Waky, Wakies: Stirring Up the Little Gray Cells

A few days ago, Joyce Moyer Hostetter, posted on Facebook that she was looking for something new to do, a skill that would stretch her brain. She got lots of ideas, and I can picture her now–with those little cartoon lightning bolts shooting around her head.

I think we forget how much we need this new stuff, some activity that’s different from our norm, even when the norm is what we absolutely love to do. Patterns get created, then grooved, then–too often–settled into concrete that hardens around them. It does take a new hobby or exercise to shake things  up.

I’ve got this new job, and a lot of little bits of it are doing that shake-up for me. Sharing an office, mixing up steady work with the putting out of small fires, meetings! and lots more. But the biggie–the one that’s turning out to be the most fun–has totally caught me by surprise.

You might want to cover your ears just a bit for this one. Or, you know, duck down behind the nearest bunker.

I’ll whisper it…budgets

I know! I can hear you now: Budgets?! But that’s…MATH!

The thing is, it’s “creative” math. 🙂

Actually, I think what’s going on is that right now, with this job, a budget has become a tool I need to understand and actively use. It’s also a thing that, when you have a specific purpose for working with it, becomes actually understandable and real. (Unlike, you know, geometry, since I have never once had to, as an adult, actually figure out the surface area of a cylinder. Just saying.) And I am perfectly capable of adding and subtracting, even–with a little refresher “google”–calculating percentages.

I’ll share another little secret. A huge percentage (see how I snuck that in?) of nonprofit people working in the arts are former English majors. Or artists. Or theater people. Or dancers. And guess how they talk about budgets and numbers. Like this:

“You need to use those numbers to tell a story.”

“Look at what your budget narrative is saying.”

“Think about who’s going to read that budget and what they’re looking for.”

I tell you…I’m home.

Still, I’m not saying it’s coming easily. I’m having to stay awake and listen. I have to stop taking notes for later and concentrate on what the teachers are telling me now. I have to do little scribbles of math in my notebook (yes, me!) to make sure I have things right. I raise my hand and describe my situation–you know, as an example to help everybody else in the class–to get confirmation that I’m on the right track.

And, yes, it’s waking up my brain. Instead of coming home from a days’ training workshop dull and lethargic, I come home tired, but amped up. I’ve talked to people who have been doing this kind of work for decades, and they say this is the stuff you keep learning–this is the stuff that keeps the job new and interesting. And I’m willing to bet a WHOLE lot that they didn’t start from as early a stage of financial understanding as yours truly.

What’s new for you? What have you recently added to your life that’s stretching your brain and catalyzing those neural chemicals? (And, no, I don’t care if there aren’t actually any neural chemicals to catalyze–I don’t have to know that to write a budget!) What are you thinking about trying out?


  1. Loved this post, Becky! This revision is sure stretching my brain… but like you and Joyce I’ve been taking pleasure in doing some new stuff, too. Though in my case some of what’s “new” in my life actually is really something “old,” like making clothespin dolls with Sweetpea. I forgot how much I LOVED to do that when I was growing up; I used to make them as gifts and even sell them at art fairs. So. Much. Fun.


    • beckylevine says:

      Isn’t it wonderful refinding something you loved? And then there’s always parenting itself to stretch the brain in ALL directions. 🙂


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