Back Forty, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, Lake Waccamaw, Reading

Saturday morning coffee pot post

So much for my daily blogging routine. Poof! Oh well. I realized at some point in the last two weeks that if I didn’t stop pushing myself with all these “shoulds” my anxiety would never stop increasing. It is a problem very deep in my core that I nearly always feel like I should be doing something else. I am also by nature a very low energy, lazy person. Between the overwhelming anxiety and the guilt I feel, it is a perfect storm for shutting me down completely. August is traditionally a time of high anxiety for me anyway, with the new semester beginning and new students coming in.

I reminded myself that I am not an artist for a living. I do have a job that pays my bills. Art is for my pleasure and I have had artist blocks before. I always get my mojo back at some point but I always have to let it go first. Truly let it go, not try to get it back on a schedule. Hopefully my mojo will be back from vacation soon, but sometimes it travels far before I see it again.

For the past couple of weeks I have rearranged the studio room so that one table serves as my work office and there is nothing art-related to distract me on that table. UNCG finally got my new work laptop ready and it is a dream – very small and fast and works better than my desktop computer at work. Now I have this clunky laptop back for what I originally bought it for – blogging and photo editing and personal computer stuff. It couldn’t handle all that extra work stuff. The microphone died and the video cut in and out. Now that Zoom is my new reality, that was a problem.

It would be helpful if I could get into watching TV and movies but I just can’t do it for long. It has to be an incredibly gripping plot. Sandy will binge a whole series in a week or less. We both gave up on “How to Get Away with Murder” though. There is such a thing as overdoing it. I’m considering subscribing to HBO again for a while.

The heat wave here was so long and oppressively humid that there is NO gardening going on. I’ve gotten a few tomatoes and I always have my trusty little volunteer cherry tomatoes. The potatoes have been disappointing – low yield and bitter. I started picking figs and for the first time ever, encountered Japanese beetles on my tree. It is a huge tree and there will still be enough figs for me and the beetles but it was quite a shock the first time they burst out around my head in a swarm when I disturbed their feeding. If I ever make it to a hardware/gardening place where I feel safe I will buy some traps. And of course that fat groundhog is still munching its way through my yard. I have not visited my UNCG plots since early summer. I can’t seem to bring myself to do it.

Trying to decide if it is worth planting a fall garden. I would need to do it now, and it will have to be protected from furry critters. If I have to grow my own food, we just might starve to death, because the challenges are much greater than they were when I started the Back Forty in 2002.

Right now my main focus is keeping the jungle from taking over. I really need to find some help, but I’ve had such terrible luck with it that I keep putting it off.

Our tax refund is lost in limbo, and it’s the one with the big rebate payment for our solar panels. If we ever get it, I plan to pay off that loan. However, it is impossible to get anybody on the phone, and the online system says it doesn’t exist. This was the first time in years that we mailed it in, and we did it in early April. Probably the worst decision of the year.

I also need to call Orbitz about my plane ticket to Ireland. They were supposed to get back to me about the amount of time I have to redeem the credit from Aer Lingus. I’m afraid that by the time I can go back the airfare will be 3x as much as my credit is, since I got such a good deal.

I’m going to copy this part about reading “The Luminaries” directly from Facebook, but with an update that I am now on page 447. I have a hard time NOT finishing a book. It’s an OCD rule.

“So, you know how you buy a book that received awards but mixed reviews but you bought it anyway because it seemed like something you’d like and just as you thought about ditching it it got a tad more interesting and so you figured you would keep on reading even though you couldn’t read more than ten minutes at a time before laying it down because you are so bored and now you are 393 pages in and weeks have gone by and it seems like an investment at this point but the book is 830 pages long and you wonder about the meaning of life and then put it down to reread a book by Annie Proulx that you loved when you read it in the 90s but you drank so much back then that you killed the brain cells that remembered the plot so that all you remember is an accordion and a spider and you’re not sure about the spider and so it seems like you never read it? Well. That’s me right now.”

Back to dreaming and wishing and porch sitting in front of the fan. Here are the last photos from Lake Waccamaw that I never got around to posting. They are from sunrise on one of my last days there. I ended up staying for two weeks.

augggghhhh, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety

An anxiety interlude

I skipped a day blogging. Every day brings its own set of hellish news, but yesterday’s news struck very close to home. For the first time, I am really nervous about losing my job to budget cuts. I am worried about MANY people I know losing their jobs and (because we’re “‘Murica!”) health insurance to budget cuts. In a PANDEMIC that is rocketing.

PW Exclusive: UNC System Exploring Worst Case Scenario Budget Cuts of Up to 50%

The hit to our economy from these budget cuts would be massive at 25%.

Yesterday morning my main concern was when my work laptop would be available because my personal one is so rickety slow, and whether I would be able to avoid the bathrooms when I go back to work.

Late yesterday I sent a form to HR with permission for us to hire a staff member to teach a class for us. He has done it before and I see this form as a big waste of time but, whatever. He waited a few weeks to send it to me. HR sent me an email last night that there is a personnel hiring freeze. There wasn’t one three weeks ago. His online class is full, and we accounted for it in our budget.

Ominous.

My reaction to anything since Twitler was elected has been pretty numb. Yes, I’ve been to protests and spoken up, and contacted my congressional reps (knowing that it was pointless). But the atrocity waves of 2020 are wearing me down. The main reason I am at the lake is to get my mental health back to a more functional place. I cannot shut down.

From now on I will save the rest of my vacation days in case I lose my job. If I can manage to keep my job until Feb. 17, 2021, I believe that I can retire with my pension at 85% and hopefully keep my health benefits. The health insurance is key. Thank God Sandy is on Social Security and Medicare.

Of course, who know what might happen with all that, with an increasingly authoritarian government who gets away with doing almost anything they want, and voter suppression active and in the open.

Down here at Lake Waccamaw, where people held a 100 boat flotilla parade flying Twitler/Putz flags on July 4 on a STATE PARK lake, where few people wear masks inside the local grocery store, I am for the first time more afraid of these fanatics than I am of the natural predators. I backed in my car so that my Bernie bumper stickers can’t be seen from the road. This is why I could never live down here in rural eastern NC again.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, collage, Coronavirus Chronicles

Sunday Coffee Pot Post

I needed some way to kickstart my art practice, and it wasn’t happening at home. So I am back at the lake house, a bit earlier than planned, but right now is probably the best time as far as the amount of work I have to do for the real job. I will be teleworking from here some days. I need to decide what days to mark off as shut off the work email and concentrate on art vacation days. Originally I had scheduled about a week’s worth of vacation time in late July, but those plans fell into the black hole of COVID. I have lots of vacation time – I may not get many pay raises from the state of North Carolina, but they give a lot of time off instead. I have much saved up from earlier years of receiving “bonus” time rather than raises, time that I saved in case I needed it for my mother’s care. Now that is sadly not an issue, although I am relieved that she is not here to go through this pandemic in a nursing home. She would have been miserable beyond belief.

This post is to catch up a bit on the days between my last stay down here, and to set up a blogging (journaling) practice every day while I’m here rather than do it all when I get back. I am by myself, and I’ve got time.

First, here is some of the finished collage work that I mounted on wooden panels over the past few weeks. There is nothing really new here except that I worked into some of them with ink and pencil and pens. Many thanks to my online collage teachers: Crystal Neubauer, Melinda Tidwell, and Roxanne Stout.

^”Visitor” 4×4″

^”Monkey Mind” 4×4″

^”Handmade” 4×4″

^”Warrior Woman” 4×4″

“Illustrated Question Box” 8×8″

Without a doubt I have spent the most time on “Illustrated Question Box.” It has so many layers and has changed meaning for me as it has evolved. Included materials are a 1931 newspaper from Oroville, Colorado and an illustration from a book on eugenics around the same time period, and materials gleaned from paperback and hardback books that I rescued.

Here is the one that is in progress right now:

“Shimmering Light” – working title, 8×8″

As a Dudeist priestess, I realize that I am supposed to hate the fucking Eagles, man, but the lyrics to “Hotel California” resonate for me right now. The image is a copy of my grandmother’s wedding photo. She died of a sinus infection in the 1930s, so I never met her.

And I love the fucking Eagles and I don’t smoke pot, so maybe I should switch religions to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and become a Pastafarian.

The image at the top of the post is my back yard in bloom with evening primrose, feverfew, and purple coneflower (since I can’t spell echinacea right now). I think that I’ll put it into the rotating banner or in the background.

The next photos are from the front garden. It isn’t blooming much this time of year, but I had requests on Facebook to post photos of it. I recognize that the diversity of greens, textures, smells, and shapes of foliage are quite wonderful, but I didn’t think that it would translate to photography. Often I sit on my screened porch and people walking by don’t see me. They lean down and stroke the herbs for their smells and the lambs ears for texture. I’ve been told that it is a green oasis on a hot day. So here is a walk past my house.

Now I’m going to check out a few free online workshop previews to see if I want to buy them. Not that I don’t have enough online art stuff going on already! Hopefully, if my mental health doesn’t take a dip, there will be at least one post per day, if not more.

coffee pot posts, collage, Coronavirus Chronicles, More gardening, Slow Food

Saturday Coffee Pot Post

In which I can drink coffee in the afternoon, thank you very much.

The official word is that I will be teleworking from home at least until May 22. I can still go to my office if I really need to, but my employer’s policy is for me to work at home. Right now I don’t see any reason to go in unless I absolutely have to scan something or I lose Internet connection.

I broke through some of my lethargy this week. Susanne and I took a walk last Sunday and I planted “beautiful beans” in the UNCG plot, a local heirloom crowder pea that Pat Bush gave me a couple of years ago that I planted and saved last year. I picked the last of the Rouge d’Hiver lettuce that didn’t begin to bolt in the warm weather.

Gave up on the seed starting totally. Everything is dead now. So I supported a local farmer, John Handler at Weatherhand Farms, and bought Roma, Better Boy, pepper, squash, eggplant, and snapdragon plants from the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market drive through market this morning. They are under the grow light inside for a few days until this polar vortex clears out. Also bought a pound of shrimp from George (NC Seafood) so there will be good eatin’ tonight.

Greg gave me some milkweed seed balls and I planted them on Wednesday in the herb/flower garden in the front.

I finally baked two large sourdough bread loaves from Carol’s starter and it turned out great! It didn’t kill my hands and wrists to knead it either. Next time I will divide this into four small loaves so I can give some away. I don’t have a big enough bowl to make more at one time.

I finished two matching face coverings for Sandy and I. This one has a filter inside and I can breathe through it, or maybe my allergies have gotten a lot better. (See top photo.) Now that I am comfortable with this I will make a few more and definitely play with my sewing machine more. Make some of the pleated styles.

The thing that really picked me up was the day I returned to these collages and finished them. Then I ordered a bunch of wood panels and mats from Dick Blick, along with some acrylic glazing liquid and Yes paste, which Crystal Neubauer recommends for an adhesive that doesn’t make the collage paper curl up, which is my biggest problem. Between her workshop and Melinda Tidwell’s workshop, which I did as a remote group with Triangle Book Arts, I am learning a lot about collage, and also gaining more confidence about not necessarily following the “rules.” Crystal refers to her style as intuitive collage, and I relate to that much more strongly. I am looking forward to mounting some of these collages and making a couple of gallery pages for this site in the next few months.

I cut up “Illustrated Question Box” and made it smaller. Pulled the story together.

The other one is called “100 Doses One Dollar” and I did most of it at the beginning of March. It directly relates to the Covid-19 pandemic and our country’s response to it. The saving grace, I think, was adding three small shark’s teeth that I found at North Topsail Beach several years ago. They look a little like hearts, don’t they? They are deceptive.

Oh, I am angry. Make no mistake about it. But I am moving into acceptance about the things we must do to survive the pandemic, with anger about the people who are misleading citizens, profiteering, destroying our constitutional checks and balances, suppressing votes, and literally killing. There must be anger, and action, and resistance against domestic terrorism and this fascist authoritarian regime.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, fiber art

Saturday Morning Coronavirus Chronicle Chapter

With coffee and hot cocoa mix.

Absolutely had an emotional meltdown last night. Part of my problem is that I am addicted to playing games when I am depressed. It keeps my mind occupied without the overwhelming reality of the world intruding. But it is wreaking havoc on my body – my right arm is burning, my muscles are turning to fat, my hips are begging to get out of bed. I want to sleep more than anything in the world now. Even if I was one of those lucky people (cue my husband) who can fall asleep as soon as they close their eyes, my body is preventing it because it is in pain.

After this blog post, which I’ve promised myself to write at least once a week, I am going to try to go offline and no games or e-books for two days. I’ll allow myself TV, but no news.

It is going to be a beautiful weekend outside and I am going to get out in the fresh air and put my hands in the dirt. I do have to be careful because this is the danger time each year when I get so happy in the garden that I overdo and really hurt myself. I don’t have my massage therapy available, although I could still go to a chiropractor. I transferred my sad little seedlings to pots mid-week, only to find them dug up by squirrels. Guess I will be buying my tomato and pepper plants this year, other than the volunteers that I found in the garden.

I am also going to drive someplace new and walk. Sandy wants to walk too, but he is having some kind of painful ankle issue. We have been walking around the block once a day. One of my neighbors built a little free library which she and her neighbor also stock with a few food items. We have enjoyed some good conversations with our neighbors on the other side of our block.

I made a prototype mask last week that worked pretty well. It has a pocket for an extra filter, and I found a pack of cheap masks in my art supplies so pulled the elastic off for other masks and tucked one in. I found that I couldn’t breathe well enough with the filter in though, maybe for a few minutes but after that I’d be in danger of passing out. Allergies, I guess. So I took it back out. I made the patterns for the next ones longer so that they will cover the chin more, and have room for Sandy’s beard.

That forked stick I am holding is one on which I’ve been weaving shells with holes in them. I’m calling it my magic stick.

The elastic for this one is a long hair band that never worked well for holding back my hair. I’m glad I kept them anyway with the shortage of elastic! It measured 19 inches and the instructions called for 11 inches on each side. No problem – a safety pin took care of it.

As for the rigid heddle weaving, it is too painful for my hands/arms right now so I am not going to finish the wedge weave. Sometimes you got to know when to quit. I am sick of those colors anyway.

I think it is time to get back to doing collage. Probably it is the easiest on my hands, since I have a lot of pieces already cut and torn up.

“Bridge of Sighs” by Richard Russo is a wonderful book.

It looks like I might be returning to work on May 8. Sandy says this is too soon, but in my circumstances I think it will be okay, and maybe better for my state of mind. I have my own office, and all the summer classes are online. Hardly anybody is in the building. I am tempted to take some vacation time later anyway if Lake Waccamaw opens to non-residents, and go down and do art at the lake house for a week. The problem would be getting someone to feed our cats for that long. Sandy does not want to try to take them with us. I think it would be okay. They would be too freaked out to try to escape.

Still longing for Ireland. Sandy says, think of all the good things you have here. That is true. I am lucky. I still long for Ireland. Travel in general, really. The anticipation of it has been my saving grace for almost twenty years now. Thinking of the awful circumstances of other people only worsens my depression – it is not a suffering contest and if it is I don’t want to win it.