Westward Ho! Day 5


Teesha's Pages

The focus of ArtFest is art journaling.  I’ve tried this a couple of times, even made a few art journals, but never really got into it.  I journal… and I do art.  They come from two different parts of my brain.  Whenever I’ve tried to moosh them together, both parts sort of suffer.

Part of coming out here (aside from loving Teesha’s rubber stamps and, you know, traveling) was to stretch my artsy envelope and embrace art journaling (at least for five days).  I’m with 143 artists who are good at this and six teachers who want to help us do it better, give us new ideas and techniques, and support the artsy life.  My attitude is I’ll Try Anything!  Bring It On!

IMG_0376We have two classes a day with a two and a half hour break between for lunch, rest, and journaling on our own.  Each class is three hours long, which never seems like enough time to do everything we want to do.  The point is not to create a finished piece, but to play around with the cool tools and new techniques, get a journal spread started, then go off later and mess around with it.

Not surprisingly, perfectionism among the ArtFesters abounds, but the teachers keep slicing through that by making us do things fast, sloppy, random, imperfect.  I love it!  Yesterday, teacher Orly Avineri, trooped us all outside with the images we’d made that we liked the least.  We stood in a circle, ripped them up, then released them like confetti with whoops and grunts and whatever non-language noise came from our guts.  Without release, she said, we get stuck.  We can’t continue to wander to the next thing, and the next and the next.  In Artfest’s Superhero pantheon, Orly is Wander Woman.


IMG_0389After class yesterday, I met up with my new friend, Michelle (brain enthusiast, fan-girl, mystic, potty-mouth) and her Southern California gang for supper.  I was too tired to enjoy their lively conversation about Broadway shows.  Time zone changes, adrenaline, the push of a schedule on the road, the gentle sway of rapid cycling; whatever the reasons, I’d only gotten three hours of sleep at night for too long. I had to skip the beach bonfire last night and for the welcome snug of my bunk.  I fell asleep with the evidence of a day well spent.

Now, with a full eight hours in my sleep bank, I’m ready for another fabulous day with two more of my mixed-media Heros; Andrea Matus and Michael deMeng.  Tonight: The Vendor Show!

Westward Ho! Day 4

Spokane, WA (7:30 AM) to Port Townsend, WA (4:00 PM).  370 miles.
Notables: Sting’s Roxanne (Symphonicities version)

Between Spokane and Seattle

Well, really, ho-hum.  Another day of brilliant sun, snow-capped mountains, burbling streams.  It’s just all a little overdone, don’t you think?  I mean, on and on with the sapphire sky and pine-fresh air… can’t these Pacific Northwesterners show a little restraint?

We were doing just fine until Seattle.  I saw signs for a tollway and wondered, tollways?  When was the last time I paid a toll?  Do they still have big buckets to throw quarters at as you pass by?  Do I have any quarters?

Since John had no answers, I thought I’d better stop and inquire about proper procedure.  I didn’t want to get chased by Washington State Smokies (Were they even called that anymore?  Geez, I felt old).

Come to find out, the highway cams snap a picture of your license plate and you get a bill in the mail.  More stuff I never knew.

On the FerrySo, I was a little flustered when we got to the ferry.  I thought I told John to take a different route to avoid the ferry, but here we were.  The first time around, Cleese got us in the wrong lane and the Port Authority officer yelled at me (until he saw that I had an Iowa license plate and clearly no accurate help from my British Sulu).

 After I stuffed a sock in his recorded yap, I found my way to the ferry toll and holding area.  Clear sailing from there on (pun only sort of intended).

Looking Back at SeattleI’m finding that a GPS system can get just as befuddled as a human when the details become complicated and change quickly.  Two heads (one nav-sat and one bipolar) really are better than one.

Another hour of twisty two-lane highway through forest and, to my surprise, cattle ranches brought us to Port Townsend and Fort Worden.

I checked in, made my journal (which will hold all the art I make this week), dumped my stuff in my dorm room (which used to be the barracks), and started schmoozing.


IMG_0364Dinner offered a vegan option (a to-die-for veggie burger).  Teesha made a few logistical announcements and introduced our teachers.

I made a few swaps (traded art bits) with the fun folk I’ve met so far, and came to my room to report and crash.  Tomorrow: ART.Art Swaps




Westward Ho! Day 3

Billings, MT (6:30 AM Mountain) to Spokane, WA (4:00 PM Pacific). 542 miles.
Pertinent Tunes:  Throat Culture’s Easter Island.
Audiobook: Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife

This was going to be another full day on the road, and I wanted to get to Spokane early enough to meet my bloggy friend, Linda, before I faded, so I set out before dawn.  Again.

I love that the day worked out just like that.  I love that I’ve been dancing with my bipolar disorder long enough to know what my limits might be and how to bring them into the dance.  I can’t tell you how much I love that.

So, John led me out of Billings under the cover of dark and flurries of snow.  He’s gotten me to every destination with only two hiccups.  Both times he told me to turn around and head back home.  I think I must have accidentally touched the screen, but still, mistakes such as these required proper admonishment and Python-worthy name calling.

runaway-truck-rampSo, properly chastised, he sent me up through the Continental Divide.  No more puny foothills, we were in the Big League today.  We traveled the kinds of roads that required special Runaway Truck Ramps for semis with fried brakes.  And wide places to pull off so one can attach their tire chains.  There we were, switchbacking and trundling along those straining Peterbilts, with snow and low-slung clouds obscuring the peaks.  Ooo, it was an exciting day!

And beautiful.  Majestic.  A complete Jeremiah Johnson experience.  There are no words.  Robert Redford’s “Agh” comes close.

Linda in SpokaneAnd then, it was Spokane, and bright warm sun, and Linda singing to me as she drove up the drive.  We’ve known each other through my blog (and my cards, and Facebook) for years, and finally got to hug and squee like proper girlfriends.  She took me to a little park for a nice walk and the beginning of our non-stop babbling. Three hours later, after a scrumptious Thai dinner and a tour of her home, she dropped me off, still singing.

Such an exciting day.

Westward Ho! Day 2

Interior, SD (9 AM) to Billings, MT (5:30PM).  393 miles.

I slept like the dead.  Then, the alarm on my phone went off after I thought I’d turned it off (I was pretty boo-boo faced last night after my four hour learning curve on the Microsoft laptop).  I fell out of my oh-so comfy king-sized bed trying to find the Dream-Killer.  As is inevitable after the alarm goes off, Nature called, and I slammed my head into the bathroom vanity in the dark.  Which made me use new and Technicolor swears while laughing.  So much for sleeping in.

FrostyInstead, I did the Sun Salutation until my aching back started to unknot (thank you, Jinjer) and puttered.  Before I left the Circle View Ranch, I spent some quality time with Frosty, one of the hosts.  It was nice to be claimed by an unknown cat.  Sort of validated my whole existence as a human being.

Wyatt's HideawayMy mood slid south while I pointed Corvus northwest.  I wasn’t surprised by the depression after Sunday’s giddiness; too much tension, too tired, too much of too much.  Moderation was required.  And another validation of who I am as a human being.

The Badlands became foothills, which looked like mountains to me.  At a rest stop outside Piedmont, I pondered my life as a Flatlander.

IMG_0342Here were ranches and homes tucked into the crook of these huge elbows of rock.  Didn’t people get claustrophobic?  How did they orient without a horizon?  How could they prepare for bad weather if they couldn’t see it coming?  Maybe there was a sense of safety and comfort in being nestled up against a mountain-ish thing.  I don’t think I’d like it.  I’d always be looking over my shoulder.

antelopeThe speed limit out here is 80 mph on the freeway (or “motorway,” as John calls it).  I couldn’t bring myself to go that fast.  Even 75 felt out of control and dangerous.  I’m sure a lot of colorful swears darted through the whooshing air as everyone passed me, but what with zipping up and down mountains on curvy roads, and juggling a water bottle, and maybe changing out the audiobook, I thought prudence should prevail.  Besides, I might have missed the little herds of antelope grazing on the slopes, and they were too sweet to be missed.

Tonight, my hosts, John and Coreen welcomed me into their home.  It still feels a little odd barging into someone’s home to stay the night.  I know that’s my bipolarness talking.  I know I’ve paid them to let me sleep in their pretty guest room.  We had a wonderful conversation about mental illness (Coreen’s sister has BP), Habitat for Humanity (which is John’s post-retirement job), the plight of Native Americans, and some religion thrown in for spice.  I sat in Coreen’s kitchen, slurping my Ramen noodles while she prepared their supper, and John complained about being hungry.  It all seemed so normal.

I can sit with my moments of feeling like an intruder.  They’re just another bit of bipolar not-good-enough muddying the view.  I can counter them with the warm fuzziness of meeting kind and generous folk at the end of a long day’s journey.

Depression and antelopes.  Speed and hospitality.  It all evens out.




All Systems Go

Sunday, before dawn, I’ll be on my way to ArtFest and points West.  Just one final checklist to run through.

“Flight Controllers? Give me a Go/No Go for Launch.  Booster…”

We had our glitch yesterday.  Testing a new GPS device on the trip to Des Moines, I left the unit turned off, but plugged in when I went in to my meeting.  Two hours later—dead car.  Controlled hysteria ensued.  But, just like Mark Watney, I got to work.

2011-honda-cr-v-ex-lThe folks at my meeting found jumper cables, and I cancelled two other appointments to hurry home to my mechanic (since I could only hope it was a dead battery).  Even though they were booked solid, Rich, Rose and Jeff at Alley Auto hooked Corvus up to telemetry and determined the battery sound.  Just unplug anything from the USB when the engine isn’t running.  Good to know.


TomTom took almost two weeks to determine the problem with a celebrity voice I tried to download to my GPS unit, but now John Cleese is officially telling me where to go.


I love how easy it was to book overnight stays at Bed and Breakfasts through Airbnb.  It’s giving the hotels in California such a run for their money, that there’s a new tax on B&Bs there (the bastards).  All the B&Bs along my flight path confirmed and anticipate my arrival with utmost glee.  Or at least they promise not to greet me with a shotgun.

Guesthouse on the Green, Billings, Montana


The sinus infection is nearly done, just a few sniffles and a mostly-baritone voice.  I’m taking my whole medicine chest with me just in case as well as good trainers for those fifteen minute breaks every two hours to walk off any fomenting blood clots or nasty butt boils.  Too graphic?  Just wait.


I’m packing a cooler with lunch supplies, a crate of chips, enough Ramen noodles for two weeks, a bale of bottled water, and everything I need to make my daily Shakeology smoothie.  So, basically my whole kitchen  (Oh, and the seasonal jelly bean or two).


The wild rapid cycling seems to have slowed the last few days.  Anxiety and mania have mellowed to gentle anticipation. A lot of that has to do with preparation and gnat’s ass attention to detail.  When the car died yesterday, I told my sister I was so glad I tested the GPS unit before Sunday, and that I was thankful Mom taught us to be anal.  My sis texted back, “Yes, it does come in handy.”


My friend, Ellen, at the library gave me an extension on the dozen audiobooks I borrowed.  Between those, my iPod, and a few additional CDs, I ought to stay entertained.  Since I’ll be driving seven to nine hours a day, I won’t have much time to stop at wayside junk shops, but if one happens to jump in front of me…

Back to Normal 10:10:15


Sue, The Cat Whisperer, will be tending my ground crew while I’m away.  The steely-eyed missile men took to her immediately, and seem to know that she’ll be The Keeper of the Treats.  I’m so lucky to have reconnected with this friend from high school who loves felines as much as I do (and is used to a swampy litter box).


My friend, Cat, loaned me a laptop so that I can pretend to be Charles Kuralt.  My plan is to settle into a comfy B&B each night, cook up a bowl of Ramen noodles, and write a blog post of the day’s excitement On The Road.  I feel very journalistic and savvy since it’s a Microsoft laptop instead of a Mac.

My Butt Itches“Payload…

“I figured the other day that I’d made 87 cards in 81 days.  Since a therapist once told me to eliminate productive from my vocabulary, I’ll just say I’m pleased and amazed at that number.  Some of those cards were special orders or sold on my Etsy shop, but most are going with me.  The vendor show at ArtFest only lasts an hour (Hmmm.  We’ll see about that…), but I’m excited to show my wares and present a funky table display.


A lot of people helped make this Bucket List Trip a reality.  From Cheryl and Tom loaning me a second suitcase and card displays to my deceased mom leaving me her Honda, I have relied on the kindness and generosity of my clan.  Thank you, everyone.  I am forever grateful.

So let’s go through that checklist one last time.


Listen, she saidThe only thing I know for sure about my flavor of bipolar disorder is that I know nothing for sure.  On days like today, when my mind feels cool and friendly, I can marvel at the potential this unknowing offers.  Living without answers keeps me in the questions.  It makes me curious, willing to experiment, and to move on if the experiment fizzles.

Unknowing can be a great relief.  When mixed with mindfulness, there’s an untethering that happens.  My attachment to being functional, to plans, even to my concept of Self loosens.  Unknowing helps me accept whatever is in the moment.  Unknowing allows me to accept all of me as my mood, energy and cognition rise and fall.

kingsmountainThese rapid cycling, mixed states plant barriers that force me to cut a new path.  The first step is to sit with the beauty of the barrier.  I imagine touching the rough, unyielding surface and see an Irish megalith—part of my DNA and a complete mystery.  It requires respect and acknowledgment.  If I don’t see the barrier, I can’t dream a different trajectory.

This weekend I came down with a bad cold.  Over the course of a day, I lost my voice and terror drowned out all other sound.  “I just got over pneumonia.  In a couple of weeks, I’ll be driving across the country.  I can’t get sick now.

And the monolith rises up, demanding attention.

Card DisplayI am sick, so I need to tend that.  I leave for ArtFest in three weeks, and I’m ready.  As I sit with this old stone, I can see that I’ve been pushing too hard.  Because I was accepted as a vendor, I’ve been cranking out my most artful, most outrageous cards.  I refurbished a display unit my friend loaned me.  I wanted ArtFest to see a particular side of me—professional, laid-back, confident.

And the craggy rock cannot be moved.

I am all those things, but my illness makes me much more.  My moods, my energy, my capacity will swing on my trip.  I could keep my fingers in my ears and pretend it won’t happen, but then I’ll crack my head on this immovable menhir.

I need to be quiet now and listen to the silence of my DNA.  As I breathe in the mystery, I can feel my grip loosen.  Expectation.  Ego.  Fear.  Judgment.

I’m fine.  And now it’s time for a cup of tea.

Look! A Baby Wolf!

Do certain lines from movies and TV dig like earwigs into your brain and become part of your vocabulary?  (Please tell me I’m not alone in this). Whether it’s John Cleese in Monty Python and The Holy Grail:


Or Gina Davis in The Fly


Or most anything from Firefly:


continental_divide4A truly horrible movie came out in 1981—John Belushi, Blair Brown, Continental Divide.  This was Belushi’s attempt at being a romantic lead.  Yeesh.  When Brown tries to make him tell the truth, he weasels out of it with a great line that stuck in my head.  “Look, a baby wolf!”

Sort of like the dog in Up!:


So, that’s my shorthand for Let’s not talk about how crazy I feel.  Let’s look at something shiny instead (Another Firefly reference, thank you very much).

Look! A Baby Wolf!


I learned how to rehydrate old paper.  I found a set of German books so old they didn’t have copyrights.  Best guess is that they’re from the 1830s.  The acidic paper in books this old falls apart with a touch and soaks up anything moist.  So, as background paper for my cards, I can’t really do anything but use them as is—which is gorgeous.  I love the beautiful type and the design element of foreign text.  But I wanted the option of dressing them up if I wanted to.  After a little Googling and found a ridiculously simple rehydrating process.  To my amazement, it worked.  I feel so science-y!


Get a container with an air-tight lid.  Set a smaller container of water in the center.  Carefully tuck the ancient paper around the smaller container (that’s the tricky part—curling the paper without it crumbling to bits).  Seal the container and let it sit for a day.

Rehydrating3That’s the whole process.

The book pages came out a little more supple, a little better able to hold color.  They still sucked up the moisture of inks and sprays, but I’m sorta digging the subtle results.


Another day of rehydration, yielded bolder colors.


Awesome Sauce!

Back in the Saddle

Be What You AreSlowly, slowly, I’m remembering how to ride this horse.

I’m not getting quite so unglued about being unglued.  I finally got a little space between me and the overwhelming hysteria that seemed to be my first reaction to anything out of the ordinary.

The lead minister at our Unitarian church leaves for a six month sabbatical next week, and I burst into flames of abandonment.  Finding out my drill bits were all broken or worn to useless nubbins, made me want to throw my drill, my project, and myself into the dumpster. When the motor on my humidifier started gargling, I unplugged it and cried at the kitchen sink until the cats came to see what was trapped in the garbage disposal.

What happened to my problem-solving skills?  What happened to the List Maker? The Abstract/Sequential Thinker? The ability to just take a breath?

I could see that I’d circled around to Crazy Town again, but forgot how to navigate the emotional dust storm.

Until I relaxed into it.

I found the metaphorical saloon and waited out the storm.

When the illness rages, it’s best for me to just hunker down, shift to self-soothing activities like playing with my pretty ribbons, and stop trying to push against the gale and grit.  It’s awful, that waiting, when the voice in my head tells me I’m worthless, useless, broken.  That voice knows exactly where all the cracks are in my defenses, all the old buttons to push.  It’s a scheming, sneaky bastard.

So, I forced myself to set aside the paperwork for my rent recertification, and dealing with the bed and breakfast in California that cancelled my reservation, and finding a new source of pretty ribbons since mine dried up.  I remembered to pull a Scarlet O’Hara and “think about them tomorrow,” because the storm will pass, and my brain will come back from the privy, and we’ll slap off the dust and tumbleweeds and be on our way.

Kids on Horses

I don’t remember ever riding a horse, but I don’t trust that non-remembering.  With a nephew and an ex-brother-in-law both doing the rodeo circuit, I must have sat a horse at least once.  What I hear from riders is that it takes muscle, and until you build that muscle, your ass hurts.  So, I’m in the Aching Ass phase of relearning how to ride this bipolar bronc.  Great.

At least I’m in the saddle.

Five Years Old

A Mind Divided is five today.

5th birthday chris

5 • 5 • 5


5th birthday nathanTo celebrate, I went through every post (946) to make sure the video links still worked and to find lost pictures.  You know WordPress—stuff gets lost.  And videos that were perfectly fine suddenly become “private” (As if you can stuff that genie back in the bottle).

5th birthday benedictNothing cheeses me off quite so much as faulty technology (or bad grammar, but that’s a different post).  When I come across a link that doesn’t work, or that little blue square ? instead of a picture, I’m sure I’m missing out on something fabulous and now–sadly—lost to me forever.  The mystery of it, the tease, makes my compulsive nature sing a sweary song.

Christian Bale at the Sundance Film Festival, 2000 *** NO TABLOIDS ***

So, in order to be a polite blog host, and to spare any unnecessary Sweary Songs, I tried to fill in any blanks left by You Tube and WordPress (Because everyone will be checking that 2/24/11 Star Trek fan-vid).

And this made me a little cranky, but also amazed at the 946 posts.  In the beginning, I posted a lot.  I think most new bloggers do.  The rush of words going public and the urgency behind telling one’s story dazzles us.  When I didn’t have something personal to share, I posted poetry, my art, anything that felt meaningful or part of me.  That first year I averaged 25.5 posts per month.  This past year, my average was 7.5.

5th birthday hiddlesSome folks burn out.  Some run out of words.  The blog runs its course or loses the meaning it once held.  Some folks just get busy or move on to something that provides more meaning.

I’ve found I don’t need to say anything until I have something to say.  Being a “specialty” blog gives me the freedom to not mess about with the statistics page.  I don’t worry about losing readers or what I need to do to tart up my site to attract more.  I’ve never been Freshly Pressed (it’s called something else now…) and never will be.

5th birthday avengersI get to do what I love here—take my bipolar disorder apart and find any silver linings that hide under the gore.  I get to share my art and my fan fiction.  I get to belong to a loving, funny community that continues to blow my socks off with their comments and kindness.  I get to gush about movies, and books, and pretend boyfriends.  I get to be vulnerable, and freaky, and completely me.

5th birthday RichardI love this blog.  I love its therapeutic power.  I love the friends I’ve made through it.  And I love writing it.  I love that new readers still find their way here and that, once in a while, they stick around.

Frosting on my bloggy birthday cake.


Every year around this time, our library gives away its old magazines.  For me, it’s like winning the lottery… or getting free cheese from the government.  I’m still honing my skills, but I’ve learned a few things.

Mag Giveaway2

Get there Early.  While most folk come to browse and pick up a few Highlights for the kiddies, poplar magazines go quickly.  Today I was first in line—except for the two schizophrenics who hang out at the library every day.  People behind me started muttering about “budging in line,” so I quietly explained that these guys weren’t after the magazines.  The library is a second home to a lot of us.

aldi bagBring Sturdy Bags.  My canvas Aldi bags work great.  I generally load about fifty pounds per bag, so I don’t want any spillage while I’m huffing my way back to the car.

• Snatch the High Priority Magazines First.  I have a few favorites—magazines that offer the best photos and weirdest copy.  National Geographic is my number one pick.  Aside from the gorgeous and often bizarre photographs, the copy is so delightful taken out of context.  Where else would I be able to find “People swallow eight spiders a year in their sleep” or “Poop throwing”?  The Oprah Magazine carries a columnist that is always hysterical.  And Entertainment Weekly gives me both celebrity fun and consistently outrageous copy.  I like to read The Humanist, but tend to find choice quotes there as well.

Mag Giveaway1

• Take a Second, Slow Turn to Try New Titles.  It always surprises me which magazines are complete duds as far as my needs go.  AARP, Psychology Today, Popular Photography, The New Yorker, and Natural Life were all disasters.  Boring text, boring pictures (Popular Photography is all about cameras and lighting. Zzzzzz), or self-important and snooty with no humor—even out of context.  Writer and Writer’s Digest are iffy.  A good interview can make the search worthwhile, but most articles are overwritten and so serious.

This year I’m trying American History, Harper’s, Vanity Fair (mostly for the gorgeous Hollywood portraits), and The Iowa Review (a poetry/literary collection).

Mag Haul 2016

Instead of this slap-dash method, I’m considering a more systematic approach next year.  I think I’ll start visiting the magazine section and get more acquainted with what’s stocked.  There might be a rag out there, rich in hilarity and quirkiness, hidden under an innocuous title.  Maybe Men’s Health is the Holy Grail.

Oh, it so could be…

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