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I Want The World To Be A Pretty Place

And the world is not cooperating.

I’m still having stress pain although the pains are less severe than they have been. Yesterday, I gave up and just wrote. What I wrote is not something I want people to see just yet. Maybe I’ll never want people to see it. It was, and is, for me.When my writing class began this semester, my teacher told us that the point of writing is not to get published but to get words on paper. He said that when we realized that it will be an amazing, freeing experience. I thought he was wrong. What would be the point of writing if no one sees it? Now, I understand what he was saying. He’s right. I needed to get something outside of me and onto paper.

I’m in a weird creative lull. I got some really good ideas for the novel I’m writing while in class this morning. I see how I can add dialog – and I’ve got a good idea what my characters are going to say – and make my characters more alive. I don’t feel like writing. I spent some time this morning sketching ideas – some of them quite good – for the doll I want to make. I don’t feel like making the doll. I’ve got more placemats to quilt. I don’t feel like cutting batting and quilting placemats. I’ve started reading a mystery set in Hawaii. Murder mystery, Hawaii… that alone makes it a book I want to read. Except I don’t feel like reading. I spent time yesterday working on functional ceramic pieces. I need to do a little more work on them. I don’t feel like playing in the mud.

One of the ideas I’m exploring in my novel is how no matter what kind of misery is happening in our lives, we can’t call a time out. Processing one emotional tsunami while fighting off the next emotional tsunami is impossible. I know this. My body has called a time out. My brain has called a time out. I’m looking at something that was right in front of me, something that I saw but refused to acknowledge. Now, I need to acknowledge it. Now, I need to see the evil. Now, I need to stop pretending that someone just had a stupid sense of humor or just didn’t understand mental illness. Now, I need to stop minimizing other people’s actions. Now, I need to take whatever length of time it takes to let myself see, hurt and heal what feels like emotional flu. This is taking way more time than I want it to take. Now that I’ve looked, I want to stop looking and go do something else.

Maybe I’ll feel better if I clean the kitchen and water the air plants. Those are both mindless activities. Perhaps I can process, clean and water simultaneously. 

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Peach Velocity

I am bipolar. It’s okay. I’m used to being bipolar. It took a mere 35 years to get a correct diagnosis and two psychiatrists misdiagnosed me. I’m better now. I’m on really good meds. I spend most of my time at center and when I dance above center, I’m able to pull myself back to center fairly quickly. Before I had a correct diagnosis, I’d walk into a room and feel as if a hurricane blew in with me. One of my teachers in college told me I gave people the feeling they had  to back up three feet just to be able to breathe.

Peach Velocity

My grandmother wanted to be a home economics teacher because those were the highest paid teachers. The depression happened, she quit school and went to work to support herself, five siblings and her parents – a decision she resented for the rest of her life. Soon after leaving school, she married a violent drunk. My grandmother once told me that the happiest year of her life was when she was 36. I knew the answer, but I asked anyway. Why? “Because that’s the year my first husband died. ”

In the 40’s, if you lived in a rural setting as my grandmother did, you canned vegetables and fruits. There are two ways to can fruits and vegetables – boiling water bath or pressure canner. All fruits can be safely canned in a boiling water bath. Put peaches in the glass quart jars, screw the lid on just so, submerge the jars in boiling water, put the lid on the canner, and 20 minutes later, remove the jars from the boiling water. Repeat until all the fruits are canned. If the lids have been screwed on properly, they will make a snapping sound as the fruit in the jars cools and creates a vacuum seal.

All vegetables must be canned using a pressure canner. Fruits can be canned in a pressure canner, but it is time consuming and far faster to use a boiling water bath. Put the fruits or veggies in quart glass jars, pour water over the veggies or syrup over the fruits. Screw the lids on just so. Put the jars in the pressure canner. The water, which need not be boiling at this point, only needs to come up to the halfway mark on the jars. Screw on the canner lid. The lid is designed to stay on the canner after pressure has built up. This keeps the lid from turning into a missile. Put the petcock on the little post (allows pressure to build up), and either put the weight on the other post or watch the pressure gauge. Once the pressure has built up to the required amount – anywhere between 5 and 18 pounds per square inch – keep the pressure at the required level for the required time. Usually 20 minutes at 10 psi. Once the time has been reached, turn off the burner and allow the pressure canner to cool completely. This step is critical. Once the canner is completely cool, check the gauge to make sure the pressure that built up has all been slowly released. Then slowly remove the petcock (so you can be sure the pressure has been released), remove the lid, remove the jars, and repeat until all the fruits and veggies are canned. It’s the cooling down time – around a half hour – that makes pressure canning time consuming.

My grandmother, her sister, and her sister’s twin toddlers were at my grandmother’s home canning peaches. My grandmother decided to use the pressure canner as a boiling water bath. That was a stupid thing to do. She then put the lid on the pressure canner. Even stupider. She put the petcock on – really, really, stupid. After 20 minutes, she took the lid off the canner. This required considerable strength because pressure canner lids are specially designed so the cook cannot remove the lid while the pressure builds or after the pressure has built and hasn’t been released. My grandmother forcing the lid off the canner was beyond stupid. Seven quarts of peaches flew out of the canner, hit the ceiling, and hot syrup, hot peaches and glass shards rained down upon my grandmother. My grandmother was scalded. The toddlers were unhurt although roughly 65 years later, my cousin vividly remembers this incident.

There are times when I’m quite sure that I know precisely how those peaches felt just before and just after hitting the ceiling. That’s peach velocity.

Even with brain fracture and decompression, retirement has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself ever. Peach velocity is a memory. Before retirement, it was a constant possibility.

The anxiety pains aren’t as bad today as they were yesterday. Healing is happening. It took me more than 15 years to become this broken. While I want instant healing, I know it’s going to take time. I do not and will not miss peach velocity.

Still…. I think there’s a peach velocity quilt in there somewhere.

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Anxiety

When  I retired in November – a pretty way of saying I got pissed off and decided I was never going to take any more grief from petty people so I quit – I had some interesting physical responses. The first week, the lower back pain went away. The second week, the leg pain disappeared. The third week I stopped needing sleeping pills. All this is wonderful and I’m grateful for every bit of it. 

I had, still have and expect to have for the next several months, brain fracture and decompression. My brain doesn’t seem to be working as well as it could. I forget things I should have remembered. I find myself doing weird things – like dropping my wedding band on the bedroom rug and deciding I didn’t have time to pick it up. So far, the cats have refused to tell me where they hid my ring. I have started to understand just what kind of hell I had endured the past 16 years. I have started to understand what evil looks like. I have begun to see the enormity of the evil I had faced. I see collusion which I had refuse to even consider existed before I retired. I’m beginning to see the enormity of the collusion. These revelations are terrifying. How did I survive this ordeal? I know that one of the smartest things I’ve ever done was to stop trusting people. I may eventually rethink that decision. I don’t understand how or why a person would make a conscious decision to practice evil. I don’t know if I want to understand that. 

This week, I have anxiety. I know this because I’m having the pains I get from anxiety. Pains in my chest. Pains in my abdomen. Pain in the last, lower right molar. I’ve been to doctors. I’ve been poked, prodded, tested, had an internal sonogram (that thing needs batteries) and had a fiber optic stuffed up me. There’s nothing physically wrong with me. My heart is healthy (thank you, God). My innards are pink and perfect (a miracle because there’s a family history of colon cancer). No dentist has been able to find a physical reason for the ache in my molar. The tooth is perfectly healthy. A technician couldn’t find my left ovary, but I think that was incompetence on the part of the technician because I always keep my left ovary on the left side of my abdomen. Maybe my left ovary would have appeared if the thing that needs batteries had batteries. 

This puzzles me. Not the thing that needs batteries; the pains. I don’t have anything stressful going on in my life at the moment. Maybe it’s not stress. Maybe it’s release. My body is responding to what my brain is starting to understand. Decompression. Mentally and physically I’m relaxing. I’m realizing I no longer need to put a wall between me and everyone around me. My body has forgotten how to respond to this peace. My body has forgotten how peace feels. The decompression keeps me from seeing how huge the sadness of strange peace is. I survived. I survived 16 years of incomprehensible hell. I survived. That should feel wonderful. Maybe it will eventually. Right now, that survival isn’t what I’m seeing and feeling and I don’t know why that is. 

This isn’t about missing the work I did. I’m an attorney and I’m still licensed. I can open my own practice any time I want. As much as I loved being in the courtroom, I find I’m content not to be there anymore. I now watch courtroom scenes on television and no longer see every mistake and every inaccuracy. I miss some of the support staff I worked with although I don’t miss any of the attorneys.

I have never seen retirement as an end to working. I’ve always seen it as the beginning of a new adventure. I like this adventure of being a full time artist and writer. I’m doing things I could only dream of doing when my life was overrun with being an attorney.

Eventually there will be a novel about this experience. I need to finish my first novel first. Maybe there will be art. Often, I don’t understand how I’m feeling until I can put my emotions into clay or fiber. At the moment, I have no idea how to translate what I feel into something visual as well as something verbal. I just know it needs to be done. Art, visual or verbal, is healing. Being a multi-media artist is healthy. Clay. Fiber. Fabric. Words. Maybe, this needs to be felt in all of those media. Maybe this is too big, too intense, too important to be just one version of art. Why do I write all this? Because you will eventually be sitting where I’m sitting. I want to leave behind signposts so you won’t feel as lost as I feel. Maybe that’s what tikun olam – repair of the world – is about. Or partly about. Signposts. Explanations. Maps.

I can almost see fuzzy images. The tiny beginnings of art. It’s a beginning. A good beginning. An exciting beginning. 

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Where do ideas originate?

A few years back, I saw my spirit dance. It was translucent and graceful. From that came a quilted self portrait. DSCN9272

The beads around the heart are sterling silver and a gift  from a good friend. 

I had to crash my mother’s funeral a few months back. My mother hated me and made sure I knew it. When she died, I was surprised to find such a feeling of freedom. I took that feeling and attempted to translate it into clay. IMG_1087IMG_1086

This is greenware. It will be bisque fired then glazed and fired again. It’s okay, but not exactly what I had in mind. 

I tried again – this time as an assignment for my writing class.

I’m Not There Anymore so My Spirit Dances

In life, the dress was made from medium pale aqua linen/rayon blend fabric. In depiction, the dress was…. not yet fully formulated. There’s a dress and a jacket. I have to be careful how I make the jacket because her arms are raised. The jacket has to move appropriately. Perhaps a matte shino for the jacket. There needs to be some bit of texture on the jacket for the shino to be effective. The dress perhaps a glossy tourmaline with the addition of deep blue/green celadon. There should be more and different texture on the dress. Enough texture to stop the celadon but not so much texture as to prevent movement. Or maybe the jacket should have more texture and the dress less texture. This time, the eyelids will have eye shadow. Lavender celadon? Eyebrows and hair purple perhaps? Purple underglaze with a wash of white after bisque firing? Purple underglaze with a wash of red after bisque firing? The red could be interesting and not indicative of gray hairs. Maybe, to be safe, speckled deep sienna? But she’s not safe; she’s free. Purple and red. Definitely purple and red. Spikes? Curls? Braids? Braids. Braids will highlight the purple and red better. Two braids and a cowlick, circular progression

That shows what’s going on in my head when I figure out how I’m going to make a ceramic piece. For ceramics, it’s important to know what size the piece will be, is there any armature to make, how it will be glazed. 

Then, as often happens, I saw a sculpture in my head – a fabric doll. In order to not forget what I wanted to do, I grabbed my sketch book and did a rough sketch. 

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Armed with the suggestions for how to keep the doll upright (dowel, armature, metal stand), I now need to make a pattern for the doll and for the outfit. I’m thinking of using green beads for the eyes (my eyes are green) and haven’t decided what the mouth will be like. 

I’ve been making ceramic female sculptures for about 6 years now. They didn’t start out as self portraits, but that’s what the ended up being. My favorite is entitled: Fuck You, I’m Still Alive.

I did some research on bullet wounds – entrance and exit – and thought I was putting the bullet holes in non-lethal spots. Alas, at least three of them are kill shots. I kind of like that better – she survives even lethal wounds. 

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To be continued. 

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Earth Mother Tendencies

I retired in the middle of the week in the middle of the day last November. There was only so much grief I was willing to tolerate and so much more grief my employer was willing to heap upon me. Healthiest thing I’ve done in years was to retire. The back pain disappeared the first week. The second week I stopped needing sleeping pills in order to fall asleep.

Used to be, I cooked on the weekend. Now, I have time to cook during the week. The Earth Mother Tendencies come out and dance. Earth Mother Tendencies are something I had to bury deeply in order to be an attorney. At least I though I had to bury them deeply. I make all my own bread and have since I got married in 1972. I don’t buy deserts, I make them. From scratch. No boxes of mix. No soup from a can, either.

Although I did have parents, I was closest to my maternal grandmother. I think these Earth Mother Tendencies come from her past. She was born in 1912. In school, she was the very best at spelling and won every spelling bee. For one spelling bee, she won a prize of a length of pink fabric. She went home, gathered newspaper, drafted a pattern and made a dress. She entered the dress in a sewing competition at the Erie County Fair and won first prize – $3.00. At that time, that was nearly a week’s wages for a woman.

My grandmother grew up in a time when one either did for oneself or did without. She learned to be self-sufficient because that’s what girls learned at that time. She dreamed of being a home economics teacher because home economics teachers were the highest paid teachers when she was growing up. The Great Depression came along and that ended that dream.

And so I grew up with 1930’s values. I make all my clothes including lingerie. I make Jim’s shirts and boxers. I take clay and make my own pots, bowls, mugs. I can’t stand to buy what I can make myself.  I knit my socks and sweaters. My siblings, all younger and none close to our grandmother, go to the store and buy what they want.

Spring comes mid-March in southern New Mexico. Right now, I’m anxious because I can’t plant herb seeds in herb pots I made so I can grow fresh herbs. Yes, herbs grow in the house. Tinker and Cohen, the Deranged Cats, would eat the plants. I have to wait until it’s warm outside. I want to have a farm on the patio this year. It’s difficult to grow vegetables in the desert and I miss fresh, organic vegetables. Before we moved to New Mexico, we lived in western New York. For more than 20 years, we had a huge vegetable garden – a farm in the subdivision. I’ll settle for a small farm on the patio. Container farming. I’ve ordered seed potatoes, herb seeds, flower seeds. In a few weeks, I’ll buy some tomato plants and some sweet pepper plants. Now, I dream of containers of vegetables – tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets.

The Earth Mother Tendencies want to come out and dance… but they have to wait until the weather changes. It’s okay; Earth Mother Tendencies understand the need for patience.

Until spring, I’ll turn bags of clay into herb pots and little pots to hold air plants. I’ll turn leftover fabric into placemats. I’ll turn leftover flannel into a flannel shirt of many colors.

I own a smart phone, a laptop, a food processor and a bread machine. My car has a backup camera, a place to plug in my iPod, and answers my phone if I get a call while driving.  Modern technology that I appreciate and use. I do research at the university library without ever leaving my home. I have movies and television shows streaming into my flat-screen TV.

I’m still stuck in the 1930s and the Earth Mother Tendencies still want to dance.

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Fictional Musings

This semester, I’m taking a fiction writing class. I’m still working on the novel that will be better than anything Hemingway ever wrote, will hit the best seller list the week after it’s published, and will be lauded by every book critic in the country.

I’ll be happy if the book gets published and sells 100 copies.

My class this morning filled my head with ideas. I write odd. Not here, but in the novel I write odd. I started creative life as a writer and then switched to visual art. I didn’t plan it that way; it just happened. I am amazed at how difficult the transition from visual back to verbal was. I had forgotten how to write.

I’m doing something odd with the novel. I’m illustrating it with words. I have words capitalized because I want my reader to focus in a particular direction. Things like referring to one character as: The Body which used to be a Homeless Person. My teacher disagrees with this approach. He’s welcome to disagree, but I’m not going to change the punctuation or capitalization. I’m trying to combine both visual and verbal art without having pretty pictures on the pages. It will either work or it won’t and I won’t know which it does until I finish writing the novel.

Among the things I decided during class:

– The action takes place over a period of one year.

– I need to let my male characters speak more.

– I need to have the two main characters speak to each other more.

I really like being retired; now I can do the things I want to do instead of the things I have to do.

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Banging my head on the sewing table

This is the bottom side of a reversible placemat. Yes, I am having a tension problem. I’ve tightened the top tension – which helps but doesn’t eliminate the eyelashes. I’ve slowed down the needle speed. I’ve speeded up the needle speed. I’ve slowed down how fast I move my hands. I have the same thread from the same spool in both the top and bobbin. All these things are supposed to work.

Tomorrow, I’ll try unthreading the machine, removing the bobbin, vacuuming out whatever is inside the bobbin area, and using a different needle (I’m using a Klasse quilting needle).IMG_0115

This is the front side of the placemat.

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This was a project to reduce my overflowing stash. I cut strips 2.5″ wide, 3.5″ wide and 4.5″ wide. Finished placemat should be 14″ x 20″