About Me

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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 folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown 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 junky 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 ... Oh, the two pictures below are NOT of my garden, although the one with the pink French doors looks very much like the backyard I grew up with. I am searching for pictures of that wonderful place and will post soon.

JEWELS OF MY SOUL

JEWELS OF MY SOUL
My Book Available on AMAZON

June 27, 2016

NOW, THAT'S A PEACH!


It's called a Patio Peach – a small ornamental peach tree usually displayed in large planters, and often brought indoors to overwinter in cooler climates. I guess I bought mine about nine years ago from a garden center in Indianapolis. After a few months of basking in the sun in the backyard, she seemed quite content. So, I took a chance and planted her in the ground about 12 feet away from the back door. After all, how big could a dwarf sized “patio” peach tree get?

My Patio Peach grew to about 4.5 feet tall, and thrived for two summers. However, I lost her during a sudden ice storm one April, and cut her down the following month. What I didn't realize, however, was that I had failed to chop and eliminate a sucker that was growing from the base of the stump. Over the next year and a half, that sucker grew into a beautiful 12 foot tall peach tree with branches that spanned about 15 feet in my garden. This created a glorious little canopy that replaced the umbrella that used to tumble over into the day lily bed every time a slight breeze came.

Patsy's Gifts
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In the summer of 2010, the reincarnated Patsy – that was her name – began to bear fruit. Small walnut sized peaches with pretty unblemished thick peach skin. Because she had been an ornamental tree in her former life, I just accepted these little treasures as bonus eye candy. One afternoon, my mother and I sat at the kitchen table; her watching television, and me baking muffins for the farmers market.

“Did you put something special in those muffins?” she asked.
No. Like what?”
You didn't put any rum or brandy in them?”
NO! Why?”
Well, I smell booze,” she said.

I sniffed around, and I did too. It smelled a lot like the starter for her Friendship Cakes she used to bake. But, I had nothing like that around, and rum cakes were not on my menu for the market – that week.
The smell was so distracting, she stopped watching her show, and I was inhaling like a Bloodhound.

Do you have a bottle of something open?”
No. I told you I don't have anything ...”

Me & Patsy 2012
My nose led me to the back door and out into the garden. And there it was! Those darn little peaches had become ripe – over ripe, and were beginning to ferment right on the trees. Bees were fluttering around and bumping into everything. Hummingbirds were flapping their wings wildly, and I reached up and plucked a small perfectly round mini peach. Biting into it was probably the most surprisingly delectable experience I had (that summer). It had firm white flesh, yet it was juicy and intensely sweet. It was also like taking a shot of peach brandy with fur. I gathered up a few, and my mother and I gobbled mini peaches for hours! We were in some sort of shock and stupor, so I don't remember supper, television, or how anything else got baked that day. We had to harvest what we could quickly, because the fruit's time was short lived.

Patsy gave us an abundance of sweet tiny peaches for a few years. On Labor Day of 2010, the day was hot, still, and very quiet when we had a wondrous visitor to the tree. A fabulous blue and black butterfly with a wing span of at least four inches was there. This lone butterfly spent the entire afternoon in the tree, seeking the sweet nectar, resting, and drinking again and again. It was still there when the sun went down. We were mesmerized by its presence. I tried to research it to find out what type of butterfly he/she was, but I never found anything. By morning, it was gone, never to return again. My mother thought it was beautiful, and my aunt who was in the garden with me, said it was an omen. Six weeks later, my aunt had passed away.

The following fall, my mother entered a nursing facility. We talked about the tree, and she smiled when I brought her a piece of bread I had made from some of Patsy's frozen peaches. After that, the peaches became fewer and fewer each year. The tree was still beautiful, but her delicate pink blooms in the spring were beginning to wane.

Mom passed away in February of last year. That spring, Patsy had just a few blossoms, and the meager crop last summer was sour and blemished. This spring, there were even less buds, that fell to the ground by the end of April. The small amount of leaves turned brown and died. In fact, Patsy appears to be dead as a door nail (they say door nails don't live long). But she's gray and barren. My heart breaks at the thought of cutting her down again. How could this happen? Well, I heard that a lot of trees are suffering now as a result of the droughts we had a few years ago. Maybe. But, I also remember my aunt's premonition. 
The Visitor

My Grandmother Poindexter always declared that her crocuses would bloom on her birthday in the second week in March. Mark my word, theyalways did. My uncle recently told me that after her passing several years ago, they never came back again – after decades of growing on the sweet little hill on 10th Street.

So, I'm sitting in my living room, gazing through the kitchen and out the door at Patsy. What shall I do about Patsy; what shall I do about me? I think I know how she feels.
Barren Patsy Today ... Not a Leaf - Nothing ...
Without that love and support and gratitude that comes from unconditional love, one cannot thrive. Yes, I gave her love, support and gratitude; but not as much as my mother did … much the same way she loved, supported and was grateful for me -- as I was for her.

I am not thriving. It's important that we continue to thrive throughout life – no matter how old or experienced we are. We need that love and support and the gratitude of someone special to fill a certain void that was not meant to be filled by friends, family or even ourselves. You know what I'm talking about.

Before my mother became ill, we would talk about my future after she left. I always said that I would leave New Castle immediately, and go somewhere warm (for my health), beautiful (for inspiration), and near the sea (for my peace of mind). She thought that was a great idea. But now that she's gone, I remain frozen in place – Afraid to leave and afraid to stay. My frustration is apparent in my artwork, and often in my writing. The loneliness that invades my spirit at times is not measurable. I fear I'll fall into a rut … well, I already have … and won't be able to climb out. My leaves are turning, and my fruit is a memory. To save myself, I must make some decisions soon.

You all know my motto: “Keep Walking!” (to your destiny). I wish I could figure that out. But, if I look a little bit closer, behind the Hosta and weeds and ancient mulch, I can see it. I noticed it this morning, and it has shaken me a bit; but not in a bad way. I see a new sucker growing … right at the base of her trunk. Patsy will keep walking, and so should I. Of course, I will share my thoughts, fears, hopes and decisions with you all – if and when I ever discover what they are.

First Published in The Courier-Times, June 26, 2016

June 16, 2016

Confession: I've Been Loving An Older Man

He has been my friend, my companion, my protector, my family, my sweet baby, and even my caregiver. Although he scares and intimidates most people who try to get close to us – well, who try to get close to me – he only means well. He's just not social, and he's too old to change now.
Although he is possessive and jealous, and quick to show his dominance to anyone he feels is a threat (that would be everyone), to me, he's loving, kind, caring and totally in tune to my moods, emotions and even physical health. We've been together for more than 10 years, and I've vowed to be there for him as long as he needs me, as he has been for me through all kinds of ups and downs. In a sense, you could say we're soul mates.
He has the most beautiful, knowing eyes and the softest hair. However, he is a bit short, and sometimes walks with a slow limp. Yet, there are times, when he's still quick on his feet, agile as the athlete he once was, and even though he now has saddle bags, he's in darn good shape to be 84 years old.
84 dog years, that is. I'm speaking of my beloved Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog), Rudy. If you follow me on Facebook, you know all about Rudy, who gave himself the title “Lord Rudolph” about three years ago. Sometimes, he's also known as His Lordship, The Grand Duke, Mayor of Hillcrest or simply King of Every Thing. To me, he's just my Rudy. People have been urging me to write a book about his life with me now that he is aging and facing new health issues more and more. I'm having difficulty writing it, so I'm sharing a bit of him with you today.
Rudy is so funny and entertaining. It's a shame he doesn't like or trust other people. When I adopted him, his vet told me it seemed Rudy suffered from fear aggression. He can be rough and tough; he is a Heeler, after all. But some things with him just won't change. For a while, I took him to a stock farm where he could work off his aggression and attitude by herding sheep. Actually, he did quite well with little to no training; it's in his blood. But I found the facility when he was maturing, and I had to retire him shortly after that. It was just too hard on his heart.
Lord Rudolph, marker painting by Stacey Torres 2015
Lately, I've been bragging about how well Rudy's been doing these last few weeks. In recent months, he has had all sorts of ailments and mysterious issues, but we've dealt with them and he always comes through. Lately, he's been doing great - until late yesterday afternoon.
We were standing in front of the house -- me pulling weeds, while he chewed on his favorite tall grass. However, when I turned to give him a treat, I noticed he was sitting on the lawn with a puzzled look o his face. His back right leg seemed to be in a cramp, and his right paw was clearly hurting him. I didn't see what happened, so I don't know if he fell, stumbled, or if it was just a cramp, spasm, or maybe even a seizure. It took him a long time to get up. After that, he seemed okay, but was limping badly and couldn't get into the car for a trip to the park. Since he already has a weakened (arthritis) back right leg, his right side wouldn't support him.
So, I'm treating him gently with heating pads and little massages -- and mindfully being vigilant. There's not much else to be done when these things happen. He's been to the vet so often lately, and that's always traumatic for him, i.e., “doggy Valium,” a muzzle and just chaotic stress. So, I limit his visits to his wellness checks and emergencies. Rudy is just like any other 84 year old man (or woman) I suppose. I'll continue to watch, nurture, love and pray for him.
This morning, my little guy appears to be a little better. His appetite is still hearty; eating like he's in training for a Sumo match, and his limp is fading more into a careful strut. He is still a trooper, still brave and proud and hilarious as ever, barking at the stove, which means “cook something!”

As so many other people who love their furry family members deal with a sweetly aging pet, we all dread the day when we ultimately must say goodbye. I've experienced this life event with a few other dogs; each one is as excruciating as the other. But each one left me with a tremendous store of happy memories and absolute love and devotion. My prayer is that Rudy remains with me in peace and comfort for a good while longer. But his happiness and quality of life are key. For now, he's just like me, ripening with rich maturity in a very special way – with aching joints that crackle, pop and snap like breakfast cereal. But we're still here – moving forward and adapting to this wonderful changing life day by day. God sent him to me, and I'm cherishing and taking good care of my gift.

Originally published in The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN, May 29, 2016

April 18, 2016

Why Can't We Just Be?


It is time for me to come clean. I am now a member of “AA.” However, I do not attend meetings; if there are any locally, I am unaware of them. But, before you jump to any judgmental conclusions, let me clarify – my AA is not the AA you're thinking of. My AA stands for “Artist Anxiety.”

Visual artists, performing artists and writers, etc. all go through this annoying cycle from time to time. I've always been a stressful, fretful, colicky and anxious person. However, being creative and artistic has pushed me to my limits, and it has become down right debilitating.

I know that stress can and will kill you, and sometimes we – all of us – tend to place that tension upon ourselves – sometimes unknowingly. The first time I was actually diagnosed with clinical depression, I had no idea. I didn't feel depressed … not the way I thought depressed people were supposed to feel, anyway. I thought I was feeling normal, and that everybody felt that way. But a doctor explained to me that a lot of people, particularly women, don't always recognize the unique symptoms involved with depression or stress related conditions.

The Decline of My Emotional Wellness 2, by Stacey Torres
Our physical bodies will often show these signs, but we don't understand that it comes from stress, i.e., fatigue, insomnia, joint pain, headaches, etc., which can lead to more serious problems. We need to listen to our bodies and just slow the heck down. That's what everyone told me last week – slow the heck (and that's not the word that was most commonly used) down – relax and be still. I tell everyone else that, but I don't have sense enough to do the same.

Artist Anxiety can manifest itself in the most bizarre ways. What to paint? What will people think of it? What pigments blend well with red ocher … what is red ocher? Did the dog really chew my best shading brush? Really? What deadline? I sold a painting; did the buyer like it? Did I really sip (for the second time) paint brush water thinking it was my cup of tea? To make matters worse, I challenged myself to do 29 paintings; one per day during Black History Month.

Then it gets a bit deeper. I'm not a hobbyist, it's what I do to pay my bills, eat and exist from day to day. In the last year, I have shown my art in a number of art shows and exhibits, and it's been a learning experience. I do know that March and April were hectic for me last year, and this year is far from different. I submitted work for three different events, all of which were to advise who was accepted (or not) by last week. In my case, two did; the Twitter Art Exhibit, in NYC; and the Inspired by Nature Paint Out at the Indianapolis Zoo. I was/am extremely elated and honored to be a part of these two shows. I stressed all week waiting to hear from them, and they waited until the very last minute to notify me that my artwork was accepted.

But, the cream on the berries came this morning. I had been waiting and praying for two weeks for word on a particular exhibit I have been coveting for a long time. I entered last year, and was rejected. Finally, today, I received notification from our Lt. Governor's Office, that I have been selected as one of the Hoosier Women Artists 2016. I'm not sure how many of us there are this year, but it's somewhere around 10-15, out of 205 entrants. Our work will hang in the Lt. Governor's Office for one year, and we will be celebrated in a reception at the Indiana Statehouse wrapping up Women's History Month. I am still reeling from the excitement, anxiety and worry.

You know, had I relaxed and chilled, slowed the heck down and let things come naturally, the outcome would not have been different. I am learning – slowly – about self care, resting my mind and heart and luxuriating in the blessings and gifts around me. I hope to be creating for years to come – but in order to do so, I need to chill out; let go and let God.

But artists and writers and performers and such – we're all nuts. We're going to stress and bark and overwork ourselves into big balls of fruit cake … it's what we do best. So, for now, I'm tooting my horn that I'm a proud Charter Member of AA.

Have an abundantly blessed Easter.

First published in The Courier-Times, March 27, 2016

Gathering The Fruits Of Our Giving Tree

All things considered, life is truly a giving tree if we simply open our minds and hearts to receive its fruits. Perhaps my message may seem redundant each month. And, every month I attempt to write something new and different, but these blessings continue to come to light again and again.

The month of February is a bittersweet month in my life; particularly this year. It's been a year since I lost my mother; the 16th of February, to be exact. I had been dreading dealing with the date for quite a while, and when it did come I took it much harder than I had anticipated. In fact, the grief I experienced all last week was overwhelmingly painful – much worse than the year before when I and my family dealt with her actually passing. It was easier then; almost a relief – because at least my mom was no longer suffering, and the anxiety of it all was over … so I thought. However, I've had an entire year to ponder and wonder, and miss her, and relive the last six years of our lives over and over.

But, for all my faults and quirks, I remain a woman of faith, and instead of asking God “why?” – or begging Him to bring my mother and my family back, I prayed with a grateful heart and thanksgiving. I thanked Him for the gift of life (my own, in particular) … But more so, for the gift of family and friends who have stood by and taken care of me over the last year. I prayed and thanked Him for giving me such a mother who led me to where I am in this life. I also thanked Him for opening my eyes and receiving the gift of creativity again. I've said it a million times before, but my artwork, my dance and my writing have literally saved my life.

And, then, I also thanked God for the other relationships I've had in my life … the ones that went terribly wrong. For those are the ones that have made me stronger. It is said, that sometimes the wrong man's purpose in a woman's life is to help her become a better woman for a better man … And, of course, vice versa. Some women can be equally dreadful, I suppose.

I've been focusing on my spirituality. So, last week, in all my grief and blind hopelessness, I chose to be silent. Sometimes, like many of us, I have difficulty with prayer. I know there is no right or wrong way to pray to my Creator. So, I choose to have simple conversations with Him. But, I never felt I was getting a response, and didn't know if He heard me. I decided to just be still … to listen in total silence, clearing my brain of all activity. I sat in silence, and I knew instinctively that the first thought that entered my mind would be my answer.

I won't tell you what my prayer was, or what the answer was. I will confirm, however, that it was on point, and by Friday morning, I felt comfortable, at peace and motivated.

That evening, I reconnected with someone dear to me, and we watched funny movies for hours. He shared with me a family tragedy he was dealing with that had also occurred last week. The laughter and the comfort of a warm companion helped us both through our heartbreak and confusion. In the end, he gifted me with a beautiful guitar. No, I don't play an instrument or read music. I'm clueless! But, the other gift from him is (possible) music lessons – Yes, at 62, I'm learning yet something else new. He assured me, that he would not teach me to play songs; but to play a guitar!

At the beginning of the month, I challenged myself to paint one picture a day during Black History Month. This is an exercise that has freed my mind, purged some ill feelings and sadness, and allowed me to express my pain and joy within myself and my ancestors through my artwork. I've worked very hard at this, and on the 22nd day, I sold a painting I did about two years ago – one of my “church ladies.” The collector who purchased it, along with one of my hand painted tiles, wrote me a beautiful note encouraging me to continue creating. He said my artwork held a message that would be different to everyone, and a blessing to others.
So, the point of all this is that a week that began as a literal nightmare, ended in beauty and hope. I'm constantly telling you all this … there is always hope. We cannot stop walking – moving forward and living our lives and giving of ourselves.

In the last 12 months, I have so many friends who lost loved ones, somehow we are all still here – we made it through. The week my mother died, I also lost an aunt and a cousin. Three women in our family gone like feathers in the wind. Yet, all three still shine like moonbeams on all of us.

There are cardinals in my backyard now. There's always cardinals out there, one is very prominent and relevant to me; a female. I've painted her a few times, and the sight of her and the sound of her simple little song brings me much comfort.

Life under this Giving Tree ain't so bad after all. Keep Walking!

First published in The Courier-Times, February 28, 2016

April 1, 2016

New Castle artist honored by State of Indiana

New Castle artist honored by State of Indiana: INDIANAPOLIS — New Castle artist and Courier-Times columnist Stacey Torres was honored Tuesday at the Indiana Statehouse in recognition of her talent. She was one of 29 named as 2016 Hoosier Women Artists.

February 2, 2016

For Love of Family - And a Grand Old House


Aunt Car, circa 1920
It took me a few minutes to get past the return address label that read, "738 Macon Street." The last piece of mail I received from that address was a Christmas card from my most beloved great aunt and uncle, Caroline (“Aunt Car”) and Henry Gill, who was also my godfather, in 1967. I had just moved to New Castle, Indiana, and my grandmother's sister had sent me a card signed in her elegant penmanship. She had been a "schoolmarm" in Barbados, West Indies in the early part of the 20th Century and the written hand was not an art, but a requirement -- to her. Eight months later, on a visit home to New York, I watched her die after an agonizing fight with stomach cancer at 73.

This aunt was so important to me. But I never realized how much until the last few months. She has been constantly on my mind. In the summer of 1967, she and I accompanied my grandparents on a pilgrimage to their homeland, Barbados to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Aunt Car and I were roommates, and shared a double bed under a white mosquito net. We visited Bathsheba, St. Joseph Parish, the town where Aunt Car and Nana were born and raised. Children and adults came running out of their tiny houses and closed their businesses for a chance to see "Teacher" one more time. Realize that these people were all ages. Certainly most of them had never seen her before, but they had all heard of her - from their parents and grandparents, and held her in reverence. Teacher had come home from America. Young and old, they embraced her and gave her flowers, which she accepted with humble grace – that was her way. I was not quite 14, and did not understand how important this afternoon was to her; and now me.

Last month, I thought of her again, and cried as I finally realized that the Summer of '67 was a gift from God. To have the honor to have spent one last summer with this woman who also helped raise me, who guided me, who slapped me when I sucked my teeth or rolled my eyes; and then embraced me in tears of her own; who loved me unconditionally. She taught me to make curried chicken (Trinidad and Barbadian style). She was strict, she was grand, and she was elegant. Above all, she was always a lady! She was the most beautiful woman I had ever known. But, I was 14, with poor, undeveloped communication skills, and had no idea how to tell her how much I loved and appreciate the things she did for me. Aunt Car grew heavy on my mind for weeks. I felt her with me those lonely days in the hospital, and I can still smell her soft fragrance, 
Arp├Ęge.


One day in December, I received a package in the mail from 738 Macon Street. I knew who it was from, but a lump began to grow in my throat. Seeing the reality of that return address gave me a chill. A few years ago, I received an email from a gentleman who had found one of my posts on a genealogy site where I sought information about my grandmother's family. He had purchased Aunt Car and Uncle Henry's wonderful old brownstone in Brooklyn, and found me via my post while doing some research. Together, we put a lot of pieces together, and through countless emails and photos, he brought my aunt and her wonderful house where I spent my childhood summers back to life. I don't think he knows what a void he has filled in my life. Brian Hartig is a geographical historian extraordinaire of the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn ! He wrote a fabulous book about the history of 738 Macon Street, with chapters about all the owners from 1892 until today, including my family, the Gills.

It is fitting that 48 years later, the next piece of mail I received from that address would be at Christmas – it was my very own copy of The Story of a House; 738 Macon Street, written by Brian Hartig - a gift I will always cherish.

But, it gets even better! Recently, I was commissioned to paint a portrait of Aunt Car in her Brooklyn brownstone – the way I remember her and the home from my childhood. I had not seen her or the homestead since 1968 when she passed away; Uncle Henry died in the 70's. I accepted the commission, but took it in a totally different direction by portraying both her and Henry in their rose garden behind the house, along with their dog Trixie, and Waldo, a ground tortoise who was/is ancient and lived on the property. I painted their yard bigger than all of the other typical shotgun backyards in the neighborhood; even though it wasn't. But as a little girl, that's how magical it was to me.

Hopefully, I will be able to visit the home for the first time in decades very soon – in time for Aunt Car's 122nd Birthday! I'm excited and humbled to be able to see my artwork hanging on my her parlor wall … Keeping a piece of me back home again.




December 29, 2015

My Final Article of 2015 - Keep Walking!

Where to begin? On this Third Day of Christmas, while me three French hens are a-stewin', I must take some time to reflect upon what's next for me on life's road. No, I'm not going to make or discuss New Year's resolutions, as I don't believe in them. Short, attainable goals are fine. But resolving to do this or that in a world where we promises are not guaranteed, is fruitless, and sets us up for added pressure and stress. However, we do have control over our motivation to get to our destiny.

If you know me well, or at least keep up with me on social media, you will know my mantra; Keep Walking! This can mean a lot of things to different people. When I first started randomly posting these two simple words on Facebook and Twitter, I would include an image of a pair of shoes – often very beautiful, elaborate shoes in order to get one's attention. However, most people were more interested in the shoes (“where can I buy them?”) than the humble little message. Keep Walking. So, I stopped the shoe pictures, and folks stopped “liking” the posts. They didn't get it. It merely means Keep Walking (towards your destiny).

Before you can keep walking, you must know where you want your life to go. I was told to reach for the moon, because if you fail, you'll still land among the stars. The idea is to keep it moving, no matter how many obstacles, pain, detours and confusion may be on your life's road. If we stand still, and keep looking back at our failures, heartaches and losses, we will never see the gifts ahead of us. We will never know the tiny blessings that add to the richness of our life. We will have missed our bus, and thus, have to keep walking anyway.

I could look back and dwell upon the tragedies on my road this year; the loss of my mother; the trauma of financial breakdown; the humbling things I had to do in order to survive; the inability to manage my life and take care of basic responsibilities most of us take for granted, like, keeping utilities on or maintaining a running car; and ultimately, a life threatening illness I will continue to manage the rest of my life. I could; but, why? I'm not the only one who has lost a loved one this year, became destitute or sick. There are always those who have it worse than others, and some worse than them.

In September, I wrote about how I had found the love of my life and how vibrant the future looked. What I did not write about in October, was how quickly that love changed to revelations of a hopeless situation. Oddly enough, while it was painful, it was not excruciating. And, despite it all, my gratitude for 10 weeks of happiness I would not have had otherwise, over powered my disappointment. I chose to get up and keep walking.

It's true, when you are dying, your life does pass before your eyes. In my case, while I was in the hospital, mine passed before me in an endless parade of visions and memories. My hardships were the last thing on my mind. Instead, I saw the wonderful blessings, experiences and opportunities that I was granted this year.

My mother was gone, but she left me a legacy of laughter – she was one of the funniest people I ever knew. She taught me to stop and think clearly, and that it was better to look towards the future and be prepared; rather than look back with regrets. She taught me to forgive, even if forgetting is harder. She taught me to poach an age when I was 56, and how to tell the difference between good gin and bad. She taught me to never give up my faith, and to NEVER let anyone ever walk on me or block my view. She taught me to keep walking.

While I worried about how I would make ends meet, my creativity began to blossom, and a new passion for my life long love of art bloomed once more. I quickly learned how to redirect this passion into a possible way to generate income. But, more importantly, other people's love and appreciation for my painting validated me as an artist, but also my worth as a person. Having my paintings shown on television was one thing. But what touched my heart was all of my friends – and people I didn't even know – who cheered me on and encouraged me – to keep walking.

Through these steps on my life's road, I was discovered by those in a larger art community, who gave me the opportunity to exhibit with them throughout Indianapolis, and more recently in other larger cities. And, as my friend and mentor, Salkis Re (a California artist) told me, my tribe will find me. But, I also have to put forth the effort to find them. So, I keep walking.

Also, the gift of writing – to share my feelings and experiences with you here – have led to the publication of my new book; something I had put off for years.

My health threw me for a loop. I still have haunting feelings about how close to death I actually was – even though I did not feel I was in such danger at the time. Because I felt the power of my God and my ancestors with me. They kept telling me to fight, take control of my health – learn about my illness and grab it by it's mane, and get the heck back on track. I saved myself because I kept walking.

If we look upon our disabilities, we will never see our strengths or growth. I know I will have moments of sadness and fear throughout the coming year(s); we ALL will. But, if we hold onto the good stuff – it's in there, if you look close – it will become easier and we will become stronger.

A friend lost an infant child many years ago. She never got over that, and asked me recently why God took her baby. I don't know the answer to that. Maybe he saved that child from years of unspeakable pain and suffering. Did you lose the job you had for 15 years? How else would you have been able to walk into the career of your dreams that you now have, had you not been freed from your limitations? Was your car towed while you ran into the dry cleaners? Had it not been, perhaps you would have been involved in that fatal car accident two blocks away 10 minutes later. We don't know these things. It's not for us to know. But it is our responsibility to KEEP WALKING towards our destiny – toward 2016 – and all the riches and blessings to come. Bad things happen to all of us; and so do good things. Cherish those things and those people around you. It's been said many times before that yesterday has passed, but today is a gift; that's why it's called The Present.


Please, keep walking.

November 30, 2015

FRIENDSHIP PEARLS ARE REAL GEMS

This year, in my own simple way, I am celebrating FRIENDSGIVING in lieu of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is something I do every day, and most recently with due diligence. However, Friendsgiving is a practice many have adopted – some without even realizing it.

Friendsgiving is a casual potluck supper where the host often prepares a turkey (or other festive meat or main dish of choice), and guests bring their favorite side dish or specialty; no matter how humble or elaborate. The gathering is often the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving. But it can also be held on Thanksgiving Day for all practical reasons. In fact, Friendsgiving can be any day in autumn.

The idea is for friends to gather together to celebrate their friendships, reflecting upon how they met, and how they all have cultivated and valued their ties together. There are many people who are far away from home, at school or work, without families of their own, or who have lost their loved ones. Friendsgiving allows them the opportunity to give thanks and feast together. It is also customary to include new friends or acquaintances in the spirit of fellowship. Their friends have become family.

Friends are very precious gems. Sometimes we take them for granted. But we all have people who have come in and out of our lives randomly throughout the years. Sometimes they stay a while; some leave without warning; and there are some who are there for the duration; often returning after decades of going our separate ways, yet never losing touch.

But there is a unique and glorious type of friend also – the ones you know, or barely know, who perform acts of great love, compassion and humanity towards you – when you least expect it, and when you most need it. I call these friends “Pearls.”

This is not what I intended to write about this month; even as things began to unfold in my life during the last few weeks, I did not want to write about this. But there is no way I cannot. Now that I have seen first hand how brief and fragile life is, I must address this subject for the goodwill of all of us.

On October 30, I developed severe abdominal pains on my right side, radiating to my back. It was excruciating, and by Friday I was heaving and regurgitating blood. My neighbor, a retired nurse, rushed me out to the ER, where their initial thought was I had gastroenteritis. I was admitted for overnight observation. My neighbor stayed with me, even going up to my room with me and helping me answer questions during my admission. She also volunteered (with trepidation, however) to help Rudy, my not-very-friendly Blue Heeler, who was left at home unattended. This in itself is huge, because he suffers from fear aggression, and most people are afraid of him. As an animal lover, she took it upon herself to be his caregiver as long as was needed without bloodshed or drama. He continues to pretend not to like her. She has also checked on me diligently and made sure I was okay at home alone. And took it upon herself to spruce up some of my landscaping. How can you not love a Pearl?

My overnight observation turned into a four-night stay. I was much sicker than originally thought. There was no gastroenteritis, instead, a UTI (urinary tract infection), which dehydrated me, causing my kidneys to fail and ultimately, I developed Septicemia. When I learned this, I was devastated and terrified. For three nights, I suffered through fever, hallucinations and violent body tremors. But it was my decision to fight like hell, and rather than stay for weeks and weeks passively allowing the sepsis to take me out, my doctors deemed me fit to go home in short measure.

It was upon returning home when reality set in and I immediately sank into a deep depression filled with fear, anxiety and the terror of what I had experienced. Mostly, my emotional state was haunted by the fact that this was the first time I truly needed my mother's presence, and she was not there. Delayed grief soaked me like a wet blanket, and I cried and prayed, and cried and prayed some more.

Then, I met with a urologist who informed me that I have a rare kidney stone that comes from a genetic condition. This stone is what set all of the other conditions in motion; beginning with the UTI.

Soon some other Pearls began to appear – like those angels unaware we hear about. The morning after I arrived home, a Pearl left some cans of soup on my front door. Another Pearl made me beef stew, corn muffins and a small pan of brownies, along with a basket of fruit and bath tissue. This Pearl also took me to a few doctors appointments. One lustrous Pearl made me my favorite meal; liver and onions! A very dear Pearl brought me a turkey dinner that lasted me a few days. And, another Pearl brought me a very special lunch on Sunday. Then there was a rare Pearl who unexpectedly helped cover some expenses without my knowledge, removing a tremendous burden from me. Of course, there were those who visited, called and wrote me. My mother would be very happy to know how many people have shown their love and support for me. This was her biggest fear that after she left, I would not be cared for; not so. This is how Pearls come together and form the friendship strand that binds us all together.

My surgical procedure to blast my kidney stone was scheduled for November 23. Let me tell you, I'm the most frightened wuss on earth. Immediately, I began to fret and worry; not one for hospitals or procedures I'm not familiar with. I won't lie – I've been scared! Mostly, I worry because I'm alone and don't know what to expect, still recovering from my hospital stay. But, other Pearls in the strand have reassured and comforted me with their experiences and expert knowledge. Yet, more than anything, all of my Pearls have covered me with their wisdom and undying faith in our Creator. I am told I have many, many “prayer warriors” lifting me up. I am certain it is these glowing Pearls who have helped me through this thus far, along with my fierce faith in God. My personal relationship with Him has grown stronger – as I am.

So, hopefully, by the time you read this article, I will have successfully made it through this procedure (yes, lots of people have it done every day; but remember, I'm a wuss); passed said stone fragments with little disturbance to my neighbors; and, I will have ideally celebrated my 62nd Birthday yesterday.

But most of all, with or without a big feast, in my heart I will have – and will spiritually continue to celebrate Friendsgiving with all of my Pearls – As I will for the rest of my days.




As Seen in THE COURIER-TIMES

October 29, 2015

A Halloween Treat To Remember

To begin with, this story is Faux Fiction. You, the reader will determine what's real … or not …

When I was 7, I longed for a shiny acetate store bought Halloween costume. They were glorious to look at, and if you got one, you were mighty special. You could be Dale Evans, Peter Pan, Mighty Mouse, a clown or the Frankenstein monster. Maw had made mine, and I endured it for years – A furry monkey costume, complete with mask and tail.

The thing about that costume is it itched me to death! I broke out in hives every year, but was too proud to admit it until I was safely at home with my bag full of candy, oranges and pennies. Making matters worse, I was forced to wear my costume over my school clothes, including tights, a pair of wool leggings with stirrups that fit over boots, and a heavy coat. On top of that, I had a tight hood secured to my coat, placed over a woolen cap. My monkey mask was tied around my bulky head, and my tail stood straight up. It's a wonder I could move at all. My friends never waited for me. By the time I got down our front stoop, it was almost November 1st.

It didn't matter because I was not allowed to go out on Halloween with my friends. Rather, I went with Maw, who stood right behind me as I went door to door down our long block. Maw hated the ordeal as well, but it was that way or no way.

At each and every door, Maw would stop; look the house over; and either nod or shake her head before I could approach the door. Then she would prompt me, “Say trick-or-treat!”
“Trick or Treat, Mam.”
“Say Thank-You!”
“Thank you, Mam …”
And it went on and on. She was selective as to which houses I could stop at or not, and this always made me mad. I could see my friends running in and out of the street like banshees wailing and hissing in the night. I wanted to run wild and out of control too. I always wished Granddad would come with me, but he was left at home to pass out candy to the other children.

My friends never missed a house, and they always had bigger bags than I did; some had two. “Why can’t we go to the Rozelle’s house?” I would wail. “All the others are going there.” She'd say,
“Because you are neither a vagabond nor a scalawag, and you’ll go where I tell you … where the food is safe!” I rolled my eyes safely behind my mask.

Towards the end of the block, up by Marsden Street, there was Mrs. Hazel’s lonely little house, set farther back from the street than the others. We all had standard “Jamaica Houses,” with three windows and a door, but she had a tiny bungalow that was nestled back in the trees that shook when the Long Island Railroad rumbled by. This was the first year that we noticed Mrs. Hazel decorated her house for the holiday. She played in Maw’s bridge club, and she and her husband, a short quiet man, had no children of their own. Since she recently retired, we figured she'd be home. On her little porch was a pumpkin with a candle burning inside, and seated in a large cane back rocking chair was one of those big, stuffed effigies. You know, how folks take old clothes and stuff them with newspapers so that it looked just like a real person, placing them in chairs or trees to scare the kids. Back then, stuffed people hanging from trees weren’t too popular in our neighborhood. But Mrs. Hazel had a good size person on her porch. It was headless, with a large pumpkin for a head, and wore a red plaid shirt and old dungarees stuffed into some scruffy boots. His arms were folded across his chest and he was slumped down in the rocker.

I was terrified. “I don’t want to go there, Maw,” I whimpered. None of my friends were there to go with me, and frankly, Maw was even standing closer to the street than usual.

“Don’t be foolish, go on!” she urged. Chills tickled the small of my back, and I suddenly wished I had on even more clothes. I was so cold, and scared of the pumpkin goblin. I hate those things, and the pumpkin itself was beginning to ripen and stink. I rang the bell and ran back to Maw in a snap. “What are you doing, silly? Go back up there!” Just as I was about to defy Maw and fly home, the door slowly opened. Maw pushed me back towards the door.

“Say trick-or-treat!”
“Trick or Treat, Mam.”
The door opened wider, and the warm light from inside lit the porch completely. I breathed a sigh of relief. “Hilda, is that you?” Mrs. Hazel hollered?
“Yes, girl! I’m out with Irene.”
“Well, well, well, is that you in there, Miss Queen?” She patted my layered head.
“Yes, Mam.”
”What you supposed to be?”
“A monkey again, Mam.”
Mrs. Hazel was silent for a while, and then mumbled, “Sure you are, heh. Come on in!” Before I could protest, Mrs. Hazel grabbed my arm, pulling me in past pumpkin man, and Maw quickly followed behind. “Come in and warm up. I’ve been waiting for some nice company.”

Mrs. Hazel led us to her small kitchen with the aroma of meat roasting and hot cider. It was quite warm and cozy in there. Her little round table had an orange linen table cloth and displayed a large milk glass punch bowl filled with hot cider, plates of cookies and candy corn.

“Wow!” I shouted. “Look, Maw!”
“Mind your manners,” Maw reminded me.
“Oh, Hilda, it’s Halloween. Let the girl enjoy herself. Here, Queen, help yourself.” She handed me a little china plate and I loaded it with cookies, ignoring Maw’s warning glance. I knew the gluttony lecture would be given once we got home. I sat sipping hot cider, which was very, very spicy and had an odd taste. I figured that was just Grown Folks Cider, and I was feeling very full and sleepy, while the two older women sat and gossiped quietly.

“Where is he, Hazel?”
“I don’t know, Hilda. It’s been two weeks. That woman stopped calling here and he hasn’t come home since. I know he’s with her!” Mrs. Hazel began to sob softly.

I had learned long ago from Maw what my place was and not to butt into grown people’s business. But this was good stuff! I tilted my head back in the chair, closed my eyes and pretended to doze off so they could speak more freely.

“Did he take his clothes?”
“No! That’s just it. He left for work that morning, and he never got there … Neither did she!”
“Nooooo,” Maw crooned.
“Yes, the dirty blood clot even took his lunch that day! The police ain’t doin’ nothin’ to help find him. He’s just an old man who run off wit de woman, that’s all.” They had both reverted from proper English to their more comfortable West Indian dialect they fall into when angered.

Through the slits in my eyes, I watched as Maw took another sip of cider after Mrs. Hazel doused it with a big splash of sugar cane brandy. Oh, brother, this is going to be a long night. Eventually, I really did sleep, and the next thing you know, Maw’s dragging me back out into the cold, past the pumpkin man and down our long, lonely street. It was dark and scary. All of the children had gone in, and I couldn’t even see our house at the end of the block. I was grateful when Maw grabbed my hand in hers and we trotted the rest of the way home.

I was freezing cold, and the frost from my warm breath in front of me swirled above my head like a ghost. The big Jamaica houses loomed on either side of us, and I was too afraid to even mention there was not a soul nor car out on this Halloween night. Finally, we reach the comfort of our house, and found Granddad waiting at the door for us.

That night, I didn’t even bother to sit up and count or sort my candy. I washed my face, piled into a pair of warm pajamas and climbed into bed without being made to. I slept fitfully, tossing and turning, enduring nightmare after nightmare. Soon I was awakened with a start by the sound of sirens wailing down the street.

That’s our street, I thought! I sat bolt upright in my bed, just as our doorbell rang. Who could that be so early in the morning? It was not even daylight yet. I heard Granddad at the front door talking with someone; who, I don’t know. He walked back to him and Maw’s bedroom, where they spoke in hushed voices. Suddenly, I heard my grandmother’s familiar bawling, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no! (her favorite expression),” then, “No, no, no, no!” They talked some more, and there was nothing to hold me in my bed any longer.

I stood outside my grandparents’ bedroom door and listened to him relay the story to her again. A neighbor had heard a gunshot coming from Mrs. Hazel’s house. When the police arrived, they found her shot to death at her kitchen table; apparently it was a suicide. Our finger prints are on that table, I thought. Something was burning in the oven. When they opened it, they discovered cooked human remains – a woman’s body stuffed in a big roaster, all fixed up with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. On the porch was a headless Mr. Hazel propped up in a rocking chair with a pumpkin stuck where his head should have been. His own head, by the way, was found brewing on the stove in a large cider-filled stockpot full of cloves, cinnamon and apple peel … Grown Folks Cider ...

I never dressed for Halloween after that, and the monkey costume was finally put to rest. Today, as I sit sipping my hot espresso, and spread orange marmalade on my muffin, I am busy planning. How shall I dress my pumpkin man for my porch this year?


Excerpt from my novel “Queen Irene: A Garden of Easters,” not yet released.
Originally published in The Courier-Times, Oct. 25, 2015

September 28, 2015

Loving This Place Where We Are Right Now

The power of Sankofa. In Ghana, West Africa, the word “Sankofa” means to 'reach back and get it.' This phrase is often symbolized by the Asante Adinkra symbol of a bird, with his head looking backwards towards the middle of his back in order to pick up an egg that had been resting there. Reach back and get it; meaning, your heritage, your history, or something from your past that was lost, but is sorely needed now. One cannot move forward without claiming the past. You must reach back and get it, and savor the gifts within your egg. The bird flies forward while looking backwards at the past, in order to assure the future journey will be fruitful. Another symbol representing Sankofa is a stylized heart; which brings me to my message. Once again, I am speaking of love.

Sankofa-2 by StaceyTorresART
Love has a tendency to spin things to appear to be what they are not. Like things we hope for and long for. Some of us live for it. Love can be elusive, fleeting in its appearances, and will often take leave for years; decades even. Love can come and go in and out of our lives throughout these years. And, for a few fortunate souls, love can stay and last a lifetime. But, sometimes we have to remember that love may be misplaced at times, and we think it is lost forever. Yet, if we look back to our past and gather our eggs, we move forward with clarity, and love will find us.

Not long ago, a close friend introduced me to another very close friend of hers. It was a casual introduction, certainly not intended as a “hookup” or a matchmaking effort. She was merely introducing her friends to each other. However, there was something more – much more.

Very quickly, we discovered we had more things in common than most people do in several lifetimes. Both of us had cared for our mothers, who have since passed on. We like the same things -- unusual, quirky things that few people could even relate to. Within a few short days, our lives became entwined, in a wonderful positive way, and life as I knew it would never be the same. I suppose it's safe to assume life for him has changed as well, but I won't speak on his behalf. Things are still quite new for us. Without going into details, “smitten” would be a good word to use to describe our current situation.

The grin on my face feels permanent, my outlook on life is much lighter. I am happy. I have not been nor felt happy in many, many years. I sing again. I laugh a lot more. I feel giddy … silly … much like a school girl – an almost 62 year old school girl. There is peace and sweetness in my life again, and the pain and darkness from the not too distant past is beginning to fade more and more each day.

So, what does the power of Sankofa have to do with all of this? Well, one evening during one of our marathon telephone conversations, I mentioned something about a building I once lived in many years ago in Indianapolis. This prompted some distant memories and several questions ensued. It was then that we realized we had actually met briefly 34 years ago. On that night, we shared a pot of tea and talked for hours; much like we do today. But, what happened to us? How did I let him get away? How did he? We don't know … nor do we really care. At that time in both our lives, neither of us were ready for each other in any way. We needed to grow, to live and experience love, hurt, disappointment, joys, grief and tragedy all in our own time, in our own ways. While our lives did have some parallels, we simply were not prepared to even know each other. Life had to happen. Love had to happen. And, love had to leave in order for the process to continue. Our pasts had to happen in order for us to journey towards our futures. And, as our lives began to unfold and open like a late blooming rose, love came back again.

At a time when I truly thought all was hopelessly gone … When I believed that love only happens to the young and those who have been steady on the path … When I believed it was all over for me, and I was ready to just give up on everything and resign myself to being an old cat lady (without the cats), love stepped out of the shadows and offered the egg.

My guy has an amazing mind for remembering millions of song lyrics. And he's fond of an old Cole Porter tune, “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Well, we don't know. What it is to me, may not be for him, or vice versa. However, it seems to work for us. We're just enjoying the view and basking in the comfort of each other and our new-found friendship. Last night, he told me that when he woke up in the morning, he felt completely surrounded and engulfed with love. I'm still trying to imagine what that feels like. I'll be honest, he remembers far more about that night in 1979 than I do. At first I doubted his revelation, but his recollection of the evening – of me – and other details validate our little miracle.

Last month, I wrote about what “Love Is.” It can be so many different things to everyone – it does not have to be about romance, but it should always be about passion. Your love of your family, your friends, a career, a pet … anything … Put your all into that love. As we all know, life is so terribly brief. Grab what you love and hold it dear. And, of course, give as much back – and then some. Please don't deny the ones dearest to you the knowledge that you love and care for them. Tomorrow is not a promise; nor is the next hour.

What I realize now, is love never really leaves. It stays around, but not necessarily in the way we expect or hope it will. Sometimes we don't recognize it. In my life, I know I have loved many people; and in all due respect, many men. And, I am being candid when I admit I've never been in love until now. And for what it's worth – whatever this thing called love is … whether it be for a minute, a year, or if it is the beginning of everlasting … Love is Always Here to Stay. Open your heart, and reach back and get it.


Stacey Torres is an artist, dancer, and the author of “Jewels Of My Soul,” available on www.amazon.com.

First Published in The Courier-Times, September 27, 2015

August 31, 2015

Consider For Yourself Today All That Love Is

As you (should) know by now, I am very candid in my messages to my readers. Being at a stage in life where I no longer feel the need to be who or what I am not, I write things the way they are. Today, I sat in the waiting room of a local food pantry – no longer concerned with what anyone else thought. After all, they're there too. Today was interesting. Hard times have hit many of us in ways we never expected. And I began to think of two words a new friend said to me the other day; “Love Is.” We are in a world of overly processed hatred and envy; prejudice and jealousy. So, I thought about those two words.

Love is the gentle rain soothing the parched yellow corn in the late August sun.

Love is the grape throbbing in the heat of the afternoon as it clings to the vine that gives it life. And the grape, in turn, will give life to others.

Love is the gift of forgiveness, even when we admit we can never forget.
Love is the strength and lessons we learn from that painful incident we can never forget.

Love is the gift of patience – you give to yourself.

Love is the gift of forgiveness – you give to yourself.

Love is the baby sparrow, who prances proudly before me with his spike “hairdo,” showing me that he can walk. Love is also the watchful eyes of his parents, confident he can fly – After all, he did not fall from that nest.

Love is the first time I saw his smile, and knew God's gift was before me.

Love is the water that flows when the faucet is turned on, when you thought you didn't have a dime to pay for it. Love is the simple mercies that made it possible.

Love is the gift of the elderly, whose wisdom and experience brought us here.

Love is the one who hears your cry in the dark, and comes to your aid.

Love is the one who hears not your cry in the dark, but comes to your aid anyway.

Love is his voice, soothing and comforting when you feel life and love have left you forever.

Love is she who stops to comfort and shelter a wounded animal.

Love is he who makes room in his life to comfort and shelter a child with a wounded heart.

Love is acceptance.

Love is diversity

Love does not judge or assume the virtue of the diverse souls our Creator placed on this earth.

Love is the melody of a language unknown to you that speaks of peace and freedom and the chance to live and work with dignity and pride.

Love is he or she who is strong enough to embrace those different from themselves, and learn to exist globally in unity.

Love is not being so ignorant to believe what they read or hear about others – without knowing FACTS.

Love is not being so shallow to spread False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR) because they were so ignorant to believe what they read or hear about others – without knowing FACTS.

Love is a tomato, right off of your own vine.

Love is knowing your neighbor's name, and knowing you can count on them to help you when you are alone.

Love is knowing that even if they cannot or will not help you when you are alone, that you will be there for them just the same.

Love is the light at end of your street after a long journey.

Love is a cup of tea in a worn, chipped mug with an old friend.

Love is a warm loaf of bread you've baked for a new friend.

Love is his laughter, when your heart is aching.

Love is a three-legged dog who wins the race, because he's too grateful for the three he has to be worried about the one he lost.

Love is knowing your soul mate was there all along.

Love is being humble enough to put aside your pride and ask for the help you need.

Love is giving it back when you are able.

Love is the effervescent memory of a mother, father or grandparent.

Love is their surprising visits to us in the night in the form of a dream.

Love is taking a fish and feeding yourself; or, add some bread crumbs, and feed your entire family.

Love is sharing your talents with the world.

Love is that strange, unidentifiable scent – like powdery flowers, or a faint perfume from ages past. This fragrance lasts a brief second and then it is gone... I am told it is the scent of an angel, a lost loved one, or the Holy Spirit.

Love is knowing we happen to love the same dish.

Love is the choice collection of friends who will listen to your pain while silently bearing their own.

Love is strong coffee and a handwritten letter.

Love is that 50 year old rose bush that still blooms humbly in spite of your neglect.

Love is realizing that it's never too late – for anything.

Love is a welcomed phone call – even at 5 A.M.; and,

Love is wishing you had thought of calling him first.

by Stacey Torres
Originally Published in The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN 8/30/2015


August 6, 2015

Mojito Watermelon

I discovered this luscious recipe on Pinterest (via countryliving.com) this evening. While there is no alcohol in the recipe (and there's absolutely no reason why you can't add a touch of run to the mix), it's still a beautiful and refreshing side dish and/or dessert. In my case ... a summer evening snack.

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a35606/mojito-watermelon/

Mojito Watermelon

July 27, 2015

On My Stay-Cation -- Wish You Were Here

Stay-cations are not new. They became begrudgingly popular in the 90's when we all had sticker shock from gas prices hovering around $2/gallon. So, we were encouraged to stay at home and take “one tank trips” on weekends in lieu of the classic summer vacation. That was fine for some folks, but for those of us with wanderlust tendencies, that was never quite enough. However, in 2002, as things began to change in my world, I came to the realization that I may never get a real vacation again. Sure, I've had working trips, and a journey or two that took me to family funerals. But, no, those aren't vacations. And, I longed for one.

It took me a while to make up my mind, but that July, I decided to plant a small (3x4') bed of perennials in our 9th Hole-looking backyard. I found an old outdoor chaise lounge and a table with an umbrella from an antique shop, and created my own getaway. I reinvented “stay-cation” to suit me … Thus, it became a vacation taken at home without the cost of gas or expensive lodging. True, there was no beach, no swim-up bar, no sounds of the surf at night, no sexy waiters, no island music or exotic foods … all deal breakers for me. But, I'm a damn good cook – especially when it comes to island fare; I have my own music – can't swim to the bar if there was one – And, I bought some of those mood enhancing seashore audio tapes (a poor facsimile; but better than nothing). And, well, no, I never replicated the sexy waiters either, but I'd sit in my comfortable Adirondack chair with my iced tea, close my eyes, and imagine.

Over the years, things began to develop. I spent an entire winter growing (winter sow method) dozens of plants from seed, including Rugosa rose bushes, perennial Maximilian sunflowers, Bee Balm, Daylilies, Oriental Lilies, Asiatic and Orienpet Lilies, lots of Rudbeckia … even a yellow trumpet vine (yes, I knew better; but after 8 years, it is finally blooming, and is magnificent). What began as a humble little 3x4 foot perennial bed, has evolved into a quarter acre of green chaos.

There is even an accidental peach tree growing right outside the back door. Initially, I purchased a small ornamental patio peach tree (traditionally grown in containers, and moved inside during the winter). In true Stacey form, I planted it in the ground, figuring it would only grow the average four feet, and I would keep it pruned. It was a pretty little tree that survived two Indiana winters, and then gave up the ghost. So, in the following spring, I took a saw to it and cut it down … I thought … What I had not noticed was the little sucker I left sticking up out of the ground. That sucker is now 12 to 15 feet tall, and my not-so-patio peach tree bears fruit – the sweetest, tiniest little peaches ever. The sucker was from the original root stock.

So, for several years, I tended to my little piece of Eden, and that's how I have enjoyed my summers. Every year, something new was added … four Rose of Sharon trees (gifted to me by my mother); Viburnum, Hydrangea, Hostas, an American Plum; Bradford Pear; and a couple of Mulberry Trees are allowed to stay because they give good shade, and fortunately, no berries. I've added archways, and a couple of paths …

But two years ago I became ill with chronic anemia, which had me in a terrible weakened state. I had no idea anemia could be so debilitating, even though it was the initial cause of my grandfather and aunt's deaths. It blindsided me, and so I struggle with that, along with my asthma, on a daily basis. Some days I feel great, other days, I can't leave my bed. Needless to say, my garden suffered for my lack of energy and ability to care for it. What was once my sweet stay-cation getaway, became a horrifying man-eating jungle of sorts.

Because I do not have (nor can I afford) help with it, a lot of it was left to fend for itself. To make matters worse, the Indiana Monsoons of 2015 have not helped at all. I dreaded even looking outside. But one day this week, something told me to look out my back door. In the pouring rain, I noticed my favorite Tree Lily had been broken off at the ground from a horrible storm we had last week. I went out to see the damage, and was shocked at what else I saw … My fickle Sumatra Lily was blooming, and I could smell her strong perfume through the rain. I had brought the bulb home from the Patio Show in Indy years ago. All of my Daylilies, their bed hidden by Rudbeckia and some Wild Roses, were shining like yellow beams of sunlight in the rain. The Rose of Sharon trees were starting to bloom, and a rich and flamboyant “After 8” Oriental Lily was giving a show to beat the band. The biggest surprise was the lavender Bee Balm (Monarda), which was spreading and had grown to at least eight feet tall! I've never seen those heights before. So there were some surprises.

I have learned, that no matter what, God will take care of nature – with or without me. I see peaches; I see my Dinner Plate Hibiscus coming along … and some Dames Rocket that should have been done months ago, still blooming beautifully. I need to get out there and clear away the overgrowth, but I still don't have the stamina – or help. I do a tiny bit at a time. It would be wonderful to sit on my tiny mulched patio and sip tea again. You know, I would love to have a pond … Yes, I know you're thinking, “that's all she needs!” But I do. I've come to love the countless birds and other wildlife that visit me. But, there is a place in my Secret Garden where a pond would be charming.

With this wet weather, however, much of my summer life has been put on hold. This stay-cation is different than years past. My dog has been very patient with me; we don't walk as much as we used to because of the rain and humidity, and I spend my days painting, eating fruit or liver and onions. I do practice my dance when I can, or troll the catch and release ponds (a/k/a online dating sites) – not exactly the type of pond I had in mind. Moreover, my little neighbor, Willie the Siamese Cat, makes regular stay-cations to my habitat to hunt on safari. I've gotten used to him, and he's a good mouser, and moler and chipmunker. He now leaves my rabbits (and me) alone.

So, today I'm standing here in my gardening costume; old baggy jeans, long sleeve shirt, a straw hat, boots and my leather gloves … I'm ready to face the Hoosier Rain Forest and do some work. I plan to have supper outside tonight; a Jamaican Beef Patty, Coconut Rice, Salad and a Mai Tai … And I don't have to tip anyone! Oh, wait! What's that I hear? Can it be? Thunder again! Ah, well ...

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