Victoria S. Hardy

Victoria S. Hardy

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cotton Shirts and Good Folks

Cotton Shirts and Good Folks

I often lament that my only child was taken too soon.  I wanted to be that eclectic Granny that brought the sunshine when she visited.  And as much as I lament about those things, and want to shut away the goodness my own world holds as I envision the goodness of a life that no longer exists – I have to say God has given me the goodness. 

I don’t have my name written on children, I am not their grandmother, but I am Victoria, and there is goodness in that.  This weekend of running crazily to the gigs of my husband and to gigs of others we’ve been wanting to see, I understand that even though I will never have grandkids, and my son is long gone – I’m still here and I know awesome people.  People so amazing that I wonder why I am so blessed to know them.  These people are like me in a way, taking their pains and loss and making something better of the whole life experience. 

Last night, after 3 days of running crazily, and then settling into the water of the lake, I wanted to write a blog about the awesomeness of a good white cotton shirt – seems ridiculous today, but maybe I am missing something. 

A good shirt fits, and sometimes, if we choose wisely - they last decades.  Good material, exceptional sewing, and solid buttons will give you years of comfort knowing if nothing else, that shirt rocks.  Yesterday, downtown I was wearing a 12-year-old cotton shirt and had so many compliments on it.  I had rushed all day, waking too early than my body wanted, and seeing people I loved in a beautiful park, and then running down to catch a band at the festival full of people I admire and respect. 

I think the cotton shirt, and those awesome people are one in the same.  Firstly, they never let you down.  Secondly, they are tough and survivors, be it a washer and dryer, or life yanking at them.  And thirdly, they are the trustful go to’s when nothing else feels right; you know they are there and you know they will just be who they are, and you trust their fortitude, good lines, and strong thread.

Thanking all the good folks and solid cotton shirts and feeling blessed that my world suddenly seems so full when I was sure it could never be right again. 

As always, keep seeking.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Digging In The Matter

Digging In The Matter

“Art mends broken hearts, pulls people up for air, and soothes the worst pains mankind can deliver.”  – Victoria S. Hardy

A friend asked for a favorite quote from an artist, and since I felt rushed, or at least didn’t want to surf websites for one - I wrote my own.  It got me to thinking, though, and I suppose that is what art is about, saving us from or delivering us to our demons. 

Words are so hard, and relating to the world is difficult.  Pain and loss and vision and dreams and experiences are real.  Yet, we live in a world that defines the parameters, and there is too much media defining us.  We forget that our differences are what make us great. 

Today my husband said to me that we shared the same curse of not seeing ourselves as good as we are in our personal callings.  That is true.  We do what we do without the confidence given to others.  We struggle under the world’s rules of not feeling good enough, tall enough, thin enough, smart enough, educated enough, and forget regularly the call that has us writing or singing or painting or playing. 

For whatever the reason, Chris and I grew up under burdens and they may seem simple and lackadaisical in today’s world, but broken families and dead siblings make a mark on any child.  I suppose it ingrained in us a knowledge of how quickly life could change and also a sad recognition of how people accepted the changes. 

God given talent, or tragedy, or heartbreak, or stunning realizations at any age opens the door, and there you are - an artist.  Some of us throw it out there, others keep it safe and close - the art, the healing, and the dealing with a society we haven’t understood, or no longer understand.  Some slam the door and lock it, dealing with themselves and their things in a different matter.

The world tends to define talent, and mostly it seems to change year to year – they have their talent shows and lift some folks up, while ignoring so many.  We accept the judge’s decisions just as we accept so many things - as we are only allowed to see so many things.  But I am beginning to grasp that the world is much vaster than the media would like us to believe. 

I know great artists, and I feel so blessed to have spent time in their presence, and what I know from the great ones is that they are a little nervous, worried that they aren’t good enough, and concerned how the world views them.  Great artists are odd, lovely, but odd; they may seem anti-social at times, or disconnected, but they are digging in the matter and figuring how to relay it. 

Art is a way to show pain, or to rise above it.  Art lifts us with color, or ink, or words, or drums, or strings, or brass, or cloth - something to sink our heads, hands, or bodies inside for a bit while transmitting messages that we don’t fully understand.  Art is the poor man’s way to richness, if only for a moment.  Not the richness of the media, not the richness of history, but the richness of knowing we made a difference, somehow, and someway. 

Art is life.  Art is history.  Art is color.  Art is the word.  Art is the sound.  Art is all the things that remind us of hope and our early beginnings.  Art can be lonely.  Art can be too busy.  Art challenges us to find that simple voice in us, which always encourages us.  Art makes us dig through the matter to find the jewel that rests inside of each of us. 

Much thanks to Laura Neff for asking the question and as always keep seeking.  

And below is a video of Chris Hardy's song "Digging In The Matter" with my shaky camera work as I figure out video vs. film.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015



Okay, I suppose I am a bit fed up with both sides of the agenda.  Sometimes the worst place is being in my brain. 

I am a Christian – I love all folks, I don’t care if they are gay or transitioning or straight as a board, black or multi-colored or illustrated or speaking a language I can’t understand.  If they are nice to me, then I am nice to them and deem them worthy of my time and attention and help and good feelings and love. 

We, as nation, have become a mess, but I know at my core we haven’t become a mess on our own; we have become the disrupted angry mess from the forces over us that display one story day after day, without telling the others.  We listen, of course, because we want to be informed and we trust the leaders to lead us to truth, but guess what? … they only lead us to more confusion, disruption, and hate. 

And truthfully, it makes my soul ache. 

The story of the county clerk who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple is all over the news.  But guess what?  The gay couple was not from the county in which she served and brought media along, and pastors are condemning her on her past, evidently not understanding what John the Baptist made clear, and all that stuff about being born again – dafuq?? 

I literally made my husband write the word dafuq down for me because I could never remember how to spell it (because it’s not a real word), but it’s a softer curse word than I want to say.

Sometimes I’m so disgusted by humanity I wonder why God makes me linger here.  I trust God, and I know God accepts us all, be we tatted, gay, unsure of our gender, or wear mixed cloth, or all the myriad of sins we could use to judge another (eat any seafood recently?).  God sees the good in us, and God knows our intentions, and whether or not they are good or bad. 

I have surmised for a long time that most true Christians don’t even know they are Christian.  They aren’t so much the churchgoers piling money in the bucket, but they are the ones helping people in the way they have.  They are the ones giving a few bucks to the homeless folk, sending out blankets and water in the time of need.  They are the ones lifting up others and not condemning folks.

What I have seen this week, months, and years has broken my heart.  I don’t understand the world, and I literally know it’s a miracle I am still here and alive.  I’m not always happy about the fact that I am still here and alive. 

In my journey, I have met the greatest people, people that literally sacrifice parts of themselves to make others better – most of those folks don’t identify as Christian.  I have also met Christians who are wonderful, and luckily I am related to many of them.  I have also known people who struggle so hard and give so much and are so scared by the Christian identity that they could never own it. 

I think much of the dichotomy and confusion comes down to media.  I won’t name names here, but there are so many folks in my world who have truly touched my heart, helped me, and lifted me in the darkest times who are not self-professed Christians.  And I’m pretty sure the Bible makes clear that there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing, especially in the age we are approaching, or are perhaps wrapped inside of these days.

Right now I see good folks on both sides struggling to define the boundaries and arguing with each other - and it hurts me.  Good folk are simply good folk, and it doesn’t come from a skin color, a sexual preference, or a religion.  God, whichever one you believe, or don’t, will figure it out. 

I, for myself, absolutely know that energy doesn’t end and simply transforms, and I can’t wait to see who I meet on the other side.  I have my ideas, because some people are too awesome for words, and I have been blessed to know so many!

It’s such a struggle right now, but I know it’s not a struggle of our own making; the media – ever keeping us divided – is doing the thing. 

In one day, when I have to snark at a Christian friend and an atheist friend over the same subject, I know it’s not us. 

Truth be told we love each other and only learn we don’t when we consume too much media. 

Please be smart folks, you are literally all we have. 

As always, keep seeking.  

Thursday, September 03, 2015

On Selling Books

On Selling Books

I heard a depressing snippet today about being an independent artist.  It seems the market is so saturated that the quality of the product takes a backseat to the back-story of the artist.  As though it’s not enough to show your soul in artistry and metaphors anymore, but the artist is now the product and not the art. 

I find that depressing for many reasons, the first being that I am a writer and I give a ton of information under the guise of fiction; the second reason is if I wanted to be on stage I wouldn’t have quit drumming, and not to mention I have terrible stage fright. But as now it’s the back-story and likeability of the artist that gets folks to hit the buy button - I’m screwed…

Some folks find me adorable, while others don’t – despite my story and my struggles.  I am one of those people who others like or hate out of the gate and I never understand the decisions - sometimes because I am too outspoken, other times because I didn’t speak enough.  Sometimes I am callous, and other times overly empathetic.  Sometimes I am aesthetically pleasing, and other times I am not – my weight and looks change with the seasons and they are seasons I have little control over.

My talents are writing, caring for animals, cooking, and sometimes painting, photography, sewing, or healing sick things.  In the world, I’m not much of anything. In my youth, I could turn every head when I walked in a room, but I also could be ignored just as easily.  I find the world, and most people in it, confusing.  Hell, a lot of times I besquirrel myself. 

So not only does the world want the novels, which takes a lot from me to write, they also want my story, my trials, my pains, my angst, and my losses to make them buy a product from me, and it makes me wonder if they also want my blood.  Yes, I know this sounds cynical, but I am cynical, while still having faith and hope. 

Back in the day, while Chris and I were in a band together – 3 Feet Up –  a national TV show contacted us and wanted the story of us, but it felt wrong.  Yes, the band was a reaction to losing my only child and then spending months in bed from a surgical procedure gone awry, but it felt wrong then to use that pain and loss for success, just as it feels wrong now.

I survived all the things, evidently, because here I sit writing this lament. And it disturbs me that the stories of my survival are more interesting than the novels, but actually, most astute people would see I put snippets of my survival in each novel or novella or short story.

Do people really want the dirty, heartbreaking details?  Do they need my confession to decide whether or not to spend 2-20 dollars on a book?  Do they want to hear the thoughts in my head as I stood over my son’s coffin?  Or exactly what I felt when I watched a huge open wound grow closed?  Or how I puked on my shoes while raking a yard after a concussion?  Or the trauma of being beaten by a lover?  Or being drugged and raped? Truthfully, all those experiences are in the books, but not so close to me that I have to relive the trauma day after day for the enjoyment of the spectator. 

I know we live in the Reality TV World, and I wish for softer times.  Yes, I have struggled, and I have lost, but it has always felt wrong to use the loss for anything except tears, remorse, and trying to do better, and be better.  I could not parade my dead kid around and feel good about success.

I could have filled this blog with a hundred pictures of my son who passed too soon – I could have pulled every heartstring with his struggles, hospital visits, surgeries, and trauma.  I could have posted his last messages, notes, and words, but those are mine …

I hate the world.  I have been chastised so many times for saying it, but it’s true.  I survive because it’s not my time yet. I endure because I have to. And I laugh a lot. I write books and short stories because something in me says I must write. I have accepted I will never be a King, Steinbeck, or Hemingway, and I do that with a sigh, because it’s all I’ve wanted since I was a child.  But if getting there means I have to carry my dead on a pike, I’ll just give it up that dream and choose poverty. 

I’ll still write though, I have no choice over that.  The stories will come and flow through me, and I’ll write them down, but my struggles are my own and if I survive them, the folks who read will get the hints along the way without the 3D multiplex experience. 

As always keep seeking and keep believing.

Although I hesitated putting this video out years ago because I didn't like the way I looked, the message is a good one.  

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Tamara's Painting

Tamara's Painting

Tamara stared out the window watching her neighbors.  She chastised herself and wondered when she became the nosey neighbor everyone despised.  She didn’t seem to be able to control herself - her neighbors were interesting. 

In her years, she’d lived in apartments stacked up four floors high; she’d lived in trailer parks where she barely had enough room to park her car without hitting her neighbor’s house; she lived in the suburbs where the other houses were so close that she could stick her arm out the window and touch the next house, but she’d never been as intrigued about the doings of others as she had been in the last months. 

Her new neighbors, a hundred yards out of her kitchen window, were so fascinating that she’d bought a pair of binoculars, which she kept by the sink, just to watch their comings and goings.  She assumed it was some type of halfway house, as the faces she saw across the road seemed to change daily. 

“Are you spying on the neighbors again,” her husband asked as he stepped into the kitchen and pulled a beer from the fridge. 

“Yes,” she answered, feeling heat fill her cheeks.  “I can’t seem to stop myself.”

Tony leaned against the sink beside her as he peered through the glass.  “It’s probably a halfway house, or some kind of shelter,” he said, as he watched a lady usher two small children into the huge home.

“It probably is,” she said, setting the field glasses back down on the counter.  “But the other neighbors haven’t mentioned it, just said the family had lived there forever, and that they weren’t very friendly.”

“We’re rural now, Tamara, people like their privacy out here, and so what if it’s a shelter or halfway house - as long as they tend to their business, we’ll tend to ours.”  He popped the top of the beer and took a long swig.  “I’m almost done with the presentation, want to see my slideshow?”

“Sure,” she said, slowly turning from the window.  She stepped into his messy office and watched the presentation that would hopefully open the market for a new shoe company.  “That’s really great, Tony!”  She kissed him. 

He pulled away.  “How’s the painting coming along?” 

“Slowly,” she sighed. 

“They’ve paid, Tamara, you should really get it done.”

She sighed.  “I know, but it’s so dark and I can’t work on it for long before …” she trailed off.

“Before you have to watch the neighbors,” he concluded.  “I haven’t wanted to say anything, but it’s becoming an obsession.”

“It’s not an obsession! And the painting is dark and depressing, and I have to send pictures each time I do anything and listen to this asshole drone on and on about what it’s supposed to look like – I’m not sure it’s worth the money.  The damned painting is giving me nightmares.” 

He sighed.  “It’s good money, Tamara, and you’re an artist, painting is what you do for a living.”

“Yeah, I know,” she snapped, walking back to the kitchen and grabbing her own beer,  “but the dude is sick.  Yes, I paint, but I’ve never had to paint anything like that and I don’t like it.  I wish we could give the money back.” 

“How are we to do that?”  He stood in the doorway, watching her pace as she sipped the can.  “It was your idea to move out in the middle of nowhere, it was your idea to have both of us work remotely, and although that painting is only a few thousand bucks, we need that money!” 

She held up her hand.  “I know, I know, and I don’t want to fight, but I’ve been painting a murder scene for months now and I’m sick of it.  He’s never pleased, the reds aren’t red enough, or they are too red.  The browns aren’t brown enough, or they’re too brown.  And the scene keeps changing.  I know the fucking money is good, but I hate him.  I hate the damn images that will be in my head for the rest of my life and I’m not sure that it’s worth the dollars, not to mention how he keeps changing things.”  She saw another car pull into the dirt drive across the street and ran to the window, picking up the binoculars.

Tony sighed and went back to his office.

Tamara lifted the lenses and watched a young woman step from the passenger side of the car.  She adjusted the dials on the glasses and focused in on the woman’s face and the tattoo exposed by the halter she wore.  The tattoo covered the woman’s upper arm, and was nice work by any artists’ standards, and displayed a sea creature devouring a small boat.  “Nice,” Tamara whispered, as she watched the young woman step up the stairs and disappear in the old rambling house.

She set down the binoculars and stepped back into her studio, staring at the huge painting with hatred.  She had followed the drawings sent in the mail, and the directions of the man on the phone or email as well as she could, but it was the strangest contract she’d ever had in her years as a professional artist.  Most of her assignments were painting from pictures, often children with dogs or cats, sometimes - family portraits done in oil, and occasionally photos of the recently deceased, but this was the first time someone wanted a murder scene on a 4X6 canvas. 

The canvas was taller than she was and she had to use a stepstool to reach the top, while also having to sit on the floor to reach the bottom.  And it seemed the scene changed week to week, sometimes the victims were light skinned and light haired, other times they were darker skinned with different hair. Sometimes the scene was in a hall; other times a kitchen, but most times in a library.  Each time she made the change and sent the photographs several hundred dollars appeared in their account, but after months it was draining. 

She stepped over to her computer in the corner and saw she’d received a new message from the buyer.  She sighed and wondered if she should click the message or just throw the computer, and her career, out the window and be done with it.  Money, she thought, we need money, and had to coerce her fingers into clicking the message as she slowly sank in the chair.

“Ms. Tamara, I promise this will be the last change and I have already forwarded five hundred dollars into your account.  The victim is blond, long hair, and has a tattoo on her left arm of a sea creature about to eat a small wooden boat.  She is wearing a halter.  The rest of the room is the same.  Thanks so much.”

“Holy shit!” She back kicked sending the chair across the hardwood, the wheels underneath her seeming to gain momentum until she crashed into the wall.  She fell out of the chair and hit the floor.  “The girl,” she began and shook her head hard.  “No freaking way,” she said, standing slowly and moving the chair back to the computer.  She reread the last message and then sat back in the chair, re-reading all the messages from the unnamed buyer. 

Suddenly, she saw her world in snippets of pictures through the lens of the binoculars and paintings.  “No,” she whispered, reading his first message, and then seeing the people stepping on the porch next door through her field glasses.  She clicked on his next message, remembering the paint on the canvas and the people stepping into the house across the way.  “No!” she said, clicking on the next message and again remembering changing the colors and tones on the canvas. 

“What do you want!” she responded to his message and hit the send button, her hands shaking.  She slid across the floor on the chair, slamming into an old paint stained bureau and opening a drawer.  She pulled free a pack of cigarettes, and lighted one as she stared at the computer screen, waiting for a response.  “No, no, no, no,” she muttered under her breath, as she expelled a long stream of smoke.  “No!”

The computer chimed alerting her to a new notification. 

“No,” she muttered, taking a deep draw from the tobacco.  She exhaled, and moving her feet slowly she propelled herself in the chair back to the computer.  She took another drag, her hand shaking so much that she had to use the other to stabilize it, and then clicked the button to open the mail. 

“You could save her, you could have saved all of them.  Time is growing short.”  

“What?” she whispered, trying to lift the cigarette to her mouth but dropping it in her lap.  She jumped up, slapping the fire burning into her leg just below the line of her shorts and the computer chimed again. 

She reached down, clicking the button for new mail as she ground out the butt into the hardwood. “Less than ten minutes, and you know the house, you’ve been painting it for months.” 

“What the fuck?” She stared at the screen.

The computer chimed again, and she slowly reached over and opened the new mail.  “Less than eight minutes, Tamara.” 

She ran.  She snatched open the bedside drawer and removed the pistol, quickly checking to ensure it was loaded.  

“What are you doing?” Tony stepped out of his office.

“I’m saving the girl!” she declared and ran to the door, throwing it open.  She raced across the yard, while wishing for better shoes, and crossed the dirt road. 

She bounded onto the porch where she had seen so many disappear and wondered who she had become, and what kind of virus the buyer had infected in her with his constant changes.  She briefly considered that she may go to prison as she kicked the door open and again wished for better shoes as she felt the force travel up her leg and settle in her hip. 

Tamara limped into the house, the gun raised.  “Where is the girl?” she demanded, knowing the paths as she had painted them in the last weeks and months. 

She entered the library of the old house and saw the girl.  The tattoo on her shoulder was exposed, the skin underneath white, as the girl’s hands were bound behind her back.  “Where are they?” Tamara squatted beside the girl, tugging at the rope. 

The girl shrugged. “I don’t know,” she whispered, tears cutting white streaks in her make-up. 

Tamara looked around the room.  She knew the room; she had painted it over and again in the last months.  “Drawer,” she muttered, and stood up.  She went to the desk and slid open the drawer.  Inside, she found a knife.  She pushed the pistol in her pocket of her shorts and grabbed the blade. 

Tamara ran back to the girl, cutting the ties that bound her and urging her to run.  “Go, go now!”

“Who are you?” the girl asked, rubbing her wrists. 

“Tamara, your artist.  Run!” 

The girl ran, and as Tamara heard the front door slam she looked around the room, comparing reality to the paintings she had done over and again.  “Where are the others?” she asked softly as she went room to room. 

“Tamara!  Fuck!  Tamara!  What are you doing in there?” she heard Tony yell from the front door. 

“Did you get the girl?” she called back. 

“Yeah, I sent her to our house and called the police!”

Tamara cleared one room after another as she had seen actors on TV do with her gun out in front of her, the safety off, and then stared at the stairs while she felt her hip throb.  She limped to the front door and fell in Tony’s arms as the police cars began filling the street. 


“Her hip is broken,” Tamara heard, as she stared up into too bright lights, "we need to put in pins.” 

“Twenty-six bodies under the house, most were kids or young women,” she heard, waking from heavy sedation after surgery, “but there may be more underneath, we’re still digging.  She saved the one, and we found a couple kids upstairs, and we are grateful to have busted the bastards.”  She glanced up to see a couple police officers talking to Tony, and then fell back into sleep.


“You’re home, how does it feel,” Tony hovered behind her as she maneuvered the crutches.

“Weird,” she clunked into the kitchen and saw the binoculars on the counter.  She stepped to the sink, stared out the window, and saw the police tape surrounding the house across the road. 

She shook her head slowly.  “I need to go to my studio.”

“Baby, you need to rest.”  Tony’s brow furrowed. 

“I will, but I need to go to my studio.”  She turned from the window. 

“I don’t think I told you I got the shoe account,” he said following her, his hands outstretched and open to catching her if she fell.

“That’s great!” she smiled as she clunked down the hall.  “Congratulations!” 

“That’s what we needed and you don’t have to worry about crazy people wanting portraits of murder anymore, tell that guy to fuck off.” 

Tamara stood at the closed door, trying to figure how to open it and still maintain her balance on the crutches. 

Tony reached around and turned the knob, opening the door.  “Do you need me?  I know it’s your place and you don’t like folks in there and I have to answer a couple emails.” 

“No, I’m good,” she promised. 

“I’ll be back in five, and then you need to get in bed,” he kissed her on the cheek. 

“Five,” she said, watching him head back to his own office before she stepped into the studio. 

She struggled under the crutches to the huge canvas and pulled the sheet away to see an empty canvas.  No color, no paint, no murder scene – a completely white unused giant space.  “What the f…?” she muttered.  “What the ever living hell?” She stared at the white remembering layers and layers of paint, and changes and changes.  She shook her head and heard the chime from the computer.  She closed her eyes.  “What now?”

She worked her way to the desk, reaching down to click the message and hoping she wouldn’t lose a crutch.  The message unfolded and she caught her breath. 

“Good job, Tamara.  Five thousand in your checking account.  Your husband is about to announce you have to move again, and you should accept.  You have another painting to paint.” 

She caught her breath, dropped the crutches, and managed to fall in the wheeled office chair.  She dropped her head down to her knees, gasping at the pain from her ribs and hips.  “What the …” she had no words. 

Tony burst into the room.  “Honey, I just got the best job offer ever!  On the east coast, we’ll be set for life!  Honey … Tamara … baby…”  He dropped to his knees beside her chair.  “Are you okay?”

Tamara lifted her head from her knees and smiled, as the tears flowed down her cheeks.  “I’m ready.”