art, book arts, critters, dyeing, Family, Lake Waccamaw, Nature printing, whining

Lake Waccamaw etc., May 2014

Sandy and I spent a couple of days at Lake Waccamaw at my cousin’s house last week. It was a busy week despite being on vacation. We spent one day reading and playing in the water and the next day we went to Wilmington briefly and I did some eco-printing inside because of the rain and the midges and mayflies. When the workers began cutting back the bushes at the house next door on Friday morning we both decided to split and go to Marietta with Mama.

The full moon was beautiful the first two nights. The third night there was a tornado warning for a few minutes but most of the weather shifted to our northwest. Thank goodness, since there is no good place to take cover in the lake house.

I walked around the yard between storms and collected as many different fresh leaves as possible, combined them in a folded accordion book with some metal pieces that I’ve collected, and steamed the book, then immersed it in a dyebath with privet leaves and flowers and bald cypress needles in lake water. I figured that the bald cypress needles and lake water would provide enough tannin to create a mordant.

The problem was that I used too much metal and to me it spoiled a lot of the individual prints. The ones I like the most are simple. Also, part of my goal was to identify which leaves made the best prints, and for the most part, I couldn’t tell you. The Virginia creeper and Rose of Sharon leaves made nice prints:

There were other vines that I liked and the oxalis stems and bald cypress needles made nice lines. The flowers on the shrubbery and privet flowers worked well too, but very subtlely.

Mama transferred from the rehab center to my sister’s house for a week, and then we met my brother-in-law halfway on Friday and took her home. It’s been about a week since she went home and although she is still weakened, a physical therapist is coming to her house three days a week and she has a little more paid help to assist with light housework and yard work. She also has an amazing community around her that supports and loves her. I’ll go back down there this Saturday and stay the night.

I hate all the driving but I’ve found that books on CD makes it much more bearable. I decided to listen to Newberry Medal winners that I never read, because they are a little easier to follow while driving. Anything more complicated causes me to skip back to see what I missed, IF I missed something, when I am distracted by something on the road. Last week Sandy and I listened to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and this week I will listen to Holes by Louis Sachar.

We came home to a huge pile of hardwood shredded mulch in our driveway. The problem was that I ordered compost. We are using part of the mulch to put on our paths but it was disappointing since I thought that I’d be planting more in raised beds this month. Oh well. Actually, last week really sucked for the most part. A friend died, my sister’s cat was bitten by a poisonous snake and died (I loved that cat and everyone is wrecked over his death), my laptop got a bad virus and didn’t come back intact after wiping the hard drive, and our basement flooded. I’m looking forward to that week in June in Gatlinburg, studying indigo dyeing with Rowland Ricketts at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

However, even though the kittens are almost a year old, they are so much fun. We put carpet down in my bedroom and it looks and feels so much better. Still reorganizing and getting rid of stuff and it feels good. We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary and ate a delicious brunch on Sunday at Sweet Potatoes on Trade St. in Winston Salem. Best shrimp and grits that I’ve ever eaten and I do not made that statement lightly.

Will try to do better with the blog posting but between work and Mama’s illness it was all a little too much.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, voluntary simplicity, whining

Saturday coffee pot post

Every now and then I feel the need to drink coffee and type whatever comes to mind until the feeling goes away. That’s a coffee pot post.

I took a break from the visual journal posts. Partly because I kept forgetting to put the battery back in my camera but I realized that I needed a break. My blog passed the nine year mark in late February. Pretty amazing. 2005 seems so very long ago. I don’t know whether I’ll post every day again any time soon.

Work has been busy and stressful. I had my feelings hurt pretty badly, but most of it was due to misunderstanding, and the rest I pretty much knew about the undercurrent anyway, and they probably don’t know that I know. It is a rare workplace that doesn’t have some kind of toxic personality trying to gain control by poisoning others with their own warped intentions. I’ve heard that one in ten people are sociopathic and you’ll never know about it. I still love my job and almost all of my co-workers, and the students just plain rock.

As I told one person in the many conversations about this last week, I played dumb for about half my life (due to getting picked on for being smart in school and later from the haze of alcohol and depression) and I have no intention of ever doing that again. Passive aggression can be fun but it’s not my style. As much as I despise confrontation I despise gossip more. These days I own up to my mistakes and expect others to be honest instead of talking behind my back. I could have gone for my Ph.D. or M.F.A. but I chose not to because I don’t like writing for other people. I’m not saying that I’m the smartest person in my workplace – far from it – but I find it ironic that some of the most ardent feminists I know would be quite happy if I would sit down, take notes, and shut up.

Okay, that had been bubbling up for a while.

The weather has been quite dreadful this week. My county is under a state of emergency right now because of all the power outages and trees down from the ice storm yesterday. Fortunately, we never lost power and seem to have no damage. Sandy and I had a fun day and evening planned with Missy and Bob, but they have trees down and no power and they are way out in the country. The temperature is supposed to rise up into the 60s by tomorrow so my hope is that we will be able to finish up some of the yard clean-up we started two weeks ago.

Today I’m going to make an effort to purge my bookshelf and studio. I need the room and I have to be honest with myself that I will never touch 90% of my books ever again. I have SO MANY BOOKS, and I loved collecting them, but I get most of my reference information from the Internet and I can check out almost anything from a fantastic library just across the street from my office. Heck, they will even DELIVER the book to my office!

I’m considering having a porch sale/party and putting the books out there for my friends first. I’ll have a lot to give away and others to sell for less than $2, probably. My main problem likely will be my husband snatching the books back. He loves collecting books as much as I do.

On March 22 I am traveling to Reidsville for the first meeting of the Handweavers and Spinners of Rockingham County. I have two boxes of back issues of Handwoven, Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyepot, and various beading magazines to give away at this meeting. Any fiber-related books that I cull today will go too.

I need to lighten my load.

I feel better already.

Here’s a Meyer lemon on my tree, nearly ready to be picked.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, political activism, whining

Saturday afternoon coffee pot post

Yes, I had to correct the word “morning” in my title because I see that it is now 12:13 p.m. I normally don’t drink coffee after noon, but I spent a glorious morning mostly sleeping. Insomniacs will understand. I got up at 9 to feed the cats before they started nibbling on me, went back to sleep until 11! Oh, how BLISSFUL to feel totally rested. I have absolutely no obligations or plans for two one and a half days.

I’ve spent the last few months really struggling with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and hot flashes. Last summer I doubled my anti-depressant dose on the advice of my GP and my gynecologist, who said that it might help with my hot flashes as well. It did get me out of the hole, but it did a number on my already estrogen-withdrawal stressed brain. After talking to a therapist in the fall when my anxiety got high (this medication doesn’t really help with anxiety) I gradually lowered my dose back to the original. And several months ago I went back in the hole. Hot flashes intensified. One of the aggravating things about menopause for me is that I’ve been going through it for YEARS. Peri-menopause started for me in my late 30s! So every time my troubles die down, I get my hopes up that it is done. I hate depending on pills. But I hate the hole worse, so here I am, back on the higher dose and my brain is functioning at a much lower level again.

So I’m trying to adjust to this. I’m making a few lifestyle changes and working on my overall health. I’m being kind to my Self and letting her take breaks and sleep late on days off. She doesn’t have to cook if she doesn’t want to, but she does need to eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, and get some exercise. And I let her quit Elements Gallery. I told her that she has a paying full-time job so she doesn’t have to get anxious about not turning out artwork for sale or display. She can do it for fun and not worry about what other people think. Learning to nurture my Self is what started my Slow Turn toward the light years ago.

I had bloodwork done last week and my cholesterol has gone down about 30 points. It still needs to go down about 20 more. There were lots more positive results – my blood sugar and liver, kidney, and thyroid functions are fine. The big surprise was that I am vitamin D deficient. I take a good multi-vitamin every day and try to eat D-rich foods, but I don’t get much sun because I am prone to sun poisoning. So I’m adding another pill to the handful that I take, which includes a multivitamin for menopause, fish oil, red yeast rice, citalopram, loratidine, and naproxen. Hopefully this and some more diet and exercise tweaking will get me back up to speed and help with my depression and energy problems.

(And, although I welcome comments, if you want to tell me that I do not NEED anti-depressants, just save your energy. I came to this place after years of rejecting them, and the fact is, I need them to live my life fully. If YOU don’t need them or have been able to find alternatives, I am quite happy for you. I am thankful every day that they work for me.)

Last weekend was spent in a major effort to clean house. We could have made a third cat out of all the cat hair we cleaned up. I love living in an older house (built in 1922) because of the little things that give it character, but I do not enjoy how much dust it generates. Granted, we ignored cleaning the floors and ceiling fans for much longer than we should have, MUCH longer. There is still much to be done, but it is much more liveable here now.

My garden has been ravaged by rabbits. They have eaten my fennel, my peas, and my little squashes. I am now in “what the hell” mode and I’m going to buy my veggies from the farmers’ market and Deep Roots and plant flowers, herbs, and dye and paper plants instead. Hopefully we will still get peppers and tomatoes and green beans, and the figs are about to get ripe, so it is not all bad.

On Monday, I plan to go to Raleigh to the Moral Monday protest at the State Capitol with a friend. My task this weekend is to come up with a sign. The Tea Party decimation of our once centrist state is overwhelming, so picking one issue will be difficult. I’ll probably choose public education since my job is at a public university, and it is vital to train our citizens how to communicate and think about all sides of a problem or issue if we are to save this country.

Maybe the next post will be art related. I’m going to mordant some fibers this afternoon, and boil some seaweed in soda ash to break it down for papermaking.

coffee pot posts, critters, Greensboro North Carolina, whining

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Yesterday was so peaceful. I painted lovely mindless color-washed pages for blank journals – a page for just about any mood, including a few stormy ones. But now I’m ready to make some book covers and it just ain’t happening. I started doing it anyway yesterday and hopefully something good will pop out. Sometimes you just gotta do da work. Now is the time to go to my photo collection for inspiration – maybe the texture photos? Hmmmm.

Susanne and I are riding out to Goat Lady Dairy this afternoon to pick up iris leaves for papermaking. I should have some cotton and abaca pulp thawed out by this afternoon so if the storms let up I might get some papermaking in. I have a lot of colored papers from the office that I save for recycled sheets. I find that the recycled pulp is much stronger when added to cotton or abaca. I like to use shredded transcripts and blue book covers in these papers – I call it “graduate student sweat paper.”

If this sounds like my hands are much better, I’m afraid that is not the case. However, my doctor assures me that I will be better and he can give me a couple of injections in my thumb if I continue to have problems. My physical therapist shakes her head at me and tells me to only stitch for fifteen minutes at a time – which I usually do anyway – but sometimes time falls away when I’m doing these things, which I guess is why I do them in the first place. I am left wondering just why the hell I had this surgery to begin with, but I am trying to have faith that time is the answer, and I don’t do as much as I would ordinarily in the spring, so I’m being as good as I can be. I’m trying not to complain but it has been depressing. I was trying to get off my anti-depressants but I started them back up on a regular basis and I do feel better now. I gave up beer for Lent, which was major, and I’ve fallen off the wagon twice. So considering how crazy-making work has been, I think that I’m doing rather well, actually. Art and good books and thinking about Ireland have all been part of that mood enhancement.

I haven’t done much gardening other than clean-up from last year and pruning back the fig tree rather viciously. I planted a lettuce mix and Danvers carrots from High Mowing Seeds in the beds that don’t get as much sun. The violets are taking over again and they are so pretty this time of year I can’t say that I really mind it.

Theo had to go back to the vet – he really has the worst allergies that I have ever seen in a cat. How did they ever survive in the wild? He wouldn’t last six months as a feral cat. So the vet thinks that if I get him a steroid shot every six months, keep him on daily antihistamines, and vigilant flea medication, that should work for him.

Meanwhile, Guido goes to the vet every six weeks for the same shot, except this one controls his cancer. He freaks out worse that any animal I’ve ever taken to the vet. I dreaded taking him yesterday because Sandy said that when he took him in early February he nearly had a heart attack and he’d never seen him so stressed out. So I gave him a pain pill before we went, popped him into the cat carrier, and he pooped all over it and himself before I even got him to the car. Ugh. It was a major mess. The good news is that he finally gained weight, .6 lb since the last time, and he behaved reasonably well enough for them to get him mostly cleaned up. There was concern about inflamed teeth (he doesn’t have hardly any left) the last time and Dr. Hunt did not see that problem this time. The steroid shot made him super hyper and he ran around and cried most of the night. This morning he seems better.

Lucy’s asthma and coughing is finally much better. I put a vaporizer in our bedroom near where she sleeps and I think it helped all of us.

Hopefully I will have some photos to show of the Magic Hands flag soon. I am not rushing it at all. I’ve also been working on a denim blanket constructed mostly of woven cloth strip squares on the sewing machine. I am way behind on Jude’s online class because I find it frustrating to have all that inspiration and the competing admonition of my brain saying, “Slow down. Slow down.”

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of one of my favorite hangouts – M’Coul’s Pub in downtown Greensboro, NC.

book arts, coffee pot posts, weaving, whining

Saturday morning coffee pot post

I’m drinking my little pot of coffee kind of late this morning, but I have already taken Theo to the vet for a bit of maintenance on his back side and taken my car to the carwash. I actually had to wash my car in order to drive it to the carwash – it was that covered in bird poop. During weekdays parking on the street is scarce and if I have to park my car in the driveway under the maple tree this time of year, it only takes a couple of hours for the birds to ruin it. Hopefully I will not have to park it under the tree again for a while. The robins and cardinals are back in town and they love their holly berries.

Last weekend I finished weaving the last scarf on the loom from before my surgery and I wove off the rest of the warp in a firm weft-faced plain weave to make a book cover for a sketchbook. This week I am measuring some warp for another set of scarves and I am going to play with Danish medallions and more plain weave variations. Seems like I always come back to plain weave in some form. I like the simplicity and the focus I can make on color rather than a complicated threading and treadling pattern.

Excuse the crooked orientation, but here’s a little journal with stenciled and color-washed pages that I’ve been working on forever, seems like. I’m about to take all these down to the gallery and I can’t seem to get great photos, so I’m making do with these because I have other stuff to do.

I’m about to buy our plane tickets for our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Ireland in May. After playing around on Google maps and getting a good idea of where certain sites are and the distance between them, I was pleased to realize that Ireland is really not that much bigger than North Carolina. My only real worry is adjusting to driving on the right side of the road, and I’d rather we didn’t start out that way in the heavy traffic around Dublin. But I’m probably looking for reasons to worry. We’re thinking that we’ll spend a couple of days in Dublin, then head to the Giant’s Causeway (a UNESCO World Heritage site) on the north coast of Northern Ireland, then drive back down the western coast to the Ring of Kerry and see what we can before we have to drive back to Dublin. We are more interested in ancient sites and the scenery so we’ll have to make a lot of hard choices along the way in order to make it all the way to the south. I wanted to hit both UNESCO sites in Ireland, but Skellig Michael is eight miles out at sea, and I get terribly seasick. Plus we may get there and the weather will keep us from going. Since the two sites are on direct opposites sides of the island, we’re going to hit the Giant’s Causeway first in the north.

I feel relieved just to have made the decision.

Handwise – I did a lot of stitching last night and my left hand is not happy this morning. I’m trying not to be dismayed that doing the test for de Quervain’s this morning hurts like hell. I really have run out of patience with all this, and I thought that my recovery would be complete by now. I’m supposed to see Dr. Weingold for my “last” visit on Tuesday, and was supposed to be finished with PT, but my therapist said that he wouldn’t be happy with the results of my strength tests so I am going to see her first to redo them. If I did all the exercises I have been assigned for my at-home therapy every day I would not have time to do anything else. I’m working with putty for strengthening. I think that my expectations were too high, but I was going by what the doctor told me. The therapist told me that I am going through a normal period of pain and inflammation. Argh.

Anyway, most activities do not hurt me at all but I just want to get this healed and over with! It is such a relief to be able to weave and stitch again. Some good news is that I finally got out my sewing machine and it is a good experience. My other sewing machines were so frustrating and this one is easy and unintimidating. If I have to roll back my handstitching again I won’t feel so bad if I can sew on the machine. The problem is gripping the cloth with my left hand.

book arts, coffee pot posts, critters, whining

Sunday Morning Coffee Pot Post

I just bought a wonderful book by Jill Berry titled Personal Geographies. I have always been fascinated with maps, as long as I can remember, really. The World Book Encyclopedia was my playground, and the maps were my very favorite parts. I made up different map games to amuse myself. I pick up maps everywhere I go today.

So I reappropriated this altered geography book with painted pages for my personal geography journal, and I’m going to do the exercises in her book. I spent yesterday (between headaches – Sandy and I are both sick with colds) reorganizing and cleaning out my hoard in the bedroom studio and lo and behold, there is actually a space on my worktable on which I can see the table surface, a big enough one that I can use! This time I hauled out everything, sorted it into piles, made labels to put on the drawers of my art chest, and I am going to try really hard to put things in their places now, and not toss everything in the “Misc. Craft Supply” drawer, although, you know, I am human.

This nice thing about this book structure, which I learned from both LK Ludwig and Dan Essig, is that it lies open flat. I hope that quality will make it possible for me to play in it during the week after Christmas when I’ll be home recovering from the surgery on my left hand.

The great thing about cleaning out all my studio stuff is that I found things that I was desperately looking for several weeks ago, and I found a design for a mini-tapestry that I had forgotten about that I love. I found lots of things that I had forgotten about. It was fun. Now my outside studio is a mess again, where I keep my loom and yarns. But I’m going to let that go for a while, at least when it is too cold to work out there without the heater on.

December 23 is slipping up on me so quickly, and my anxiety is rising. The nurse who called me last Thursday said that I am listed for general anesthesia, and I expected to be under conscious sedation, like when I had surgery on my right hand 24 years ago. That scares me and I’m not sure why it makes that much of a difference. It will be a big relief to me when all this hand stuff is over with. I’m not even hurting that bad right now but both my hands have been going to sleep at night again since I drove to Mama’s this week. I worry more about my right hand not being able to compensate for my left hand during that recovery than anything, and that makes me hesitate to do any art that will put stress on either hand. So I feel like I’m going a little bit crazy here.

Critter update: Of course, Theo is more spoiled than ever now that the gastrointestinal disaster seems to be over. He is still on antibiotics, but he is pretty easy to handle, thank God. Guido gets his sutures out on Tuesday afternoon. He seems to be doing well, although he did have one evening when he yowled. I wonder if he passed a kidney stone. Poor thing is all skin and bones, but the really wonderful thing is that NEITHER of them have thrown up since they have been on medication. I am hopeful that if Guido survives this physical storm he will gain enough weight to better sustain him. If I had only known the wonders of famotidine before… I am a bit worried about Lucy now. She has a lot of chest congestion again. I put her back on a regular dose of loratidine (just like Mama) and the vet suggested that I steam up the bathroom and let her sit in there, but so far this is not at all what Lucy wants to do and she gets highly stressed if I force her to stay in there. So there it is. She seems a little better this weekend.


Saturday morning coffee pot post

Um, remember my little plan to go natural for menopause? I’m getting hammered by migraines every night, beginning with headaches every afternoon. Plus, my new laptop is all boogered up somehow – today we’ll have to back up the files and reset it to factory settings. I’m on Sandy’s PC while he sleeps late.

I’m going to try to plant some peas and lettuce now that I have a row cover, and do a little more cardboard mulching. Unfortunately I can’t do much because last weekend’s work set my hands back a few weeks in recovery. Yes, that’s right, I said handS, plural.

So I hope that this weekend gets better. I don’t feel very positive right now but after I finish my little pot of coffee I hope that the world will look brighter and that I’ll be able to stand the light.

coffee pot posts, Local food, Slow Food, whining

Sunday sweep

Hot. hot… hot hot hot. HOT. And humid. When it gets this hot here, it ain’t like out West. Here you suffer before you DIE of MISERY.

When I was 13, I went out to southern California and spent a week with my aunt in July. It was just as hot as here, but it felt good. I noticed the air pollution, but at the time I lived way out in the country so that made a big difference. Then we stopped in New Orleans on the way back to visit my brother, who was in the Coast Guard at the time. Good GOD. I sweat in places that I didn’t know had sweat glands. Since then I’ve been in New York City during a heat wave. That sure wasn’t a picnic either.

Okay, I’ll stop whining about the heat. I’ll enjoy the AC before I have to go outside this afternoon for hours. It might end up being just lovely in the cherry orchard, and we have Gatorade and lemonade and the forbidden bottled water and lots of bandanas to soak in the ice water of our coolers to mop our weary brows and necks.

Heck, for all I know, whining about stuff may actually be helping. Yesterday, I received an email from a woman who is starting a truffle farm in Trinity. She and her husband have converted a barn into an art studio and a gathering place big enough for a potluck – it has a kitchen. We may be able to use it for a canning/preserving workshop/party. She has offered to host a vegetarian potluck and is open to many other ideas. They also are converting another building into a recording studio and dance hall. But her intention for the barn is to host workshops in sustainable living topics and art workshops and retreats. So I’m going to discuss that with her soon.

The other thing in the works that is related is that I volunteered to do a two-part program for the Greensboro Weavers’ Guild in weaving tapestry boxes a la Sarah Swett’s instructions. So maybe I can develop a class or weekend workshop in tapestry weaving. The thing about tapestry weaving is that it is so slow, but if we weave on cardboard or pin looms just to get the process down, it might be doable. It’s one of those things that looks hard but is so easy.

Tuesday night, Anne Marie and I are speaking and leading a discussion about eating local as a kickoff to Deep Roots Market’s Eat Local America challenge. 8 p.m. Deep Roots is doing a group challenge that asks for 80% local from June 15 to July 15. Funny thing is, I’m not sure that I can do it since I’ll be away for much of that time, but I’ll give it a shot. I usually take a lot of food with me on vacation anyway.

Oy. The high today is predicted to be 102. In Ararat, Virginia, 95. Let’s hope that forecast is actually for nearby Mayberry Mount Airy, which would be hotter. Maybe there will be a storm. Weird to be hoping for rainy weather for an event.


Nailing jello to a wall

I’m pretty sure that I have one of those endless sinus infections dragging me down, sapping a little more of my energy and patience every day. Everywhere I turn people are sick. It makes me want to wear a face mask to work. Every day this week I have announced out loud that I am not going to lose my temper that day. I am moody in the extreme.

I’m dealing with a bit of disappointment and frustration. Not to sound negative, but…I should have known that things were a little too bright and shiny to last. Last night I went to a movie co-sponsored by four organizations that I am affiliated with in some way. Slow Food and Deep Roots had information tables there. I realized that I don’t attend meetings any more for the other two, and I’m debating whether I’m spreading myself too thin. I know that my Sierra Club chapter needs a webmaster, but I wonder if I should resign from that and the other committee that co-sponsored the movie and throw all my energy in with Slow Food. I don’t have as much energy as people seem to think that I do, and I have to be careful and selective with it.

The thing is, when I come home from work, I don’t feel like doing more work on the computer. Especially this time of the year, when I always have several large responsibilities at work that are in a constant state of change. Just when I think that I’ve got things nailed down, splat.

Tonight I’m going to try to get some extra sleep. I heard that there was a Stitch and Bitch group that meets downtown at a coffee shop on Saturday afternoons. I actually managed to thread a beading needle and finish up a bracelet that I began a year ago the other night. So I might check that group out and also check to see if the damn gallery that was supposed to call me almost three months ago about my leftover work from the now closed Two Art Chicks is actually open yet. I think that I’ll see if they really have my consignment pieces (it won’t be much) and get the hell out of that situation, if I am indeed IN that situation. If they don’t have them, I’ll just write it off as a lesson learned and be glad to be done with it.

I could warp up another tapestry box loom and take it to Stitch and Bitch. I really could.