Archive for the ‘Renaissance’ Category

Every year during holiday break, I get the urge to organize. Normally, when I’m at home, it’s the house that gets the pampering. But since I’m dog sitting this week, I took the opportunity to clean up some of my email and do some paperwork and budget – things that get missed when I am at home and there are dishes to be done.

I found a great email thread of messages to myself that I forgot I had started in early summer (back when I was still teetering between Renaissance and forty as my theme for the year) of ideas about what I might want to spend my 2015 doing. Here are a few of them:

  • Finally learn Spanish
  • Run a race (5K? Half marathon?)
  • Go on ___ dates
  • Write letters
  • Send photo Christmas cards of Uncle Wallace (amazing, creepy Santa mouse) and the “kids” (ceramic mice)


  • Embrace traditions of the women who came before me – Mom’s pies, MeMaw Sharp’s garden (herbs, since I’m currently apartment-living), MeMaw Catherall’s crochet/knitting blankets
  • Embrace my own traditions (4th of July party? Friendsgiving? Cookie party?)
  • Buy a keyboard
  • Take an art class
  • Take a cooking class
  • Buy a piece of art that moves me
  • Learn Italian or French
  • Get something pierced
  • Dance in a flash mob (or as part of some type of performance)
  • Keep flowers on the table and wine in the wine rack
  • Lose a pound for every year I’ve been alive

This series of emails also includes a pretty extensive travel list (well, extensive for me, considering that the farthest I have traveled in the last couple of years was Houston):

  • Trip by train
  • Atlanta
  • Drive up the west coast
  • Road trip – bookshop tour? Coffee shop tour? Connect-the-friends tour?
  • Writing retreats
  • Solitary retreat – perhaps somewhere beach-y?

I think all of that sounds pretty fun. It still seems to fit the year’s theme nicely.

It also sounds expensive.

I go back to work on Monday, so I’m getting my mind wrapped back around that this weekend. I don’t think I want to switch jobs just yet, so I’ve worked out a pretty intense budget that allows me to live within my current means – even during months when I don’t have my teaching paycheck – and save up some money to do some of the things on my wish list above.

Now, I don’t want to boss my word around and tell it what to do (you can’t always force these things). But you know what would be really fun, as a professional with a master’s degree and 15+ years experience in my field? To earn an income befitting a grown woman with those credentials.

I feel caught in haphazard youth. I am basically still living with the same financial restrictions I had in college. I love a good challenge, so it has been its own kind of fun, but I am beyond ready to move on.

I want an income that allows for the extravagant lifestyle to which I intend to become accustomed. And by “extravagant,” I do mean a lifestyle characterized by the ability to:

  • Pay off debts and live debt-free
  • Buy wholesome, mostly local food
  • Drink good coffee and wine
  • Donate consistently to causes close to my heart
  • Have a nice, modest home that is small enough that I don’t need outside help to keep it clean but big enough to entertain comfortably
  • Make ethical purchases (i.e., fair trade, waste-free, sweatshop-free, cruelty-free, etc.) without having to buy almost everything secondhand
  • Pamper myself with regular hair appointments and toiletries that I don’t have to make myself and that won’t give me an allergic reaction/cancer
  • Go out to eat/drink with friends once or twice a week
  • Travel.  Just ever.  Anywhere.

I – competent, educated, professional, adult woman – want to earn an income conducive to doing all these things as a matter of habit, not having to decide each payday which 2-3 get their turn that month.

That would be a lot of fun for me.

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This year is going to be a great year, if for no other reason than I’m turning 40, and I plan to be obnoxious about it – even more obnoxious than I usually am. I already celebrate for a whole week. This year, I’m celebrating the whole year. I almost made “forty” my OneWord365. The only thing that stopped me is that there aren’t many songs that fit that theme, and I’m going to need a playlist.

But it’s totally in the back of my mind. It’s going to be a focus, even if it’s not the main focus. I can just tell.

As with every year, I have writing goals, reading goals, and one word that will be my theme of the year.


1. Write an average of 5,000 words toward a work in progress per week. That’s 5-10 hours a week. That’s 260,000 words. That’s finishing Feast and Fishbowl and getting a good chunk of another project, whatever it will be, off to a good start.

2. On the blog, I’d like to continue some series, start some new ones, and get some more guest posts. I would like to consistently post three times a week, even in weeks when I’m feeling quiet, which means writing posts ahead of time and getting them scheduled. I just want to be more organized and intentional about it.

Reading – three sets of 40:

1. 40 books by people of color. In examining the diversity of my influences (friends, music, things I read, etc.), I do okay in most areas. My blog reader is especially diverse; only about 20% of the bloggers I read are white/straight/middle-class/etc. You know – me-ish. There is room for improvement across the board, though, and nowhere is this more obvious than in my book list from 2014, which is remarkably whitewashed. This year, I am going to be more intentional about diversifying my reading list, and I’m going to start with race as the diversifying factor.

2. 40 classics. Every time I see lists of 100 pieces of classic literature that pop up (you know the ones – the braggy ones that show up on your well-read friends’ Facebook pages that encourage you to compare your reading list to theirs), I can’t even say that I’ve read a majority of them. And I know that comparison is the thief of joy, but I also suspect that when I watch The Newsroom, I would probably enjoy it more (assuming that’s even possible) if I had a better grasp of Don Quixote. I also know that reading works that stand the test of time will assist in teaching me to write works that stand the test of time, and I am very much interested in that.

3. 40 miscellaneous books – just for fun. I am including a third category to pay homage to all those books I read as part of book clubs and lazy days off and other such times. I also think that fun is an important element of reading, particularly this year, because fun is my word of 2015.

Theme – fun:

My first thought when choosing my one word for this year was “responsible.” After all, I just spent a year chasing beauty. Gorgeous, lovely, magical beauty. So my reaction to that was that I should follow it up with something more serious. Something to bring me back down to earth. Not that I ever left, really.  It turns out, down on earth, it’s actually quite beautiful.

But I have goals for the year. Practical goals. Goals that require focus. Goals that require structure. Goals that embrace the quotidian (which is a word I also love, but for very different reasons).

The problem I kept running into when thinking about any of these words as my theme for the year is that I associate them with boredom. I think of them as dull. Lifeless. Scarce. What I hear is “Reign it in,” as if I haven’t done enough of that in my life already.


Also, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but I’m turning 40 this year. I am happy to be turning 40, because I have earned every year. I’m going to herald in this milestone. There might actually be trumpets involved.

There will probably come a year when I want to reclaim sensible words and focus on them, because they’re not bad words. There’s nothing inherently scarce about them. I just don’t think this is that year.

I considered making “Renaissance” my word. It encompasses both practicality and beauty, knowledge and art, form and function. But while I can definitely see all sorts of things being incorporated into my year (because learning is delightful), I can’t see it providing the sort of focus I’m going for.

This is a year for celebration. For a bit of decadence. For carousing and merriment and revelry. For indulgence. For liberality.

For fun.

Fun is so simple that I have the urge to pick another word for it. Merriment is a good word. Hullaballoo. Hoopla.

I don’t want to hide behind the word itself, though.  As fun as “fun” sounds, it’s not actually easy for me to do. It is much more like me (especially in the last ten years or so) to slip into that person who plans a great theme party and throws so much energy into planning and execution that I’m exhausted by the time the day of the party arrives. As you might imagine, parties aren’t so fun for me when I’m tired of them before they ever begin (reason #1 that I probably will hire a wedding planner if I ever get married, but that’s another blog post altogether).

So I’m keeping the plan – and the word – simple. Fun.

Are you setting New Year’s Resolutions?  If so, what are they?

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(There are many performances of this piece online. This one lights that third movement on fire, the way it was meant to be.)

“The girls we once were are coming back to us now.” – Brandy Walker

I was a Renaissance girl.

That girl did everything.  Even when it was hard.  Even when people tried to tell her that she couldn’t.

At holiday, the girl I once was shaped homemade candies and learned how to get them to turn out right.  When she was shooed out of the kitchen because her help became a frustration, she went outside, formed a kitchen of her own, and made mud pies.

She learned cross stitch.  She made intricate gifts and Christmas ornaments that are still cherished and hung on Mom’s tree every year.

The girl I once was shelled peas and was taught to make jam.  She grew up understanding the connection of sustenance to the land  She unraveled mysteries of the universe over the pings of Cream Crowder peas in a metal bowl.

She walked out of the backyard and sat down at the piano with bits of dried mud pie still under her fingernails. She heard the beauty of the trills and the thunder of the bass.  She began formal training at the age of eight, and she practiced an hour a day, even when she didn’t want to.  In early junior high, when she played a simplified snippet of Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody at recital, the winner of the top performer award told their teacher, “She should have won this.” The comment was reward enough.

The girl I once was worked hard at gymnastics, and although no one who knows me now will believe it, the balance beam was her best event.  She took ballet, tap, and jazz dance lessons.  For the first time in her life, she had to work twice as hard as everyone else just to be average.  She loved it.

She was heavily involved in her church.  Every time the door was open, she was there.  Everything she could do – youth group, choir, VBS teacher, children’s music camp assistant, handbell choir, sorting clothes and food for the mission – she did. Her yes was always yes, and her no was rare.

In high school, the girl I once was was told that she couldn’t do everything – that she had to eliminate some things.  So she did.  She crossed off athletics and Future Farmers of America. Everything else – she did, and she did it well. National Honors Society, the speech and drama team, Texas Association of Future Educators, marching band, flag corp, jazz pianist for stage band, concert band, Future Homemakers of America, UIL, the gifted and talented program, and probably a few others that I have forgotten.  And she graduated second in her class.  Because she could.

Her senior year, she played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – the whole thing.  She played it so often that she memorized it.  She played it so often that even now, twenty years later, my fingers still move whenever I hear it. At her senior recital, she won that top performer award.  She also won the award of awed silence between the final note and the first applause.

One day, the girl I once was forgot what she could do.  Someone else told her that she had to choose, and this time, she believed it.  She believed the lie that she couldn’t do all the things that she’d always done, and because she couldn’t possibly choose, she stopped doing it all.  She grew up and became good at waiting.  She grew up and became good at watching the whole world go on without her.  She grew up and learned the lie that things just don’t work out for her and that expecting them to do so would only make her a fool.

But this girl?  She’s not done growing.  She has learned to set healthy boundaries and has embraced the luxurious freedom of no.

And that girl I once was?  She is coming back.

In every verse I read in shaky voice, she is coming back.

In every meal I make and share with others, she is coming back.

In every coconut nougat dipped in chocolate that I taught myself to temper, she is coming back.

In every pie I bake in this kitchen of my own, she is coming back.

In every blanket I knit, she is coming back.

In every story I write, she is coming back.

In every song I sing and every move I dance, she is coming back.

In every “Our Father,” and “Lord, in Your mercy,” I pray, she is coming back.

And if I have to eat Ramen noodles for six months and sell everything but my books, I will get a good keyboard this year, because she is coming back, and she’s going to need one.

She.  Is.  Coming.  Back.

Some of the people who are helping her get back are my Story Sisters.  Today, on International Women’s Day, we are telling the stories of the girls we once were.  Join us.

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“That day I consciously picked up his Renaissance attitude to life and decided that if I couldn’t decide between theology and art and music, then perhaps I would just do them all.” Maggi Dawn in Giving It Up

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