Synesthesia, shingles and art: a strange trifecta of synthesis, beauty and pain.

This is a blog post I started in March but never completed. Oh how I can remember the agony of those long, miserable days and nights.

I never finished this post but feel compelled to share what I wrote weeks ago so that if you or someone you know comes down with the shingles, you will have a bit of insight as to the intensity of the pain. Thanks for reading.

As I type this, I am on day six of suffering with the shingles.

Not many people in my life know about this sudden onset of pain and itching that’s befallen me. Heck, I didn’t even have a clue what was going on with my health until last night.

That’s when the stabbing, burning pain under my lesion drove me to tears and forced me to check Google for my symptoms. The best way to describe the pain is this: it felt like my muscles were being torn apart and my rib bones being broken, over and over and over again.

At first, when I started feeling itchy, I thought this was simply a case of ant bites, or spider bites, or something else that could cause such a rash.

Then the weekend came and with it appeared the sharp, biting, burning pain. Nerve pain. Deep, ripping, bone-crushing nerve pain.

Oh. My. Goodness. And, last night was the absolute pits.

Normally I have a very high threshold for pain. When I had my wisdom teeth and one molar cut out of my head years ago, I didn’t need a pain pill. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything.

This, however, tops any pain I’ve ever experienced.

After discovering that I had shingles, I got up out of bed last night, took some ibuprofen, got back in bed, and after midnight finally fell asleep.

When I awoke this morning, I realized that I’ve just got to manage getting through one day at a time and let this virus run its course.


Where does art come to play in this?

Well, since this past rainy and dreary Sunday I’ve begun painting again. Sensing an urge in my soul to get crazy with the colors and let myself express the color/number combination of my synesthesia, I took up the brushes and started experimenting with color and texture.

Painting has opened up a well of inspiration in my heart and, at the same time, has helped me to deal with having the shingles. The act of creating has taken my attention and diverted it away from the pain I’ve been feeling. Creativity has allowed me to tap something deep within and reconnect with a passion I’d long since forgotten.

On Saturday, I went to a local craft store and purchased some gloss fluid medium and some cheap canvas. I’d bought some modeling paste a week prior and had yet to experiment with them. So, Sunday afternoon I gathered my supplies and decided to try out both mediums on a small 5×7 canvas.



When you’re “too much” for some people

This is going to be a bit of a stream-of-consciousness post, but something I need to get down on paper. (Or would that be “down on computer?”)

I’ve had something on my mind a lot lately. It is the fact that I am “too much” for some people.

Do you ever feel that way? Do you know what I’m even talking about?

Sometimes, in certain situations, it becomes glaringly obvious that I do not fit in. Well, make that more than sometimes. It’s true. I’m not mainstream nor do I want to be.

Couple my not-fitting-in with a fiery passion for what makes my soul sing and you’ve got a psychedelic peacock flashing her glittery feathers at the world.


(Photo credit:

Not everyone likes that.

For a long time, this bothered me. In the 80s, I was me. Big hair, goth music and heavy black eyeliner defined who I was on the inside. I reveled in the 80s. The fashion and the makeup of the times spoke to my soul.

It was the first time in my young adult life that I felt real.

Later in life I felt like I needed to fit in, so throughout the 90s I did everything I could to conceal my inner sparkle. The job I held at the time required a certain look, you know, business suits and panty hose. No fun can ever be had wearing that kind of outfit.

When we were allowed to have casual Friday, I started wearing blue lipstick to the office.

Imagine walking into the Commissioner’s office of a State agency and encountering a secretary in blue lipstick. Yeah, that didn’t last very long…

Fast forward to now.

When I turned 50 a few years ago, something inside of me flipped. I had recently dropped a significant amount of weight and was about two sizes away from where I was in my 20s. This sparked a real change in my attitude about myself. I was entering the second half (or last third, who really knows) of my life…and I was smaller and feeling like a new person…so guess what?

I decided it was time to let myself shine.

Something about hitting 50 made me realize that I am okay just the way I am, right now, especially since I took the initiative to change my lifestyle and make self-care a priority.

What you see is what you get.

Though I had already been inching toward full self-expression, it took turning 50 to make me see that life is short and I have got to be, do, see, and experience everything right now. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow…and this becomes glaringly obvious once you hit the mid-century mark.

This particular morning I woke up thinking about how I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. This used to bother me tremendously, but now I don’t care.

So what if someone thinks my long, black hair is too much for a woman my age? I like it. I’m going to keep it, thank you.

So what if I decide to wear dark green lipstick out on the town and someone smirks at me? I don’t care. I like the lipstick and it looks good on me.

So what if society tells me I should be demure, cut my hair, wear pink, and do my best to fit in with what’s expected? I have a few choice words I could say here, but to keep this family friendly I’d like to say to those people: “Buzz off, mainstream drones, and buzz your opinions while you’re at it.”

Being too much for some people is something I’m learning to accept about myself. Day by day, it gets easier to embrace my eccentricities. After all, I’m an artist, a writer, a sometime ukulele player, and the publisher of a zine. I’m not, by nature, someone who chooses to shrink into the wallpaper at a function.

And, I treat my face like the canvas it is. You never know what I’m going to look like when we meet. That’s the beauty and power of makeup, and God alone knows how much I have in my possession.

Lipstick is a weapon, and I have an arsenal.

When you’re five feet nine inches tall, curvy, have hair that cascades down your back, and have an unusual face, you can’t fade. I tried years ago. It doesn’t work.

I’m fierce and I’m frightening, and I am okay with it. If someone doesn’t like me, they can keep walking. I don’t need anyone’s approval.

So, today and every day I wake up and decide just how I want to present myself to the world. And each day, I find great joy in being me and pushing the envelope just a little bit more.

While I don’t wear blue lipstick to work, I’m not afraid of purple.

And so it goes.

My hope for those reading this, those who feel the critical eye of the world upon them, is that you, too, will begin to feel freer to express who and what you are regardless of what society thinks.

We are living in a very good time, in one sense. We live in a world that is becoming more and more open to things that were once considered taboo, weird and unacceptable.

Because of this, take a moment to evaluate where you are in your life. Are you happy with the way you express yourself? Do you long for a chance to cut your hair, wear an entirely different wardrobe or take up the artistic endeavor that your heart has desired for years?

What’s stopping you? Do it. No matter what it is, do it. Do it now. Plan it out and go for it.

As you know, we aren’t promised tomorrow. That said, we can promise ourselves that no matter what may happen tomorrow, or even the next moment, we can be the authentic, colorful and fearless selves that we were born to be.

Who knows? If more of us did this very thing what kind of changes would we see in the world around us? Let’s work together to bring much needed color and love into the world.

Let’s show others that it’s our birthright to be unique. Let’s encourage each other to be our fully authentic selves.

Claim your birthright now, and let that freak flag fly.




The Joy of Contentment

Lately, I’ve been feeling a sense of contentment like no other.

Have you felt this way before?

The feeling that all is well, life is good, there is no lack, all needs are met, and the world is a happy place?

It’s a good feeling, a fleeting feeling, but a feeling we should all embrace.

This feeling doesn’t happen for me very often, but so far in 2018 I’ve found myself living with the joy of pure contentment.

Have I been to thrift stores since the first of the year?


Have I had luck finding really great stuff?


(Oh those pewter Enzo wingtip brogues!)


Does the drive to treasure hunt consume my thoughts lately?


And that’s okay.

I’ve discovered that it’s good to take a break from thrifting to enjoy the things I’ve already found and collected.

It’s good to not want anything more than what I already own.

In fact, this winter I’ve worn many of the items I found in thrift stores last year. Scarves, tops, shoes, bags…so many treasures line the walls of my closet.

I am content, and I am grateful.

Take a moment to reflect on those things you have in your life right now, both material and not.

I bet you’ll discover a treasure trove of your own.

A Plus Size Revelation…at the Thrift Store

I haven’t talked about a certain personal topic on this blog, and for good reason. One, I’m not a dietician nor am I a nutritionist. Two, weight is a very personal thing and I choose not to speak about my past issues with food and obesity. I will share that in 2015, due to oncoming health issues, I dropped over 50 pounds and 5 clothing sizes. I’ve maintained that loss to this day, and – even though I’m smaller than I used to be – I’m still very much a plus size babe.

That said, I feel like sharing something that happened to me, something eye-opening and humbling.

And it happened at a thrift store.

On a trip to one of our newer and local thrifts, a thrift I’d yet to visit (even though it’s very close to my house), I was browsing racks of luscious, beautiful, barely-worn clothing. Nothing brings a smile to my face more than flipping through the hangers, looking for new-to-me clothing in my new size.

This particular day, I kept running across gorgeous pieces that made my heart leap. I pulled the first item off the rack and fumbled for the size label, not noticing the actual size of the garment.

The sweater was in my old size, a size 28/30.

I stopped in my tracks, put the garment up against the rack and looked at it. I pulled it across, holding onto the sides, and stared at it for a moment before placing it back on the rack.

It seemed that nearly everything I found that day was in my old size.

Where, oh where, were these clothes years ago when I was searching my size at the thrift stores? I’d almost given up on thrifting back then, having come away nearly each shopping trip with nothing to show for the effort.

When I started dropping the weight, I would pull clothes out of my closet – clothes that had grown too big – and donate them to my favorite thrift. I’d donated, hoping to give someone a happy surprise when they dropped in to shop.

I still wonder who may have found the killer pink and black leopard top I’d given away, the awesome purple and black tie-dye pants…the faux-fur collared coat.

What I found to be true as a bigger person – that the thrift stores just don’t seem to like plus size folks – seems to have changed dramatically in the past couple of years. Today, there is a much better selection of plus size clothing in the thrift stores. In my city, every single thrift store I frequent is filled with wonderful plus size treasures. I’ve seen quite a lot of great pieces of clothing in ranges from tiny up to a size 28/30.

You have to look, just like you have to look when you’re searching any size…but they’re there. Trust me on this.

If you’re plus size and are afraid of trying to thrift for clothes, give it a try. I’m sure there are many garments in your size waiting to be found in shops where you live. Just take your time and look at everything. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Make it a point to give it a go. Your closet and your wallet will thank you!

Photo credit: mindful style

Here We Go…Where We End Up, No One Knows!

Welcome to the first blog post…the first installment in Betsey Venom’s “Venomous Vault!”

As I sit here typing these words, ideas form in my mind about where I want to take this blog, what I’d like to share, how I want to reach others. There are too many ideas vying for the chance to be the subject of this post, so I’ll pick and stick with one.

The subject? It’s pretty simple.

The sky’s the limit!

Do you enjoy making wearables? Do treasure hunts thrill you? Have you a passion for fashion? If so, you have found a friend here. Betsey Venom is all about creating cool things to wear and share, thrifting treasures and groovy threads, and fearlessly expressing one’s personal style.

Here you will find posts & pics of things I make, places I visit, treasures I thrift, and music I adore. I will also more than likely introduce you to the wildest rockabilly band in the land, King Cat and the Elders. I mean, after all, my hubby plays bass for the boys and rehearsals almost always happen here in my house. Why wouldn’t I want to brag on my man, as well as the five-piece band? 😉

Anywho, thank you for stumbling upon my little space in the blog-o-sphere. Let’s have some fun!

~ Francie