Friday, December 19, 2014


At the beginning of this year, I set 12 goals for myself.  Since life has tended to be more routine and repetitive than it used to be, I wanted this year to have something to show for itself.  And oh.  It does. Here's the proof.

Perform a piece on the flute.  2.1.2014, for my grandmom's 80th birthday party. I'm proud to say this piece was written by my older brother, PJ Cornell. 

Have a slumber party with girls from YP Austin.  2.28-3.2.14, at Middle Creek Ranch.  AND another one tonight!!!  How special am I to get to hang out with these girls, who keep me young and make me love the Lord more.

Buy a crock pot and food processor.  Check.  So boring, but hey.  Life isn't all sparkles and sleepovers.  Food processor was actually a gift, even better.

Take a fun vacation.  6.13-17.14, to Los Angeles with my buddies Joanna and Deyla.  Trip hashtag #chocolatericemilk.  We had such a wonderful time, mostly eating and singing TLC songs.

Read 6 New York Times Bestsellers.  Done and more!  I read a lot this year, mostly via audiobook.  16 year old Lydia rolled her eyes at audiobooks.  28 year old Lydia can't get enough.  I loved reading new books and catching up on some oldies but goodies.

Take a roadtrip to visit a friend, 1.19-20.14 and 9.5-7.14, Houston both times.  Some of the bests live in Houston. :)

Pay off credit card debt.  This is my only fail.  But I'm taking it down in 2015.

Finish and frame my needwork project - still in progress!! 13 days left!  This has been so therapeutic and I'm so excited about it. Here are some pics of the various stages, that last one is from last night.  I'm so close!

Go apple-picking in New England, 9.20.14.  I didn't make it to New England sadly.  But I discovered an apple orchard in my own little corner in Mason, TX.  A tiny little quaint town, the kind where folks say "y'all aren't from around here" and read the newspaper all day in their antique store.

Care for my spirit, soul, and body.  This one is harder to pin down and describe concisely, but I've certainly made progress.  I participated in a study at UT called the Texas Body Project, focused on women's body image, and it made a significant different about the way I view and talk about my own and others' shape and size.  Here is an excerpt from one of my assignments, a letter to an adolescent girl:

"The true beauty of a person is in her virtues, in her attitude, in her confidence. How much more attractive is a woman with a contagious smile and a love for life than one who is so anxious to maintain her slender figure and flawless skin that she cares for little else!"

I believe this.  I want to live by this.

Another assignment involved these pictures, with the hope that I could be an inspiration and example that gumption is beautiful. :)

Have a tea party, 12.13.14.  Oh we had so much fun and watched all 199 minutes of Anne of Green Gables.  It just seemed right.

Babysit for friends, 6.11.14.  I thought this would happen more than it did, which makes me sad.  But I successfully enabled one date night for Sam and Vanessa.

I'm closing this year with a sense of content, accomplishment and joy.  I lived a full and happy year!

There were other big things that happened too.  I got a promotion at work.  I was a homeless vagabond for the summer, and then moved to a new house with new roomies.  My dear grandmother Vinson passed away on 10.14.14, and celebrating her life surrounded by my family was bittersweet and special and hard and joyful.  And I believe I've grown in the Lord a full year's worth.

Much more in 2015.

Friday, April 4, 2014

a couple pints of blue bell.

I did it.  I can say with integrity that I did an admirable job of cutting down my spending to essentials only in the month of March.  Did my essentials include a couple pints of Blue Bell ice cream from the grocery store? Maybe.  When I fessed up to my mom, she replied "anything you got from the grocery store doesn't count."  So I'm all good there.  She also told me, when she taught me to drive, never to go over ten miles per hour over the speed limit.  These are rules to live by, people.  Thanks mom.

Unfortunately, my essentials also included some unexpected and unwelcome expenses, such as car maintenance costs, toll road fines from a wrong turn in California (grrrr), and chiropractic visits due to a herniated disc flare-up in my lower back.  As it turns out, I spent nearly every dollar I saved because life throws you ironically timed curve balls.

However, I feel empowered.  It feels somewhat like eating only healthy food for two weeks after eating junk food for the previous ten years.  It's a painful process, but you feel great and you want to keep going forever.  Buying meals out for the sake of convenience hardly even crosses my mind anymore.  That's so cool.

My personal favorite little economic project was a gift for the sweet couple whose wedding I attended in California.  Rebecca is so special to me and I wanted to give her something really meaningful but couldn't afford to buy the whole Anthropologie home goods section like I actually wanted to.  Here is what I made, all from bits and pieces I already had around the house!  Another shout-out to mom, who taught me cross-stitching and other skills I never thought would matter in real life, like cleaning the kitchen.  She's killing it in this post.  Hi mom.

And then here they are for reals: :)

Thursday, March 6, 2014


In a desperate effort to jumpstart my financial prudence, I have created a rather drastic goal for myself during the month of March: to only spend money on "essentials".

One of the students who works in my office called me out a couple months ago: "You really like to spend money, huh?  It seems like you buy something every day."  I prickled slightly and tried to defend myself, but now I'm admitting it's true.  And I believe it's our culture today.  Grab a coffee.  A snack.  A cute pair of earrings or a bag.  An ice cream cone because you had a hard day.  Online shopping because of an awesome sale.  Dinner because you haven't had the chance to buy groceries in two weeks.  I am the number one culprit.  

So I'm forcing myself to think about every purchase I make this month.  I'm finally admitting that the free coffee at work will wake me up just as well as Starbucks.  I'm packing a lunch, and sometimes a dinner when I know I'll be gone all day, and I'm carrying around carrot sticks and Cheerios like a professional mother.  I bought a stash of Dove dark chocolate from the grocery store to help lift my spirits and curb the craving for visits to the bakery.  (Essentials, I'm telling you.  Don't play with chocolate.)  And clearly, a fifty-first pair of shoes is not an essential… at least not this month.

Send me your toddlers, people.  I've got snacks.

And there has been an unexpected side-effect:  I've become more grateful for free things.  I know that makes me sound like a free-loading bum, but when I thought about it more, I realized how important it is to be grateful.  Many times, I have snubbed the complimentary coffee at work or took for granted the dinner at an event or someone's house.  When did I become too good or too self-sufficient to truly appreciate someone else sharing their money, food, and time with me?  Becoming more aware of everything I spend money on also has made me aware of everything I receive with no cost.  Someone handed me a free pair of earplugs on campus today and I was genuinely touched.  I hope I continue to learn not to take things for granted.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


I am currently reading John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America, a book recommendation by the most trustworthy Nicole at  His description of the tumultuous South in 1960 touched me deeply today, and inspired this poem. I realize that we're not dealing with the same issues today that he witnessed then, and am so grateful for that. But I am affected by that history and hope to continue learning from it.

Tonight I talked to
the young African-American woman 
who rang me up at HEB
because stories of suffering from another century reminded me
that she was a person. 

Tonight I wondered
how could you be so full of hatred
as to yell obscenities at a six-year-old girl
just for going to school?
And yet
how could I be so self-absorbed
as to withhold genuine kindness and decency from others
just because I don't know them?

Tonight I learned
in ten items or less
that Shawna had kids and went to school
and worked til midnight to make ends meet
and was so grateful for her blessings. 
I learned she wasn't a robot. 
Like I had treated so many Shawnas before. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

goals for 2014.

I am so happy to start a new year.  2013 was difficult for me in many ways, but there is a fresh new start, full of hope and potential.  I do not at all like the concept of new years resolutions; to me, that word is just asking to be broken.  However, I have set 12 goals for 2014 to provide some direction and purpose for the upcoming year:

1. Perform a piece on the flute

2. Have a slumber party with girls from YP Austin
3. Buy a crock pot and food processor
4. Take a fun vacation
5. Read 6 NY Times bestsellers
6. Take a roadtrip to visit a friend
7. Pay off credit card debt
8. Finish & frame my needlework project
9. Go apple-picking in the fall
10. Care for my spirit, soul, and body
11. Have a tea party
12. Babysit for friends

Aren't those exciting goals?  Mothers, text me and prepare for date nights.  Friends, prepare to have tea and treats and slow cooked pot roast.  Happy 2014.

orange raspberry torte.

The sophisticated E. Lee sponsored this orange raspberry birthday cake a year or two ago for his third birthday, and I am finally sharing it!  He has exceptionally good taste.