Interview with Ren

Interview with Ren


I was born in Canton, Ohio and was named Shelley. My mom was the second youngest of six (three girls and three boys). When the youngest, a son, was born, their mother died, leaving the dad to care for a newborn baby, a six year old little girl (my mom), and four teenagers and young adults. My grandfather married a widow-woman and she became the newborn’s mom. To the little boy, she was the only mom he ever knew and he loved her, but to the others, she was not the same. I think it was hard for my mom, who was only six. I can only imagine how much she really needed a mom to hug her, teach her, and guide her as she grew into a young woman. Mom was sort of Cinderella and that, too, contributed to who she would be. Perhaps that’s why she was always looking for a mom of her own. Many of the women she befriended were old enough to be her mom.


I don’t think I was an ordinary, vanilla kind of child. I’d never heard of the word introvert as I grew up. Yet I was happier alone and found deep joy and satisfaction in art and writing from a very young age. I would say that art isn’t something I dabble at. I


Just as immigrants from other countries searched for a better life in America, my parents searched for a better life for our family by leaving Ohio behind and migrating to the warmth and sunshine of Florida. For us it was very much like going to another country.

My life in Florida was bittersweet, but I’m not dwelling on the bitter. Sometimes bitter times make the sweet ones all the sweeter. That’s what I’m keeping. My high school there was wonderful. I went from attending a school where girls were required to wear dresses to a school where the students wore pretty much whatever. Slacks or shorts. Long hair or short. The weather was wonderful and I loved the green that remained year round. Art and writing were more important to me than ever. I became the school artist my senior year and gained experience with all sorts of fun projects. When I was fifteen, I found an art teacher in Winter Park who took me under her wing and let me take all the classes I wanted in her one room school above the local pharmacy. I glowed. My art glowed. It was wonderful.



My son and I were working on an idea for a children’s book series about a young girl who had heroes and wanted to be just like them. My son was inspired by his firstborn, a daughter, who has indeed become as amazing as many of the heroes she admired as a young girl. The first book was about the renaissance man, Leonardo DaVinci. We story boarded the first book and I began sketching out the artwork. We both got busy during the following years and the book idea got a bit dusty. During those years, I discovered online games called MMO’s (Massively Multi-player Online game) where you play a game and interact with many other people. There are all kinds, but I was drawn to the ones where knights and guardians and other good guys fight the bad guys and save the world, using swords, shields, armor, and riding dragons. Part of the fun is making your own armor so you can stand against fearsome foes. I gave my characters made-up names, trying to be very clever. No one could pronounce them. So I began to use the name Ren, short for Renaissance, while playing an online game called Guildwars 2. She was a knight, an adventurer, and a protector. She still is. The name suited her and was easy for fellow gamers to remember and pronounce. As I created more characters it was fun to come up with names using Ren, such as Renbrandt. Many of my gaming friends, from around the world, became friends and the name Ren stuck. It suited me. I loved hearing it.


In a few days I’ll be sixty-eight years old. While I’m not really pleased at finding myself to be sixty-eight (seemed to happen overnight, right?), I’m getting used to it. Its a time when I’m celebrating all the years that came before. Discovering art and writing at ten years old, getting my first camera a few years later, raising three amazing children that were the center of my universe, going on world-wide adventures, even after I found myself single in my sixties. I’m a nomad, chasing adventure and making every moment count. I even take time to just BE and I do it as often as I can. Mixed in are visits with those amazing kids, now grown with families of their own.

Whenever they see me, what do they see?


It takes a LONG time to become yourself. In fact, I’m not sure we can ever say, “There. Done. I’m finished becoming myself”. That’s okay with me, because I’m all about the journey. The image above is blank and I intend to fill it in slowly, savoring the creation of who I am ever becoming. If its up to me, I want lots of smiles in there. Perhaps eyes that have seen things that take my breath away. Some laugh wrinkles ought to be there, because my adventures bring laughter and joy in their wake.

Learning helps me stay young at heart. I’m a perpetual student and am learning patience, joy in simple things, living with few possessions, and gaining confidence from the journey. I’m traveling the country, learning the ropes of living in a small travel trailer, meeting new friends all along the way, taking time to really be present for them, and recording it all any way I can.


The what else is that I need to admit to you that not all of my moments are wonderful. Now and then I get lonely or miss my family. They’re spread all over the United States – West Virginia to Hawaii. As the grandchildren grow and leave home, that distance will probably be even greater. My hope is that life in a small travel trailer will make it possible for me to see as many of them as I can, as often as I can. I have a “fixed income” (can’t believe I’m saying that…remember hearing grandparents saying it and thinking how old they were) and so have to be mindful of the post-covid costs of gas, campgrounds, etc. I, Ren, can only do what I can do, but I’m doing my best. More and more of my days and weeks and months find me content and surrounded by friends.


Working on this website gives me tremendous joy. Only about twelve people ever see what I write, but maybe I’m mostly writing for myself anyways. Mixing up words and images and art is so fun. Thinking that MAYBE someone else will see it, read, and maybe find a connection with something I write…is thrilling.

Thank you for spending a few minutes visiting with me. Be present…as often as you can…in the lives of those you care about.