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Today, I am 30! 30 years old! And I like to kick and stretch and kick! I’m 30!

I feel way better about this birthday than I have about a birthday in a really long time. Today, I started thinking about all the ways that I am great. 

  • I have a stable job with good benefits. Because of my new promotion, I am no longer embarrassed to tell people my job title.
  • I am doing great in my accounting classes, and I am on track to be a CPA in around two years.
  • I own an awesome house, and have paid off a quarter of its value.
  • I don’t have any debt except a student loan and my mortgage.
  • I am saving aggressively for retirement, even while paying for school.
  • I have only ever had one cavity, and I floss regularly.
  • I have written a whole novel.
  • I am a good cook and a great baker.
  • I eat and enjoy eating food I believe is really good for me (most of the time).
  • I am still dancing, even though I am not that great at it, because it is fun, and both socially and emotionally fulfilling. And great exercise.
  • I have a dog who is beyond cute, and who is devoted to me. And tonight I baked him homemade pumpkin treats. 
  • I graduated from a college I LOVE and that gave me an amazing experience of belonging to a community where I fit in.
  • In am reasonably well read. I finished and understood Infinite Jest.
  • I have made my long-term health a priority.
  • I have wonderful friends where I live, who have stood by me for many years.
  • I still feel close to my friends from college, even as we have scattered across the country.
  • I am great at organizing my life, which makes me feel prepared for tomorrow.
  • I have sung for a pope, at a presidential inauguration, at a campaign rally with President Bill Clinton, and in the National Cathedral.
  • I got my car’s tires rotated for the first time EVER last weekend!
  • I have NOT wasted an undue amount of time in my 20s in relationships that don’t make me happy.
  • But I have watched some really great TV shows, which have made me very happy.
  • I am a strong swimmer.
  • I am amazing at budgeting and being frugal and making stuff last.
  • I keep my yard tidy in the warm weather, even though I hate yard work. I love when people come up to men and tell me how much they love my house.
  • I have not let bullies in my life defeat me.

Perhaps this is a little over the top, but hell. Happy birthday to me! I am determined that the 30s are going to be great.

29 Things Update

I have made some progress on my list of 29 things to do while I’m 29. I keep intending to write about the things that I am accomplishing, but it keeps not happening.

Maybe soon.

But probably not.

The accomplishment that will pretty much define 2012 (I assume, until something bigger and crazier comes along) is

26. Decide whether I want to pursue accounting as a career, and then act accordingly

I have decided. My answer is yes.

Which means that for the next two years or so, I am not going to have the time or the money to do a lot of things I would like to do. But it’s all in pursuit of greater happiness (and greater finances hopefully, damn) at the end.

I am still very concerned that a year from now I will decide that I hate accounting and that this whole thing has been a huge, expensive mistake. But, I can’t really imagine staying in my current career track for too much longer, so things need to change regardless. Becoming a CPA doesn’t generally hurt people.

With my decision, there are several items on my list that I know I will not be able to accomplish in 2012. They are:

1. Double (at a minimum) each my seven project-specific savings accounts
17. Read a total of 75 books
19. Write the first draft of my next novel
22. Save at least $500 to for Benson’s care

So far, I have crossed nine things off the list, including some pretty big ones, like refinancing my mortgage, starting a Roth IRA, and, of course, taking an accounting class. Several items are also pretty well on track.

I know I won’t be able to cross everything off the list, but I hope I can make a little more progress over the next seven and a half months.

But I am about to take two 3-credit hour classes over eight weeks, so anything that requires any kind of time investment will probably have to wait.

29 Things

I think I finally understand about myself that I am happiest when I give myself homework. I need concrete goals to work towards, to allow me to feel like I’m accomplishing something meaningful with my time.

In celebration of my 29th birthday, I have compiled a list of 29 things to do this year.

I don’t actually know if I’m going to be able to cross everything off this list, although I made sure to throw some things on here that I know I will certainly accomplish. Certain other tasks will be a quite a big stretch for me.

1. Double (at a minimum) each my seven project-specific savings accounts
2. Refinance my mortgage to a 15 or 20 year mortgage
3. Start a Roth IRA
4. Get a file cabinet and properly organize my important papers
5. Make a donation to my neighborhood green effort
6. Watch at least one episode of Doctor Who for each of the first 7 doctors
7. Watch Battlestar Galactica
8. Participate in the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra (DONE!)
9. Get a storm door for my front door
10. Acquire a new piece of artwork for my home
11. Plant something new in my yard
12. Get a new, pretty planter for my front porch (But my sister gets the credit for this one!)
13. Build something (perhaps a planter for my front porch?!)
14. Put together an emergency kit for my car
15. Recycle the giant box of VHS tapes sitting in my dining room
16. Read The Pale King
17. Read a total of 75 books
18. Read at least 2 of my unread history books
19. Write the first draft of my next novel
20. Walk Benson a total of at least 550 miles
21. Take Benson to obedience classes at the Humane Society
22. Save at least $500 to for Benson’s care
23. Don’t let my weight go above ### pounds (in other words, maintain 2011’s successful fitness initiative)
24. Take accounting class
25. Talk to three CPAs about their field
26. Decide whether I want to pursue accounting as a career, and then act accordingly

27. Send friends a birthday card or at least SOME KIND of piece of mail, at least once
28. Make at least one trip to visit out of town friends
29. Make macarons

It does feel pretty good that I’ve already been able to mark one item off the list–although I do plan on participating in the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra again this year!

I’ve thought about this list for several weeks, and I can’t help but feel like there are important things that are probably missing that I should also have on here. But, they haven’t come to me yet. I suppose I can always add them onto my list of 30 things to do while I’m 30, next year.

The Muppets

One of the highlights of my Thanksgiving weekend was going to see The Muppets with my sister. I loved it. Jason Segal (and Disney) did an amazing job. I think Jim Henson would have been happy with how The Muppets turned out.

Many of the articles and reviews of The Muppets characterized the movie as a last-ditch effort to save a dying franchise. This surprised me a little, because I truthfully had no idea that the Muppets were dying out.

They have always been a part of my life, and I still consider them to be highly important to me. As a kid, I loved everything that had to do with the Muppets, including the obviously sub-par Muppet Babies and Muppets Tonight. I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw Muppets Take Manhattan, but my earliest memory of profound, desperate sadness is when Kermit wakes up in the hospital and has amnesia. And I watched The Muppet Movie countless, countless times.

Someone expressed surprise to my mom that my sister and I were so excited to see a kids movie. My mom correctly explained that it may look on the surface like a kids movie, but it was actually directed at large part exactly at me and my peers, given that we are the Muppet generation.

Furthermore, there were too many things in the movie that felt like it was made especially for me! They include:

- My girlfriend, Rashida Jones
– My boyfriend, John Krasinski
– The dreamy Donald Glover
– Music by Bret of Flight of the Conchords
– The truly marvelous song, “Me Party,” which may become my new personal theme song

In the end, I think what truly impressed me the most was the general faithfulness to the original humor and spirit of the muppets. They managed to update it without ruining it. I know now that this movie was intended to reboot the franchise. It’s going to be very, very interesting to see what Disney does next with it, and whether they can maintain that same spirit moving forward. I feel skeptical that they can, but then, nothing about the Muppets is cynical.

Christmas Cookies 2011

Unlike previous years, when I was chomping at the bit waiting for the Christmas season to begin, I am not really feeling Christmas this year. It just seems like a lot of work and a lot of money, and I would probably rather go take a nap. I am already feeling ready for Christmas to be over, which is not my typical attitude.

I don’t know what’s different this year, except perhaps that I had such an incredibly busy October and November. I may be too worn out to enjoy Christmas this year.

But it’s early yet, and I’m hoping something happy and festive will kick in. In the meantime, I have started baking. Last year, I made 600+ Christmas cookies, and I am on track to make that many again this year. I’m planning to make cookies for everyone in both of my dance classes (30 people), for my work holiday party, and for my family’s Christmas Eve gathering, as well as my own general enjoyment.

One thing that’s different about this year’s baking plan is that I’m only using fair trade chocolate to make my cookies. When I learned recently that much of the chocolate I’ve used over the years was brought to me in part by enslaved children, I decided that I needed to make a change and vote with my money. Fair trade chocolate is definitely more expensive, but thanks to Trader Joe’s, I can get 3.5 ounces of milk chocolate or dark chocolate for $1.99. I’ve bought a little bit of chocolate every week, which has helped spread out the cost.

I’ve been trying to deterimine which cookies I’m going to make this year. So far, I’ve decided on:

Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies
White Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Chocolate Toffee Rounds
Oreo Cheesecake Cookies (the plan is to do homemade oreos to make these!)

I’ll also probably make this sticky gingerbread just for my family and me. However, I am still looking for a few more awesome recipes. I’m hoping now that Thanksgiving is over, the many recipe blogs I read will begin sharing cookie recipes instead of pie recipes. Does anyone out there have a recommendation for something exciting I should make?

Faceless Characters

I am trying to finally pull myself out of the new job daze (given that I’ve been in my “new” job for nearly a year, so it’s not actually “new” any longer) and write more. I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year, but I am excited to get back to writing fiction. The most exciting thing about doing NaNo last year was that writing fiction was a lot easier and more fun than I thought it would be.

One aspect of writing fiction that I did struggle with was physical descriptions of my characters. I realized that most books provide a description of what characters look like, and that I had no interest at all in doing the same.

I don’t create pictures of characters in my head when I read. I assume this is because I am (self-diagnosed) moderately face blind. In my most beloved book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, I have no sense of what the main character looks like. I have a feeling of who he is, but when I read the book, I picture Muchings End and Tossie’s dresses and the bishop’s bird stump and Coventry Cathedral on fire, but I never picture any of the faces of any of the characters.

(I can’t hold a clear mental picture of anyone’s face in my mind, including my own face or the faces of my closest family members and friends. I didn’t think this was out of the ordinary until a few years ago, when I realized that other people can easily remember what people’s faces look like.)

Would Harry Potter be Harry Potter without the messy black hair and green eyes and lightning-bolt scar? Of course not. However, when I think of Katniss from The Hunger Games, I didn’t realize that I had no clue what she looked like until I heard people complaining that Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t olive-skinned with dark hair. I think of Jessica Darling, from another of my favorite series of YA books, and I have no clue what she looks like.

Is a physical description of a character important to you when you’re reading?

The Outfits Spreadsheet

People like to mock me for it, but I’m pretty sure that’s because they’re actually jealous that they didn’t think of it first.

One stressful aspect of my current job is that attire matters a great deal more than it did at my previous job. I am not a clothes person. I am terrible at putting together outfits, and I hate spending money, so it’s been hard for me to adjust to needing a more professional wardrobe.

For a while, I was wearing my favorite outfits repeatedly. Too repeatedly. I was also forgetting about other clothes I had that I should have been wearing. And most mornings, I would stare at my closet in a panic, thinking, “What in God’s name am I going to wear?” It was not sustainable.

However, there was a solution! THE OUTFITS SPREADSHEET!

Starting with my warm-weather attire, I typed in every acceptable work outfit I had into a Google spreadsheet. Then, each time I wore that outfit, I typed that day’s date into the spreadsheet. As I acquired new clothes, I added new outfits to the spreadsheet.

So, what am I going to wear tomorrow? Well, just LET ME SEE. It seems that I haven’t worn my teal sweater and striped gray pants since 10/27/11, so that seems like a perfectly valid option.

People mock me, but it has completely improved my life. One of my co-workers told me, “You have way too much time on my hands!” Implying, I suppose, that only a bored fool would take the time to organize her wardrobe. But of course I have more time on my hands! The time I spent stressing about my wardrobe has been eliminated! Who’s the fool?!

(If the outfits spreadsheet could only wash and iron my clothes as well, then I would truly be in business.)

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