4 before 41

I am officially abandoning my 40 before 40 list.  School is a great thing, and I am going to be superfly once I have my Masters of Science in Bioinformatics (what! what!), but I am realizing there is a lot of hard work before I get there.  Coupled with lots of new opportunities and pressures at my job, I gotta get myself straight.  So I have pared down my list to just the four things that I will have the capacity to focus on and achieve.  My yearly goals will need to be modified to accomodate this new focus.  I will still craft and read and travel – I just won’t keep track on a master spreadsheet.  That will be weird and liberating.

Here is the list:

1. Get a Masters of Science in Bioinformatics.

2. Lose 70 lbs.

3. Be debt free.

4. Have a well-organized house.

Really, these are the goals for 2011

I should stop setting goals and start focusing more on living – I know I should, but I can’t.  So that will wait for 2012.  Or when I am 40.  Ever since my 30 before 30 list, I loves me some goals.  And like any list of goals I have ever had, they have changed since I first imagined them.  Here is the “final” list:

1. Exercise for 250 hours.

2. Post what I ate – every good, bad, ugly detail – for 300/365 days.

3.  Lose 25 lbs.  I need to lose more, but I want a realistic goal for this year – something that feels obtainable, not overwhelming.  And losing 25 is better than gaining 5.  You can’t argue with that.  No, I said you couldn’t.

4. Get rid of x amount of debt.  This one is between me and my husband, but it is a BIG number.  As the kids say, we are going to have to make our own fun!  But nothing is more fun than being out of debt.  Yep, I am officially old because I truly believe that.

5. Eat in 1000 times.  That means only one meal out per week – and that includes Starbucks, fast food, lunch with friends at work, our sweet friends at Abuelo’s.  This will perhaps be the hardest for us – we like to eschew the drudgery of the kitchen – but will be very important for #4 and #3.  I think I might craft a little cookbook of our our daily recipes to make it more fun.  Tonight we are doing apple-sage field roast with hard cider sauerkraut that my friend J turned me on to.  So yum.

6. Complete 25 books.  I still have a lot of books to consume to hit my 40 before 40 goal, so I will need to continue to plug away.  Right now I am in the midst of the Harry Potter series – so that should be fun/easy.

7.  Get rid of 500 things – either by recycling, consuming, or giving away – it will be hard to define what a things count – but off the top of my head:  booklets of scrapbook paper, yarn, CDs, DVDs, books, unused dishes – lots to do.  I am sooooo looking forward to having less stuff.  My stepdaughter totally inspired me this weekend by *spontaneously* cleaning out her closet.  I am going to borrow some of her fortitude and tackle my bedside table tonight.  Woot!

8. 250 study hours.  Grad school starts in 10 days.  I will need to get good at studying again.  I am not too worried, I was once great at it, but having a weekly hourly goal will help me.

9. 500 blog entries – with 30o days of calorie posting, this is just 200 entries of other stuff – which I really do want to share with my small readership – I love having this blog as a digital journal of my life – where I have been and where I have been going.  And unlike my junior high school diary, being on the internets reminds me to set my filter a *bit*, so I can reread entries without cringing too badly.

10. Organize 5 things.  Blech – I don’t want to do this one, but I need to – and the sooner it is done, the better.  And I know I will love the results.  My fab craft empire still is organized and awesome.  I think I am going to tackle these five things:  Spring holiday decorations, autumn/halloween decorations, Christmas decorations, Muner’s desk, Reading room closet/wrapping papers. 

In short, my focus this year will be lightening my load.  My forties are nigh, and I want to be fully fabulous by then.  Just a bit more work, and I will be there.

HOPE YOU HAVE A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!  Love, love, love you all!


I just got an invitation from a friend to attend her 40th-birthday celebration at her home. I am superexcited for the following reasons:

1. I love getting an invitation to a grown-up party.
2. The party is in walking distance from my house, so I can imbibe and then walk home!
3. I will get to see some old friends.

In celebration of being invited to the celebration, I have reposted my 40-before-40 list (to the left) on the blog.


NOTE: This is yet another entry about me setting and trying to hit goals for weight loss… PLEASE DO NOT READ if you will start to think me unbearably stupid and weak that I haven’t figured this out yet. I am choosing to right about my failures and the subsequent dusting myself off, rather than just abandoning the topic altogeter. And I AM unbearably stupid and weak, also known as being human.

I am a compulsive goal-setter. I hear all the advice that you should set small, reasonable goals – and not too many. I really do hear that advice. And then I go ahead and set crazy unreachable goals. And then I make a spreadsheet. Goals give me structure and focus – always have and always will.

As I near 35, there definitely are some things I need to get “done”. I should be 50% done with my 40 before 40 list (I won’t even be 25% done!). In short, I need to get busy, get some stuff done.

But the big one is weight loss. My weight loss is suh-frickin-low. The scale is going in the right direction, just unbearably slowly. And I know why – I am not claiming that I am following my goals and not seeing progress. I know better than that. I almost always hit my exercise goals – it is the eating, or rather not eating, that I suck at.

I pride myself on changing tactics when I need to. If something isn’t working, I abandon it. I have yet to find the thing that works for me. (Believe me, this blog will hear about it when I do.) I know, know, know, know it is simple, internet – Eat Less. A child could tell you that – and more than one has told me that. I just find it so hard to not eat sometimes. Why is that? Well, IF I KNEW THAT…

But previously I would just give up for awhile if I failed. But paying for and attending my group training classes with Mandy has changed something in my mind. I don’t give up for long stretches of time. I go there and work my nonexistent butt and overexistent arms off and darned if I am going to just go crazy for several weeks and lose all of that progress.
And I seriously can’t wait to see the muscles under this flab. They have got to be slammin, trust me. You are going to need shades, friends, you are going to need shades.

So, new tactic. I am trying to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch, and even dinner most days. Lack of choice seems to work for me. And I have set seven goals for the next seven weeks (can be seen in the left panel of this blog) – most are related to weight loss and exercise, some are baby steps to other 40 before 40 goals, and I believe all pass the reasonable test (truly!). To help me with the goals I have a hard time living up to, I have created a reward/motivation system. At the end of the seven weeks, DH and I are going to take a trip and there are seven things on that trip that will be true if I stick to my goals. And I read these seven things whenever I feel the need to cheat – like tonight when I should walk three miles and I really just want to collapse on the couch because work has sucked.

1. I am going to wear the size smaller Old Navy jacket with the lace and rooching that is so super cute. And it is going to zip up without a problem and will look really cute with my crocheted fall scarf. SQUEEEE!

2. I am going to wake up early in the morning and run one mile easily in our beautiful vacation surroundings, and still have energy to walk two more.

3. I am not going to feel the need to overeat at any of our meals out, resulting in that overstuffed, lethargic feeling which makes vacation not fun.

4. I am going to have the energy to go up any big set of stairs or big hill without getting winded.

5. I will have to buy a new pair of khakis because my current pair will be too big.

6. I am going to want to have my picture taken because I will be proud of the weight loss I have accomplished.

7. I will weigh the same weight I did when I got back from Romania in 2006.


As I approach 50 on the number of books I have read since I turned 30 (a measly number, but I only recently started holding myself to the book-every-two-weeks regime), I thought I would share the list, along with my rating of one to five stars.

(list 28) Books I have read since turning 30
P.G. Wodehouse – Blandings Castle (They all get five stars, it is Wodehouse, after all. Wodehouse is excellent to read when life is stressful. It takes me to another place and is so far from my life, yet entertaining and funny. Wodehouse can always calm me down and lower my pulse.)
1. Lord Emsworth and Others
2. Something Fresh
3. Leave it to Psmith
4. Blandings Castle
5. Summer Lightning
6. Heavy Weather
7. Uncle Fred in the Springtime
8. Full Moon

P.G. Wodehouse – Other – These all get five stars also. Before I started focusing on Blandings Castle and its denizens, I was a wee bit unfocused. Of all of the following, I adored Jill the Reckless the best. Jill is adorable – you will love her!
9. Eggs, Beans, and Crumpets
10. Uncle Dynamite
11. Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit
12. Jill the Reckless

Olden-time. These are all 19th or early 20th-century
13. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton ***** – This has everything – villains, scandal, descriptions of dresses, Paris, unrequited love
14. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell **** – beautifully written and a good history of the labor struggle in England in the early 19th century – I found the main character to be too much of a goody-two shoes. And the antagonists were chubby – I don’t like that! Chubby people can be moral and kind.
15. The Razer’s Edge by Somerset Maugham **** – Interesting – about a World War I vet who shrugs off responsibility to follow his own calling. I wish I would have read it in college – it has some good lessons about defying convention.

Chick-Litish – Light and Fluffy
16. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld *** – Not as good as prep, but you can finish it in an afternoon.
17. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner *** – It was great because it is Jennifer. The short story format is great – but none of the stories really stuck.
18. Quality of Life Report by Megan Daum ** – Blech. The story is about a woman (more than mildly idiotic and annoying) who moves to the midwest from the east cost. Thank goodness the midwest isn’t actually lik ewhat she encounters in this book.
19. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld **** – Pure genius. She writes what high school is. I would give something really precious to be able to write my own experiences like this.
20. Old School by Tobias Wolff **** – This really doesn’t fit in here, but it didn’t fit in anywhere else, and it was reccomended by Curtis Sittenfeld. A good story about a boys’ school – including hilarious tales of guest authors Ayn Rand, Robert Frost, and Ernest Hemingway. Also a good story for those of us who took a really wrong turn when we were young and came out OK on the other side.

Chick Litish – Heavier
21. Child of my Heart by Alice McDermott *** – I wanted to like this one more than I did. I think the protagonist didn’t catch my interest. She was heartbreakingly beautiful and talked about how hard it was to be heartbreakingly beautiful. Boo hoo.
22. Runaway Stories by Alice Munro **** This Alice is a genius. These are all stories about women who have run away from their lives. They all are excellent – and each one will stick with you.
23. Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk ****** This one got a bonus star because it is the best book I have read in recent memory. Her description of the internal lives of women is pitch perfect – as good as Mrs. Dalloway. If you are a complex woman, or want to understand a complex woman, read this book. Seriously, read it.
24. Birds of America by Lorrie Moore ***** Reccomended by David Sedaris. These short stories are equal parts pain and hilarity. And if David thinks it is good, it’s good.
25. Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley * Dreadful people having dreadful conversations – for 700 pages. BLECH! DH pieced together that this book has the same format ast the Decameron – rich people escaping to their poshness during the plague (Decameron) or Iraq war (Ten Days in the Hills). Just read the Decameron and then watch a couple hours of The Hills on MTV – I swear it would have the EXACT same effect – nausea.

Reccomeded to me – All of these were reccomended by a friend or a loooover (Ok, well DH)
26. Wicked by Gregory McGuire **** – Pretty darn good – even made me want to watch the Wizard of Oz.
27. Conservatives without Conscience by John Dean**** – Depressing but good. Thank goodness it is 2008.
28. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night by Mark Haddon **** – Interesting and a quick read. Definitely unlike other things that one typically reads.

29. Moneyball by Michael Lewis **** – Talks about one man’s struggle to bring rationality to baseball and statistics. The freakonomics for baseball.
30. Ruling over Giants, Monachs, & Stars by Bob Motley *** – A living legend – last living Negro Leagues Umpire – a little disconnected

Michael Cunningham and Virginia Woolf – Michael Cunningham wrote The Hours, which is an interpretation of Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – so they are sort of related.
31. The Hours by Michael Cunningham – **** – Almost as good as the movie.
32. Virginia Woolf by Nigel Nicholson – ** – A boring biography about a not-boring woman. It is somewhat interesting because he is the son of Virginia’s (female) lover, but it doesn’t save the boring prose.
33. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf ****** – My favorite book – the style of writing was controversial at the time – but the imagery and story are flawless. Read it with The Hours for the full experience.
34. A Home at the End of the World *** – An interesting and sad story. This one was also made into a movie. The movie has a slightly happier ending.

David Sedaris and Bill Bryson and Sarah Vowell – All three write travelogueish, familyish hilarious personal narrative. So that is a good grouping. I turn to them when I want a story that will make me laugh out loud. And all of them are incomprable. 5 stars all around.
35. Dress Your Family in Denim and Cordurouy by David Sedaris
36. Assasination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
37. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (All about France)
38. Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson – all about growing up in Des Moines in the fifties
39. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – About hiking on the Appalachian trail
40. Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson – About travelling in England
41. I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson – About moving back to the U.S. after living abroad for many years. Will make you mad and make you laugh.

Phillip Pullman – These were reccomended by my husband, and I loved the movie, so devoured the set. Four stars all around – full of adventure and strong characters and happiness and sadness and insight into the importance of knowledge and love and connection.
42. The Golden Compass
43. The Subtle Knife
44. The Amber Spyglass
45. Lyra’s Oxford


I have never understood obsession with one’s age. This has mostly been a product of being young most of my life (I am now 33), but also seems like a silly thing to worry about for the following reasons:

(list 2) – Why I Do Not Understand Worrying About Age

  1. It is completely out of one’s control. Time passes at its own speed. I have tried to slow time down when eating at Le Fou Frog with my husband and tried to speed it up during meetings with annoying coworkers, but I can’t control it. And I cannot control when I was born and that time has passed since I was born, so I refused to worry about it.
  2. My favorite person in the world was really old. My best friend as a child was my great-grandmother, and she was old, obviously. But she was fun, smart, and had the best apartment and most charming friends of anybody I ever met. And she ate cherry ice cream out of pretty porcelain dishes and walked to the book store or library every day and didn’t have to go to work – if you add a cat, that seems like just about the most perfect life ever. In some ways, each day that brings me closer to that seems pretty darn good.
  3. Men and women age “differently”. To borrow a favorite word of my husband, “Bollocks!” I loathe, despise, abhor the concept that men gain value and women lose value as they get older. Enough said.

And then my 30th birthday loomed! I began to see aging not as inevitable or welcome, but the passing of time that meant I had less time to do the things I wanted to do. I reacted by having four(!) birthday parties and creating my 30 Before 30 List (with the help of a long-time friend of mine, Laurie Sevedge Beane). The list was a checklist of everything I wanted to do before I turned 30. Here are the rules of the list:

(list 3) The Rules of the N Before N List

  1. Everything on the list has to be fun. You can’t put anything on the list that has to do with reducing debt, getting a promotion, or eating more veggies – it all has to be fun!
  2. The list has to be achievable and complety under your control.
  3. It must include some travel.

Other than that, it was wide open. I achieved most of the goals on my 30 before 30 list, and had a great time doing it. If you don’t have a list, I highly recommend one! And it doesn’t need to be a list for a decade with a round number. A dear friend of mine has a 37 before 37 list (she started when she was 27), and my 7 year-old stepkids have an 8 before 8 list. (I will publish theirs in a future blog – it is THE most adorable list EVER!)

To the right, I have published my 40 Before 40 List (list 4), as well as indicating if they are completed. Future blogs will update you on my progress.

Note that I have broken two out of the three rules for lists. Some are not fun (getting out of debt) and some are not completely under my control (getting married).

If you have an N Before N List that you don’t mind sharing, please add it to the comments!