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It’s been a long while since I sat at the studio table and fiddled with my piles of art fodder.  All I’ve been able to do for several months is doodle in my art journal—which is exactly what I needed to dissipate the anxiety and bipolar flares brought on by moving.

Spreading out in my new digs means using the living room as my studio, with a whole wall in the kitchen devoted to wet work (not the CIA/NSA kind).  All the supplies in the photo at right used to be crammed onto that little shelf unit on the far left and in the containers on the table.  How did I do that?

I’d become an expert in carving out space in my little 450 square foot apartment and fitting everything together like a jigsaw puzzle.  So much so that arrangement is still a little wonky here.  New space, new jigsaw.

I sent for an IKEA file cabinet and a two-drawer unit to sit on top.  Now I can file new techniques I want to try.  All the books I rip pages out of sit together.  All my vintage photos are within arms reach.

But, I didn’t christen the Studio for a long while.  And I didn’t worry about it.  Eventually, the stress would ease.  Eventually, the bits and bobs I love would call to me.

Of course they did.  And I went back to making the larger versions of my Penny Positives—little collage pieces on 3.5 X 2.5 playing cards. This morning I took pictures of the thirteen I’ve finished and put them in my Etsy shop.

It was a grunt.  Mornings used to be my most productive time, but I’m still struggling with early morning depression and thick mental fog.  Most days, that lifts.  Sometimes not.  But, I’m determined to tick one, small task off my To Do list each day and to reinforce a new routine.  Hard work, but necessary.

So, for anyone who was waiting for me to make those Penny Positive cards, there are a few in my Etsy shop now and more on the way.

Bit by bit, breath by breath, life, work and my mental shenanigans are finding their way back to the Table.

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This week I went to my grandnephew’s kindergarten graduation. There’s just all kinds of weird in that sentence alone. Children. Family. Social Event. Inclusion.

The school is K-12, laid out in a campus of what reminded me of Morton buildings—low-slung, metal barns. Here’s the south side of my sister as we make our way to the auditorium building

While I’m not one to follow the endless flow of depressing national news, I am invested in Oklahoma’s educational woes.  A January report in Education Weekly ranked Oklahoma schools 47th in the nation with teachers’ salaries ranked 49th.  Teachers went on strike in April, and while the state passed a bill to raise salaries slightly, it neglected to fund the bill.  It never addressed other issues like the lack of program funding and huge class sizes

Teachers are leaving the state like psychiatrists left Iowa, fed up with a system that cares very little about the end-user or those who provide for them.

Oktah, my grandnephews’ school, is considered better than average and receives a federal grant due to its number of low-income students. The superintendent, who spoke at Zane’s graduation ceremony, asked parents and friends to stay involved. More than ever, it seems, it takes a village.

So, I was verklempt, watching my one out of forty-eight kindergarteners dance, sing and use sign language to proclaim his new status.  So was my sister, the retired teacher.

I don’t know if I can help him or his older brother.  Volunteering has always ended up a bipolar casualty.  But I’m staying open to ways I might be part of that Village, even if it’s just being another grown-up (in closer proximity now) who will listen and answer their questions.

You never know the effect of just showing up. That’s something I can do.

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Early morning light streams over my left shoulder onto the unfinished art quilt in my lap. After a year, it’s graduated from the unwieldy three-foot hoop to a six-incher. Almost done, it whispers to me. This part. 

Missy Higgins croons quietly from the iPod.  Sometimes every inch is bruised, and there’s nothing you can do…

The cats snooze elsewhere, satisfied that nothing superviseable is happening.

One more swallow of chai left in my mug. My favorite mug.

There’s a strange word drifting in and out of my mental rear view mirror, gaining on me, slipping through the open window and settling into the shotgun seat.

Contentment

Yes. That’s it. An old friend gone missing for years, decades, maybe. She’s one of those friends I used to chase after, trying to coax her back, trying to remember what happened to put so much distance between us.

I gave up the chase long ago. I stopped chasing after all the Used To Be’s. All that wanting kept me stuck, kept me sick. Instead, I blessed what I held in my hands.

But, here she is, back for a visit. I’m too savvy now to hope she’ll stay long, but maybe she’ll come back again, now that she knows the way.

And when Henry nestles into his companionable niche against my side, know how he feels.

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Five days settled, which means I’ve ticked a few things off my Master List:

Furniture rearranged and boxes unloaded.  Check.

New bank account opened and changes reported to Social Security.  Check.

Internet connected and (HooHoo!) a Netflix subscription ordered.  Check.

Most important wall hangings up with the rest on hold.

I’m thinking more about fabric, fibers, flowing funk.  Must ponder this a bit.

Modest IKEA and summer clothing orders finalized.  Check.

Cats settling down and loving actual window sills that offer views of pregnant robins and mourning doves.

Today, I’m off to start applying for Medicaid, then browse a big antique mall for an idea that’s percolating.

I know its early days, but we all love it here.  We love the funky, older construction of the duplex, the friendly neighbors, the bend-over-backwards landlords, the wealth of shops and amenities, and the joy of family rediscovered.

So, pinch me.  I think I’ve come home.

(P.S.) My Etsy shop is open again (the link is in the sidebar at left).  Not that there’s anything new yet, but some folks wanted to know.  And there WILL be new stuff.  Soon.

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So long, Iowa.

Thanks for giving us eleven years of sanctuary and for teaching me how to live bipolar.

Next stop: Muskogee, Oklahoma.

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What to rescue from the Merry Movers tomorrow: cleaning supplies, cat supplies, overnight supplies for one more night in the (empty) apartment.

Last minute chores: prescriptions, laundry, clean out the refrigerator, final trash run, take the modem back to Mediacom (so long for now, Internet).

Breathe.

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It starts with a blast, like a 7th-grade tuba player. The door slams open. In flood the Lists, the Forgottens, the Hangnail Details. Tumbling like Bingo balls in the brain’s wire cage, rattling, spinning too fast to grab.

The bed gets too hot. All the achey body parts fight to be heard. Cats, sensing weakness, put on their high heels and wait on tender shins.

So, up. Grab the phone and drown out the din with Sudoku. Never let sleeplessness add to the chaos. Just let it in. Let it wear itself out.

Soon enough, the fuzzy drift starts. The bed, cooled off now, waits; the pillow, reshaped, whispers—delicious after starvation.

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 WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY
Until 4:00pm CDT, Sun Apr 15
 *
 MARSHALLTOWN, IA (50158)
as of 4:59 am CDT
26°
SNOW
feels like 13°
 *
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Last session with my therapist, Megan.

Tears and gratitude.

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“. . . the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”

—David Whyte

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