinators when not a lot of other flowers are available. (Although we have an enormous quantity of violets available as well.)

As I move these perennials out, a few will remain in my reconstructed hugelkultur bed. I am building it up and outwards where the potted plants were this year into a tiered bed for my culinary herbs, mostly. I’ll leave one hollyhock and a few taller flowers at the back. I have a pile of bricks that came from the chimney that fell down at the pre-Civil War homeplace at the family farm, and I decided to use them to make the terraces. I love objects with a story.

Everything will require more fertilizer this year. The few vegetable plants that survived the groundhogs suffered from blossom end rot. I’m going to get that greenhouse set up again soon. I’ve sent an email to ask to rent a plot at UNCG community garden again for my beans and okra. Hopefully they don’t have a groundhog problem there yet.

Thanksgiving is coming up and as usual we will celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday. We will drive to Lake Waccamaw and get together with my sister at her rental house if all goes well. It will be sad to drive along Canal Cove Road but we will check out the scene there. Lisa is still mulling over whether to replace the walls in her house and sell it or sell it as is. I heard that the house where we stay and love is irreparably damaged and will be torn down. My brother and his wife will probably join us for a meal on Saturday. I’m going to make my usual asparagus-mushroom-almond casserole.

Man, my Internet connection at home has been SO SLOW lately. I don’t know why, so I’ll just blame it on the oligarchy. Maybe when my electrical work gets done it will improve. They are going to replace everything from the pole to the house and some of the wiring in the attic in mid-December in preparation for our twelve solar panels. Right now it is driving me crazy as I try to upload photos. I received notice that Flickr is going to start charging me fifty bucks a year for photo storage, and I feel rather helpless to do anything but pay it since I have over 10k photos and videos on it. It would take an enormous amount of work to quit Flickr without most of my photos on the blog disappearing. Oh well. At some point I may have to stop paying the fee to not have ads on the blog to make up for it.

Time to sew.

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Election Day has come and gone with results slightly better than I expected, so my PTSD from 2016 is somewhat abated. I didn’t have high expectations for North Carolina because we are so atrociously gerrymandered it is ridiculous. They even admit it. And they get away with it even though it keeps getting struck down. They just submit another that is slightly less egregious and then howl that it is too close to primary or election day to fix it.

I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with eleven Republicans and two Democrats.” ~ North Carolina GOP state representative David Lewis, News and Observer, June 25, 2018

I try not to get too political here on the blog because I use my personal Facebook page for that. But as a left wing independent I am tired of having no representation in the U.S. Congress. I live in a very blue county that has been divided into pieces and combined with very red counties, so that my “representative” is an extreme right wing gun store owner. And I’m tired of the two parties playing tit-for-tat.

Sandy and I went to the rally to “protect Mueller” in downtown Greensboro on Thursday evening, but by the time we could get there it was winding down. I snagged a “Country Over Party” sign and put it in the front window of the house.

Okay, moving on. How about this sewing machine? It belonged to my mother and she sewed many of our clothes on it. She was an accomplished seamstress and also made some quilted patchwork, although her main artistic pursuit was watercolor.

It also bears the last lingering mark of my first large artistic installation. At the age of three, I rose before everyone else, gleefully grabbed a black felt tip marker from the table where my mother was working on a project, and drew a line around the entire inside of our house. The line went over walls, furniture, and curtains. I started early, folks.

Anyway, I finally got frustrated enough with the Brother’s tension problems that I moved around some stuff and released Old Faithful into the world again. It doesn’t like the quilted panels, and the stitch lever won’t go lower than 9, but the tension is so much better and it is all mechanical so I could actually get it fixed more easily and manually stitch with it if necessary. I have the manual and all the parts and brushes and oil so I need to get that out and study it. I was pleased that I could figure out how to thread it and wind a bobbin after all these years. It does just fine with sewing two normal pieces of fabric together, and that’s all I need.

With the quilted panels, at this point I’m just trying to get the layers basted together on the machine. This means that the quilting looks like a terrible mess, but honestly, this is a t-shirt quilt. I’m planning to cuddle up in it, not hang it in a show. There is a lot of freedom in that. And I can just about guarantee that I won’t be making another one.

Sewing is good therapy for me, and I wish I could do more hand sewing, but I’ve pretty much accepted that isn’t an option for very long. My hand goes numb after about five minutes. I’ll stitch on this quilt once it is together and take my time with it.

I’m still seeing an actual therapist, and it seems to be helping. She is very high on anti-inflammation, and so I have started taking fish oil again. Can’t hurt, I certainly have plenty of inflammation. Also working on getting my mind on a more positive outlook. I still just want to play games and sleep and read at the end of the day, and I sleep a lot on the weekend. She calls it hypersomnia. It is a hell of a lot better than insomnia, but I’d like to find a balance. I run out of spoons early in the day.

Positive developments: working on the t-shirt quilt and I got my flu shot. I went to the dentist and my teeth are fine. Now I need to go to the doctor to get my blood panel and see if there is something else responsible for my constant fatigue. I drove to Raleigh two weeks ago and got together with members of Triangle Book Arts. I haven’t managed to get to Gate City Yarns for their stitch and bitch night because Friday nights, oof. That’s a tough one for me even though it is close by. I had brunch with some friends at Lucky 32 last Sunday and that was good. I often feel quite lonely for friends, especially now that the Fabulous Zha K has fled North Carolina, and good for her, I have to say. I plan to do so at age 62, not even five years away. We might even end up in the same state again. However, much of my loneliness is chosen. I feel a strong urge to be alone most of the time. People exhaust me, even people I love.

I have a stack of books that was turning out to be quite depressing. So Little Bee went back into the stack and I’m reading The Risk Pool by Richard Russo. I just finished The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman, Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I miss my Poldark saga!

The electrician did a site visit and we have rolled the electrical work needed into the solar panel financing. Hopefully by this time next year we will get most of, if not all of, our electricity from the sun and just pay Duke Energy the meter fee. It’s kind of crazy since I am now fixated on leaving North Carolina, but it is a good investment for the house and my soul.

Now planning a trip to northern New Mexico in May with the Sandman, where we could possibly be joined by my cousin and her husband. We’ll scope it out to see if that might be a good place for retirement for us. I love planning trips!

Art retreat and class mania

I must remember to talk to my therapist this week about how crazy it makes me to see all the art retreat workshops scheduled for the following year that I cannot attend! Seriously, this is what I opened our first session with. I think I know what she will say but I need to hear it, repeatedly.

There are three that are definitely on my schedule: the Leslie Marsh/Kim Beller book workshop “Ancient Wisdom” that Susanne and I switched to March after Hurricane Florence caused so much damage and ongoing pollution from the flooding coming downstream on Topsail Island, and Focus on Book Arts in Forest Grove, Oregon, which happens every two years and I will manage to attend it one way or another even if I have to have a car wash and a bake sale on the street every weekend. (That won’t happen, HA! I barely cook for us, and any sweets coming out of my kitchen will get gobbled up before ever making it out the door. And, have you seen my car? Not good advertising.) We also plan to have a retreat for Tapestry Weavers South in Elkin, North Carolina, next September but that is well within driving distance and shouldn’t cost too much.

I suppose that there will not be time or money for any other art retreats. Sandy doesn’t care to come to these (although I think he would enjoy taking a class) and we need to do a trip together or it is not fair to him. Plus, I really enjoy our trips together. We travel together well and it is great for our marriage and will give us memories to talk about when we are in the nursing home.

Here’s another development. I get approached occasionally to teach a workshop or class and I nearly always turn it down. I am not confident enough to teach and my people skills are raggedly for sure. My past experience in teaching made me miserable. I couldn’t figure out how to balance the needs of those who wanted to move faster and those who needed almost constant confirmation of what they were doing and re-explanations. I did these for free to lower my anxiety and make sure these folks were getting their money’s worth in the sense that I was using them for guinea pigs in trying to decide what the timing should be and what worked and didn’t work.

Each time I never offered the class again, and I swore to myself I would not teach again. Then, because I craved the same kind of group experience at home that I travel to art retreats for, I tried hosting a tapestry “play group” in which I emphasized that I would not be teaching but I could offer guidance. What happened was that some people showed up with incredible ideas and work and self-initiative and others showed up with unfeasible ideas that would not work for a beginning weaver, or looms that they wanted to use that I was not familiar with and were not good choices for the kind of tapestry they wanted to do. It was not their fault – they were trying to do it on their own as I asked but it made me very anxious. One guy showed up with an advanced design that I would be challenged by myself, no loom, and followed me around with his cell phone talking about it while I tried to help others. I didn’t get to play with tapestry myself, which was the WHOLE PURPOSE of the group. So I ditched that idea.

My friend Amanda, who owns our local downtown yarn and fiber supply shop, Gate City Yarns, is putting together more classes for the coming months/year with a group of fiber teachers and asked me to participate. Because I really like this group of folks, who tend to be on the funky/edgy spectrum, I went to the meeting last Sunday afternoon, even in the throes of intense anxiety, and was part of the discussion. What I may do, if I can get my shit together and test this idea out BEFORE I do it, is do a two-part workshop where we weave a small tapestry to use as/on a book cover and make a planner for the coming year. If I do it, it will probably be the weekend after Christmas, since I have the whole week off beforehand to make myself crazy worrying about it. But the difference is that Amanda would support me – I would not be on my own – and she is very sympathetic to my situation. I’d be more inclined at this point to do something with books or fabric, but it needs to tie in with what Amanda has to sell, understandably.

Gosh, I think that I might adore Amanda.

I’m thinking that I will provide signatures printed with a light dot-grid pattern and have them punched and ready to stitch, and then the students do a simple long-stitch binding with old book covers or bookboard in class. Then we could attach the tapestry to the book covers and embellish or weave on the spine binding. People could get started on the tapestry in the first class and we could bind the book. Then they could finish weaving the tapestry at home, and we could cut it off at the next class, finish the edgings, and attach it to the book cover(s), then play with a closure and weaving on the spine, if there was time.

It’s crucial that I figure out the timing of this and leave it open enough that if someone can’t finish in class they know enough to finish it at home. Also, I’d probably need to provide some of the supplies such as frame or foamcore board looms and awls and needles and waxed linen for the book part.

You might ask, “Laurie, why do you continually return to an idea that you obviously do not enjoy?”

And I would say, “Retirement, my friend. I am staring at the possibility of retirement in the next ten years and it would be good to have developed some kind of way that I could make a little cash for groceries and supplies and travel and enjoy it. If I practice and learn instead of giving up, maybe I WILL enjoy it. Who can say until I try? I have a studio art degree. I’ve taken more workshops and classes than I can count at this point. If I push through this, my choices might open up into a world of delight. If not, then I haven’t really lost anything.”

Plus, I have a very good job that exhausts me mentally. This is not the fault of my department. It is the fault of being employed by a large organization that is ultimately controlled by politicians who think that education should be run like a business, with people in the higher levels making decisions without understanding or caring about the consequences at the lower levels. At one time, I swore that I would not work for a large org again. However, there is a security issue that can’t be denied, especially for someone with my anxiety problems. I daydream about early retirement constantly but it is unlikely that I’ll be able to do it. Our hope continues to depend on the lottery!

Amanda has a stitch and bitch style gathering that meets on Friday nights but I am usually so wrung out by Friday evening (or half-drunk from beers with faculty after a late afternoon department meeting) that I come home and crash for the night. I think that I will make an effort to put these nights as a definite recurring requirement for my schedule from now on and try not to make excuses not to attend. Often the anxiety build-up at the end of the weekday gives me a headache and I use it as an excuse to crash and burn at night. This is why I only get stuff done on the weekends, for the most part.

Tomorrow afternoon I am going to a Triangle Book Arts gathering in Raleigh. I am going. I am going to this group event. I know that it will be fun. It is an open studio, and I am going to work on a prototype for the book part of this class for Gate City Yarns. Also, I’ve been reading about dot journaling and I want one for myself.

I get this way EVERY YEAR when art retreat announcements begin coming out. CRAZEEEEEEEE. Oh well. Time for another cup of coffee and I’m going to work on printing out these dot grid papers.

Say goodbye to vineland

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I got a lot accomplished on the t-shirt quilt yesterday despite not being able to get the tension adjusted just right on my sewing machine. I complain about this machine, but the truth is it has done a lot of very heavy duty work that it was not built to do, so I should probably show it some gratitude considering all the denim it sewed a couple of years ago. One thing is for sure – I am not going to attempt a project this large again unless I have the workspace and machine for it. Getting down and crawling around on the floor is not a great activity for my joints.

However, all the pieces are joined and I have one panel that I need to put the batting between, another that needs quilting (I’m just doing vertical lines) and the bindings and strips between the panels put in place. At this pace, Diego will be throwing up on this quilt on the bed by Christmas.

Diego was sick last night and kept me up for most of it, because he most wants to cuddle when he feels bad. He has a cranky stomach and I’ve switched them to grain-free food, which helped a lot. He and Pablocito both have a demented taste for plastic and who knows what leaf blown onto the porch he may have decided to munch on. Pablocito likes to eat spider webs but he is never sick. Diego was playing with Pablocito last night before he started puking and he seems better this morning so I don’t think I’ll need to take him to the vet. The two of them playing nicely is unusual too. Why do cats always get sick on weekends?

I am pretty sure that this is coincidence, but Diego smelled SO BAD last night. Like death, rot, shit, swamp, and skunk rolled together. Seriously the worst funk ever. This is not the first time he has smelled this way and when I mentioned it to the vet the last time I took him in she agreed that it was probably him expressing his anal glands. I had to take Theo to the vet twice a year for them to do his. To my huge surprise, this morning he does not smell at all. The pillowcase and pillow where he slept smells a little so I know it was not my imagination.

So I took the pillows off the bed except for mine and the one Pablocito was sleeping on last night. I woke up with Diego on Pablocito’s pillow and Pablocito sleeping on my pillow above my head. This drove me crazy when Theo did it but Pablocito is so still and quiet that it was pleasant to find him there. He likes to be close but he is definitely not a lap cat. In this sense he is more like Guido than any other cat that I’ve had, even though Diego looks like Guido. Right now he is winding around my legs meowing, marking every corner with the side of his head, and occasionally having to be yelled at for scratching on the t-shirt quilt. I have the panels draped over the loom and he has claimed that space for one of his many hidey-holes.

Reading “The Probable Future” by Alice Hoffman right now. I love Alice Hoffman, but I space her books out enough that I haven’t kept up with her writing, unlike some other authors I follow. This one has given me some bad dreams, but that seems to be the case with almost anything I read or watch these days.

I’ve asked Sandy not to watch TV or movies with a lot of screaming, explosions, and gunfire after I’ve gone to bed. He loves his horror, blood and gore. He was into zombies before zombies were a big fad.

Today I want to watch the season finale of “Better Call Saul,” which is my current favorite show. We are watching “3rd Rock From the Sun” again from the beginning – it is such a hoot. I’m a big fan of slapstick silly, which you may have guessed from the name of this blog.

It is very windy and chilly outside so I guess today is really the first day of autumn. We were planning to clean up the Back Forty this weekend but I doubt that will happen now. The cheese pumpkin and tromboncino squash vines nearly covered the whole back yard! Can you imagine what it might have been like if they had been fertilized? Well, my plan for this winter is to get the garden properly fertilized with compost and organic fertilizer for the spring. So all this mess, except for the perennial herbs and flowers, will come out soon. There will be many foxgloves and I will move the rest of the mint back here; anything that I’ve noticed that the groundhogs don’t like to eat. I hope that I will get enough sun in the afternoon to plant another bed in the area where the maple tree had cast shade.

The cheese pumpkin vine monster has almost taken over the Back Forty at the end of the season.

Say goodbye to vineland.

Saturday Morning Coffee Post

tapestry diary 2018

This is day three of my week without social media or news. I suppose that some people would count blogging as social media but I have so little interaction with people here I generally think of it as an online journal and personal portal.

If you have followed me through the years you might know that I began this blog in early 2005 as a healing process for my depression, anxiety, panic disorder and agoraphobia. I am open about my mental health because I strongly believe that we must take away the stigma so that more people, like me, do not wait so long to get help. I am light years better than I was in 2003, which was probably my lowest point, but I still struggle. Much of my problem is physical…panic disorder and depression runs in my family. However agoraphobia is a behavioral response to anxiety so I decided to give behavioral therapy another try. And for the past few years, my biggest problem has been obsessive thoughts and behavior and it keeps getting worse. The political situation in this country has done some real damage to my brain.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into all the details of my therapy, but she gave me two assignments. One was to stay off social media and avoid the news for a week. The other ***GULP*** concerns my game playing. Perhaps it is significant that I waited to tell her that I play games A LOT until the end of our first session. Immediately she said, “Delete your games.”

To the social media break, I said, “Okay, that’s a good idea.” To the game break, I said, “D-delete my games?”

She said, “Ah, there’s the look.”

She nailed my addiction.

I have been playing games all my life, since I was little, to calm my mind. Before computers, since I can remember. I played solitaire and board games where I played both sides. I had a plastic grid with tiny pieces very much like Legos that I constantly made patterns on, sitting on the den floor in front of the TV. (It drove my daddy crazy.) I do puzzles. I am drawn to any game or puzzle that involves logic, strategy, or setting up patterns. Ever heard of nonograms? Candy Crush totally scratches that itch too.

So she backed off a bit when I told her that I didn’t think that I could do that. Instead I am limiting my game playing to a schedule and being aware of the amount of time I spend playing games. I would be embarrassed to tell you how much time I have wasted. It is my way to avoid thinking because my mind is engaged with strategy.

Sewing pieces of fabric together serves this same function, but my sewing machine has been wonky and my hands can’t deal with too much stitching. I cleaned my machine as best I could and the tension has straightened out. It costs about as much to repair this Brother as it costs to buy another, so I won’t be getting maintenance or repair on it again. Once it crashes again I’m going to switch to my mother’s old Singer which dates back to the 50s or 60s. The only reason I haven’t been using the Singer is due to lack of space in my studio. The Macomber loom takes up a lot of space and I need a work table. And I swear that I am going to warp up this Macomber this winter. The warp is measured and ready to go.

Right now I am concentrating on getting my t-shirt quilt finished. It’s beginning to get chilly and the garden is about done. I have never quilted anything (successfully) but this is just a bunch of old t-shirts and it’s not a work of art. I’m going to finish it and get the room back in my studio. I don’t care if the angles are correct or the stitches are even. It’s something to cuddle up with, not to hang in an exhibit. It will be good to get a big project finished.

Also, I finished the summer entries on my tapestry diary and now I’m mulling over how to weave September and October. A lot happened.

Tomorrow afternoon I plan to go down to Gate City Yarns and get a little social time in. Sandy is going to take me out for dinner and we will watch our friend Brad’s jazz band play in the park.

And next Sunday afternoon, I am going to drive to Raleigh for a book making party with the Triangle Book Arts group. I am not going to back out of this one. I have ideas.

In between, I’m going to go to work and get shit done. It’s likely that there will be more frequent blogging.