(A lil' blog on a dotty hill somewhere)

Saturday, December 26

Reflecting on Radiance

http://www.dottyhill.com/imagine-portfolio/

"Radiant" was my word for the year. So, how did I do? Funnily enough, after re-reading my initial post, I was inspired all over again! Too bad I didn't read it a few more times throughout the year, mind you. :)

While not entirely "alight with new confidence" nor was I terribly "dissuaded with disappointment" either. In fact, there were even hints of (dare I say?) vibrancy! One of those times as the proud father of the bride at my daughter's wedding ceremony this summer. Nailing the obligatory speech (imho) was particularly astonishing considering that I had never managed to actually write it out, let alone practice it all the way through (from breaking down and crying too much). Walking the stunning bride down the aisle and, later, thanking all the guests individually was just icing on the proverbial wedding cupcakes, as it were. :)

Another moment that comes to mind was just this last Sunday when Alex and I hosted our annual Christmas party. As a dear friend noted, apparently I was "beaming, so in [my] element" while welcoming our guests as the attentive host. I was "on" as she put it. Ha. Love that, and how true. I do feel alive when given the opportunity to be hospitable and show people they really matter. Perhaps, it's no wonder then that Betty often laughingly refers to me as her personal butler? (I think I missed my calling.) At my finest, it really is like a page out of the old, imaginative Mr. Toast and his Christmas Teas, except now of course, Alex is there making yummy offerings too (like her beautiful homemade yule log), complementing my own lemon shortbread and mulled wine.

Was 2015 a year of being personally radiant? Hmm... well, certainly there were moments of radiance. That in itself is something to celebrate! I'll take it as I reflect on what is possibly the greatest narrative of all, the Christmas Story. How radiant indeed.

Happy Boxing Day.

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Monday, December 7

Old World Christmas: St. Lucia's Day


It's been a fair while since contributing to Creative Tuesdays, hasn't it? Never mind, I did actually get to it this time.

For my Old World Christmas, I was inspired by silk screening Xmas cards from the '50's and '60's with their limited palettes and flat inks. Always liking to mix things up a bit, I decided to change the girl's traditional white dress to one more yellow/gold as you can see.  Likewise, while the Scandinavian girl would normally be blonde, I made her hair red, not only for that Christmas element but as a nod to the red sashes traditionally worn by the girls to represent Lucia's martyrdom. Finally, I have the entire piece, the Christmas globe, if you will, shining out from the darkness as St. Lucia's Day is also called the Festival of Lights.

I'm really glad I chose to settle on this celebration, learning more about this ancient Christmas festival in the process. How magical it would be to venture off to Norway or such to experience it! I do so love the traditions of Christmas, must say. :)

Happy St. Lucia's Day! I hope your own holiday traditions are underway and going well. We just returned from our weekend up in Estes Park at a rented cabin. It's the time of year when we all get to actually spend two days together, making food, shopping for our annual Christmas tree ornament and playing games. Oh, and it's become the moment when I magically turn into Father Christmas to (still) drop off our xmas stockings for my mostly grown up kids. (Some traditions never change!)

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Monday, October 12

POSTAGE STAMP (Creative Tuesdays)


Having always admired this bird with it's gorgeous bold black and white areas, I thought it time to introduce the U.S.A. to a magpie "forever" stamp!* Looking at such stamps, however, I was surprised to note how "forever" is actually crossed out! I chose instead then not to add that diagonal line through it, so it always reads as truly forever!

Another aspect I wanted to challenge myself with here was simplifying the shapes down to their most elemental forms, thereby allowing for that wonderful interchange of negative space between the magpie's body and its background. I'm pretty happy with this one actually, even having enjoyed creating it. That's highly unusual for me as normally my fave part of illustrating is entirely beforehand when imagining the concept in the first place! Then again, this is more "graphic design" oriented which really is my forte.

OK, off to see what the rest of you are posting up on this theme! :)

Finally, let me wish our Canadians here, a very happy belated Thanksgiving! Canada's date makes far more sense for the holiday's harvest-centric theme, must say.

* For those outside the US: "Forever" stamps are always valid, regardless of any future postage cost increases.)



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Tuesday, September 29

Gifting

Call me crazy but, yes, this is my entry for Creative Tuesday's GIFTING challenge. I know, Christmas and English robins are a ways off. I mean, it was almost 80F / 27C today, yet the slightest cooling breeze beckons my heart to winter: cozy days inside enjoying the peace and quiet snow affords; sitting by the fireplace with hot cuppas in hand and so on. One of my favourite parts of this season is having that extra excuse to give simple gifts to others who might never expect it, letting that person know that even the smallest things are not just noticed but appreciated. Aside from always always saying "please" and "thank you" whenever ordering anything anywhere, we do our best to recognize that someone who makes the perfect latte, has that extra finesse of customer service, or what have you.

Likewise, as stated over on Creative Tuesdays, it's time to surprise some lucky co-opper there. If you haven't signed up yet, there is still time. As long as you follow the guidelines, you'll be entered to win and the fact of the matter is, your odds are going to be surely very good. We'll be lucky if there are even 10 other people entered into the drawing! So, get out your pencils and draw something, or make something with fabric even. These are nice, quality items — nothing cheaply made here!

So, what is that circular metallic piece in the sneak peak prize drawing photo? Lissa's guess was the closest — a boiled egg cutter! You just position it over and around your your hard or soft boiled (hot) egg, grip the handle and, voila! It cleanly chops off the top, making your egg perfect for scooping and dunking your toast and spoon into. Isn't that brilliant? No more, Ow, ow, OW!! :)
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Monday, August 31

Container Garden (Creative Tuesdays)


Remember me telling you about that lil' lemon plant? Well, voila, here it is! This time I decided to do a watercolour which is my least favourite medium to work in. (I don't know how Alex does it!) In fact, I asked her to start laying down the initial wash for me on top of my sketch and then I went back in, adding more colour, depth, contrast, and inking the line work, etc. (Less daunting that way.)

Now, as for what the other two side mason jars* have planted in them, I have no idea. Anyway, these three live happily on the windowsill, giving us a sense of "garden" from our very own kitchen. A lot easier to maintain too, let me tell you. It's pretty hard to kill off succulents, for starters. :)

So, did any of you try your hand at succulents too or perhaps some other varieties?

* These jars were all happy finds, procured at our favourite local thrift store, no less.
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Tuesday, August 18

Lazy Days of Summer


For this Creative Tuesday theme, I wanted to do something totally different for "summer" where one might expect something brighter, using "hot" colours perhaps. Before starting then, I picked up some blue paper at the art store, providing a cooler shade for the scene forming in my head. I also had this urge to try my hand at charcoal for this piece. Using traditional charcoal sticks allowed me to draw looser, "lazy" flowing lines quickly, then all I had to do was use a white charcoal pencil for highlights and what have you.

Other than running out to grab some spray fixative, this whole thing took me about 45 minutes to draw, including the initial pencil sketch beforehand! Inspiration, I tell ya. It reminded me of the days doing quick charcoal figure drawings way back when, except this time I had no model! (Well, OK, I did ask Alexandra to pose with a broom stick briefly to capture how the boy's right hand might look; the same with the left, although no ice lolly in hand, mind you — didn't want our little Brendel jumping up with excitement!)

Speaking of excitement, today is Alex's birthday. Ironically enough for summer, we're bundling up in lumberjack shirts for a quick drive to the mountains for breakfast and a morning coffee then perhaps a walk around one of the lakes up there.  Yes, it is actually starting to cool here this week. It's meant to be 67F in the mountains with rain (20 Celsius). How absolutely divine. :)




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Monday, August 3

Picnic (Creative Tuesdays)


I so enjoyed drawing the hedgehog last time round that I decided to explore how a family of them might enjoy their very own picnic up on some grassy knoll somewhere. Those fat little hedgies are so plump and cute. I want to poke their soft bellies, watching their needles stick occasionally to the picnic blanket as they endlessly bounce up and down, much to their parents delight and laughter too. Can't you just imagine their darling squeals of delight? :)

Time to check out what other picnic offerings the rest of this co-op has offered.... With a whole extra week, who knows what we will find?!
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Monday, July 13

Little Critters (Creative Tuesdays)

 
You're going to want to view this enlarged to see all the little details. :) 

It wasn't until Sunday morning, actually, that I came up with this idea while slowly waking up. It just popped into my head and got me thinking, "oooh.."! Not to lose the inspiration, I started sketching this up that very day, finishing up tonight (Monday evening) as the sun slowly sets on this surprisingly rainy, cloudy second half of the day. Anytime it's times like this, I'm bound to get the cozy creative muse.

So, what are your little critters up to? Time to find out! 

P.S. BTW, I sketched this up on my tiny sketchpad used for the cricket sketch shown on CT. Makes for some nice gritty pencil textures.

P.P.S. Oh dear, I just realized, I did not draw in or colour the bottom of the column, behind Mr. Hedgehog! Silly me. Oh well. I was too busy making sure he stood out enough from the background. Haha.
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Tuesday, June 30

Twits for Little Twitters! (Creative Tuesdays)


Setting up this more graphic design oriented little "found object" scene was really quite funny: There they were... these happy little twitters wobbling along (perhaps looking for crumbs on the kitchen counter?) and there was I, dutifully following along,  eating up their yummy Cadbury Mini Egg goodness, one-by-one, along the way! Aww, poor sweet chirps. Well, these ones made it out just fine, you'll be happy to know. :)

And, yes, the birdies are real Cadbury mini eggs — the ones left, that is!

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Tuesday, June 16

AQUA (Creative Tuesdays)


Since my last foiled oil painting attempt, I've wanted to push myself and try it again. After all, my small paint set is actually water soluble — so much easier (and safer) to clean up so no excuse there at least. I decided to once more tackle luscious warm orange-like colours, buying this fruit and then setting it off against our lovely cool aquamarine coloured tea plate set.

Yes, it was a challenge again, especially working with details, but I didn't give up this time, even working through two separate settings as you can see here. At first, outside on our little balcony trying to stay cool from the blazing afternoon sun, then with the pending afternoon showers after work last night, I moved everything indoors. Painting with oils for me can end up being quite messy so I decided to stand in the kitchen, away from the carpet, using every spare bit of counter space I could find (in rather Wanda-like fashion, I might add)! :)

Anyway, with the due date upon me, I decided to end it here, cropping it down to only focus on the more finished centre.

Being the host of this co-op, as you know, I like to encourage each of us to push ourselves that little bit further, trying something different in the process, so I hope I've done that here for you? You know, it's all about activating the various parts of the right side of our brain so nothing stays dormant for too long and we are firing on all mental cylinders! I need every cell in there! :)

So, how about you? Was your aqua a little more blue than green or vice-versa? Hmm... I wonder if anyone did a mermaid perhaps with all that aquamarine around her? Time to find out! 

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Addendum: I plan to actually specifically write something here in under a week — a dedication to someone I call, "My Little Yoda!" Stay tuned.
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Tuesday, June 2

My Kind of ORANGE! (Creative Tuesdays)


 Pen and Pencil with Acrylic Watercolour Gouache (original size: length of cheese a bit smaller than my hand print).

All along I had planned to do a traditional still-life painting of different shades of orange fruit, even going out buying a grapefruit, some peaches and a nectarine but as you can see, I chose something rather more cheesy instead. In fact, we were at wonderful little local cheese shop the other day where I sampled some lovely crumbly bright "red" Leicester cheese. Having been yonks since that was on my palette, I kept relishing its memory through the week whilst also enjoying the small slab of divine Welsh cheese duly purchased.

This image crystallized in my head later, as I  thought about the various weights (of life) we carry. While some are hard, they are worth it too.. rather like Leicester Mouse here might agree. :)

OK, time to catch up with the rest of the ORANGE musings over on CREATIVE TUESDAYS!
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Tuesday, May 19

Fairy Tale Tea Cup Tree!


Here's my entry for this fortnight's Creative Tuesday's challenge...and it was indeed! I used a medium I've never tried before — gouache paint, outlining everything with an India ink paintbrush pen afterwards. Funny thing is, we thought we had bought watercolour gouache actually, which I've also never tried, but in fact it was acrylic guoache. It didn't even occur to me until after putting the painting away and scanning this piece for here. (Ha, no wonder my work in progress didn't pan out like the learning video we watched a week prior.) The discount box of paints must have been thrown in with the watercolour sets in the bargain bin. Lesson learned: I need to pay more attention!

Well, regardless, another medium experimented and overall, I'm happy with the results. That's a relief, really, as while painting it Sunday afternoon I almost gave up on it. However, Alex encouraged me to take a break and go back to it Monday afternoon, which is exactly what I did. The extra washes of colour and line art really helped.

Now, my only thought is, I wonder which cup Toadie will jump up to and reach for next? I like to think he does drink tea too, not pond water! :)
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Thursday, May 14

Overcomer


Anyone who truly knows Alexandra, knows she is the very definition of the title above. Just being around her, one would never realise the number of horrific life experiences she's not only survived but truly overcome. Some she's shared, some she's not been able to...yet, all the while longing to model for others that they too can be overcomers. Rather than becoming defined and ruined by her past (or present), she's learned that with self-will, determination and a faith in things to come, the sky's the limit!

Sometimes the road's been dark with little support along the way but even then through it all she's found a way to keep pressing on in spite of the circumstances. In fact, it was this very quality of hers that unexpectedly came into my life at my lowest dejected point which slowly provided me the example I needed to rebuild my hope and find my own pure grit determination to keep on going in spite of the utter loneliness and heartache I myself was in the midst of. Just like she's now doing with her brother (currently living with us), she believed in me when I didn't believe in my own strength to survive, never having imagined finding myself unexpectedly thrust into such a desperately dark night of the soul. It was overwhelming, long, agonizing and arduous with a myriad of deep losses and set backs but, you know, look where things are now! Not only can I truly smile again, I've discovered my perfect complimentary match! Even now when dealing with the pain of residue loss, Alexandra continually shows me her own example of not being held back by life, or others, for that matter.

From being strangers in the art world, to acquaintances, to friends, to praying confidants, to years later starting to actually date when I took that tentative plunge, needing to love again, we were engaged within half a year and now here we are married for just over 18 months. Through it all, I've come to learn that not only does Alex have my back but she truly is a woman of genuine vision, strength, courage and admiration. It is with those same qualities that she finally received on Tuesday her 2 yr. Associates degree (majoring in Psychology), graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Theta Kappa, and crazily enough, also going to be recognised as the school's "most successful scholar of the year!" I write all this to show that, like her, we ALL can do far more than we imagine if we can only learn to see it that way ourselves. Faith is the cornerstone.

Perhaps for some, an Associates in your 40's may not seem that exemplary itself but when considering the obstacles getting there, it is no small wonder. You see, Alexandra has had to drop out of college 4 times along the way. The first was shortly after high school when enrolled in university she chose to leave to take care of her devastated father during her parents' proceeding divorce. A few years afterwards, she was back in college only to then again be sidelined, this time by a serious liver tumour (another side affect of her upbringing), requiring surgery and a lengthy recovery.

After returning to school once more, now to a different campus in Illinois, she slowly worked her way up to being just about a semester shy of graduating with her bachelor's when life again took an unexpected blow with her family. Knowing a drastic change of life and scenery was in order, she started applying for jobs within her company elsewhere, eventually transferring here to Colorado, a place she had never been to before, other than for her interview. (Mind you, if Alex had known that the company would not uphold their written promises allowing her the flexible schedule to complete her degree, she would never have come out here! And so, again she found herself having to put college on hold.) Buoyed though by what seemed like a promising job and the chance to truly break free from a toxic family environment, she made the jump to head out west, not really knowing anyone and giving away almost everything she owned to drive here with only what she could fit into her car.

With her work far from what was presented to her and losing old credits with each passing year, she bravely finally quit her job with nothing else lined up, deciding to once more take the plunge and go back to school, hoping perhaps to find some work on campus. When her paperwork was mishandled in the transfer and with it her school aid, she could have decided to just give up on her dream of pursuing higher education altogether but while tempted, she did not.

As many of you know, Alexandra did manage to re-enroll in college, full time no less, but all that suddenly ended with the horrendous car accident she was in where she once more had to drop out of school (losing her job too) and taking incompletes in order to heal physically and mentally. (Thank God we were recently married by then or I'm not sure how she would have survived otherwise, being unable to continue paying rent with a roommate as done before.)

Over the summer, she began slowly making up her incomplete grades and last Fall also enrolled part-time online, finding herself still unable to handle a full course load, let alone now with no car to get there anyway. Through all this though, she dug deep, found her ingenuity, and delved into her art as able, selling works along the way while finishing up her studies this semester to end up where's she's at now: on the mends and, yes, finally graduated! :D I couldn't be more thrilled for her. In her own struggles, I've repeatedly witnessed Alexandra's resolve, force of character, positive affirmations, love given freely to those around her, and that brilliant hope in a brighter day even when sometimes again tempted to give in.

At least from my perspective, this might as well have been a doctorate in overcoming. Her concentration then is surely inspiration! (It is in my book.) And so, here we are once more, another chapter closes and begins in life's unexpected but incredible journey — this one shared.

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Monday, May 4

WET dog!




Perfect weather these last few days and more rain and thunderstorms expected through the week! Makes for a poor Scottie though, let me tell you. Brendel, our doggie, gets so prissy when having to go outside in the rain. Poor chap.

I think this piece would work well as a "Thinking of You" card, and to think it only took me 10 minutes to sketch up and paint. His eye isn't exactly as I wanted—the paint blob was too big—but other than that, I love it when things just click. The idea of it, anyway.

OK, time to see what the rest of you did for this "Wet" Creative Tuesday challenge....

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Tuesday, April 21

Happy Biscuit Heaven (Creative Tuesdays)

Biscuits featured that are all perfect for dunking (from top of the cuppa, clockwise): 
Dark Chocolate Digestive, Jam Sandwich, Fruit Shortie, Bourbon Sandwich, Jammie Dodger, Shortbread, Party Ring, and Ginger Nut! :)


What simple life's pleasure makes me happy? Well, a good strong cup of tea comes to mind, and the thought of an assortment of English biscuits to nibble on! Silly, I know but oh so good. Of course, in real life, the only kinds one can readily find here (Stateside) are the dark chocolate digestives (my fave anyway, as shown with one being on the top) and ginger snaps, much like "ginger nuts." The rest? Well, at least I can happily vicariously dunk away without gaining any pounds... or even making any crumbs (and anyone who knows me, knows that would be a seriously major accomplishment)! Just as well, really, because as the hours passed by, my hunger only increased and now it's close to 1:00 am! 

Oh boy, can't believe I took it right down to the wire on this one again... even with the extended deadlines! Sorry about doing that—totally forgot I was going to be gone with work in Cali for close to a week. Lots going on here, let me tell you!

Anyway, it's time for moi to visit the rest of you later tonight, leaving my various comments along the way for each. Looking forward to seeing who did this C.T. challenge and what simple life's pleasures, like tea and dunking, bring you that certain ephemeral happiness :)

P.S. I should perhaps note that this illustration in no way indicates I don't also love a variety of American style cookies too. Of course I do! One can't live here as long as I and not find some baked goodies to love. (Haha, who am I kidding? With my sweet tooth it would have taken me a week... tops!) Other delicious delectables that come to mind that are also good for dunking in coffee or tea are Oreos, choc chip cookies, Milanos, Snickerdoodles, and so on. Oh yes! The list goes on and on...
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Tuesday, March 31

Flower Bouquet (Creative Tuesdays)


Here's my interpretation of Creative Tuesdays' theme for this fortnight. Phew! So glad I got it finished. What a saga, let me tell you. Initially, I had bought some irises to use for a still-life but by the time of getting around to actually drawing them, they had already withered. So, Monday morning, I dashed about to various shops looking for another bouquet, to no avail. Luckily enough, I had taken a few photos on my phone days prior and with some other online references, used those instead. 

Considering my last foray depicting a flower, I thought: 1, Right, best stay away from oils with the limited time left! 2, Only use photos for a vague reference since I'm better off "interpreting" than literally representing, becoming too quickly bored and impatient, as it were; And 3, Use water colours this time round! Well, as you can tell, the last option didn't quite pan out—I couldn't find any! (Alex no doubt absconded them for her CA trip to help bring her brother back here.) Not to be deterred, however, I finally settled on pastels... obviously.

While not as finished as I would have liked, considering all that's going on the home front, it's the best I could muster. At least I did it though, right? :) So, how about you? 

Now, onto the reveal to find out who else completed this assignment. Must say, can't wait to see your various entries! Thanks for joining in, or even if just following along. :)

(BTW, new theme will be up Wednesday night on CT's blog.) ADDENDUM: NEW THEME up (finally) on C.T. ! HAPPY... But it's not as easy as you might initally think. Check it out!


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Thursday, March 12

"I hate cinnamon rolls! I love flowers."


 My wee "little children" (15 months ago)!

"I hate cinnamon rolls! I love flowers." This is what I heard a darling little girl say while climbing on her playground's gym. "Your turn now!" she boldly added, summoning her friend to go next. Capturing that moment in my heart, I carried on walking past them, reminded of the sweet simplicity of childhood... or at least, how it should be in an ideal world.

Hearkening back to when my own children were that little; seeing where they are now and who they've become, I can't help but feel incredibly privileged, humbled even, to have been able to play such a (big) part of something so miraculous. Watching one's kids grow up is a sobering, beautiful thing. The responsibility gives life that extra meaning and oomph, if you will, to keep going when things get tough...if not for oneself...for them. I'm thankful to have had that chance.

While I don't talk much about my own kids, that doesn't mean they aren't central to my life. In fact being a father has been one of my greatest joys. Protecting their privacy, especially when younger, was always tantamount to me. And now, seeing them more engaged in the world around them, playing their own central part and becoming young adults, makes me know in an even deeper sense, just how much it was all so worth it. I'm sure most parents think this of their own, but I can honestly say that I believe the world is a better place with these three in it.

I could go on on but I think you get the picture. :) Loving others is what it's all about and loving one's children grows you in ways one can't imagine. My only wish would be to be able to bundle them up once more, bounce them on my knee, read them bedtime stories, and roll around with them on the floor like we used to, laughing until we cried...except now they're all too grown up and I'm not as sprightly as I used to be. ...Well, um, I suppose that is actually more than one wish. :)
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Monday, March 9

"Old Age Begins Now"



"You know, Michael, old age begins now!" she said, with a sparkle in her eye.

Yes, that's Bettie for you — an elderly woman we often see sitting in the big leather chair by the corner window of our favourite place in old town, The Little Bird Bakeshop. The first thing that drew me to her, of all things actually, was her wonderful white curly hair atop her floral bandana silk scarf. This woman, needless to say, has style! Dressed in a rather bohemian yet classy fashion, she might even strike you as a type of contemporary older version of Audrey Hepburn. Sipping her tea whilst enjoying a warmed up morning croissant, she can often be found with either a few books on hand, writing and drawing in a notepad, or perusing the Arts section of the New York Times.  She reminds me some of my mother's marvelous older friends back in London days — characters who marched to the beat of a different drum, full of interesting stories, perspectives, and a life to show for it. I just had to know more.

"Hi, I don't know if anyone's ever told you this, but you really have amazing hair! I love it, all bunched up like that. In fact, I was just commenting about it to my wife when she suggested I come over and tell you..." Beaming from ear to ear, Bettie looked up and replied, "Really?! Why, thank you!" From then on, each time we see her, we make a point of saying hello. Every visit, we seem to learn something new and fascinating about this lovely curious woman.

Once, I actually asked her if she ever did yoga since Alex thought she may well have, seeming so nimble. Not only does she, but even gets up each morning, exercises and mixes in her own "made-up" Tia-chi, to boot! As she noted, "People always say, 'Oh you're so lucky to be so small!' but I tell them, 'Ha, I work at it!'" Just this morning, actually, we learned that she hasn't owned a car in over 20 years, preferring to walk everywhere. "Freedom!" I chuckled, upon which she shared how she actually made the conscious determination when she was only 15 to take care of her body, having grown up in a rather obese Italian family. "Well, you're certainly an inspiration for us, let me tell you! We need to get back into shape ourselves." That's when she remedied with the above reminder, adding, "You're never too young or too old, for that matter, to start... We're getting older every day!"

Mulling over her words later on, Alexandra kicked into her mentor-like enthusiastic fashion, prodding me to start something new myself! To be fair, I've been rather in a slump as of late, needing to push away the years of auto-piloting where I let the hurts and losses of the past too easily rob me of dreams of the future, let alone fully enjoying the present. As Alex rightly noted, I thrive when choosing to focus on the things of everyday life that lift up and encourage others around me. One such avenue is writing where I can capture the moments that then, in turn, motivate me in my creative pursuits as well. So here I am, ready to give this blogging another go, ready to rise up and live a more radiant life, connecting with others along the way.


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