Weekend Update

I was really looking forward to my birthday this year. I had made plans on what I wanted to do and was happy with my choices. So many birthdays have involved debate and compromise with my twin sister to establish what “We” wanted, it was actually nice to have the pandemic excuse to focus just on me.

I did get horribly depressed on Saturday though, I’m not quite sure why. Husband helped me shake out of it though.

Sunday was the birthday itself and was lovely. Husband made me breakfast, omelet and hash browns, yum! Then we went to the North Chagrin Reservation. I wanted to walk the Castle Valley Trail. The North Chagrin reservation is one of my favorite places in the world, and that particular trail I’d never walked end-to-end. It goes straight through the park and is just over two and a half miles. Usually when we go to the park we’re not interested in that long of a walk. Husband declared we would take both cars; we parked his at Squire’s Castle (one end of the trail) and then drove mine up to the Forest Picnic Area (the other end.)

I was worried when I had woken up to rain… but it ended by the time we got to the trail. (I did have my small travel umbrella in my pocket, just in case.) The trail itself was very slippery with ice. I was expecting mud, but not quite so much ice! It made for interesting footing, heh. So perhaps slower going than it might have been otherwise, but I liked the added challenge. The park was beautiful, all of the streams were over-flowing their banks with meltwater and there was a misty fog that made it feel downright magical.

At the end, Mark drove me back up to my car and I went home while he went off to Baker’s Square to pick up my requested carrot cake. πŸ™‚ I had a nice, long, hot shower, changed into my favorite dress and we had cake and ice cream. Voila!

The long walk tired me out more than I thought it would, I’m quite out of shape.

And… Marie got more Facebook birthday messages than me this year, not surprising as she has a novel coming out πŸ˜‰

In all, an excellent birthday.


Thursday Gratitude

It’s Thursday and once again I have much to be grateful for.

  • This is my fourth blog post in four days! Not sure what that means, but I think it’s a good sign. πŸ™‚
  • I went to the dentist today and was struck about how I’m not afraid of going to the dentist any more! Such a difference from when my husband first dragged me there 16 years ago. I didn’t feel any of the anxiousness I used to, and actually asked questions and talked about my teeth instead of being scared to say anything. Go me!
  • I’m grateful I have my diary from when I was 16. I’d forgotten it was Uncle Pepi who bought the diaries for us.
  • After the dentist, the husband and I got take out from one of our favorite restaurants! Very grateful husband has finally relented on take out being safe enough. My first real french fries in over a year! NOM!
  • I’m grateful for paid sick leave
  • I have a ticket to go to the art museum next Thursday; my therapist gave me an assignment to go and do something by myself for myself. Grateful to the husband for thinking of the museum! It’s like he knows me.
  • I got a birthday gift in the mail from my brother-in-law Frankie and his wife Bridget; a sketchbook and pencils. πŸ™‚ Aww! It’s like they know me. πŸ™‚
  • Hey, it’s my birthday this weekend. And this year there’s no angst over what to do or how to celebrate; I picked what I wanted. Looking forward to a long walk in the park πŸ™‚
  • My blue cardigan which has seen much service this season
  • hope.
Art · Life

The origin of the Stardust Gang

When we were 15 our uncle Pepi gave Marie and I diaries for Christmas with matching pens. I got a pink diary and pink pen, Marie got a purple diary and pen. The third entry in my diary is for New Year’s day, 1990:

“Marie just took my pen, she’s working on a new book. It started off as a short story. Anyway, she started to write it in my pen, and she can’t have a story in two colors so she took it and I’m writing in her pen.”

I was quite angry, actually, that she took my pen. And she used all the ink up on that story too! The story was the first draft (which may not bear much resemblance to the final!) of Marie’s novel Galactic Hellcats which is due to come out in March. She was inspired by a drawing I did, way back then. I wish I still had the drawing!

Galactic Hellcats is about an all girl outer space biker gang who band together to rescue a gay prince. The gang was the “Stardust Gang” in that first draft. I’ve read at least three different drafts of the story, but not the one that’s been published! I enjoyed every previous draft, so I can’t wait to dive in and read this one. What’s best is my sister Marie got a few advance copies from the publisher and gave me one. She dedicated the book to me and our childhood best friend, Shannon. I about cried.

You can pre-order your own copy here:



Most of you who follow this blog know by now that I’m a survivor of child abuse. It’s been a hard label to live with and a long road of healing since I was 12 and my Dad finally got custody of my twin sister Marie and I from our abusive mother.

It’s funny how some of those old wounds and scars lay forgotten beneath the surface for years until something wakes them up. This is why it’s best to deal with your trauma, get therapy, get help, rather than think the problems will heal or go away on their own. They don’t.

Last October things came to a head for my niece Jennifer and she was removed from her mother (my older sister Terri)’s custody. (And here we could talk about the cycle of abuse, where one generation passes on the sins of the previous. What a depressing subject.) I was asked if Mark and I could take her in on an emergency basis for a few days and did not hesitate to say yes. Absolutely! Who wouldn’t? A few days ended up being almost 4 months. I think all three of us, me, Mark and Jennifer, were annoyed and impatient with the process. It was a bit like being in a perpetual waiting room. But as I told Jennifer, there are worse things than being bored. We didn’t tell anyone, keeping it secret to protect Jennifer.

The Pandemic made things worse, of course. We couldn’t go out, visit or do the fun sort of things we might have done otherwise.

It was hard for me too as a reminder of my own childhood trauma. I couldn’t help remembering. Fearing. I hope I was able to help Jennifer a bit. We had some great conversations about being a survivor of abuse.

Last Friday the court magistrate said that Jennifer should be placed in my twin sister Marie’s home as Marie is applying for custody. Jennifer was very happy to go home! (And Jennifer is going to get to visit her best friend again as Marie and Brian are much less strict on quarantine than Mark and I.) I think Marie and her husband will be the loving, caring parents Jennifer needs and deserves. Still going to be holding my breath a bit until custody is confirmed legally, but the worst is certainly over.

I did gain a greater connection with my niece and an appreciation for how Mark and I would do as parents, had we ever had kids. And that’s a gift.


Pretty Ugly Girl

It’s a cliche from high school romance movies; the pretty girl who everyone thinks is ugly until she is magically transformed. I am here to tell you; it’s real. I am a pretty ugly girl. Starting my “Ugly” painting stirred up these emotions. Just processing them.

Our older sister Terri always called Marie and I her “ugly stepsisters.” She also taught us to respond in unison when asked how to tell us apart “She’s the ugly one!” And was quick to point out her superiority in beauty to us being blonde. Our hair was the color of poop.

American culture tells young women that the most important thing they can be is pretty, which of course also tells bullies that the best insult you can throw at a girl is “ugly.” I remember the school yard bullies chanting “U. G. L. Y! You ain’t got no alibi, you’re ugly!” at Marie and I.

Of course we believed them. No matter how often our grandmother would say “youse girls are so pretty!” we wouldn’t believe her. Grandmothers are obviously biased.

So at a young age I was convinced I was ugly. I remember being happy when I got a pen-pal assignment in middle school because the girl in Ireland I was writing too couldn’t see me and see how ugly I was.

When Dad got custody of us, Marie and I gained a lot of weight. (That happens when you go from not eating to eating.) We got stretch marks from the weight gain. They were painful and now on top of ugly, we both were convinced we were fat. (We weren’t… we were actually probably still under-weight.)

I remember once sitting on the edge of my Dad’s bed looking in the mirror on his dresser for a long time at my face… trying to see, trying to understand why I was ugly. I was maybe 13 years old. It was an important moment for me, really. I decided that I actually liked how my eyes looked. Sure, they were brown. Dark brown… oreo cookie brown. But I think they look nice. Maybe…I thought for the first time… maybe I’m not ugly.

I remember people joking when we turned 16 “Sweet 16 and never been kissed!” and it made me angry, because of course I’ve never been kissed. Never likely to be kissed either!

Then we went away to college… and everything changed. I remember freshman year Marie calling me, in shock and excitement “Gracie! We’re pretty! We’ve been pretty this whole time!!” I of course thought she was full of it. She just was reeling from having some male attention, after all she was going to a school with more boys than girls. Of course she also had to add the despair of only finding out she was pretty when we were already 18 and our pretty years were soon to be past us.

Anyway… here I am, late 40s and still struggling with feeling ugly. I know intellectually that I am not. But the feeling is still there. The surety that I am ugly. Why does it matter if I am ugly or not? Isn’t beauty to be found in any healthy person? I find beauty so easily in others… why is it difficult to see in myself?


Thursday Gratitude

Today I am grateful for many things:

  • Remembering it’s Thursday on Thursday πŸ˜‰
  • Jennifer is home – there’s a lot more behind that simple statement. I may elaborate in a future post, or maybe I won’t. Dramatic family stuff. Anyway, it’s a good thing!
  • My “Imposter Syndrome” presentation went well last week; no technical problems at all. I got the feedback today and there were a lot of glowing comments about me as presenter. Yay! I did good! I do hope I helped some of them. The Academic Impressions Facilitator was also glowing and said she hopes we can work together again in the future. πŸ™‚
  • Very glad I took tomorrow off of work, here’s some gratitude for paid time off. I really must use it more.
  • Coffee, which makes all things possible.
  • My boss is out of the office this week.
  • Snow. OK, I’m tired of winter (as everyone is by February!) but gosh, it’s pretty. And the fluffy, glittery snow we’re having right now is particularly pretty. Also grateful I work from home and don’t have to go out into the snow except if I want to.
  • Streaming TV shows. Wow, isn’t it great being able to watch a show you want to watch when you want to watch it? No waiting for Thursday night at 8pm, and you can go right to the next episode too! So nice.
  • It’s now been two weeks since my second vaccine shot, yay! Husband has been diligently trying to schedule himself to get one.
  • Candice kitty is in my lap.
  • The “Hunger” painting is nearly done πŸ™‚


Painting Update

Got some quality time in painting on my “Hunger” painting over the weekend. The words are now on the page; not as neat or flowing as I’d like, but they’re there. I rather like the words I came up with as I painted. The empty plate is looking better…. just a little more shading work I think and the painting is done. I started painting the edges of the canvas black. It’s a “Gallery Wrap” canvas, so it’s got nice thick edges that can be decorated. I’m going to do more words around the outside edge once I’ve finished the black background. Haven’t quite decided what color to paint the letters in, I’m thinking gray, to be more subtle.

I am liking the new pallette. It is much more comfortable to hold.

Also, thinking about how my friend Aurellia is always working on more than one painting at a time. That really is more efficient. I need to figure out drying space for my painting while I work on another. I do have “Daddy Issues” to work on, and the “UGLY” painting waiting to be started. I think “UGLY” will go fast. It’s just going to be four self-portraits. The face I know best, eh?

Oh, and I took a commission to do a portrait miniature for a friend. That will be fun. πŸ™‚ Unfortunately with CoVID, I’ll have to work from a photo.


Thursday Gratitude

It’s Thursday again and as always, I have much I can be grateful for.

  • One of my friends, Jared, died this week. I am not grateful for his death, of course, but I feel I need to remark on my gratitude for having known him. I am very grateful that I was able to have him in my life; Jared was a wonderful person. Wise and kind. He had a great impact on me; he was the one who showed me how to re-frame my art anxiety, for one. “OK, stop, look at it again, what would you say if this was YOUR work?” A lesson that really changed my life. Thank you Jared. I miss you.
  • I got my second dose of the Moderna CoVID-19 vaccine today. I feel very much my luck to get the vaccine so early!
  • I do not have breast cancer. OK, maybe I was a little more scared than I should have been when they asked me to come back for a follow up to my mammogram. But very much relieved to hear “it’s just a cyst.” *whew!* By the way, I apparently have very dense boobs. Like, extra dense. Go me.
  • The Musketeer’s BBC series. Yes, it is a wildly inaccurate cop show with period flavor, but I’m enjoying it (and the beautiful male cast) immensely. Sad about the costuming, though. The props team was on point; the guns are lovely.
  • I really have quite a nice library of costuming reference books. Forgot I had one on 17th Century dress construction. πŸ™‚
  • I cast on a new knitting project, feels good to be making something.
  • My twin sister finally has her attic back.
  • Husband is making dinner tonight, and a moment to be grateful, as always, for my awesome husband.
  • I bought myself a new paint palette. Decadent! But, I never liked the square one that came with my paint kit anyway, and years of bad paint management have made it quite a mess. Looking forward to painting with the new one and have every intention to try to instill good paint-cleaning practices going forward. πŸ™‚
  • My fuzzy blue cardigan, which is nice and warm in this cold season.

Thursday Gratitude

As always, I have much to be grateful for:

  • Avocados
  • I put brush to canvas for the first time in months last week, and I like what I did. πŸ™‚
  • My long suffering husband, who did most of the putting away of Christmas decorations himself this year.
  • No video meetings today! Thursday is always a light meeting day for me.
  • I finished my presentation draft on time
  • I bought myself a new cat calendar for my desk. I do like having a picture of a pretty kitty to look at each day.
  • The TLT Penguins invited me onto their team for the work wellness challenge πŸ™‚
  • Coffee
  • My therapist

Oops, forgot to post this yesterday! heh, actually typed on Thursday, honest πŸ˜‰



I wish I had started seeing a therapist 30 years ago. There are things in the past you think are so old and forgotten, they can’t possibly affect you any more. And then you’re confronted with them and it’s the world’s fastest time machine. BAM. You’re back to 10 years old, afraid and facing a bully.

These problems don’t go away without working on them.

A week ago, Sunday, my older sister Terri showed up at my door. She looked terrible… and despite knowing that my childhood bully had no power over me, my heart was pounding. But I did face her, I opened the door, asked her what she wanted and then told her to go away.

I wasted a lot of time, effort and money trying to build a connection with her in years past… but she rejected my outreached hand… didn’t even see it. Overly fond of being a victim, she claims that “no one has ever helped her.” And after so many attempts to help, I’ve realized that she’s a person I can’t help. Any gift given is hocked or thrown away, any advice is rejected angrily, any shelter you give is abused, any money is spent instantly and forgotten. (One particularly poignant example is when Marie and I offered to give her up to $600 toward a month’s rent on an apartment. This at a time when neither of us were making a lot of money, that was a significant hardship on us! She took the cash up front, then showed up two weeks later demanding the $600 we’d promised… she’d forgotten she’d taken it and spent it already. Much as she forgot the smaller sums she’d taken over and over again in the years before. Our aunt asked us if she was a drug addict, actually, because of how often she came asking for money.)

It’s sad that her life is the way it is… but until she realizes the problem within herself and tries to change, I just can’t help her. I can’t make her see the light. Can’t make her take responsibility for her own life. All I can do is try to protect the people I can help, and myself, by not associating with her.