Insomnia 2

 It is 2 am and I am waiting for the water to boil for a cup of Sleepytime tea. I have been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, I actually don’t mind it and rather enjoy it. For an introvert, the middle of the night is the ultimate quiet time to be alone and ironically can even feel rejuvenating to have such peaceful time to think. I can remember countless nights growing up in the country, watching the moon glide across the pure darkness. The head of my bed was under a west facing window and as long as I could enjoy the beauty of the endless stars and a dog sleeping on my feet,  I felt a calmness. Tonight however feels restless and frustrating. I know I need some good rest. I feel anxious and a need for time to process this steep learning curve… mountain…I am on. The past two months of putting myself “out there” have been a vulnerable, exciting, scary, skeptical, validating, interesting, and an intense roller coaster ride.. that I hope has just begun (this coming from the girl who has thrown up on her good friend’s feet on a damn ferris wheel).  So much to learn, so much to absorb, so many questions. How can I focus on all of this and focus on my family? I need a switch installed in my brain. Right now, I need to switch it OFF. I am too tired to think clearly.
So I am going to go make a cup of tea. Perhaps go throw rocks at the neighbor’s flood lights… just kidding… I think. And then, go steal a dog off one of the boy’s beds and watch the moon glide westward for awhile. Sweet dreams.

Blind spots

One of my biggest fears is blindness. It is something I can’t begin to comprehend. I don’t trust anyone near my eyes. Not Chris, not my sisters… no one. Going to the eye doctor is a circus show in itself. And ironically enough, one of my not-so-secret dreams is to be a seeing eye dog trainer. I have a whole file that I have been collecting for 18 years. I have a great story that started all of that, but for another day.  Anyway, since I have really begun to put myself, my art and my passions out into the world, I have found myself on a steep learning curve which includes learning a lot about myself. I been forced to admit out loud things about myself that aren’t always comfortable.  I am beginning to see my blind spots… or at least a few of them. And, damn they are hard to keep in focus and bring front and center. Talk about trust! Can I trust myself to open my eyes and see?

Today I began painting with no intention or plan. More like a warm up board. My head was swirling and I couldn’t really make sense of anything. Just keep painting..

 I am getting ready to start the Evolve program with AIR with the hope and determination of getting all of this swirling focused. I have been working on mission statements, goals, introductions etc. I am having to take a good look at where I have been, where I am, and where I want to go and be in 5 years.This is not easy and not something I have ever really done before. I have managed to focus on keeping my hands dirty and avoiding the world (in a career sense) for a long time. Just keep painting….

I wonder what the boys are doing right now… just keep painting.

I have just read the book Quiet by Susan Cain and found a good part of myself explained. Just keep painting…

I love this song! Just keep painting…..

I have met some incredible people in Fort Collins. I am feeling comfortable here. Just keep painting….

Robin’s blog was hilarious and soooo true. … just keep painting.

I miss my Mom. Just keep painting….

Chris called. I asked for support. He said yes. Just keep painting….

I love red. Just keep painting…

Perhaps by keeping my heart open I will be able to open my eyes and see…. not just yet, but perhaps with some focus…eventually.

Blind Spots, self portrait. Oil on Wood. 2013

From "Chris-C-wampus"

This is my sister’s response to my post A Place to Stand……
I can’t begin to tell you what a GIFT her words are.

“Thank you! Beautiful.
I actually do have a lot more moments of pure peace now than ever.  Once you realize that some big huge things are completly out of your control, you stop trying so hard.  The news this time around has been much easier to digest.
I will continue on my journey, fighting what I can, but will not waste a second of my precious life on allowing myself to feel defeated.
I am loved by so many, and so are my boys.  We have all our ducks in a row, and even though things may not turn out the exact way we think they should, I know we will all be ok.
I have a beautiful son, a faithful and strong husband, a loving family, a great job, a nice home, a strong body (Hahahaa) and a ton of friends.  Everybody has their own shit…mine just happens to be cancer.  The rest is pretty great, so I cannot complain.
I do not feel cheated, and I am no longer angry.  I was very very angry for years, but it wore me out and helped nobody!
Make no mistake…I drank a whole bottle of vodka over the past week, so I am not trying to sound preachy.  I had my pity party, and now it’s time to keep going!
Thanks for always being there…XO
Love you sister,

Our latest “rose” picture. We have been doing this for 18 years. This is our first with carnations.


What a weekend! I am completely exhausted and yet, I couldn’t sleep last night as my head and heart spin off axis in 20 directions. I spent the weekend as a volunteer at the Air Shift Workshop.  The workshop is a foundation weekend to get people thinking and shifting outside of the box in order to reach their potential and goals (or help to begin to establish what those might be).  The big shift is the combination of getting artists to see the benefit of planning and business skills and having business minds embrace the value that creatives can bring to companies and communities. What is realized through both personal and group exercises is that all of us are creative, all of us have value and skills, and all of us have a heart. When these are combined with hard work and focus, “the sky truly is the limit.”

Art and Business Come Together.  

It was amazing to see what unfolded this weekend as all those minds (and hearts) collaborated and worked hard. Not only were powerful and interesting potential projects developed, but also so were new friendships and partnerships. It was so much more than networking.  I watched as people struggled through the uncomfortable tension that collaboration can create. But, as they were guided through facilitation, which had clear guidelines yet centered in the core and intuition of good leaders, their voices were heard and new ideas emerged. And, I should mention lots of smiles, hugs, and laughter were present too! Skills in listening, as well as learning to speak up were both valued and expected giving all a voice.  What is created through the materials and presentations (which is an amazing amount of information) along the encouragement and honesty of the instructors, is a safe place to go outside your comfort zone and reach. It is really inspiring to not only feel this shift taking place myself, but to see it and talk to others who are experiencing the same thing. The light in their eyes is stunning.

Heart Centered

I could sit here all day and write about all of the people I met and talked with, or wish I had after getting just a glimpse into their world. And, I could tell you about the brilliant ideas they came up with, the very different lives they are living and the dreams they have.  I could share the effective lessons and resources that made up the curriculum but perhaps, you should sign up for a workshop yourself and experience this magical weekend first hand.   Check out their website  take the tour and let your shift begin. I am getting back to my shift, right after a big nap!

Soaking up sunshine and creative presentations. 
People came from Canada, Michigan Wyoming and different parts of Colorado.

What’s in a name?

About two months after we moved to Fort Collins, my son Ryan came home from school to tell me that his teacher had read about “my” art show in the paper. Completely baffled, I went to the computer to the local newspaper’s website. Sure enough there was a Cat Giglio having an art show downtown that following weekend.

 No way! 

 I couldn’t believe it. It might be a rather common name in New York, but in a small Colorado city, 20 miles from the Wyoming border, not so much. Did she have to spell out her name everywhere she went? Did she get “thank you Ms. Gigolo” (really!) at the grocery store?  I set out to find her. Fortunately for me, she has a wonderful blog (I recommend you go check it out!)  La Dolce Vita, and is on Facebook. I poured over her artwork. Beautiful mixed media pieces, that seem to be made up of layers of her spirit and passions.  Cat creates beautiful,  stunning, romantic, timeless pieces.  So, I sent her a note with a quick explanation of mistaken identity. We emailed back and forth. Not only was she an artist, but incredible gardener and lover of wine and chocolate. So what’s in a name anyway? So many connections!  We agreed to meet up for an afternoon treat at the Chocolate Cafe.  It was so much fun and lovely to meet Cat face to face.  We shared our stories, interests and thoughts. And, of course inquired about our names. She was born Caterina Giglio (and later by marriage added Digison) and I born Catherine Dennison later adding Giglio- and we both go by Cat.  We were meant to be friends.

CATerina Giglio and CATherine Giglio at Chocolate Cafe -2011

She told me she had reconnected with an old love and was soon to be moving to Michigan. We got a good laugh that Fort Collins couldn’t possible handle two Cat Giglios at the same time!  I got to meet up with her once more before she moved, but then missed seeing her this past summer when she was in town. Fortunately through technology, our acquaintance has turned into friendship. I so enjoy watching her art career soar and going along on her travels through her blog. Doors have opened for me because we share the same name. I have slid in on her reputation coat-tails (unknowingly) a few times, only to find out later that someone extended an invite because they thought I was her. When they finally realize their easily made mistake, I can see that familiar lightbulb go off.  And, about once every two months or so when I am out at a local art event, I will get comments like “You aren’t Cat Giglio!” Or, at local stores they read my debit card and do a double take. I then explain and always the store owner has the nicest things to say about CATerina. We still manage to trip people up on Facebook every now and again. Who knows? Perhaps someday, we will do a show together and really make people’s heads spin! 

But until then, go get a glass of wine and enjoy La Dolce Vita ! 

And, CATerina, I am raising my virtual glass of wine to you! Cheers! Salute! Amore! 

A Place to Stand.

There is that split second moment in the morning (or a long string of mornings) after you get bad news, that you have a moment of pure peace. That moment between restless dreams and remembering reality. It is such a strange space to try to articulate, but I think everyone has experienced it over and over. If only we could make it last just a bit longer to catch our breath and find some clarity.

This morning it happened again. The news that my sister’s cancer has returned hit me like a 2×4 to the heart.  I can only imagine how she must crave that moment of peace each morning, or perhaps she no longer even gets that moment of pure peace- not even a split second.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to wake up each day as a mother, a 43 year old mother, with cancer. Stage 4 cancer. It isn’t something I can comprehend.

So many feelings, emotions, memories, swirl around in my heart and head. It is impossible to make sense of any of it. The helplessness is consuming.

One place I come close to finding that peace is walking into the boys room at night and watching the three of them sleeping. For a minute, while I soak up their beauty and essence I find it, but then my brain kicks in. The other is working a canvas. Transferring my anger, hopes, wishes, fears, love, concern, sadness to a composition of color. Most often, those colors become a sort of landscape, creating a place for me to return to; a place to stand when the ground feels like it has fallen away beneath me.

Today is a full day, in a good way. But perhaps tonight, when the boys are sleeping, I will sneak into my art room and try to find my footing. So that I can find a place to stand and send out love.

Sky Lake, 40 x30 Acrylic on canvas. A peaceful place for me to stand. 

So many doors

I am quickly finding that making a leap out into the world comes with many doors to open. Some doors you hope to find, others you didn’t know existed, others show up just when you need and others when you aren’t quite ready. I feel like I have been opening door after door after door and not finding the space or time to apply or process each experience.

 I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland. I go through one doorway and grow, gaining a bit of confidence, a skill or a new perspective. Or, I walk through doorways only to shrink with fear or anxiety wanting nothing more than to turn around and go out the way I came in. But it is always locked. I have to work my way to the next door while balancing on a tightrope woven from opportunity, limitations, intuition, doubt, inspiration, hopes, apprehension, passion, need, want, worry, desire,  exhaustion, focus (take a deep breath Catherine!) and fortunately also, love and support.

Yesterday, at the end of a facilitator/coaching training session (a door I am not sure I am ready for, but one I am glad I opened… with a loving and gentle push), we were asked to come up with a question for ourselves. One of the things that came up in helping to guide someone is reminding them to find balance of doing and being. This was one of those moments when the words hit my gut like a boulder. They need to sit there for awhile. I really couldn’t focus on anything else after that. So my question to myself was “How do I create the balance of being and doing so that I can reach my potential allowing me to be an effective and positive part of my community (and family), while at the same time honoring my true nature?”


The door slammed shut and locked. And, I am pretty sure had a heavy duty deadbolt, too.
 No turning back. Back on the tightrope I go.

Fortunately, this door is always open with my heart’s center waiting on the other side.


Magnificent Muse 3- Susan M. Sturdevant

There are days that I can’t believe that I am sharing so much with the world. For the most part, I like my little corner and never thought that I would put it out there to be so exposed. And, I confess, I kind of just leapt. Earlier this year, my friend Susan, a friend from college, emailed me commissioning one of my paintings. When I saw her almost three years ago, at a little reunion we had over a long weekend, I showed her some photos of my work that I had in a show in Colorado Springs. She mentioned she would like one and I pretty much just laughed while blushing and blew it off. I guess she meant it. That email was just the kick in the pants that I needed.

I could find 100 excuses to not paint, even though it was what I wanted to do more than anything.  Why? Guilt. How could I spend our limited family income on supplies? The boys need that money for camps, cello rental, glasses, shoes for different sports, preschool tuition, not to mention the ridiculous medical bills we have had for the past two years.  Shouldn’t I spend my time working on house projects? Getting everything in order? What about volunteer time at schools and for the community? Aren’t those more important? How could I possibly add one more thing to my day?

I was so flattered and in turn energized by Sue’s request, the wheels started to spin. I need to be held accountable. I need deadlines. I need structure. So I decided to put myself out there.  I made this blog public and I set up a Facebook page. Was I insane for doing so without having all of my ducks in a row? Perhaps, but I knew that if I didn’t, I would never start, never try. It was just going to have to evolve. My house is messier than ever, but I am learning a lot and finding a huge shift in priorities.  I am getting lost in the paint and finding my true nature at the same time. It is a wonderful place to get to spend a little part of my week. I feel so happy to have paint under my nails. Those things alone have made this vulnerable jump worth it.

Susan is a petite, spunky, intelligent, funny,  loving and interesting woman. She lights up a room with her stories and isn’t afraid to make fun of herself or stand up for what she believes in. I first met Susan on a preview weekend for college. She was ready to take on the world. Her confidence beamed. Eventually, we both ended up being in this great group of friends. Everyone was so different and it was quite the opposite feel of a sorority. Sure there was lots of teasing for the fun of it, but mostly what made us unique was celebrated and cherished. Sue is still doing that 20 years later and from 2000 miles away. Over the years we have met up at weddings across the country and always pick up right where we left off. Chris and I love hanging out with Sue and her husband Wes. They are such a great couple.

Susan M. Sturdevant- Colorado Springs, Aug. 2010

 The weekend that I saw her last, we had a lot of fun catching up and we had some pretty good political discussions, too. We started off not really seeing eye to eye on much of anything, but we were able to listen and gain some perspective from each other. By the end of the weekend, we were able to agree to disagree with respect for the other. And on our way to the airport, we actually talked about how we wished our communities and leaders could do what we had done.  I will ever be grateful for the joy, support and perspectives Sue has given me. And, now I really wish there weren’t so many miles between us so I could give her a great big hug!


Sometimes, it still catches me off guard that we live in Colorado. Right now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but I have moments of pure panic to be so far from big bodies of water. I want to stand by the ocean’s edge and have the waves slowly bury my feet in the sand. I want to close my eyes, soak up the warm breeze and listen to the waves pound, children playing and gulls squawking. I want to be back on that laser with my childhood friend, set free to sail across the Choptank River to go play on the sandbar. I want to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico with my good friend and a margarita. I want to people watch beautiful Italians enjoying life along their Mediterranean coast. I want to watch Chris swim like a playful dolphin, where all of his worries seem to disappear. I want to feel that peace.

Since I couldn’t hop on a plane today, I went to “my room” to paint that longing. It was so cathartic. It wrapped me in so many wonderful memories from when I was the age of my children playing with my sisters, to college weekends spent with Chris on Wrightsville Beach, to trips as we watched our mountain boys explore and play with pure joy in a landscape so foreign to them. I found that my strokes, color choice at first almost felt like an agitated frenzy. I worked at a fast and frantic pace. But as I remembered so many joys, I was able to calm and let my fingers dance across the canvas. I could almost feel the water. Almost.

Volcano Lake*. Acrylic on Canvas. 40×30

*named by Ryan upon seeing the canvas