What’s This?

“It is not the brains that matter most, but that which guides them—-the character, the heart, generous qualities, progressive ideas.” ~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, novelist

Me, at the start of Chapter 38, when my brain was still empty of 52 new things. I fully expect to look smarter by the time this year is finished. Although hopefully that won’t include a Neanderthal-style forehead.

Welcome to Chapter 38, another year in the life of moi, Shanna Germain! If you’re new here, these are the things you should know:

First off, here’s my bio and what I do in my “other life,” when I’m not devising crazy year-long blog themes and schemes. Actually, the two kind of go hand-in-hand, but it’s still a good thing to know who you’re dealing with before you jump on board, I’d think.

Now, then. Onto this particular project. Chapter 38 started last year with, not surprisingly, Chapter 37…

The year I turned 37, I decided that I needed to change my life, in a lot of ways. I sold everything I owned (except for my laptop and my camera), moved to another country, and then spent the year homefree, job free, traveling the world. You can read all about it on the Chapter 37 blog, which I’m still updating occasionally, as I travel to new places.

As Chapter 37 drew to a close, I knew that I didn’t want to leave it behind entirely, but I also didn’t want to continue it. It was a year-long project, and the year was up. So I started brainstorming about what might be next.

And this is what’s next: For the next 52 weeks, I will learn something new each week. I don’t plan to master anything, of course. I just plan to get my hands dirty (or clean — who knows, how to properly wash my hands might be something I need to learn!), to get my brain revving and my neurons firing, to discover new skills, rediscover old loves and maybe, just maybe, learn a thing or two.

My inspiration for doing this is three-fold:

  1. First, as a writer, I know my work benefits a great deal when I’m going outside my comfort zone and doing new things with my life. Over the past year, I discovered that both photography and traveling did wonders for my creative writing. I’ve never painted or worked with clay or done a lot of other things that could improve and impact my written word. I’d like to try it and see how it changes and improves things. In addition, I learned how to sing this past year — okay, I didn’t really learn how to sing, but I learned a lot about how to sing better — and I realized that while I’m often the teacher (I teach creative writing), I’m very rarely the student. I think being a student is a good, humble and often frustrating thing that should not go away.
  2. Also, I love those artists who have already tackled thing-a-week or day-a-week projects, like Jonathan Coulton, The Thing A Day blog, and ReadWritePoem. The work that comes out of projects like these seems, to me, to be filled with inspiration, hope, laughter, some real stinkers and some real gems.
  3. Part of what I’m doing with these Life Chapters is chronicling my aging process, or the aging process. And one of the things I know about aging is that the more you know and the more you learn and the more you use your brain in new and different ways, the better off you are. I want to be the kind of woman who grows old with grace and dignity, yes, but more importantly I want to be the kind of woman who grows old with her brain very much intact.

So, what, exactly, will I be learning? At this point, I really have no idea. I envision everything from hands-on things to brain-power things, from body things to spirit things. Some things that I’ve wanted to learn from a long time (like how to make great pie crust from scratch and how to throw clay pots on a wheel); other things that I don’t even know that I want to learn yet (I’d list examples here, but can’t as they’re still unknown entities); other things that I don’t even want to learn (how to handle a poisonous spider or how to escape from a hungry alligator). Some will be group efforts (a dance class? a drumming circle?), some will be one-on-one instruction (baking bread, me and that spider?), some will just be me and whatever it is I’m trying to tackle (figure drawing, writing a quatrain?). All of it will be chronicled, in photos, video, writing and whatever else I can come up with.

There’s an ongoing list of ideas over here, which you’re very much invited to add to.

I hope you’ll join me for this year-long adventure. You can learn the projects as I do. You can learn something on your own and send me the link, which I’ll post and crow about. You can suggest something for me to learn. You can offer to teach me something (and unless it’s that thing with the spiders, I’ll gladly accept. Okay, I’ll accept either way, damn it). You can laugh at my many foibles and cheer at my limited success. Or you can just read along and be very glad you’re not taking on such a ridiculous endeavor.

Either way, welcome to my brain. It’s an always wonderful, sometimes scary, ever-changing, ever-growing place to be!

Firing your synapses, one week at a time, s.


  1. Alex says:

    Look forward to following you’re journeys, foibles, trials and errors, and wonderful triumphs over the next 52 weeks of learning.!! 🙂

    As someone once said..:

    “A day spent without learning something is a day wasted. – Anonymous”

    Have fun with it, and don’t waste a day.!!


  2. Gina Marie says:

    I love the hand-mind-body-earth-universe-brain-blood-lust-pen connections! I can teach you how to make the perfect crust (the secret is vodka and ice). I can’t sing, but I know someone who can. I always wanted to be the drummer in a rock band….buy I haven’t played an instrument since high school marching band (baritone and clarinet). Wanna sew some homemade skirts and sock monkeys? Happy hands at home, baby! Yessss!

    • Oh, heck. I’m in trouble here aren’t I? But I’m gonna take you up on the crust and the sewing. And, yes, your someone who can sing sure can sing. Band camp? 😛

  3. anuk says:

    I’m here! I’m here! Can you leanr how to make patchwork quilts and then teach me, please? xxx

  4. Annette says:

    Whew, I made it! I look forward to this new chapter 🙂

    PS: Anuk, do you want to learn how to make the old fashioned patchwork quilts or something not as time consuming?

    • Hi, hi! So glad you made it. But … wait… there are two kinds of patchwork quilts? I’m in over my head already…

      • Annette says:

        oh sweetie, there is the old way of gathering up old clothing and cutting out little 2″ squared bits to be sewn together (after you lay out the pattern you want)

        Or there is the other way, where you go to the fabric store and pick out a few coordinated bundles of fabric that you zip through your sewing machine and slap a border on, then a back and some batting..

        Then, there is the easiest way of all…. you go on Etsy or Ebay and buy one.

        So can we suggest stuff like that Dirty Jobs show? Where we can suggest, say, pole dancing?

  5. anuk says:

    Ooh, Annette, I just want to make simple squares and rectangles mixed up, no fancy patterns or anything! Can you do those?! I understand the principles, but then I get confused with cardboard and foam. : )
    And S, light poems … hmm …. okay, but it’s a secret process! I’ll show you, but the special methods must remain shrouded in mystery! (tis not that hard, truly.)

    • Hahaha. I don’t think it counts if I go to Etsy! Damn it.

      And, heck yes, suggest away! I did take a pole dancing class a couple of years ago and I LOVED it. I’m making a list right now of all the things that I DO know how to do. Hah. It’s very short.

      And, yes, Anuk! Teach me. I will keep mum on the secret process forevah and evah!

  6. I’m excited for you– and inspired. (I attempted a “Forty for 40” project but failed miserably…)

  7. Katherine says:

    Yippeee!!! This is gonna be FUN!

  8. nabutler says:


    Really liked your poem about knowing/love. Just very good writing.


  9. So I’m wondering…how do you find the time? I can’t even update one blog. 🙂

    I look forward to following your learning process.

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