Who Is Anastasia?

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New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear, regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a visual folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown and/or painted by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how overgrown and wild it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ...


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January 21, 2018


Because I don't believe in making resolutions, I will not discuss or write about them. Life changes by the moment, and sometimes setting specific rules for one's life is not always practical or remembered, for that matter. A friend messaged me the other day, and mirrored my thoughts, stating, “When you are at an age where writing New Year’s Resolutions seems redundant at best...seeking wisdom seems more beneficial ...so here are some thoughts to take us into 2018...” She attached a copy of “The Rules For Being Human,” believed to originally come from ancient Sanskrit. However, I've seen it re-written and translated in various ways over the years, most notably by Dr. Chérie Carter-Scott. Often the 10th and final rule is omitted. This is my interpretation of these rules:

SIDHARTHA by Stacey Torres
(India Ink on Canvas)
First, you are given a body. Each of us gets one issued to us, and whether we like it or not, it is ours to cherish, protect, nourish and utilize as our temple, chapel, shelter and armor. Treat it with respect as no other in life will.

Second, each of us will be given lessons, and will continue to be presented with lessons throughout our lives. These will come at any given hour each and every day. If we choose to ignore them, that is our own choice and failure. But, if we accept them and learn from them, our choice becomes our triumph. This practice will never cease during our given lives.

Third, we will never fail because we are continuing to learn from our lessons. So, there are no true mistakes; just experiences – both good and bad – and we are responsible from learning from these as well. Stop dwelling on what did not work out, but what you gained from stumbling about and ultimately growing.

Fourth, the lessons that have been given to us will be repeated by us, and presented to us again and again … until we get it right. And then, and only then, will the next lesson be shown to us.

Fifth, we shall NEVER cease to learn lessons – like it or not. The moment we think we have all the knowledge we will need in life, is the moment we begin to die.

Sixth, nothing is better than here … not then nor there; but here. Here is what counts at this moment. We cannot control our past nor our future - Where we've been or where we're going - but where we are - here ...
Seven, everyone else is a mirror of ourselves. Consider that there is no way to hate or love something about someone else unless it truly reflects something you profoundly hate or love about yourself. Think very hard about this one …

Eight, know that everything you do and make of your own life is totally up to you, and you alone. Stop blaming others and circumstances for what you have not done or accomplished. You stopped you from doing so, but you can also take a deep breath and resume the task.

Nine, please trust that every answer to all of your life's questions lie deep within you. Only you can know what they are. Be still. Be silent and listen. Your Creator has placed enough wisdom in you to thrive with knowledge within the body issued to you; and,

Ten, at birth you will forget all of this.

But, in 2018, we can remember these simple lessons, and savor the lives were are granted, in peace, dignity and grace.

Published in The Courier-Times, Dec 31, 2017

November 27, 2017

When Dreams Come True In Miniature


“It has a light that really lights, and a doorbell that really rings ...” I'll never forget those words. It was 1961, and I memorized and chanted this sentence no less than 200 times a day. They came from a TV commercial for the “Marx-A-Mansion Dreamhouse®;” a dollhouse made by the old Louis Marx & Company. From about 1918 to 1980, Marx manufactured several tin litho dollhouses that were popular in the 50s and 60s. I had a small one when I was about four years old that eventually found its way into the storefront window of my grandfather's real estate office.
But, the Marx-A-Mansion Dreamhouse, a/k/a “Marxie,” was the cat daddy of them all. It was their largest house, evolving from their original Colonial. This wonder had seven rooms and a balcony off the master bedroom. I wanted that house! I talked about it constantly; cut out pictures from the newspaper and stuck them on the fridge, the front door and tucked in my mother's purse. Christmas was coming, and the world would crumble if I didn't get that magical mansion. Of course, I didn't get it.
Christmas morning of 1961 was the most tragic of days. I fought back tears of disappointment, as I was raised not to sulk and show signs of being ungrateful. I tried. I really tried, but my heart was broken. So I put the Dreamhouse out of my mind – sort of. To suffice, I made tons of little houses from cardboard boxes, designing homemade wallpaper and bottle cap furniture. They became very elaborate, and soon I had created an entire neighborhood of shoe box tract houses. One day I came home from school, and they were gone. I never bothered to ask; I knew my hobbies were excessive.
Shortly after Thanksgiving on the morning of my birthday the following year, I ran upstairs to visit my Aunt Thelma, who I knew was baking me a cake. As I mounted the first step, I did a double-take. There at the bottom of the stairs, behind the hall door, was a huge flat box. I nearly had “the big one” as I stood there in shock, with my mouth salivating and my knees shaking. Printed on the side, in huge letters was “Marx-A-Mansion Dreamhouse.” My eyes glazed over, and I struggled to climb the stairs, acting as nonchalant as I could. Really? Could they have not hidden this any better than this? But it was here! My house was here – in time for Christmas 1962. So I played dumb.
According to conversations I heard that Christmas, apparently, it took six men and nine babies to put the thing together on Christmas Eve with much cussing and eggnog, as I pretended to sleep, grinning the night away. I had hit pay dirt. My house had the famed “Florida Room,” with wrap-around windows. Yes, the light (lamp) really did light (as long as we had batteries), and the doorbell really did ring. A bonus for me was I also got a kidney shaped pool that went with another Marx house. I later used it for drowning tomato worms in the backyard.
My mother had come through, with the help of my aunt and uncle, and got me the dollhouse when she could afford it. My romance with the house resumed. More than that, it was the beginning of a passionate hobby I still adore. Miniatures! When I was about 47, I fell into the hobby on a visit to our old Ben Franklin store. I saw a small wood house that needed love. I dragged it home and showed my mother who immediately recognized the crazed look on my face. My hobby turned into a monster that couldn't be contained. I'm ashamed to say how much money and time I spent being a miniaturist. Nor will I confess to how many houses in different scales I actually own(ed) and/or constructed.
The biggest was a gigantic vintage Dura-Craft
® Farmhouse gifted to me by a friend. It took me three years to rehab it, including wiring, decorating, building and collecting pieces to go inside. A friend from the U.K. sent me a set of silver candlesticks and hand blown glass liquor bottles. I even rigged up a TV that came on.
One night, my family and I were at a Chinese buffet in Muncie when I noticed an odd look on Mom's face. She had spotted it. Of all things to decorate a Chinese restaurant with, was a vintage Marx-A-Mansion Dreamhouse. I trembled. Mine got lost in the shuffle of life decades ago. I think my cousin, Allyson may have inherited it; we did that sort of thing growing up. I never got over my love affair with Marxie. In a rush of adrenaline, I asked the owner if he'd sell. “Absolutely Not!” he said. As I slithered back to my Moo Shu Pork, I saw my ex husband and mother snicker.
But life changes, as do necessities and needs. I no longer have the passion for my miniatures, nor the space and ability to care for them. This week, I am parting with my beloved farmhouse that now holds inches of dust, cobwebs and the remains of the inhabitants my dog has chewed up. It's going to a little girl.

I often look up Marxie online to reminisce. Now valued in the hundreds, I realize my mother struggled to pay $15 for that house for me. But, that was who she was. I didn't get it when I wanted it; but I got it on time. Little did she know the seed she was planting.

Originally Published in The Courier-Times, New Castle, Indiana, Nov 26, 2017

November 2, 2017

Healing Your Mind, Body and Soul Through Creativity

I studied art in high school almost 50 years ago with dreams of being an “artist.” At the time, I did not know what that meant, and soon realized I was limited in my options. I put my brush away in 1974, and did not pick it up again until 2014, while witnessing my mother's last days in Alzheimer's.
Angry and afraid, and struggling with my frustrations, I began to paint again for therapy and healing. Making art to express my anxiety, love and pain worked for me, as did dancing, baking, and gardening. But mostly by painting, I can tell my stories, and create a life and world that feels ideal to me, no matter what anyone else thinks, or where they fit in – or not.
I learned that it did not matter how my artwork looked to others, because it was for me, about me, and through me. A splash of paint, a dot, or an intricate design led me deeper into my journey. I worked off frustrations and made beauty – whatever I wanted or needed I would create it.
And when my art speaks to and for others, I feel I've done my best, and my work has been done properly. Recently, I participated in a health fair at the YMCA, where I was painting live. At this event, I spoke with people about the benefits of finding your own creativity within yourself, and how therapeutic and healing it can be for you. In my case it was with depression, anxiety and grief. But, it also helps to sooth and calm some physical tension and ailments as well. Several people spoke to me about the possibility of teaching them art. I have a lot of difficulty with this, because I am a self taught folk artist. I don't use, and therefore cannot teach anyone the rules that most artists go by. I can't teach anyone what I don't know or recognize. I wing it and fly where my brush guides me. So, what I can do, however, is to show you how to express yourself from deep within, and trust yourself to follow what it is that comes from your core.

A little girl literally begged me to teach her. I told her mother I really did not think I could do so – The truth is, I don't have a lot of confidence in myself to do so. However, I told her about a summer art day camp at the Henry County Art Center that was beginning last Monday, and perhaps she could enroll her in a class. They seemed somewhat interested, and I thought no more about it.
Teaching at Summer Art Camp 2017
But, as always, there's these quirky little twists that weave in and out of my life. I was invited to give the day camp participants a tour of my exhibit that was still on display at the Art Center last Monday morning. There were quite a few excited and eager young people all ready to start their new artistic summer adventure. And, there among the crowd was my little friend. My heart leaped when I saw her, and she gave me a big hug. I was not able to teach her myself, but I guided her to a source that would … Or, so I thought …
After my presentation to the kids, I was invited to come back in a couple of days and actually teach the students a bit of what I do, and I agreed. What an experience THAT was! I learned so much from those kids in a few short hours, it was mind boggling. I'm not sure what they learned from me, but it was a terrific opportunity for me. It has actually also changed my mind (a bit) about teaching. So, the truth is, I am thinking about it.
Dancing at a Wedding in 2012
Creativity comes from a wide array of sources. If you don't want to paint or draw, consider writing a letter, a poem, or even create a recipe. Sing to yourself – in or out of the shower – dance with yourself in the kitchen at night, and write short stories – whether you share them or not.

CREATE SOMETHING EVERY DAY – Feed your soul and heal your heart and mind. You'll feel better for it in time, and so will others.

Published in The Courier-Times, June 2017

Safe Passage to Now

As I write this, I'm in bed under a warm comforter with a hot cup of alfalfa tea, my laptop, and a fresh case of strep throat. But, a friend called me the other day from New York and told me that out of necessity, she was trying to get back into the job market. She is close to 70. She had been a receptionist for several decades, and retired for the last five years. Life changes rather quickly, and her circumstances suddenly became dire when she realized her pension plan was being dissolved – I don't know the details behind that; she didn't share. But our reality is simply this, anyone and everyone is just one paycheck away from being homeless, no matter how well we prepare or how carefully we live our lives. Remember the Great Depression.

She told me about all the websites she was posting her resume to, and how mind boggling it all was to her. My friend was greatly intimidated, confused and not very optimistic. If she could not wade through Internet job searches, how would she manage to survive in the workforce? I suggested she consider a different line of business this time, but she wanted to do receptionist work again. At her age, she is still very vibrant, articulate, intelligent and attractive. I don't think she'd have a hard time landing a job in that area, but keeping it is another story. Like me, she hates gadgets and devices and programs and protocol and overall progress.

I was familiar with some of the human resource sites she mentioned, having used them myself in the past. Wondering if and when I'll ever need to do the same, I remembered my early days breaking into the job market.

After graduating from high school, I moved back home to New York and lived with my grandparents. My immediate plan was to go down to Greenwich Village and be an artist. My grandparents' immediate plan was that I find a respectable safe job, like a nurse or a secretary. But, because I couldn't bring myself to stay in college longer than a few weeks at a time, they insisted I do something to save myself or else go back to Indiana. Nursing was not for me. The sight or thought of anyone's body fluids made me faint away. So, I decided to work in an office. I took business classes in high school, so I scoured the Sunday paper for job leads. All the good jobs were in Manhattan, and we lived in Queens. That meant I'd have to commute daily by bus and subway.

Nana, my grandmother, insisted on showing me how to 'get around town.' I didn't know that meant she would accompany me on each and every job interview. It was at CBS (television), when the interviewer gently suggested to Nana that she not come in with me on any more interviews. I got a job in their Legal Department as a clerk typist. This was my first real job, and I was ecstatic.
Stacey Maupin Torres, Bryant Park, NYC, 1971

But I'm a restless soul. I took Manhattan by storm, but was not content to sit in anyone's file room. I decided to find another job, and saw an ad in for an employment agency. Venturing into an old building on 42nd Street, I found myself knocking on a door with the name “Marian Marlowe Employment Agency” on it. I remember entering a tiny one-room office that was furnished very sparsely. Seated behind a large metal desk was a woman, who appeared to be in her 60s. She was heavily made up, had black flamboyant hair, chunky gold jewelry and dressed in a red suit. On her desk was a rotary telephone, two Rolodex and a recipe box marked "Leads," and a large glass ashtray filled with lipstick coated cigarette butts. White smoke swirled around her head and she stared at me with a hawk-like gaze. Tapping her long manicured finger on the desk, she directed me to sit. This was Marian Marlowe.

She asked a few questions about me and asked for my resume. When I handed it to her, she read it carefully, then broke into a rapid raspy chatter that went on for 30 or 40 minutes. She had analyzed and read me in that period of time, and literally re-invented me on the spot. After pulling a card out of her recipe box, she made a call as I sat there nervously. She was yelling at the person on the other end using words like “cracker jack,” “gal,” “girl Friday,” “top notch,” and on and on. This woman trained and groomed me for the job in her office well into the night before I went on the interview the next day. I got the job and a new career as a legal secretary. She convinced me I could do it, and I did, learning as I went along for the next 40 years.

I can't even count how many jobs I've had in my life. Ms. Marlowe was responsible for most of them. I often wonder what happened to her. Later, Nana described an actress named Marion Marlowe (different spelling) who had been in show business in the 50s. I often think that may have been her.
The thing is, no website, career coach or resume builder can really prepare you for keeping a job. It may get you the job; but you have to know how to do you and make it work. And now, I'm finally able to really call myself an artist – my first desire. It took life to get me here.

Published in The Courier-Times, Oct. 2017

Strangers by Birth; Sisters Through Art

In the years before my mother became seriously ill with Alzheimer's, she often brought up the subject of what would happen to me once she was gone. How would I live, support myself, who would I love, and who would love me? My answers were always the same. I'll leave New Castle, and merely go back to work as the legal assistant I had been for almost 40 years. I didn't even consider real estate, because it just wasn't my passion anymore. Living, however, was.

But, in time both our lives changed. I eventually gave up full time work to be home to care for her and help my aging Aunt Thelma, as well. Soon, it was apparent, that my plans were not exactly going to come to light – What do they say; tell God your plans, and he laughs. He laughed hard.
The night after her funeral, I sat in the living room with a hot cup of tea, watching the oncoming blizzard from the front door. And I wondered to myself, “Just what are you going to do now, Stacey?” I had no answer, and I stood frozen in fear, loneliness and uncertainty. I had no clue.

About an hour later, I was checking my emails when I as alerted that I had made a sale on Etsy. That was no big deal; I made lots of sales that year – usually, small $5-$10 painted cards or a drawing now and then. I wasn't too excited, decided to read the email rather than wait until morning. Yes, it was a sale – a substantial sale – a good sale – better than any one I'd had to date. Intrigued, I read the transaction details, and saw the name of the customer; Vicki Moore. My mother's maiden name was Moore. This person lived in Washington, DC. You have to know me and my family – we're always looking for signs and signals from beyond – Everything – and I mean EVERY thing – is a message or omen or sign from spirit – or dead relatives. I immediately thought, “Mom set that sale up!”

My customer's order was all over the place. She selected note cards, drawings, paintings – most notably, an oil pastel of a woman with green hair on black card stock. I was so grateful – even more so when she sent me a photo of how she had staged my humble artwork in her beautiful home. I was in awe because this was so new to me, and she was clearly a collector of amazingly unique art. What did she want with my primitive experimental work? But want it, she did.

Over the last three years, Vicki Moore has become one of my prized art collector clients, a patron, and most importantly, my very dear friend. She has championed me through some tricky times when I questioned my own abilities, praised my art and shared her amazingly colorful life with me as well. Much of my inspiration comes from her and some of the fabulous exotic places she's lived on this planet.

Last winter, Vicki offered to bring me down to Miami where she spends much of the season, with the added perk of being able to attend Miami's noted Art Basel. If you don't know what that is, please Google it; I'll just say it's huge in the contemporary art world. Alas, at the last minute, I was unable to travel due to health issues. But, she didn't let me off the hook that easy. When I opened my solo exhibit at the Art Association of Henry County (Indiana) in May of this year, my friend journeyed to New Castle to be with me for my opening reception. I counted her among my few close friends who were able to be there with and for me, and I never will forget that. That was also the first time we had met in person!

We spent the remainder of that weekend holed up in a hotel room in Downtown Indianapolis, talking about life, our similarities, art, and our remaining hopes and dreams. It was a time I will always cherish. Again, it came at the right time in my life – when I needed some positive reinforcement – and a chance to see if my wings could still fly. The friendship we forged over the last two years has grown.
Love is Finding Stacey Art at Vicki's Door!

During Hurricane Irma, Vicki made the (silly) decision to remain in Miami for reasons still unclear to me, despite pleas from her husband, friends and family. She waited out the storm, in her 6th floor condo as we texted and called throughout the weekend. That was when I understood the value of our friendship – I was scared. She said she wasn't – but, she was. When the storm died down on Monday, she called to say she was just fine and was working on her personal jewelry line (she makes cool stuff!) … as if nothing had happened.

So, to this day, Vicki Moore continues to inspire me – sending me articles on art, galleries and other musings. Most importantly, she continues to share photos with me of how she stages vignettes and decorates with my art. I really appreciate those messages.

So, if my mother is wondering how things are going, I hope she knows, there is another Ms. Moore in my life – another gem along with my scattering of beautiful friends who have remained with me over the years. I am surrounded by love, support and inspiration. I only hope I can give back to ALL of them, what they have given me. I still don't know what I'm going to do. At almost 64, where do I go; what shall I do? It's never too late to start over, nor is it ever too late to realize your dreams – no matter where or what they are.

Published in The Courier-Times, Sept. 2017

May 14, 2017

The Chattel Houses of Bimsha

The Chattel Houses on the Caribbean island of Barbados are a common sight, often taken for granted by those who reside there and see them every day. Dating back to “plantation days,” these tiny two room cottages were designed to be movable and transported when needed. Approximately 12 x 20 feet, and made of wood (without using any nails), they were positioned on concrete blocks, stones, or even a small hill. Sometimes, a small shed could be attached to the back for a bathroom of sorts.

The name “Chattel” comes from the French term, for a movable possession, and therefore, not real estate. Emancipated slaves were allowed to own homes, but they could not own land. Therefore, they created these small portable cabins. The owner of the house had to take it wherever he found work, from one (sugar) plantation to another, and would rent a small parcel of land for his house from his employer. If there was a landlord/tenant dispute, the owner of the house had to leave – and take his house with him. The walls of the home could be taken apart easily and placed on a flat bed truck, or a wagon pulled by a mule or horse. Once they reached their new location, the house could be reassembled as before.

"Aunt Mae's Chattel House," by Stacey Torres
Today, the island is still dotted with these curious little homes. They have a simple design of two windows and a center door to the front; and windows on each side (I'm not certain of the back). The windows were usually jalousie windows, or have storm shutters, and sometimes just open with no glass. Many of the houses are on permanent locations now with foundations, running water and electricity. Some have been refurbished and fitted to accommodate tourists and/or for commercial use. However, some of the original older houses are merely lived in as always.

"Da Neighbor's Goat," by Stacey Torres

"Saturday Morning," by Stacey Torres

Homeowners were working class people. They took tremendous pride in their homes, painting them in gorgeous color combinations and using fretwork as trim that served to give a tiny bit of shade and protect the wooden structure from weather. There are newer large homes built in the style of the original Chattel House, but nothing can ever take the place of these early “tiny homes.” Small, practical and transportable. The unique style of these sweet little houses are even more pronounced when you see one or two additions added on. The original starter house was once called a “One Roof.” If you added a shed, it was called “One Roof and a Shed.” If you added an addition, it would be a “Two Roof House and Shed.” The roofs were typically made of corrugated iron.

"Today Was Catchin' Day" by Stacey Torres

My maternal family's roots are from this island. I visited there in 1967 when my grandparents went on a pilgrimage back home for their 50th wedding anniversary. I was fortunate to visit the tiny Chattel House where my grandfather, Arthur Clement Moore, was born and raised. His two older sisters and some young cousins were still living there. I saw their gardens, their goats, their shed. However, they had graduated to electricity and plumbing by then. Like so many other Chattel Houses, this one had an addition built onto the back. I often dream of that little house and the garden of peppers and squash, and the goats that stood guard. It's funny how my memories always take me back to the gardens of my youth. It is my ultimate goal to be able to travel back to Barbados someday soon, to spend some time there finding my people and painting the beloved Chattel Houses of Bimsha (a nickname of endearment for the island).

So, I've been working on a series of beautiful little Chattel Houses, the way I remember them. These charming treasures, deep in the history of my people were built and remain full of pride and love. I'm sharing my heritage with you as part of my exhibit, "Stacey Torres: Living In Color," May 13 to June 17, at the Henry County Art Center. Commissioned paintings are possible.
"Share N Share Alike" by Stacey Torres

Originally published in The Courier-Times, April 2017

What REAL Women Did For Each Other

March is Women's History Month. We all hear the usual stories about trailblazing women who made history doing something considered remarkable for her time. This has been a tumultuous time for women these last few years. Along with all of the protests, marches and cries for equality, justice and respect, much of our own personal history has been lost in the shuffle.

I think about the woman my mother and grandmother raised me to be – Strong, independent, unwavering, faithful, giving and resilient. They taught me to have my own; to survive and hopefully to not have to worry about where my meals will come from when I'm 80. Thus, I fine-tune my craft on a daily basis, padding my nest, and keeping my eagle eyes clear. In all of this, I am always of the opinion that we get by giving, and if possible, never lose sight of love, human kindness and trust. Yes, these qualities still exist.

"Aunt Mattie Whitfield," by Stacey Torres
My Aunt Mattie was not my real aunt. She was a very close family friend - an unlikely friendship that began when my mother was in a deadly car accident in 1949, traveling from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, MO to Wilberforce University in Ohio. She and several students were traveling together when they were involved in the collision on U.S. 40 between Knightstown, IN and New Castle, IN.

When the ambulance arrived, they refused to take my mother, the lone survivor, to the hospital because she was black. As she lay bleeding on the street, a local funeral home offered to transport her to the (Henry County) hospital in their hearse. Because her family lived a great distance away in Canada, my mother was alone in a hospital in a small town where she knew no one -- and where she ultimately knew from experience, that the color of her skin would alienate her further.

It was then that she met Mattie Whitfield, an older local African American woman who sometimes went to the hospital to volunteer. She would sit with patients, read to them or pray with them. It was just something she liked to do. Upon learning there was a young black girl there with no family, she immediately took it upon herself to take my mother under her wing. In time, she came to love and care for her until she was healed, and the family could get to Indiana. At the time, my grandfather worked as a porter for the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railroads. They governed when he could take time off and when he and the family could travel by rail outside of Canada. There were no other options.

When my mother was well enough to leave the hospital, Mattie and her husband, Herbie, took her home with them where they cared for her further. They lived in a small white house on South 16th Street by the railroad tracks. Finally, the family (my grandparents, two aunts and an uncle) arrived from Canada, and they were embraced by the Whitfields as well. All of them lived together in their 2-bedroom home for an additional 6 weeks while Mom continued to recover. They all worked together to give her their own form of old fashioned natural “physical therapy” that included salves, massages, prayer and careful exercise.

This is what strong, clear-thinking giving women did for each other. I say “women,” because even though Uncle Herbie was crucial in opening his home too, knowing the woman that Mrs. Whitfield was, she would have reached out and cared for my mother – or anyone – whether she knew them or not. Because that's the quality of humanity she possessed. She had no fear, no boundaries, no limits; just an abundance of love, compassion and patience. During this time, in that cramped love-filled house, they all became “family,” bridging the gap between Indiana and Canada. Mattie became "Aunt Mattie," and she was a very integral part of our lives for the next 20 years. But, that's another story and another painting altogether.
At my parents' wedding (Queens, NY) in 1952, Aunt Mattie is seen in the distance - She was an honored guest.
First published in The Courier-Times, March 2017

March 9, 2017

Embracing Gratitude Over Gravity

Yesterday (February 18), I drove to Indianapolis to visit a friend. The weather has been unseasonably warm the past week, yet I was really surprised when I spotted mounds of Tulip and Lily shoots coming up through the soil along side some Snow Drops. Those were not so much of a surprise, considering they and Crocus will bloom through the snow. But it's the early greening that has me concerned.

Will the blossoms survive should we have an inevitable freeze, snow or hard frost? Some years ago, I lost my cherry trees to an April ice storm. My friends tell me to calm down, and let Mother Nature do what she does … all things come in time … all things come on time. And that includes us.

Over the past year, I've spent many hours in the mirror having private conversations with myself, and wondering if what was happening to me was normal – or, as I always like to say – attributed to my illness last year. Well, of course, it's normal. I'm simply going gray!

I've had a strand here and there, but in the last six months, I've developed a white-out! Unlike my mother, who had a magnificent spread of glorious silver white hair , my hair did not look anything like hers. She started to get a classic “salt & pepper” look somewhere around 50. Then, almost overnight, it was suddenly sparkling white. I was shocked, and didn't know how to approach the subject – what did she think of it? She said, “Oh, don't worry; it's a badge of honor. You have to earn it.”

“Earn what?” I asked.

“Stardust.” And, that was that.

Well, there is no salt & pepper or stardust on my head; it's more like salt & saw dust, and runs down the center of my head like a dull skunk! Years ago, I chose to embrace my natural hair and don't use any chemicals on my head at all. Besides, it would be my luck that if I tried to dye it, it would look even more rusty than it does now.

So, it took me a while to find a way to embrace my hair – along with ALL of the other manifestations happening to my body at this season of my life. I prayed on it. I watched my friends make their own personal decisions about their aging, and I finally decided to just celebrate all of these changes.

Gratitude vs Gravity: that would become my goal. I have much to be grateful for in so many ways. I am aging, as we all are. But I'm grateful for the ability to be here for this event. I've got aches and pains; many unexplained; and, new health issues that scare me. My fears of being and dealing with life changes alone haunt me … However, if my knee hurts, my instinct is to rub it until the pain leaves. That's not a bad thing; it's honoring the part of the body that calls out for attention. I am grateful, because I can still move on my own, and do that simple task for myself.

When I have kidney pain, I am grateful that I at least now have answers as to why there is such pain. When I hear my joints scream 'snap, crackle or pop' when I rise from a chair, I am grateful, because it means the muscle inside my chest that transports my blood continues to sing along as well. When I see a gray or silver hair on my head (or elsewhere), I am grateful. Because some people don't live long enough to see their own. Life could be worse. And, when I have to massage my hands each night before I sleep, I am grateful; because this means I've been using them to paint and create art all day – and sometimes into the night. Oftentimes I have to force myself to drink enough water. But, then I realize, there may be a day I will forget how to swallow. So, I am grateful.

I decided to meet my hair, saggy body parts and changing destiny in my own way, and I'm elated – and grateful. Like the early Snow Drops in the grass, my stardust is on time.

Published in The Courier-Times, Feb 2017

February 25, 2017

I can't believe this happened to me

In July 2016, I was contacted by The Janice Mason Art Museum in Cadiz, Kentucky inviting me to present a solo art exhibit. Immediately, I understood the magnitude of this offer. Giving a one-woman art show is amazing enough. But to be asked by a museum is golden. As coveted as a gallery exhibit would be, a museum show is the cream on the berries and is priceless on an artist's resume.

I eventually accepted the invitation, having no idea what this would involve. I almost considered backing out, but the Museum staff made it very clear that they wanted to show my work, and that they particularly wanted to show it in the cold, dismal winter months. Because my art is extremely colorful and bold, the idea was to bring some brightness into an otherwise bland and often depressing season. I agreed to go ahead with it, and thus, my show named, “COLOR STORM: If Not Now; When?” materialized.

I thought five months would be sufficient time to pull this off. Well, it would be had I been more adept at preparing my artwork to be “gallery-ready.” This undertaking was huge! The framing, matting, wrapping, labels/tags, preparing an extensive spread sheet with the details of the 70 paintings I planned to exhibit, damage control, coordinating mediums and themes, and the pricing. Beyond that, many paintings needed to be re-worked.

Also, framing is an expensive luxury for some artists. I relied upon professional framing for group exhibits, etc., and, most likely, I will again. But with this many paintings, I decided to try and do some of the presentation process myself (with a little help from my artist friends). I've learned to do some of this. But, let's face it, I'm just not good in this area.

So, I put in hours of work preparing my art to go to Kentucky in December. The show would open on January 5, and run until February 25. The Museum agreed to transport my paintings to and from my home and the Cadiz. I stressed and worried, and worked well into the early morning hours for weeks on new paintings. My home looked like a war zone with paintings crowded in my living room as I cataloged the entire collection. I couldn't breathe, and suffered anxious panic attacks, bouts of fear and even depression.

While most people would assume this was a joyous effort, they don't realize that art IS work. It is the work I do, and it is my intent to do the very best I am able. A representative from the museum arrived at my home on a Saturday when most of Indiana was coated in ice. I fretted over his safety in making the 5+ hour journey here, as well as his return to Kentucky. And then, it was my plan to rest and breathe. But, of course, I didn't. My adrenaline has been rushing about for months.

Yesterday, I and two friends journeyed to Southern Kentucky for my Meet The Artist Reception, which had originally been scheduled for last week, but yet another ice storm made it impossible to travel. It was a most remarkable day forever embedded in my crazy Book of Life.

First of all, The Janice Mason Art Museum is a delightful venue housed in a former Post Office building. It's absolutely perfect for showing art, with it's beautiful architecture, antique P.O. boxes and character. I was greeted by someBoard Members, and guests from the community, including several artists from Trigg County, Kentucky.

This was a fabulous experience for me; an opportunity many only dream of. But what really touched me was the community of Cadiz itself. A small city with a vastly diverse group of people of different races and cultures living and working in a remarkably harmonious way for the betterment of their city, county, their families and the arts. Last night, we attended a community fund raising supper celebrating the 30th Anniversary of “Genesis Express,” a civic organization that benefits children through various programs. Watching these folks working together and interacting with mutual love and respect was reminiscent of days gone by, when that was the norm everywhere in this country. It was a reminder that we are all one, and need to take care of each other – ALL of us. Not just what's best for me, you, us, them, and they – ALL of US!

Out of the darkness, COLOR STORM brought me to see the light. Why can't we all treat each other with loving kindness and make it all great again that way? If Not Now; When?

Soon He Will Be Home

The warm, savory aroma of a beautiful turkey slow roasting in the oven gently coats the tiny kitchen with warmth and security … comfort food. Only, it's not a turkey, but a small, chicken in a foil pan with a few potatoes, carrots and onions adorning the sides. It sure smells like turkey. But some moms are just like that. They do what they have to do with what they have, and make magic happen every night. On top of the stove is a small worn pot half filled with a thin gravy and a few biscuits warm in a pan.

The drafty apartment is small, with just one bedroom … his. She sleeps on the sofa, where she shields her eyes from the flashing neon signs across from their fourth floor flat, with an old blanket she pulls over her head. But, tonight she is not sleeping. It happens to be Christmas night, and she's waiting up for him. The two of them share this small space, along with simple dreams, hopes, joys, sadness; all the things many mothers and sons share these days.

Madonna by Stacey Torres
She worries about him. Tonight he is working – volunteering, actually – at a suicide crises center, talking courage and hope into the people who sometimes call in, lost in their dark desperation … hoping to find some strength and purpose with their lives when all else has abandoned them. Her son is very good at this, apparently. Always full of hope and logic, his gentle way of accepting others and walking them through their issues comes natural to him. Her husband died a few years ago, and the two of them barely get by.

The mother didn't really want her son to go out this evening; after all, it is Christmas – and his birthday. But he explains to her that this night, more than most others, is a very crucial time for people who are lost, depressed, and suffering from ravaged hearts and souls. “They need me,” he tells her. And knowing this to be true, she resigns herself to wait up for him so they may share a simple Christmas supper together later that night.

This night is no different than any other to her. She frets and agonizes over her son constantly. You see, he is different. His tall graceful presence, with those dark eyes and skin cause him to stand apart from others in a unique unearthly way. People have taunted him, mocked and even threatened him because he was different. Because his beliefs are different, and he looks at the world and humanity differently. They assume the worst in him, and judge him without knowing him – or her. He lives in a world where he is constantly profiled by people who live in fear and ignorance. The mother fears there will be no generation in their family after him. That's just the way things are now. She hopes he will be home soon.

Many years ago on a Christmas night, the aroma of a wild foul boiling in an earthenware pot over some embers out in the courtyard is both comforting and tantalizing. There, she sits and waits as her unleavened pancakes bake on hot stones.

He is late again. Out with his friends working on his birthday. As always, she is worried about him. His work takes him to places and people she is she feels are dangerous for him. But deep in her heart she knows it's what he is meant to do. It's his life's work.

He spends day and weeks talking to people; teaching them ways to live a more fulfilling life, and giving them courage and hope when they are lost in their dark desperation. He has fed the hungry, comforted the sick, and is always accepting of others.

Her husband died a few years before their son began his work. And, now the two of them live a modest and humble life, and she trusts his judgment and decisions.

She knows, however, there is nothing she can do but support his dreams and his wishes. The long hours spent talking and sharing these hopes tells her that he is accepting of his calling and ultimate fate. All she can do is be there for him.

The son has told his mother that he has been taunted, followed, threatened and mocked by people who do not know or trust him. She frets and agonizes over her son constantly. You see, he is different. His tall graceful presence, with those dark eyes and skin cause him to stand apart from others in a unique unearthly way. Some love him and respect what he teaches them. But there are many he feels threatened by. He is judged and profiled by people who live in fear and ignorance. The mother fears there will be no generation in their family after him. That's just the way things were then. She hopes he will soon be home.

Originally published in The Courier-Times, December 2016

Being Thankful - It's Not That Hard

And so, today is the first Sunday in Advent – or, the beginning of the Advent Season, which runs until Christmas Eve. And then, we have the 12 Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day through Epiphany on January 6. Complicated? Not at all. If you put it in the context of what it is, and not what it has become. In the merchandising world, the Christmas season trumps everything from Labor Day on, running right over Advent, and reluctantly leaving on Christmas night so the stores can start stocking their Valentine's Day cards.

But to us Christians, the Advent Season was meant to be a profound time that prepared us for the miracles of Christmas. It was meant to be used as a simple time to reflect, wait and breathe in the peace and warmth that our bodies, souls and minds so crave. In a way, this peaceful time helps us to replenish ourselves after a year of stress, conflict, broken promises, pain, fears, anger and challenges. At least, ideally that's what it should be. And, this year, more than any other in our history thus far – we need to – as a people; not just Christians – but all of us, breathe in the peace and let go of the toxic negativity we have allowed into our hearts, our homes and frequently spills out of our mouths.

We have much to be thankful for … not what we have wished for or wanted; not for what we have or have gained; not even for healing. But, instead, we need to learn to be thankful for what we've gone through and have survived. The trials that were put before us – we got through them, and we're here … with beating pulses and a purpose. There is still time to set our hearts right – to love and be loved in return – and to do unto others the way we all deserve to be treated and cared for.

Last week, I was challenged by a friend to be verbally silent for a minimum of 24 hours. Miraculously, I completed the challenge, which was peaceful, enjoyable and awakened some things within me that have overslept way too long. Prior to the start of me keeping my mouth shut for a day, I had a beautiful conversation with a wonderful woman I have not seen since I was a young child. We connected on social media a few months ago, but this was the first time I called her on the phone. I could hear my mother's voice urging me to call and reach out to this remarkable woman.

The lady and my mother met in college in the 1940s, and were good friends until my mother's passage last year. But I called her, and we chatted for a good hour. This woman, who is now 90 years of age, is sharp and vibrant, active in the arts and her community, as she always has been. At this time, she is in the process of writing three books, and recently received the Key to her City for all of her years of dedication to keeping our history and culture alive, while teaching young women and men to prepare themselves for the world. She kept telling me she wanted to see me, and that she'd be there for me – as another mother, should I feel that need – but, ultimately as my friend. This has become the norm for me lately. I've found myself being friends with my late mother's peers and associates, and it has been wonderful. So, here is another beautiful soul placed in my life to help fill a tender void.

New beginnings are here for us to make the most of. During this Advent season, regardless of your faith, use this time to replenish your spirit, your heart and the goodness you brought on this earth with you. Breathe in the peace and warmth of this season. And, exhale the negativity, fears and hate that may have crept in when you weren't looking. Be grateful for the here and now. And above all, be kind to one another.

First published by The Courier-Times in November 2016

October 31, 2016


There's a spot about the size of a quarter on my right shin that's very tender to touch, and has been for the last 55 years. It comes from a deep gash I got after I stumbled up some steps.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my love for my late great aunt's ancient Brooklyn brownstone where I spent my childhood summers. I shared all the celebrations and sweet memories with you, and even painted a visual of the home's garden. But there's another story about the house I'd like to tell. A lot of older homes are filled with history, mystery, and often unexplained ominous shadows; including the grand old house on Macon Street in Brooklyn.

Apart from spending my summers at my Aunt Car's house, my grandparents and I made regular visits to see her and my Uncle Henry. One such visit I'll never forget. My grandparents picked me up after school and we went straight to Brooklyn, which was unusual. But, at that young age, to me it was just another rendezvous to see family. 

Once there, Gramps visited with my uncle in the garden, where they smoked and drank Jamaican rum. Aunt Car and my grandmother spoke in low tones trying to be discreet, which was always my clue to hone in and listen hard. As they ascended the stairs from the garden level to the parlor floor, I paused by the family door to my aunt's rooms, but much to my surprise, the two women continued up the stairs to the next level – one I rarely went to without Aunt Car or my uncle. There they rented out rooms to boarders, and it always seemed like another world up there.

But, I was nosy, and they didn't try to shoo me away, so I followed at a respectable distance within earshot. The whispers became lower – hushed, if you will. Intrigued, I edged closer behind them as they slowly walked the hall. The doors to the boarders' rooms were all closed and the hallway was silent. 

Aunt Car paused and opened up the bathroom door that was shared by all who rented there. It was a simple bath with a sink, a toilet and a large footed Victorian tub. I really don't like old bathrooms, and the shortest time I can spend in one, the better. Why were we stopping here?

Nana looked at Aunt Car with their strange communal silent language the two of them possessed. I was quickly learning this language and knew all of the facial gestures and signals. Nana's right eyebrow went up, and Aunt Car nodded. Then Aunt Car looked at her again and whispered even lower, “This is where it happened …” It?? I thought silently. What was it? What the heck happened here? I wedged myself between them and looked up, lifting my brows in an attempt to communicate with my elders in their own secret code, but they only shoved me away.

Aunt Car silently shut the door while giving Nana another code glance, and they went downstairs with me following close behind. It was never told to me what happened in that bathroom, and I knew better than to ask. But something sinister took place on that floor, in that room, and it stuck with me for life. From then on, I've had an extreme aversion to claw foot tubs; I can't stand the sight of them, even though I know I'd love soaking in one … probably as a dead woman, but not in this life!

My job, when staying with my aunt and uncle, was to polish the banisters every week. For a couple of weeks, I got away with not polishing anything above the parlor floor. I didn't want to go up there “where it happened.” Eventually I was forced to go up there, and I would race up the stairs, polish the banisters like crazy, and fly back down as fast as I could. On one occasion, as I dashed past the bathroom, I felt something cold swirling around my ankles, and suddenly I was frozen in place. Then, I felt it grab my foot! Terrified, I fled all the way downstairs to the kitchen on the garden level. Out of breath, I immediately realized, I had left my dust rag up there. Not noticing my trembling anxiety, my aunt told me to back up and get it. So I flew up the stairs again -- but on the third step, I tripped and jammed my shin into the edge of the step, cutting my leg open to the bone. Afterwards, I never told anyone what happened upstairs, nor did I ever venture up there again.

Recently, I spoke with the current owner of the brownstone. He told me of his friend, who is legally blind, that visits the home and sleeps in an adjacent room to that bathroom. The friend told him that he senses water, alcohol, possibly a drowning, and a woman who doesn't know she's dead. He's also experienced other occurrences in the brownstone, including a former inmate from the house next door who walks through the walls and haunts him.

So, now I have an idea what may have happened in the upstairs bathroom on Macon Street. But, what if a real incident did not actually occur that night? What if my aunt was upstairs and saw the ghost of the lady in the water? The plot thickens and widens. All I know is, that is where it happened.

On October 27, 2016, in an article about New York hauntings, the New York Post included accounts about our beloved brownstone and its mysterious bathroom.

Published in The Courier-Times on 10/30/2016

October 11, 2016

MOORE'S ANGEL: My Final Gift To Them

As you may know, my mother passed away in February 2015, and my Aunt Thelma (her sister) died in 2010. Both were 91 at the time of their deaths. I chose to have them buried side-by-side in a double plot, and purchased a headstone for them shortly before my mother's passing. I did not, however, make the final arrangements to add the inscriptions, etc. It has been an extremely painful challenge for me to even visit the grave site and move forward.

When I was ill, all I could think of was 'I had not given them the details for the stone. What if I don't make it; what will they do?' And then, I put it off again and again - until last week. It finally stuck in my mind that to wait any longer would be unacceptable. So, I met with the funeral service that takes care of my family and talked about the stone. In this meeting, I made the decision to design a stone using my own artwork; something I believe my mother and aunt would appreciate.
However, if you knew them, you also know there were few things that they would agree upon. But, I tried to keep them in consideration as I came up with my design. While headstones are for the living to see, they especially honor and represent those who rest there.
My mother was Methodist; my aunt Catholic. Mom was fond of the Praying Hands symbol, but we had used that on my grandparents’ grave, which is a few feet away. My aunt liked earth tones; my mother liked jewel tones. Aunt Thelma was extremely proud of her Caribbean and Canadian heritage, but Mom claimed she didn't remember anything about it (deliberately). It was not going to be easy.
I prayed on it, and took a nap shortly after leaving the meeting. It's rare for me to dream in the day, but I did. When I awoke, the design was clear as a bell. I painted an angel that looks much like them when they were young. In the angel's arms, she cradles a bouquet of four yellow roses; my mother's favorite flower, representing friendship. In this bouquet are also four Silver Maple leaves - the Maple Leaf being the symbol of Canada, where they grew up. A small halo of Poinsettia and Barbados Cherry blossoms are in her hair in honor of our family heritage, and Thelma's birthplace. The angel's hands are not in the typical prayer position. However, they are eternally held in a gesture of humble supplication. I have named her “Moore's Angel,” my maternal family name.
MOORE'S ANGEL, by Artist Stacey Torres
This is the image that will be glazed upon the headstone above their final resting place. I believe they would be pleased with this, and trust my remaining family will be as well. All in all, I feel tremendously better for it myself. Some of the grief and anxiety has been lifted from me. Painting this angel's image came to me very quickly, and was not of my own design; she just appeared.

The spokes of my wheel are slowly coming back together, and, I too shall keep walking.

Don't Rush Your Endless Summer

Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2016 6:00 am
This year, the autumn equinox will arrive on Sept. 22. Sometimes it occurs on the 21st or 23rd of September when the sun crosses the celestial equator. I don’t know where exactly that is, except that it’s in the sky and it’s supposed to match our equator here on earth. Of course, none of that makes any sense to me, but that’s what I was taught. Thus, it heralds the first day of autumn.
ALLYSON'S GOLDFISH, by Artist Stacey Torres

Fall used to be my favorite season, but I don’t care for it much these days. Perhaps because it signals the upcoming darkness; the cold, desolate period when nature comes to a stop. Some things survive it; some do not. I would like a calm, but endless summer. I’ve had my years of seasons changing, and my own personal equinoxes and solstices are beginning to run into each other.
Years ago, August was the crown jewel of summer, as people wrapped up their family vacations, kids headed back to school, and summer was gently tucked away for safe keeping until the following year. But our society tends to rush the seasons.
Christmas decorations are actually in some stores after July 4. Some kids went back to school early, making family vacations pretty much impossible because of peak-season rates, work schedules and countless sports and other activities children take part in. There’s no more playing ball under the street light, catching lightning bugs, slurping a cone on the back porch or family dinners at the park. By the end of July, everyone is exhausted, and parents, broke from the children’s extra activities, can’t wait to see their kids go back to school.
Life, being so short, should be savored with the ones we love, doing the things we enjoy with each other. Where are those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer?” One day soon, those little ones will grow and jump off that springboard into a pool that will be their destiny. Our elders will be gone, and all we have are these piles of scrapbooks to remind us of what we did yesterday, instead of archiving them in our hearts and minds, to be remembered during those cold, dark winter days ahead.
But I’m just one of those people that like to hold onto the sweet things of the past that still make things feel good ... Nana’s home – brewed iced tea – no, it wasn’t sweet tea, but it was strong, cold and pierced with citrus and cloves ... her fresh-cut roses that were put on our Sunday table that lasted until Friday night, when the last fragrant petal settled on one of her pretty “summer tablecloths” – the ones with the orange slices around the border ... all-day family outings at the park, that began at dawn with ham and pancakes on a small griddle, a hearty all day picnic, and iced-cold watermelon and singing as the sun began to sink … or, sleeping with a million cousins in one bed on a hot night, with feet tangled and a fan competing with our laughter.
Of course, nothing remains the same, and we all change, as does the earth and its seasons. Sure, I really do love the other seasons too. But summer takes us back to our youth … to that first convertible ride under a July sun ... summer dances with friends, and sleeping in the backseat at the drive-in while our parents did whatever that was they did that made them giggle like children.
I could go on, but I don’t need to. You all have your favorite summer memories ... some wonderful; some not. Pull out that scrapbook in the back of your mind, and do something fun again. Enjoy your own endless summer while it lasts.
New Castle resident Stacey Torres is an artist, dancer, writer and author. Her column is published on the last Sunday of the month.

As published in The Courier-Times 8/28/2016

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips