Diogenes: He used to stroll about in full daylight with a lamp; when asked what he was doing, he would answer, "I am looking for a man." (Modern sources often say that Diogenes was looking for an "honest man", but in ancient sources he is simply "looking for a man". In his view, the unreasoning behavior of the people around him meant that they did not qualify as men.) From Wikipedia.
In an irony almost too mind-boggling to grasp, Grandma Layton's profound drawing of an historic philosopher ended up in the hands of a vulgar, ignorant, and narcissistic man. We saw through his Machiavellian tendencies long ago, unfortunately Joe Tracy's manipulation of emotions allowed him to control and influence his family and friends around him, ultimately serving his own interests. There are a hundred reasons why we formed this assessment of his character, but for now I will keep to the ones pertinent to this true backstory: the Diogenes drawing's journey from Grandma Layton's studio to the immoral hands of our brother-in-law.
On July 4, 1981, Grandma gave the drawing to Kay, our mother. Mom had the same basic beliefs as Diogenes - a cynical bent on life - so this drawing fit into her personality perfectly. It would be several years before Joe made his obnoxious entrance into our lives, because during these years (the early 1980's) Kathy was married to a handsome "manly man", Jack, who adored Mom, Kathy's sisters, and his niece and nephew. Life continued, and when Kathy and Judy divorced their husbands, Judy moved to St. Joseph, MO to work at a weekly shopper, Kathy followed along, Carla and her small children moved there in early 1986 to escape a brutal ex, and Mom (with Diogenes) wasn't far behind. So you see, we knew Joe a long time, our feelings are not hyperbole. He was a braggart, liar, cheater, greedy, drug addict, glutton - I can't for the life of me think of a good quality in that man, he was the antithesis of the kind of human Diogenes was looking for.
Before Mom died March 27, 2005, she bequeathed the drawing to Judy. After being stolen by Judy's ex-boyfriend and being hidden in the rafters of the basement, she finally recovered Diogenes and he found his place in her home. Kathy asked if she could borrow it to show some friends, and of course Judy said yes. It is an incredible work and should be seen by as many people as possible. We sisters had discussed many times that we would donate our Grandma Layton drawings to various museums upon our deaths, to keep Grandma's message alive, not knowing how soon that day would come.
After our sister died, Joe cut us off from everything Kathy. He was horrible to her when she was alive, and it continued after her death. I will not recount everything that man did to destroy our family, that will have to wait for other posts (I'm trying really hard to keep my focus on Diogenes drawing's journey). We contacted Joe and told him we wanted the drawing returned to us or donated to a museum. We also explained to him that this was one of Grandma's "themed" drawings - he had no idea what we were talking about. Oh, what an ignorant man... We did not hear from him after that, then he died. Our sister's treasured possessions were sold off at garage sales or taken by greedy Tracy family members. We were determined to track down the drawing, going as far as threatening legal action if necessary. Finally, the drawing was found, donated by one of Joe's lackeys months after his death. I can hardly stand to look at the plaque, but it says, "donated by Joe Tracy...". No mention of Kathy's maiden name - everything is about Joe. The problem is that Diogenes was not Joe’s to donate. The drawing is Judy's. Mom, Grandma, and Kathy would be heartsick that he stole this drawing and passed it off as some benevolent tribute to Kathy. We expect this to be made right. We don’t really care who got the tax donation for it, let Joe have that, he didn’t care about Grandma’s message, just what he could get out of it.
The Diogenes plaque should read, "Donated by the family of Elizabeth Layton, in honor of her granddaughter Kathy Beth Russell Tracy".
I walk bent, my head twisted toward the ground.
My eyes watching the earth at my feet, my neck is too tired to hold my head up, so I see only dirt at my feet.
My back weak, my neck tired, I see only the earth and humanity at my feet.
One time I walked straight, my head held high.
I felt the warmth of the sun on my face, I saw the searching tops of the tallest trees.
Back then I thought I saw hope, but now I know that was just an illusion.
My heart aches with open wounds - the losses of years past have never healed - they don't fester, but they don't heal.
I am obligated to walk until the day when the final wound will destroy my heart.
I lay down, and once again feel the suns warmth. Life is not only for the strong, but also for the helpless, those without hope, we must walk one more day, and one more day, waiting for the final round.
Look at the wounds on my heart. Can you see that there is room for only one or two more? This one is for brother, Debbie, the calf, the child, the parent.
Debbie, the little girl who fought cancer for a year, but always hopeless from the first day the cancer word was spoken. The hopelessness started years before, I don’t remember when.
This scar is for my child, my son. All I know of him is a cry at his birth - I will always hear that cry in my heart for a child, my child. written by Kay sometime in the mid 1980's
For as long as I can remember our mother was depressed. Of course, there were plenty of good, happy days, so many happy memories we have shared through the years, but always a sad undercurrent ran through. As her daughter I didn't understand the depth of her sadness, I suppose I assumed it was because she was a single mother with no child support raising three daughters, along with all life's tragedies and setbacks that everybody must endure. We girls did not know about the son mom had given up for adoption, and she never mentioned him to us, even on her death bed. Until I read this poem of hers, I didn't realize the depth of her grief. We wish she would have told us, but Mom was so private, and perhaps the telling would hurt more.
Mom has been gone for eighteen years now, and it still hurts to know more of her sorrow. Yet I am consoled by this knowledge of a facet of her remarkable story, from her perspective. Mom was Elizabeth's fourth child, and anyone who has read Elizabeth's biography/memoir "Signs Along the Way" knows that Mom's childhood was anything but easy. All of the siblings had traumatic experiences while growing up and had to make tough decisions that affected their entire lives. But they were also very close, and also did what they could to help each other work through their traumas. Mom was, as were her siblings, beautiful, intelligent, independent, strong, and industrious - traits they got from their mother. Fortunately for us they were also a family of writers, and saved a lot of their correspondence, poetry, short stories, and journals.
Through the years I have also written down some of my life experiences, as I'm sure a lot of us do. Hopefully my own kids will be interested enough in me to read through them, and not wait until I'm dead. I now know more about my mother as a child, woman, provider, poet, teenager, person, some of her hopes and dreams - her character is so much more than I ever imagined. I understand her better than before, and that soothes my soul.
“It’s funny how sometimes the people you’d take a bullet for are the ones behind the trigger.” – Unknown
Even though it had been ten years since the last electric shock treatment, the sisters were still uneasy when their mother would offer to take her grandchildren out for the day. They could never be sure if Elizabeth was suffering a manic phase or dare to hope that this might be a hint of the return of their once adventurous mother. Elizabeth was adept at masking her depression when she had to and keeping busy with the grandchildren added some structure and light to a boring and restrictive household routine. Besides, she loved being a grandmother, and was determined not to let anyone hold her back from fulfilling those duties.
From page 228 of "Signs Along the Way"
It is so good for us that Grandma Layton was so involved in our lives, in spite of our mother's initial resistance. I can't even imagine a childhood without my grandmother in it... Would I know how to swim? Or sew? Or read, or write a book? Or spell supercalifragilisticexpiali-docious? Or learn grace, independence, and how to write a thank you card? I don't know, maybe. Well, probably - Mom was taught well by her mother and she passed along those finer qualities - but it was a lot more fun with Grandma!
Mom adored her grandchildren, and she led them down a more cultural path: weekends at the Renaissance Festival, art shows, National Geographic magazines, telescopes, microscopes - and she attended every school and 4-H function she could - proudly applauding with every award collected by her little geniuses.
Alas - half-truths and outright lies, ulterior motives and control issues (among other character flaws) from a certain in-law have fathered family estrangements, and I have been branded a pariah by some souls I love the most - unable to heed my grandmotherly calling. The truth about grandmothers is that we are also mothers. And granddaughters. We've lived the spectrum and will never settle for any of those roles by title only. What woman wants to go through the hard work of raising a child and then be denied the joys of playing with her grandchildren? I would have been a wonderful grandma - I did learn from the very best!
Grandma Layton's Mother's Day drawing is at the head of this conversation, the caption reads: "Here sits the Matriarch on her throne, taking, taking, yet demanding more. I call this my sick cow look." I couldn't have gifted this drawing to a more deserving person... Carla
“It’s funny how sometimes the people you’d take a bullet for are the ones behind the trigger.” – Unknown
As opposed to The Path of Least Resistance, I think I will aspire to this new philosophy! Perhaps I have in some respects, no one sets out to make bad decisions. Whether they were calculated and well thought-out, or spontaneous and out-of-character, they seemed like good decisions at the time. If the end justifies the means, it can’t be all wrong, can it?
Yes, yes it can. Running headlong into a decision without thought of how it will affect you, and others, can set you up for the deepest and darkest of regrets. Icing out someone you love because of a perceived dis or criticism. In the quest for righteousness, leaving a wake of destruction in your path. Knowing right from wrong but choosing wrong. Maybe it was the path of least resistance, at the time full steam ahead. And sometimes, it’s too late for regrets, or validations, or apologies.
When I saw this drawing of Grandma’s, Lady Macbeth, the first thing that came to mind was her regret. You can tell by her eyes that she is startled at what she has done, but they also show she knows it’s too late to make amends. So she is concentrating on getting out the physical spot, because she cannot wipe the stain on her soul away. This is just my interpretation of Grandma’s profound message. Of course murder in the quest for power is a bit extreme as an example, but it is Shakespeare after all!
I do have regrets, oh boy do I ever. But I don’t ever want to make a decision based on a misguided loyalty to some ideal, selfishness, or pure laziness. It’s a difficult thing to judge regrets, particularly after the fact. Is it possible to make your choices based on The Path of Least Regret? Some choices are easy: don’t hurt, kill, abuse, neglect or steal. But some choices can be more challenging, “to do or not to do”. (See what I did there?) Passing judgement, being unfaithful, taking others for granted, choices like that can be justified. But just because they seem innocuous doesn’t mean they won’t cause regret down the line.
So I’ll do the best I can, strive to keep all stains to a minimum. And keep my bottle of Shout handy…
"When Elizabeth was publisher of the Wellsville Globe, I had the privilege of working just a half of a block from her office. Businesswomen were scarce on Main Street in the early 1940’s and not well accepted. Almost every building was occupied by a business owner and operated by a local, hardworking man, who in most cases was somewhat chauvinistic. They were not accustomed or receptive to having women at Chamber of Commerce meetings, much less listening to their suggestions."
From page 9 of "Signs Along the Way"
It's hard to believe how much has changed in the past hundred years regarding women's rights - and even harder to explain those issues to the current generation. As a society, we have become complacent about such matters - until Trump slapped us out of our stupor with his misogynistic rantings and behavior. I feel like I'm watching a bad movie from the 1920's...
When did this non-equality thing start, anyway? And how? We all know there are physical and emotional differences, that's what makes us each special. But, every one of us starts out as the same tiny bundle of cells, in the big scheme of things it doesn't really matter what we turn out to be. No - the equality issue raises it's ugly head in matters of politics, legislation, employment, and education opportunities. I can personally relate to issues of women's equality only from the mid 1950's on - you'll have to go to Google for stats and numbers of other eras. I lived many changes, right along with Mom and Grandma Layton. Young ladies, understand that many rights you take for granted today have not always existed, and can be surely taken away.
Divorce carried quite a stigma in the 1950's, and since employment opportunities were mostly limited to "traditional" women's jobs such as secretary, teacher, librarian, etc., many women settled for a cheating and/or abusive husband rather than face the social shame and financial struggles bestowed upon a "grass widow". Mom and Dad were divorced when I was three, and there were minimal child support laws in place. One hundred dollars a month for three girls would barely pay a babysitter - but Mom wasn't even able to collect a dime. In fact, the one time she took Dad back to court to enforce the support, the judge decreased the payments, because Mom made more money than Dad did - which was barely nothing.
In the 60's, elementary girls were not allowed to wear trousers or slacks of any kind to school, it was dresses or skirts and blouses only. In fact, it was the early to mid-1970's before female office workers were permitted to wear pantsuits in the workplace in many cities - and they had to be a matching jacket and slacks. My daughter Shannon would have never made it past Kindergarten - it was a huge struggle to get her into a dress, at least until she turned sixteen or so... How wonderful it is to be able to choose a varied wardrobe, seems like such a little thing these days, but as a little girl, how I longed to wear pants to school! It sure would have prevented lots of skinned-up knees at recess...
Birth control. Feels like it has been our "right" forever, right? Not entirely. In 1965, the Supreme Court finally gave married couples the right to use birth control. However, millions of unmarried women in 26 states were still denied birth control, literally and politically screwed. It wasn't until 1972 that the court legalized birth control for all citizens of this country, irrespective of marital status. Seven years worth of unwanted pregnancies and risky illegal abortions that could have been avoided, if only women had the right to decide. Since I brought up that touchy abortion subject, let me just say this: No woman, anywhere or ever, said, "Such a lovely day, I think I'll get an abortion." It is an unbearably difficult decision that should never be legislated. And that's all I will say about that...
Financial equality hasn't always been a thing, and we still have a long way to go. Women had to have their husband's permission to get a bank account as recent as the 1960's. By 1974, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed, and single, married, or widowed we no longer needed a man to cosign for us. Can you believe it? That was only 43 years ago...
I could go on and on, but will let Grandma Layton's drawing fill in the rest. We can't go backward - our daughters deserve so much more. Carla
Carrie Fisher, may she Rest In Peace, battled her mental illness for years, sometimes quite publicly. But I was surprised to learn that she credited electroshock therapy with helping her to cope with the depression. My Grandma Layton didn't have the positive experience of that therapy. But, at one of her darkest hours, it offered hope, and her thirteen treatments were completed before she found the healing art of Blind Contour Drawing. An excerpt, titled "Transverse Shadows", from her biography/memoir, Signs Along The Way:
I was cold, hard marble. Despair and fear are at least feelings, and very intense ones. And affection is better than none. Having once been sensitive, I recalled the sensations, and as with pain, I could and did hold and examine them. Now I was unable to experience them.
In this vacuum I wanted to make dejection and fear my friends, the way a person in unbearable suffering makes friends with his pain, groping the way to death.
I wanted to feel my way back to life, even if I had to endure death to do it.
Different experiences with different results. But Carrie and Grandma shared a common denominator: living with, and battling to overcome their disease by expressing themselves - some way, somehow. Carrie wrote, acted, and advocated. Grandma Layton wrote, drew, and advocated. I am glad they both have found peace. - Judy Kay
One Sunday morning Liza woke up with a start when she felt arms laid heavy on her chest. Mrs. Burress was kneeling there, her head on the bed. She stood up, picking up a little suitcase. The catch opened and a potted Easter Lily fell out. The pot cracked, spilling dirt all over the floor. Mrs. Burress took hold of the bloom and raised the plant high. Dirt dropped off of the roots and onto the bed. "What God hath joined together let no man put asunder!" she cried loudly, "I’m going back to my husband! God blesses marriage. We are still married, and he wants me back!" That said, she returned to her room.
Liza ran downstairs and called Mr. Burress. He came right over, and together they persuaded the woman to check into the nearby rest home. Liza went to visit her for three days, then the lady in charge said, "We couldn’t handle her anymore, had to tie her to the bed, so we sent her to the insane asylum."
"There but for the Grace of God, go I," Liza whispered.
From page 126 of Signs Along the Way...
June 2016 was a good month for bad news. A co-worker, Barbro, lost her battle with cancer... I thought for sure she was too stubborn to let go. Mary, another co-worker, lost her husband to cancer within a couple of weeks of Barbro's passing. Orlando Florida lost 49 souls at the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack, the deadliest attack in US history. A couple of days later a two-year old boy was pulled into a lagoon by an alligator at a Disney World resort, and in spite of his father's valiant efforts to save him, was killed - his body recovered days later.
And then we have our personal daily life obstacles and burdens. Judy Kay was reluctant to talk to her sisters about any of her job related stress - she figured her problems were not as abysmal as my marriage dissolution, or as agonizing as Kathy Beth's rheumatoid arthritis. I really didn't want go on and on about my endless, bizarre arguments with my meth-damaged husband - everybody else seemed to have much bigger miseries to bear. That's the humanity in us, I suppose, to feel empathy and sympathy for our fellow humans and critters when they are suffering and sad. While I usually don't think, "There, but for the grace of God, go I"... the first words to myself are often, "My troubles aren't that big..." Until Kathy Beth told me and Judy Kay about a conversation between her and her RA doctor concerning Kathy's close friend, that went something like this: "She had just been diagnosed with RA and I told him I felt bad for her, that she would have to deal with the pain and all that goes with RA. He patted my leg and said, 'Kathy, very few people have RA as bad as you do'. I'm glad for her!"
Yes!!! That was my reaction. Let me explain... The doctor's simple mention of the severity of Kathy's RA was an affirmation of sorts - that yes, it's a deep trouble.
What I am about to relate is not a woe-is-me, self-pity rant - it's just a simple statement: My marriage is bad - very, very bad. Unbearably horrid. And it's been like that for the past three years. Before that, I thought we were pretty darned good together. I'm not going to go into the bizarre changes in his personality, suffice it to say that I thought he had a brain tumor, and was desperate to help him. Stupid me. The day I tried to sit him down and talk him into seeking medical help is the day my love for him vanished; he was cocky, mean, ugly, defensive - and tweaking. No brain tumor messing with his head, he proudly admitted, meth was his madness. Months before that day this monster had been accusing me of witchcraft, porn making, hiding money from him - at one point he even accused me of kidnapping children - and of being an actual stolen child myself. I have found seven hidden (well, not very well hidden) mini-recorders, two super dooper motion-activated video camera's (one was in my bedroom, and one was in the vent above the toilet). There's a lot more, I could write a book! Turns out he had been spying on me incessantly, I can't even begin to describe how violated I feel...
Apparently all meth addicts behave in this manner, it kills that part of the brain. But you can't tell them that - they live in their own perverted fantasy world. My emotions have ranged from compassion to fury, all the while attempting to keep up the house, my job, and my own sanity. And my money. Part of his insane delusion is that I pretty much own the internet, along with China, Germany, Canada, Gill Studios, horse stables, etc. Since he is unable to maintain steady employment, he wants all he can get from me. Oh, and he has a girlfriend. Which tickles me to no end, although I did hope that he would find somebody who could support him financially. But I should have known that he doesn't run in those kind of circles...
So for now, my entire life is carried along in my purse, truck, and office desk drawer, for thirty-four days, when our divorce is final and he is out of my life for good. Thirty-four more horrid days with a meth addict, free-loading off of me while recording my every move, and accusing me of impossible, disgusting things. I feel better already, admitting to myself that yes, this is a very, very bad trouble. Oh wait - he's leaving town with his (slightly) younger girlfriend! For three glorious days!!! A taste of the freedom yet to come! So by next Friday I will have only thirty-one unbearable days to go...
A few months ago I had the bright idea of incorporating material from our old dresses - prom, bridesmaid, school clothes - even baby clothes (if there was enough material). My plan was to use bits and pieces as yokes, collars, panels or pockets. I have lots of old patterns from the 70's, and have become quite retro as I age. Anyway, I came across this box of dresses that Mom had made for her three little girls - and was whisked back in time as I washed, sorted and ironed the tiny creations. I imagined Mom at the iron (at least 54 years ago), and had small flashes of memories - especially while pressing my favorite gold and black dress. Dad had left before I turned four, so I imagined there were a lot of tears shed while doing such domestic work, on top of her job at Sears, and while ironing clothes for neighbors, and caring for her daughters on one income. Mom was an excellent seamstress, and I marveled at the perfection of every detail. So - I won't be cutting into these dresses any time soon... I really miss Mom, and am comforted to hold onto pieces of her love.
For three days all went well. Then the old familiar pattern of drinking returned. Liza found half-empty whiskey bottles under the bread in the bread box, under the corner of the mattress, tucked behind the cushion of the easy chair, and behind the side rafters in the garage. One night after closing the café, Clyde picked up the large meat knife, ran his fingers over the blade and with a mean gleam in his eyes lunged at her. "You can’t do it!" Liza yelled, and stood her ground. Clyde dropped the knife onto the table and backed out the door. Liza sat on the back step a long while that night, pondering her marriage.
He took most of the money from the café register and spent it in the taverns in the towns surrounding Wellsville, or bought whiskey to bring home. Liza knew how mean the whiskey made him – the few nights they spent together now were nightmares. He was never satiated, she could do no more than acquiesce, but she felt so reviled and dishonored. Liza could see no solution, ‘He can’t keep on living this way, and neither can I.’ She became frantic and confused. ‘I’ll put warfarin in his coffee, a little at a time. Maybe it will make him sick, maybe in time it will kill him…’ Liza took the can off the top shelf and spooned a little poison into his coffee. Clyde took a few sips, and then fell back on the bed, dead drunk. "I’m going mad!" Liza wailed, and pounded her fists against her head.
From page 154 of "Signs Along The Way"...
"Gas lighting" is an insidious ploy used by drug-damaged souls to gain control over those closest to them - by making their target think they've gone crazy. Whether intentional or just an ingrained personality trait of an addict, the relationship damage is severe and lasting. Gaslighters are usually not aware (or don't care) that they are the problem, and Gaslightees are often the caretakers, so they are not accustomed to ask for, or even recognize, that they desperately need help in dealing with their addict.
It took several decades for Grandma Layton to contour draw her way out of that crazy rabbit hole, and she didn't go that journey alone. Her parents tried their best to help, and eventually her children did what they could, going as far as committing their mother to electric shock therapy. Grandma finally took her mental health matters into her own hands, and went to counseling. Her sister Carolyn opened the door to healing when she suggested art classes, and Grandma jumped in with both feet - and, as they say, the rest is Herstory!
Mental health counselors are there and waiting for those who will seek them out. When loved ones are seeing changes in your behavior and personality and begging you to get help - get it. The only way out of that deep dark hole is by asking for assistance, you cannot go it alone, especially if the cause of the destruction is alcohol or drug related.
Elizabeth Layton's drawing is: MY CRACK BABY - A BIT OF TRASH IN THE GUTTER
November 6, 1989
“A dog raises its leg against this street-corner fire hydrant. Part of his puddle trickled down on to the baby. A nerd on the curb relieves himself directly into the baby’s mouth. The baby lies in a gutter strewn with crack paraphernalia, beer cans, whiskey bottles, cigarette stubs, marijuana stubs, and a dead body whose hand has relinquished a blood-covered knife. Passersby on the sidewalk walk over the police’s chalk outline of a dead body, and amidst more guns, liquor bottles and paraphernalia. Not many rainbows here, but on the storefronts are signs - People Who Care, Foster Grandparents, NA, AA, and Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers.”
So, tomorrow afternoon, I took out My Dietary and on the second page I wrote, and I will continue to write:
Tuesday May 3 - 3:30:12 p.m. Went to Doctor. Weight 191 and 3/4 pounds. He gave me a diet to follow, 800 calories a day. I will start on it at supper and afterwards I’ll take the vitamins he gave me. This is going to be fun.
Wednesday May 4 - 300 calories a.m. I put it down that way, instead of 7:32:45 a.m. because when I’m on a diet, my time is very important. It isn’t past, the future is weightless. There is only an eternal present. And it is counted in calories, not in hours, minutes, and seconds. Instead of 24 hours in a day there are 800 calories. Hours between meals are fatuous and vacuous, there is nothing in them. The day becomes divided into three parts. Only the moments at breakfast, when I can have 300 calories; luncheon when I am allowed only 100 calories; and dinnertime, when I’m done again with Duke Humphrey, and I feast upon, but do not fatten upon, some 400 calories, actually matter.
This is the second day of my diet. Already there is a gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I await the next meal with great anticipation, although I know that the realization will not satisfy me. Even the rehash will not satiate. Just as my breakfast and thinking about it afterwards left me down in the mouth. Can I make it till lunch? I am swallowed up by self-pity.
From page 192 of "Signs Along the Way".
I hear you, Grandma - I can't remember the last time I wasn't worried about calorie intake... and don't EVEN want to think how hard it would be to stick to only 800! My Fitness Pal allows a generous 1220 calories for the whole day, but I can't for the life of me stay under that amount. Keeping track of intake/calories burned is a whole lot easier now than it was when Grandma Layton was dieting, there are all kinds of apps, devices, and of course you can always google how many calories are in that malted milkshake...
It's true, growing old is not for the weak of willpower. Gray streaks in my long locks don't concern me, and I have sadly accepted my sagging and crepe paper-thin skin - even my old-lady elbows and knees. But my lack of self-control and expanding waistline is an issue I have decided to tackle head-on, fearlessly, the same way Grandma Layton responded to society's misconceptions and ignorance of the aging process through her art. Will I draw myself naked on a scale? No. I will simply pull up my Big Girl jogging pants, suck it up, and seriously count calories. Right this minute: Tuesday May 23 - 300 calories p.m.
If an inquisitive somebody were to demand a DNA analysis be done on the 3 sisters, he may not be surprised to find those twisted strands are coated with a healthy dose of printer's ink, given our pedigree and the many literary contributions from our maternal ancestors: