Wednesday, January 27

Ageing... with finesse & style!

Original photo taken by Monte Stevens | © Copyright 2015

I've mentioned Bettie to you before. She will be 80 this year and is anything but “old!” Her mind is sharp, her wit smart, quick and contagious, and her body lean yet strong. In fact, she is a lot fitter than I. She even laughs with that certain twinkle in her eye when telling us that we wouldn't be able to keep up with her in her core work outs at the senior centre each week! Too funny. I don't mind at all. She has every right to feel good about how well she's taken care of herself, not just physically but mentally too.

Not only does she walk an average of 5-6 miles a day, if you were to ever stop by her simple, sparse yet airy 400 sq. ft. flat, you might find her studying another World Atlas, or perhaps listening to one of the university lecture series CD's she recently found at her local library. Another past time? Dancing away by herself to music cranked up on her little boom box. How thrilling to be so alive, active and curious at her age and really, quite different to the older folk around her in her building too. (Actually, many of them would no doubt dismiss her as rather mad!) Then again, she has always been progressive, far earlier than when that word ever became fashionable as it is with some today. She was vegetarian, exercising, doing yoga, and TV-less while adopting a life of decluttering and simplicity long, long before society ever found any of those things trendy.

And now, while still able to be fully engaged, she finds this phase of her life the happiest by far. She may not have much materially (very little in fact), but has found how to make life productive and good around her and in the process, as she likes to say, show her children how to age. That is something I had never considered before but, oh how I like that! I love her maverick ways.

That is not to say, Alex and I agree with her on everything but we don't feel the need to either. I find a freedom of fascination in our differences, much like my father and I, actually. Her world view is a fair bit more liberal, politically, and Eastern, philosophically (atheist Buddhist* to be precise). Nevertheless, we often see much of the joys of simple life the same, and with it, the things to avoid too that can so easily beckon us to follow along with the masses, culturally speaking.

Assuming we have our wits about us, while we can all choose to age gracefully, that doesn't necessarily mean as our culture might dictate. Setting that example of how to grow older begins today. While none of us know just how long we might have, we can still find things in the spectrum of life around us that can engage us, keeping us learning and wanting to do... more. It goes beyond mindlessly flipping on the tellie just because it's there, beyond automatically supporting our local sports team because it is just that, beyond defaulting to a night out at another obligatory bar, beyond base, coarse language that has become rote, and even beyond the ingrained need to be "cool" simply for that transitory sake.

Ageing and maturing well beckons us out of just sitting there, whether that has been remaining apathetic at home or attending to some religious or social expectation perhaps only out of a misplaced sense of duty. These are all just ideas to stimulate your own imagination. I certainly have my bias but how your distinction looks to you is something only you can answer. As we're all different, one would hope our own blend is varied too for each of us, considering how our life might otherwise be if we kept it in automatic. And that is rather the point, isn't it? It comes down to be being truly alive, being fully conscious in our routine decisions, not just adopting whatever is the norm of the day. As such, it often necessitates having to choose to live different.**

At any regard, it's easy to embrace the cultural norms of our peer groups, whatever the age, yet the Betties of this world are out there, showing us that you don't have to give in to predictable normalcy. You can start living more today! I don't know about you, but I find that very invigorating indeed. :)

* Yes, one can actually be both — embracing the concepts of detachment, Karmic consequence, etc., while yet not ascribing to that endless cycle of reincarnation, for example.
** It likely goes without saying that no one here is somehow advocating giving in to a kind of reckless abandon where your life is thrown into peril or where those under your care are put unnecessarily at negligent risk. Of course not. That would be fruitless for all. It's more about finding that balance that leads to a healthier life, let alone how to age in style!

Sunday, January 24

That Peter Pan complex

What a difference 10 years can make. I was not at all happy about turning 40, but this go around, if anything, has been positively invigorating! And seriously, that's quite an accomplishment for me, let me tell you.

You see, I think I may be the only person out there who was actually rather despondent about the prospect of even reaching the double digits! Turning 10 meant I was no longer a little child; I had to put away child's play and face life a tad more grown up... or so I thought. Ha, I remember actually being sad that no doubt one day would surely come when I would no longer care to play with toys or make believe. All I wanted was to be a kid... forever!

Of course, a few years later, my peers were all too excited about becoming teenagers whereas I was positively not. That mantle indicated that now I surely had to pack away my Action Man figurines and finally stop playing pretend! I think too though seeing the duress my mother was under raising us as a single mom filled me with a certain sense of dread. I feared that adult life was going to be more about worrying how to pay the bills or what else to sell than anything else. It was the diminishing of dreams, as it were. Adulthood was all about working all day, all the time too, only to then come home exhausted and have to cook up some meal for the family. No thank you! Childhood seemed far more wonderful. I just wanted to close my eyes and carry on living in that imaginary childhood wonder where there were no real worries, where how one did in school didn't even matter that much.

While most of the ensuing teen years seemed challenging and sometimes outright depressing, I nevertheless wasn't ready to give them up at twenty, nor was I wanting to become a full-fledged adult at eighteen (in England). On top of that, I had absolutely zero desire to spend my 18th in some dank, smoke-filled pub somewhere. No, I didn't see any advantages to becoming an adult. I mean, after all, living in London there wasn't even a need to drive! None of my friends had cars either. Besides which, I loved riding my bicycle through Kensington Gardens and down empty, serenely quiet mews at night. Did this mean that now I had to put all that away too?

By the time twenty-one rolled around, I was living in America with my girlfriend (who would a year later become my wife), working and finally loving school (uni). That, however, didn't equate to relishing the idea of (once again) becoming a fully legal adult here now too. Again, I had no desire to drink too much in some loud bar filled with drunk "kids" seemingly desperate for attention and that pursuit of fun at all expense. Working almost full-time whilst a student meant I wasn't about to dump our money on such frivolous, let alone expensive pursuits. I was more mature than that, as it were! Some might well say I was far too old already, except for the inconvenient fact of only looking about fifteen or so by then and, deep down, my child's heart was still not ready to let go.

Other eventful birthdays came and went, some harder than others, but while I've never enjoyed getting older, I have always, oddly enough, loved my actual birthdays. It's that one day which is all about oneself! Relishing good cake too certainly helps, must admit. :)

This birthday was no exception. It was, actually, perhaps the best! Alex went overboard, even having that delicious Victoria Sponge (above) made for me at the bakeshop we love downtown to celebrate with some new friends and with my children who also showed up. In fact, earlier, I had a special dinner time out with the kids on my actual birthday that Alexandra arranged. The best part? As usual, the lovely cards with their thoughtful (tear inducing) sentiments each of my children wrote... and a loving wife who celebrates and believes in me. Those are the things I will always cherish, naturally.

Wednesday, January 20


I had this idea right away after posting the LOVE IS IN THE AIR Creative Tuesdays theme. In fact, I went so far as to quickly scribble it down with dry erase pen on our magnetic refrigerator's shopping list.

My idea here was to show a heart quickly painted down as if in a rush of heart-felt emotion or passion, if you will. Initially, I had thought of a triptych with a boy climbing up a ladder into a tree to shoot this simple love note across the way to land next to a girl sitting in a meadow pulling he-loves-me/he-loves-me-not daisies. Considering it further though, I felt that the best part of the story was what what I ended up painting, voila!

OK, now onto looking at your contributions. What a great way to start my two day birthday bash!  :) (I'm actually taking time off work, no less.) Smoots (Alexandra) has certainly punctuated the air with an atmosphere of fun, expectation and love these last few days with hints of things to come. Ooh, I can't wait to find out what surprises she has in store. (Yes, I'm still such a kid at heart...well, when it comes to my birthday anyway.)

Tuesday, January 12

How did we end up here?

96 down to 19. What am I talking about? Age? Waist size? Ha-ha, no, no. Rather, that's just how many sites I had in my blogroll that are no longer updated or have been deleted. Of the nearly 100 blogs that piqued my curiosity somewhere along the way in the last 7-8 years, 19 is all that's left*! Blogging has certainly lost its fad factor over the years, hasn't it? In fact, this recent spring clean was reinforced by a post Jackie made on her Home blog. She and her readers brought up valid concerns about the nature of blogging: why people come and go; how to maintain privacy yet be authentic, etc. All this had me pondering my own thoughts on this curious craft...

Ironically enough, when blogging was most misunderstood and misjudged, that's when it was most engaged, most popular! Now, the platform's become almost blase with seemingly everyone having blogged at one point or another. Portions of it, true, can be terribly designed with hard-to-read formatting, huge images requiring tons of scrolling, bright garish colours, flashing animations and so forth. No wonder it leaves a bad taste for some.

Just the other day, I heard some young chaps discussing blogging with one noting that while they enjoy writing, they haven't blogged as they don't have anything important, or more so, unique to say. That's also a good point. Certainly there is nothing new under the sun, yet we humans keep writing books, journals, magazine articles, you name it. Not only that, we now go so far as to maintain something even more intrusive — personal Facebook accounts! Add to that, we often "friend" people we barely know just to keep in touch. We are reduced to simply "liking" posts that may share something even tragic in order to show our support. Unlike what blogging affords, there's no art to the message, no crafting the words or choosing that perfect photo to add to your online presence. No, it's rather become a sort of haphazard, immediate way to let the world know where you are and what you're doing on any given day. That's fine, I'm not invested either way.

What a bizarre dichotomy though that now we readily embrace a platform that engages most in ways that increasingly raise those same concerns about privacy, mediocrity, authenticity and so forth! While sometimes I too am tempted to catch up with relatives, old friends, even co-workers and the like, I have refrained from having my own personal Facebook account. It seems to me from the frequent comments I hear from its users that it's often filled with drama, people getting hurt unnecessarily and a network used by some to unfortunately snoop and gossip. It's gone beyond the pale of its useful social experiment. That's one trouble with technology.

So, no thank you, I will stick to blogging! Here's an avenue for writing something beyond just a tertiary snippet; a place to explain one's wonder and aesthetic; to connect with other artists and writers one might never have the privilege of knowing otherwise. If you "thumbs up" a post or not isn't my main concern but whenever you do happen to leave a comment, wonderful! Truly. I love getting to know people and what makes them interpret something as they do, thus in part why I host Creative Tuesdays.

All this to say that I'm not abandoning the blogging ship! Yes, admittedly too, there are very few of us men out here in the blogosphere, at least those who aren't discussing sports, geek stuff, political/social activism or what have you. Well then, if nothing else, perhaps that makes my voice at least a tad more, dare I say... novel? :)

* My blogroll, btw, has now increased to 23, finding that some have re-taken to Blogger. Perhaps there's been a mini resurgence of sorts for creative souls out there? One can certainly hope!

Tuesday, January 5


Christmas is over and the New Year has just begun... What better way to represent both and bring in my favourite bird but to depict this imaginary scene for my C.T. Stained Glass? I have to admit, this took quite a long time. The longest part? Deciding to "break" apart the glass into pieces and doing the black lead lines. The funny thing is, I actually did that bit on the computer, not wanting to potentially ruin my original watercolour painting (below).

Thank you to the three of you who had already completed this CT theme prior to the one week extension. You got the ball rolling! Nevertheless, I will check back in later tonight to see if anyone else got theirs in last minute too.

Wednesday night or Thursday,  I'll announce the new theme over on Creative Tuesday's site so do be sure to check that out. I think Tracy and Donna will in particular enjoy this one. You'll perhaps figure out why... :)

P.S. There are many different ways to create stained glass, I've learned. The more modern way is to outline every detail with lead but I am particularly drawn to the classic approach with details in each pane of glass. My inspiration was this gorgeous window, although obviously mine was far simpler!

P.P.S. The New Year is a perfect time to (re)join CT if you've followed along and debated having something like this co-op to keep you productive...and creative. Consider it anyway — we're a friendly bunch. :)

Saturday, January 2

Rejuvenating the soul

Inspire. Strengthen. Excite. Restore. Rejuvenate. Vitalize. Good words, aren't they? Oh, how I love these... even the way they sound. And, how insightful it was coming up with a new word to motivate me through the year ahead. As previously mentioned, last year's was Radiant — an apt word for 2015, inviting me to pause and consider when I was rising to the occasion and when not.

This year, after going through Susannah Conway's Unravelling the Year Ahead workbook and having read her own ruminations of the year past, I've chosen the word, INVIGORATE! It's exciting wondering how it might unfold in my life and for those around me.

Finding one's own word for the year necessitates asking questions beyond knowing what's definitely happening in the next 12 months. What do you hope to happen? What dreams would you like to nurture? What areas need support? What needs developing in oneself? What does your heart need? And so on. The end goal, of course, is not to promote yourself above all others but, as I like to think of it at least, to live more in tune with who you are when (if) unencumbered by the cares of this world. When we are true to our calling, as it were, we're bound to have a more effective life, affecting those around us in a healthy way too.

With all that said, funnily enough and quite unexpectedly, Alexandra also settled on the same word, each of us having arrived at it independent of one other. How thrilling! Quite fun too. So, does that mean anything? I don't know. We shall see!

Friday, January 1

A simple toast to the New Year

holiday celebrations!

Clink. We raised our glasses (mugs of tea) to the New Year as midnight chimed. What a long wait! Oh, not Colorado's, mind you. No, far too unmemorable. London's, actually. Easier that way and at the tail end of our tea time (5:00 pm), to boot. :)

Next year, however, we're going BIG! We're doing it proper. I'm thinking, ringing in the year a WHOLE day early! Sydney, I'm waaaiting... 

Happy 2016 everybody! Anyone else celebrate in a tad unexpected way?