Forward to 2020

Wow. I can’t even think as far as a new decade. Truthfully, I don’t have a lot of hope of things getting better over the next ten years so I think that I’ll focus on one year at a time. Or a month, week, or day at a time. For the purpose of this post, one year. I don’t expect anyone but me to read all this. It will be a long ramble as I gather my thoughts.

The O’Neills just entered a new era with Sandy’s last day of work ending yesterday at 4 p.m. I was really happy that everyone there gave him a good send-off. He worked there the longest of any place of employment and he loved the people there, but I always felt that they did not appreciate his customer service skills enough. Maybe they did. Customer service is definitely a skill, and I’ve had to remind him of that many times. It’s a skill that I have to fake most of the time. Maybe that’s part of the skill!

Anyway, I sound like a broken record but I am seriously trying to downsize my studio, and that has come down to some hard choices. My Schacht Baby Wolf loom went to live with a friend as a permanent loan. I am selling my Dorothy table loom. Most of my tapestry frame looms have been given away. I gave a lot of yarn to another friend yesterday who makes scarves for charity and is interested in learning to weave tapestry. I’m giving all the papermaking stuff and equipment to Susanne because if I ever want to make paper again I can always go to her studio to do it. Some of it came from her anyway!

I am trying to think carefully again about what it is that I really enjoy versus what I think that I enjoy until I do it. Mostly that comes down to mess. I like the results of painting and glueing but not mess on my hands. And I hate wearing gloves. Does the hatred of the mess outweigh my enjoyment of the process? In the case of ceramics, I decided that it did. I washed my hands so much they were chapped. As far as dyeing…I guess I have to face the fact that I can’t make myself start doing it any more. If I am at a workshop, I am all in. At home, no. Maybe I should get rid of my dyes.

Collage and painting is in my future but I will have to come to terms with liquid or sticky mess. Tape and sewing are better options for my preferences, but glue will be necessary at times. I think that I might be able to get past the OCD on this. I can’t give in to OCD completely! There is some stuff I have (will have to find it) that you can put on your hands and the paint and glue washes off easily. Besides, I have some fabulous plans for 2020 in which these will be necessary components, so in this case the results will be worth it.

When I think about what brings me the most joy, it is always fiber and book arts. Weaving, crocheting, stitching. I had so much fun weaving cloth strips together in Jude’s online classes and sewing together the t-shirt quilt. Bookbinding really puts me into the flow. I need to stop being so scattered and focus on a smaller circle of media, and then maybe I won’t feel so overwhelmed all the time.

Most of my travel will be compressed into seven weeks this year! That will be a long haul of anticipation until June 12, when I will leave for the place of my heart, Ireland, for a little over two weeks. The first week I will spend exploring on my own, in Howth and Dublin for three days, then a train to Galway and one night there, then a train to Westport for three days. Then on June 20, I will go to an weeklong art retreat with Mary Beth Shaw near Westport which will be exciting and beautiful.

Near the end of July, Convergence, the biennial conference organized by the Handweavers Guild of America, will be in Knoxville, Tennessee, about a 5-6 hour drive from home. There I will take two daylong tapestry workshops from Molly Elkind and Tommye Scanlin.
Sandy will go with me on this trip.

Then I will come home for a couple of days, catch up on work, and head east to Topsail Beach for a long weekend book workshop with Leslie Marsh and Dan Essig, two of my favorite book artists.

As you might guess, all of this is costing me a lot of money but the good part is that I have paid for most of it already. I had to pay for the Ireland art retreat upfront with cash and that had to come out of my savings. I am going to be concentrating on replenishing that, but as for the other expenses, I have paid my credit cards off! So I am heading into 2020 debt free except for the solar panel loan, which I hardly think about because the payments go directly out of my paycheck each month. I will be able to take the solar tax credit this year.

I am moving my studio from the dark front room into the room where we now use as a TV room/den and moving the den into the front room. This has been part of the reason for my purge. We have a very small house and to make any major changes, we have no place to shift stuff around. This will take time. We need to repair the plaster in the front room and paint. Right now it is a burgundy color and it has never been painted since before we moved here in 2001. Painting it a lighter color feels like a good change.

Other than that, we will try to do a couple of long weekends at the lake and Sandy is cleaning out the back building to set up a game room. Gardening is on the list of course and I bought myself a grow light to raise my tomato seedlings this year.

Now that I’ve cleaned out my brain, I’m heading back to the studio where MAYBE I will finish the caterpillar tapestry. I want to put it in the unjuried small tapestry show at Convergence.

I still have hope that I might be able to retire at 62 and that gets me through a lot of my days. I got a taste of what it would be like for the past week by staying at home for our winter break. I don’t talk about it much but my outlook is pretty bleak. Thinking about travel and art retreats helps me more than anything else. I hope that I will be able to continue it on a smaller scale, after I retire, even if it means that I take a part-time or temp job or two.

coffee pot posts, Uncategorized

Solar Energy Rocks!

Solar panels at the back of the house.Okay, I am giving my new setup with the Kindle and Bluetooth keyboard another try this weekend. The last time I tried I lost a long post at the very end of writing it. It is very very very slow. Maybe that’s appropriate? Teaching me patience? Anyway, if you are reading this, it worked!

We finally accomplished two major life goals this month. We paid off the mortgage on the house, and the solar panels are finally in energy production! I monitor the production every day in an app and so far on a sunny day they produce about 12.7 kHw per day and growing as the days grow longer. We could have placed them for more efficiency but historic district rules stated that they have to be as invisible as possible, so they had to go in two rows at the back of the house. The electrician said that it made little difference anyway.

The company is NC Solar Now and if you are in North Carolina and decide to use them please give me name, Laurie O’Neill, as a reference. I will get a referral fee that I will put back into the payments on the system.

This is not an off grid system. I wish that we could afford that, but I’m not even sure they would allow it where we are if we could. The power we produce feeds back into the grid and we are credited for the amount on our bill. We still have to pay Duke Energy a meter fee, and I imagine that the GOP in power will figure out more ways to squeeze more money from us for Duke shareholders. Still, this system should provide almost all the energy we need. I will be writing and updating about it all year.

As the days grow longer and hotter, we should generate more energy so hopefully it will balance out. Our furnace and water heater runs on natural gas.

I have always been very frugal about energy use and this is making both of us more conscientious about ways we can go further.

Now that I’ve managed to do a life update, I’m heading back to the loom.


Raining at the Lake


I love rain at the lake. There are two old gliders on the screened porch and the sound of the water dripping off the eaves is heavenly.

Today we have a few friends coming to visit. This will be their first time here, and I wanted to show it to them in case it ends up being sold.

Weezer has changed very little about this house since my cousin Fred died. She added central AC and heat and new mattresses, but all the old furniture is here and the odd mix of prints, paintings, and funny signs are still in their places. Fred wouldn’t tolerate even a bar stool moved out of place so I’m glad in a way that she honors him this way. I did move a stool and looked skyward and promised him that I’d move it back.

We’ve done little since Monday. My family came in and we’ve enjoyed hanging out with them. On Monday afternoon my brother visited and then my sister came back from Chapel Hill with a surprise…my niece Brooke! We sat in the lake in folding chairs and drank beer and mostly talked about retirement plans. Politics was mentioned only as he was leaving so we dodged that bullet. My brother is a Trumpie.

On Wednesday we drove to Wilmington and ate lunch at Indochine. Totally worth the drive. We stopped briefly at Trader Joe’s so now I know where that is. Still need to find the local co-op so that I can support them. Unfortunately Big W in Whiteville was closed yesterday, so the pasture raised pork brats are not an option. I hope it is not closed for good. I know he could not have been making much profit on selling that quality at competitive prices.

Yesterday Lisa and Brooke and I played Sequence. I really love these kind of strategy games so I may have to buy it for myself.

I finished my re-read of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and a new book, Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart. I look forward to reading more in this series. Now I am tackling Four Souls by Louise Erdrich but I’m not sure it’s a good book for the lake. I need something that is not depressing right now.

Not getting any artwork done, other than the slow finish of this project for India Flint’s collaborative “Gardens of the Heart” project.

Sleep has still been elusive and this is becoming a serious problem so I will need to search for other solutions when I get back.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters, tapestry, Tapestry Diary 2018, Uncategorized

Staycation week, day three


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.


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.


Sunday Morning Coffee Pot Post

I meant to do this yesterday, but I slept so late that I was shocked to look at the clock when I finally opened my eyes. Let’s just say that there was not much morning left. It’s too bad that we all can’t sleep when our body needs it. There’s something wrong with this system. For me, that means a lot longer than most people. I’ve always been that way, but as I’ve gotten older and creakier I toss and turn a lot and I think that it eats into my total time asleep.


After I got up, I went straight to the loom and worked on the tapestry diary for the rest of the week. Today I think I’ll weave 2018 into this block. I wanted to acknowledge the “bombogenesis” although the most we got from it was a dusting of snow and bitter cold. That is supposed to lift tomorrow, thank God. I generally don’t mind cold, but I worry about the animals and perennial plants. I’d worry about the homeless here, but in our city they do have places to go, thank God.


The kitties like to sit on the heating vent under the loom.

Things are a bit cramped here in the studio. For the tapestry diary I’m using this frame loom that I had warped some time ago to take to the lake. I prop it up in front of Cathedral on the Shannock loom with a piece of mat board behind it. I plan to sell the Schacht Baby Wolf loom beside it. I also have a Macomber 40″ add-a harness loom with 4 harnesses currently. I have yet to weave anything on it, but my plan was to weave a big doubleweave rag rug on it. I started measuring warp for the project three years ago, but the kittens were too interested and then my neck and shoulders went wonky for two years. I hope to get back to that. I may switch over to weaving tapestry on it and sell the Shannock also.

Yesterday afternoon we went to an annual White Elephant party that my friends give each year, and we both came home with something we were happy with. I got an insulated grocery bag and Sandy got a bendable wooden artist’s model. I hope that he will get back to painting again one day. He clearly has talent but he doesn’t have the patience for practice – he wants to be great right away.

I need to go put beef stew in the crockpot. One of the things that I’m letting go this year (or trying to) is the guilt I feel about not wanting to cook. I simply have higher priorities these days. It’s not that I have let go of the belief that whole organic and local foods are important. I do want to get my food gardening to a higher level this coming year. But the fact remains that I waste a lot of fresh food because I put off cooking at the end of the day, and I want to do other things when I’m not at work. So I’ll be concentrating on buying easily prepared and more healthy prepared foods to eat in the coming year, and maybe eating out more often. I’ve reached the point where I honestly do not want to buy my food from anywhere but the farmer’s market, the co-op, and sometimes Costco, and I’m still very picky about the origin and quality of my food.

At the same time, I keep bookmarking recipes in the New York Times for things like bread so the habit in my mind remains.

We do have an enormous choice of good sauces to pick from for quick easy meals. Some that I’ve been pleased with are curry and masala sauces from Maya Kaimel. Quick stirfry of chicken and/or veggies, pour this sauce over, make some rice, and presto, a great meal.

I am dead serious about not buying any clothes, books, or art supplies this year. I’m adding seeds to that list. I’ve already bought more than I have room to plant. I have enough tapestry yarn to last me for the rest of my life, thanks to Mama’s life insurance money.

I joined Audible.com for a free trial and chose “Fire and Fury” for one of the free selections, and to balance that out, Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Apart.” I listened to the first one for a little while yesterday. I mainly wanted to add to the demand for the book, because I know that numbers drive Twitler into a tantrum, but of course, I’m not buying it. I’ll probably cancel the Audible after the free trial. I know where to get audiobooks free.

Okay, time to weave. We have another “Old Christmas” party to go to this afternoon.