7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 160)

January 13, 2012 | 90 comments

— 1 —

Yesterday I turned 35. To celebrate, let’s get all reflective!

  • If you are older than 35, tell me about what you were doing at this age. How do you feel about that time of your life? Anything you’d do differently?
  • If you are younger than 35, tell me about what you want your life to be like when you’re my age.

— 2 —

My husband and I ended up in a long conversation about ventriloquists the other day (still not sure how that happened). Anyway, the upshot of it was that we ended up rediscovering Señor Wences. I hadn’t seen this clip of him on The Muppet Show since I was a kid, and I was delighted to find that he is every bit as charming and talented as I remembered him being:

— 3 —

After all the drama, the proclamations, the descriptions of not wanting to eat or sleep, the excessive use of caps lock, I didn’t end up watching Downton Abbey this weekend. I was behind on my writing schedule, so I used the time I had carefully blocked out for throwing myself all over the television to write instead. THAT is how seriously I am about this February deadline. (Fellow Downton Abbey fans just gasped and started fanning themselves.)

As I’ve mentioned before, my agent doesn’t want to talk to publishers until we have an A+ draft, so I am not under contractual obligation to have it done by that date. However, I think I’m actually more dedicated to the deadline than I would be if my main pressure were a contract with a publisher. Since our family has made sacrifices for me to get the extra time I need to get this done, I want to make sure I don’t drag this out any longer than necessary. I hate the idea of having to go to my husband and mom and mother-in-law on February 21 and say, “Hey, you know how I made that big pitch about how I could use some extra help for a few weeks? And how any sacrifices would be worth it because it would allow me to wrap up this project by today? I have some bad news about that…” I feel like one way I can show my appreciation for their efforts is to take the deadline I promised them very seriously. And in this house, it does not get much more serious than skipping the first episode of Season 2 of Downton Abbey.

— 4 —

I recently stumbled across a heated discussion where people were asked to state their annual income and then say how rich or poor they felt. (The link is here, but there’s some strong language. To give you an idea: Some people wrote in and complained that they felt very poor despite making high-six-figure incomes. Others were allowed to respond anonymously, with no censoring. You can imagine what kind of commentary that elicited.) So anyway, I was surprised to hear people talking about making $350, 000 a year and feeling “so, so, so poor”…but then I wondered if I’d really be as content as I think I would be at that income.

I once read that your desires adjust to your income level, and that “at all levels of income, the typical response is that one needs 20% more to be happy.” I’ve thought for a long time that I wouldn’t need any more income if we just had X amount…and I laughed when I did the math and realized it was 20% more. It made me realize that as long as I’m in the mode of “Coveting Things You Want that You Can’t Afford, ” I’ll never feel like I have enough. If we did get more money, I would just buy those things I’d been pining over (larger house, newer car, etc.), and then our budget would be maxed out again and I’d come up with new things that I want but can’t afford.

I know, I know, this is an incredibly obvious concept. I think what shocked me was when I saw that I’m really not all that different than a millionaire who feels poor. I thought of myself as being in a totally different situation than someone who makes a zillion dollars and still wishes she had more…but really, we’re both people who can’t seem to get it through our heads that we have more than enough.

— 5 —

Election season is in full swing! And that’s the last you’ll hear about it from me. I remember back in the Fall of 2008, I would occasionally get comments like, “Umm, you do know that there’s a hotly contested presidential election going on, right? Just wondering since you haven’t mentioned it once.”

I’m naturally apolitical, and I don’t think that it’s within the scope of this blog to talk about politics anyway. So if you’ve been looking around for a blog that can enlighten you with nuanced analysis of the upcoming primary season and its implications for the November ballots, you will find this site to be deeply disappointing. But if you were just sitting there wondering, “What blog could I read in 2012 that will avoid the topic of the election entirely and focus on God and poop fates and scorpions instead?”, drop everything,  subscribe to my RSS feed, and prepare yourself to be blessed.

— 6 —

The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksMy current read is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It had been on my wish list for a while, but I finally bought it after coming across this fascinating interview about Skloot’s process for writing the book. As a writing nerd, I was dying to see her finished product after reading all the details of how she weaved the different narrative threads together.

The book is wonderful. Very well done. It reminds me of Born to Run, which is also excellent and very similar in structure. It’s made me realize that I adore that particular genre, which I think of as “nonfiction that educates you about an interesting concept while weaving in colorful personal vignettes about the people involved, including the author’s own story of researching the book.” Is there a more concise term for that? It’s a combination of textbook-style info and memoir. Maybe “infoir”? “Memfo”? (Clearly I am up too late.) Anyway, if you come across any other books in that genre, let me know!

— 7 —

I leave you with this: an image of what happens when you’re the fifth baby, and three of your older siblings are little girls:

Have a great weekend!



  1. jen

    I’m 31 and I think what I’d want by age 35 is to have all the stuff with my son’s autism figured out. (He just got diagnosed so things are chaotic here.)

    • Linda

      Jen, my daughter was diagnosed about two years ago at the age of 17 with Asperger’s . The chaos does go away.

      • jen

        thanks linda. that helps to know.

  2. Kara

    1. I’ll be 35 in 4 years and truly, all I’d like is to own a home. We’ve been trying for so long and we haven’t been able to get one. I know it will happen when it’s meant to, but I feel restless without one.

    4. That all may be true for people making enough to get by, but we currently do not make enough to even pay all of our bills. We’re not living beyond our means. I truly do believe that once we have enough to buy our house, that life will feel a lot more stable. BUT, we have had many years of struggling to get to a point to realize that we shouldn’t waste our money or put too much value on material possessions, so hopefully that will help us stay within our means and feel more at ease when we are successful.

    7. SO CUTE!!!

    • Mary Kay

      Have you considered applying for a Habitat for Humanity house? I don’t know the details about down payments but I know that their loans are interest free, which makes for cheaper monthly payments than regular mortgages. Good luck to you. Also, maybe you could pick up extra income by selling on eBay (a useful blog I follow is We Sell on eBay, also check out My Secret eBay Diary). These women buy at thrift stores and yard sales and resell on eBay.

      • Kara

        My hubby is a veteran (va loan) but we won’t be able to buy until he Gets a promotion.

        We’ve tried selling stuff. Didn’t really work for us. Thanks for the idea! I’ll check out those sites. 🙂

  3. Beth Anne @ The Catholic Couponer Blog

    1. I hope to be married, NOT living with my mother, with 1 or 2 kids, and little to no debt.

    4. I agree no matter how much you have you always want more. My mom always tells me the more money you make the more you spend. In another group we were talking about the Dave Ramsey show where people call in and are all we got out of debt and we make $200,000/yr and one girl said if I made that amount I’d be out of debt too!! No one ever calls making $30,000/yr but alas unless I move to an uncharted island somewhere I will always have to deal with money.

    7. You should tell them easter isn’t for a few months 😉

  4. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    Happy day after birthday, Jen! I’m so glad you liked Henrietta Lacks! May I recommend in kinda the same genre: The Ghost Map by Stephen Johnson. It’s about London’s big cholera epidemic and the development of epidemiology. (This is the epidemic that ended when John Snow ripped the handle off the pipe he believed was contaminated. The consensus at the time was that the disease was spread by bad air.)

  5. Beth

    This is my first quick takes! Yay! At 35 I was graduating law school and taking the bar exam and completely reevaluating my entire life. And I totally changed it too. Thirty five is awesome!

  6. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    I would love to give you some 35 advice, but considering that I just turned 35 just a bit over two weeks ago, I can’t say that I have anything to say on that subject except — Happy Birthday! 🙂

    Oh, and I totally agree about the income and feeling like you need more money. I remember many years ago, my husband was making a certain amount of money (which was really a small amount for taking care of a family). We had this number that we said, “If we got to this, we’d be really comfortable and not worry about money.” Well, he’s now making a couple thousand more than that magic number as his yearly salary, and there are definitely still money concerns and a wish for more. But, it was also probably 10 years ago when we were saying that, so I guess it’s not really worth as much as it would have been back then.

  7. Gabriel

    When I’m 35, 8 years from now, I just hope to have finished my degree, paid off a good deal of debt, and have at least three more children (just have the one for now). I look forward to the “Are you absolutely mad” looks I’ll get when carting around “all” those kids.

    Moneywise, I think everyone always wants a bit more because you always seem to notice what you don’t have. Sometimes it takes reflection on back when you had less to truly understand what you have. My husband put it in perspective for me a few nights ago when we were discussing finances. I tend to stress out a lot about finances, he’s much more laid back. He said that we had our child, did we really need anything else? Extra money would be nice, but we still have each other and our child that we created (with a little help from God). It’s the truth, sometimes we just need to look to our children for perspective. A child takes what he or she has and makes it what they want or need. A stick becomes a sword, a box becomes a rocketship or a castle, etc.

    I’m hoping that at 35 I don’t lose sight of that. I expect my children will help out a bit with it.

    Wow, that was a bit long winded. Sorry 🙂

    Happy Belated Birthday!

  8. The Licensed Fool

    Congratulations on the birthday. I’m 34 later on this year, by the time I am 35 I would like to either be a postulant or about to become one.

    (Although if I am honest I would settle for having not too much more grey hair in my beard…)

    You didn’t watch Downton? Heresy….

  9. George @ Convert Journal

    #4 so true! Knowing that, we developed a discipline of putting a big chunk of raises towards savings, paying off debts, etc. We didn’t miss it and it helped long term.

    #5 I stayed out of politics initially, but find it difficult to ignore. We have a duty to be informed and to vote. The media is hostile to Catholic beliefs on life, family and genuine Catholic social justice. Our priests can’t say anything about specific candidates without incurring the wrath of the IRS so little is said and what is said is vague.

    My 7QTF entry this week… Another Planned Parenthood manager switches sides and witnesses for life. It is time again for the March for Life. The Holy Father celebrating the Mass – Ad Orientem. Victory for the good guys in one battle against freedom of religion. Republicans and Democrats join hands to censor and kill the Internet. Reasonable and sane… or extreme ideologue? Three years down, one to go – Bill Whittle gives us a summary so far.

    • Jessica

      Yes, we also try to put any extra money/raises into savings and paying off loans. We don’t miss it at all and are much happier that our debts are dwindling.

  10. Kristen @ St Monica's Bridge

    When I turn 35 in two big years…I hope I would have a fourth child (maybe a fifth too…but I’ll settle for just one more for now). I hope we are settled on what career trajectory my husband will have and that maybe I can start figuring out what I will be when I grow up!

  11. Elizabeth Erazo

    Loved “Immortal Life…”, although it was hard to keep from cracking up at the name “Skloot” all the time.

  12. Ellen Gable Hrkach

    Happy Birthday, Jen! When I was 35, I was writing my first published article entitled “Five Little Souls in Heaven.” My 7 Quick Takes post includes a link to that article. God bless you as you finish your book!

  13. Marian

    All is not lost! Complete episodes of season 2 Downton Abbey that have aired are available for viewing online “for a limited time only” here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey/season2.html
    I don’t know what “for a limited time only” means, but set yourself some serious writing goals for each day, and reward yourself with 20 minutes of an episode when you hit them. How’s that?

  14. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    Happy Birthday! 35 for me was four years ago. My husband and I had been married for just over four years and were expecting Agent J. One thing I remember clearly is how my doctor’s office suddenly threw a red flag on my chart because I was now considered Advanced Maternal Age (code for you are sooooo old . . . why are you still procreating?). Here I was having this fabulous pregnancy, chasing toddler Agent E, still working out five times a week, and still getting mistaken for 25, and wham. Suddenly I’m geriatric. Kind of a downer. Funny, when I had a nice, healthy, boring pregnancy with Agent A at 38 (new doctor, new hospital) no one gave it a second thought. Now, I’m actually looking forward to turning 40 this year. 🙂

  15. Erika Evans

    #6: The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. Extraordinary book, and I believe it is in the genre you describe.

  16. Cheryl

    Oh, I’m the old one around here! On my 35th birthday, I was seven months pregnant with #4, my sweet, now-eight-year-old little girl. I had four babies in five years…my thirties were a blur! Actually, I quite admire you for the commitment you have to the writing in the midst of it. I struggled mightily with post-partum depression which, after a while, just becomes depression.

    Better now, thanks be to God.

    Also at 35, my husband was still working night and day to build his business. At the time our income was good, but we felt like if we could just…you know. I have to say that we have been very blessed and very lucky, and he works very hard, so I have found myself in the unusual place of being utterly content lately with our material/financial life. It is an odd feeling in the midst of a society that wants more, more, more, to feel content. We have wants, sure enough, but it is more a matter of all good choices rather than trade-offs. The biggest struggle for me is to not feel guilty! I know God has richly blessed us to be a blessing to others, and I pray every day that I’ll recognize those opportunities He puts in front of us.

    Happy Birthday!

  17. Erin

    At 35 I was about to give birth to my 8th child. I loved 35 but found a difference in myself, I became more confident and started putting more healthy boundaries in place. The closer I travel towards 40 the less tolerant I am for prevaricating, I’m tending to clear more clutter out of my life, including people;) that sounds more dreadful than it is, having trouble putting in words. Anyhow 35 bought more confidence, and now next month I’ll be 40 and I’m actually looking forward to it!! Fancy that!

  18. Mary

    I’m 28. My husband is turning 39 this year, so I feel old by proxy. When I’m 35, I’d like to have a better understanding of what makes me feel happy and fulfilled.

    God bless you for not wading into the political mud. As a Canadian, socially Liberal, newly reverting Catholic, I find it INCREDIBLY discouraging to read so many American Catholic blogs with political views that, frankly, I find abhorrent. Last I checked, we were rendering unto Caesar, and any blog that associates their political views with Catholicism leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. (i.e., I find it shocking that so many Catholics support pro-life candidates who have terrible poverty, education and health-care policies). So thank you for talking about God and leaving someone else to talk about Caesar.

  19. Laura

    Happy Birthday!

    35 huh? That was 11 years ago for me and far too back in my memory to remember anything. My oldest child would have been 9, which meant that at that time I only had 5 children…wow! Life was a bit less hectic, but was good. I don’t think I would really go back and do anything different.

    Your baby is adorable!
    God Bless.

  20. Pam Spano

    I’m going to turn 60 in May. I converted to the Catholic faith over 30 years ago and I’ve been writing Being Catholic … Really for just over a year.

    At 35 I had two young boys who were thirteen months apart! Our daughter arrived six years later. It all seems a bit blurry now!

    I’m not sure if I would do anything differently. My kids are grown (27, 26 and 21). My father once told me that all you can hope for in life is that your children turn out okay.

    Happy belated Birthday Jennifer and God bless!

  21. Boring Blogger

    I have to say, I watched the first episode and I was a little disappointed. Sybil, however, is still my favorite character.

  22. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    As a fellow Downton Abbey junkie, I now understand the extent of your commitment to your book deadline. Wow.

    On the bright side, sitting down to watch two (or 3, or the whole season) of episodes of once is very enjoyable. (I know, I watched Season One in 4 days!)

  23. BettyDuffy

    He. Lit. A. CIGARETTE. While ventriloquizing! THAT is what I’m going to do with my old age!

    Oh yeah, and I’m going to do it in front of my kids. Because –I’ve earned it, Baby.

  24. Kate Wicker

    Happy birthday, Jen!

    Pamela is a beautiful, well taken care of baby!

  25. rebecca

    Have you read Wild Swans by Jung Chang? I think you might really enjoy it, even with the political commentary ( but it is about China).

  26. Sheila

    We are kindred spirits – the “infoir” is also my favorite genre and I’ve also been struggling to find a word for it. Lately I’ve been thinking maybe “curiosity memoir” since they seem to be books where the author is satisfying his or her intense curiosity about a subject … here are a few ideas for you.

    1. Moby Duck – what happens when 28,800 plastic bath toys are lost at sea (currently reading this)

    2. 52 Loaves – a year of baking a loaf of bread every week in pursuit of the perfect loaf – this guy’s journey takes him to a monastery to be head baker there! This is by far my favorite “infoir” and maybe the first I read from the genre

    3. Fanny’s Last Supper – this is by the America’s Test Kitchen people. Not sure if it’s entirely in the genre but they cook a dinner-party menu from the original Fanny Farmer cookbook and you get to hear all about cooking history.

    4. Nothing Daunted – about two society girls who go west to teach – I expected it to be all a story about them, but instead there’s chapters all about the railroads that took them there, and the coal mining that was going on out west, etc.

    5. Science Fair Season – this is mostly just stories about kids at a national science fair, but you get to hear a lot about their projects and topics of interest.

    6. The Beekeeper’s Lament – my husband and I both read this at the same time so we had to keep stealing it from each other.

    7. The Psychopath Test – this one is more info and less memoir but it’s pretty fascinating.

    One more thing – I am currently reading Moby Duck on my Kindle, which I love for all the same reasons you do PLUS it is awesome to check out books from the library with it. My 3.5 month old doesn’t like car trips so it’s hard to get to the library anymore, but now I don’t even have to leave the couch. I have not yet stopped telling my husband what a great Christmas gift this Kindle was!

  27. bearing

    Wow, that discussion thread was really interesting to read. So many people seem to feel trapped, but unwilling to release themselves. Of course, disagreement between spouses about how to spend money could quickly create so much ill will that it is easy to see how even households who make more than $1m could feel trapped and unhappy.

  28. Jennifer

    I live in the metro NYC area and totally get that thread. You need to live in a shoebox apartment, paying upwards of 5K to rent a small 2 bedroom, garage the clunker for an extra 500 per month, send a tike to preschool 3 days a week at 15K a year, pay the nanny (you’re working now you have no choice) 40K per year, pay an additional “millionaires tax” (thanks Bloomberg!), get hit with the AMT on two incomes and you too will feel poor at 350K per year. Unless you walk in those shoes (and plenty of people do) don’t judge. Income is relative to location.

  29. Kathleen Basi

    Love #4–it’s so true, and something I’ve been thinking about more & more lately.

    And being apolitical will make your blog a welcome refuge from polemics as the year goes on!

  30. Sarah

    Keep working on that book, Jen!

    Your Take #4 reminded me of an article I read yesterday that really hit home – http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/OT/view/has-europe-lost-its-soul#724 re: the free market economy and it’s Judeo-Christian roots. In it, it discusses the concept of the responsibility of the wealthy to the poor . . . sounds boring now that I write it, but the article was fascinating to me.

    Also, #6 has been on my to-read list too, so thanks for the recommendation! 🙂 I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy (literally, yesterday) for my book club and I’m still processing it all . . . up next on my list is

    Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (because i want to see what all the fuss is about!), and

    Naming Infinity (looks interesting)

    Finally, #7 – Love! Your little one and my little one are nearly the same age (though yours has much more hair! 🙂 With two big brothers at home, mine gets covered with dinosaurs and trucks much more often than soft fluffy things, though!

    Thanks, Jen! Have a great week and HAPPY WRITING!


    • Sarah

      P.S. – I should clarify that I did not go read that article/thread on #4, but I can understand the concept of feeling poor on a healthy salary while living in an expensive city (like LA and San Francisco, our last two home cities!:) AND can understand how one might question feeling “poor” while making upper six figures – so my link doesn’t refer exactly to the content in your link, but I did feel that THEMATICALLY, the two articles might be interesting to the same person. 🙂

      Anyway, happy reading!

  31. Jen G

    When I was 35, I was working on finishing up my master’s degree. Not long afterwards, I moved home to live closer to many of my relatives. A few years later, I was a Catholic convert. So, my life from 35 on has been great! Best wishes to you and your family!

  32. Amy

    Happy birthday!! Let’s see, 35 was *gulp* 7 years ago. That was a crazy year. I had just had baby #3 , FIL died and dh just finished up his MBA on top of working full time and traveling. I guess what I’d like my 35yo self to do is smile more and just love on everybody. The other stuff doesn’t matter as much.

  33. Katherine

    LOVE the bunny ears!!!!

    I’m 32, so I’m not far behind. By 35 I hope we have at least a family of 5 if not more and I will have things running a bit more smoothly than I do now. Although by then I’ll have an 8 almost 9 year old! Oh I can’t think that far! I can’t imagine her that old yet! Enough reflecting….. I’m going to back while my kids are still little. 🙂

  34. Holly Rutchik

    Happy Birthday! I am younger than 35 (31) and on my list for 35 is to have my first book publsihed. I have set myself a deadline this spring as well, although I don’t have an editor as you do, so 4 years it may take). I agree, it is really hard to ask the hubby and family to make changes and fit something in that does not create income and then NOT get it done. For us, we’ve got peace about it because we feel like it is of God, and if mama is called to it than really, the whole family is. I’m sure you feel the same. That being said, God doesn’t deadlines – we’ve still got to do the work. Funny how that works.
    Here’s to a great year and that we both get to that episode of Downton this week!

  35. Calah

    Actually, I think I’d like our life to look pretty much how it looks right now. A steadier job would be nice, and so would owning our own home and making a dent in our student debt, but mostly I’m pretty happy here. More babies is the only thing I require.

  36. Susie

    I have set a goal this year to read 50 books, and I seem to concentrating on this exact genre. I call them wisdom journeys. The authors set out to find something, and then always seem to find some nugget of wisdom even if it wasn’t what they were hoping or intending to find.

    I am currently reading “The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie” by Wendy McClure. Wendy is a women who becomes obsessed with learning everything about Laura Ingalls Wilder. She reads every book about the subject, journeys to the different homesteads, and even tries butter churning. It has been enjoyable so far.

  37. Angie

    Turning 35 was one of my favorite birthdays! I’m a decade older now, but I remember smiling all day that day because I kept thinking, “I am officially eligible to be elected president of the United States.” Not that I had any intention of running for public office of any sort, but if felt SO good to know I could if I wanted to 😉

  38. Christine

    Very cute baby. Lucky little girl to have all that love.

    At 35 I had 4 children under the age of 7 and decided that was a perfect family. I am thankful at the age of 42 I had a beautiful babe that has blessed this family beyond….MONEY. Money does not make people happy. People make people happy. Too many lonely souls out there.

  39. Kendra @ The Nerdy Wife

    Well I’m only 23 now, so I’ve got some years to go before 35 🙂

    I’m mostly just hoping that I’ve figured out by then how to cook, clean, and care for my family. I hope to be blessed with more babies when the times are right, and that my husband and I still put just as much time (hopefully more!) into our relationship. Looking above in the comment section, it looks like there are many women who have been very successful with this post-35 thing! Yay!

  40. Emily

    #4 I think the term you’re looking for is narrative or literary nonfiction. I think Susan Orlean is an excellent example of the genre. I just finished Rin Tin Tin and it was super enjoyable. Also, Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City or for history, anything by Sarah Vowell.

  41. Bonnie Way

    I’ve got a few years until 35 and I hope that by the time I get there, I have my own home (and we’ve decided where we want to live!), and this degree finished (see my post), and a couple more kids, and a book or two published (and more to work on), and that I’m happy and satisfied with myself. Those sound like big goals. We’ll see what happens!!!

  42. Karianna@Caffeinated Catholic Mama

    I’m 31 (I’ll be 32 in February) and by 35, I’d like us to have our financial house in order and to continue to make better financial decisions. On a personal level, I was to be an Senior Executive Director with Thirty-One gifts! (Right now I’m at the consultant level.)

    Reading a bit on that relative income discussion, it seems that most of the people there are living in New York and therefore, may have a different view point as to what it is to be poor. I think it’s fully possible to feel poor and make a six-figure salary in NYC as we kind of have the same feeling here in LA. (Granted, the reason we find ourselves a little more tight is because we were financially-stupid in our 20s, when we were making no money and now are paying for it.) A few of the people, I am sure, are struggling with the housing market, as we did as well. We did all the “right” things when we bought in MO in 2007… 20% down, traditional mortgage, etc, etc. But then the market tanked and when we sold our house in 2011, we lost our equity and just barely broke even. Houses out here in LA run anywhere from $500K to $1.5M for a 2 bedroom, and it’s the bottom of the market! We did consider renting the MO house, but decided it would be too challenging trying to be a landlord 4K miles away.

    Sorry for long, sob story, it’s just that I can relate to how someone could be cash strapped and make what some would consider a “comfortable” salary. It’s all relative to where you are working.

  43. Paul H

    Regarding #4, I guess I’m weird on that point. As far as income, I would be very satisfied with an income that is 80% or 90% of what I make now, if I knew that that income (along with cost-of-living raises) was guaranteed for the next 20 years or so. But what I really want is not more income, but rather to obtain enough wealth so that I no longer have to work, so that I could use my time to do things like homeschool our kids, travel, etc.

    So on the one hand, I would love to fall into a few million dollars so that I could stop working. But as far as yearly income goes, I am satisfied.

  44. Stephanie

    Hey, you share a birthday with my husband! 🙂 He just turned 34 yesterday.

    As for me, I’m 29, I’ll be 30 in May, when I’m 35 I would love to finally be a mom. Thought I already would be a few times over at 30!

    • Stephanie

      Oh! And I missed the first episode of Downton as well, but was able to watch it online, yay! I think it will be up through March 6, so even if you don’t have time before your deadline, you can have a personal marathon afterwards and watch all the episodes. 🙂

  45. Kim

    Let me think…I’m about to turn 49, so 35 was 14 years ago. I was a single mom, bumping along on not enough money, not too worried about ever getting married again. Just wanting to get my kids raised well enough to not know the jail house visiting hours. 35 was the year I purchased my first home computer and found the internet world and made friends that I still hang out with online today. My only advice is to love your children, make weekly menu plans and moisturize.

    The plus side of all that single parenting on just my income that wasn’t very large and no child support is that now, having remarried and raised both those girls and helped out with both his boys, is that today I’m sitting here on my umpteenth home computer with my grandson playing trains around my feet and, while our combined income might brush against 6 figures for the first time this year, I feel rich beyond words. I don’t feel any “thing” lacking. I do lack in housekeeping skills. So I covet having a housekeeper or even a weekly cleaning service. But I prefer to be able to wander off on weekend trips frequently. And be able to spoil my grandchildren on whatever whim I have at the moment. Making 20% more wouldn’t make me any more happy. I’d probably end up having more stress at work to earn that 20% and I’d rather not, thank you very much!

  46. JC

    1. Happy birthday.

    My goal for 35 is to be 1) finished with my Ph.D. (and hopefully long-finished!) and 2) to be done moving around, that is, to have started on a long-term career that won’t take all of my time, so that I can spend more time with my wife and (surely by then) children.

    5. I don’t blame you, and that’s coming from a guy whose blog was originally pretty political in nature. It’s hard to take an interest in the election when you don’t have any particular candidate who you feel like you could really root for.

  47. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    Wow! I’m very impressed by the self-discipline it took to forego your favorite TV show in order to devote your time to writing. Way to go! I’ve just got to ask: did you or your husband randomly pick up a dummy or doll and start doing your best impressions when having this long conversation about ventriloquists? It just sounds like something as funny as using sign language to have a long conversation about mimes. I understand and empathize with your choice to acknowledge the political race without diving into the debates headfirst. Personally, I have much more experience with the authenticity of creepy crawlies, poop adventures, and the like than I do with promoting politicians (though, I admit, this week there is one I have included in my 7 Quick Takes). May God continue to bless and inspire you as you work on finishing up your manuscript!

  48. Liz S.

    First — I literally gasped out loud when I read you didn’t watch Downton Abbey. I only watched the first part, since my husband insisted we stretch watching out over the week, so we have more to look forward too. That is how that show effects you. We’ve also started watching the original Upstairs, Downstairs on DVD from the library. It might be, (dare I say it!) a tiny bit better the DA? Just saying’. My opinion, and all….

    Anyhow….When I was 35 it was 2005, and I had half the kids I do now. I also was about to move, and now I am about to move again. One thing that has changed for me, is that I am less judgemental. I think that as women age they can become more open to the complexities of life, without losing their core values. I feel more able to respond with love – you know: Hate the sin, love the sinner. Another important change was that I have forgiven many key people in my life who hurt me deeply. Not excused, but forgiven. In many ways, I feel younger now, than I did back then.

    Thanks for asking the great question, Jen! That was very illuminating. And have a super Happy Birthday!

  49. SuzanneC

    There is a book called “Unbillable Hours” by Ian Graham that I think you would really like. It is a true story of a recent law school graduate that took on a pro bono case for a young latino that was wrongly convicted of murder and a catholic nun that would not give up.

    It was on my kindle and free at the time I downloaded it.

    I couldn’t put it down.

  50. Ashley

    Happy Birthday!

    I’m almost 25, so there’s a lot that can happen in the next 10 years, but I have two hopes. First, my husband and I would love to have children by then. Second, I’d like to be content with the choices I’ve made and the life I’m living. Right now, I feel like I have no real direction in my life. I have so many opportunities, but I’m not sure what I should do (talk about #firstworldproblems). Unfortunately, I also struggle with the pressure to conform my life to societies expectations of success. So, in ten years time I hope I’ve worked through this and am at peace with my life.

  51. Lacia C

    I seriously needed smelling salts after hearing you missed the Downton Abbey premiere episode……what the ?? LOL

    BUT I will be among the first to buy your book, so I’ll let it slide this time.

    I’m 29. Hubs and I would love to start a family soon. So who knows? Otherwise I just want to be content with my life, make smart decisions about money and embrace opportunities that would “make the better story”.

  52. Nicole

    At 30, I felt I had become an honet-to-goodness adult. At 35, I decided I was pretty comfortably neither old nor young. At 37 now, I feel as though I’d better start living up to my potential. I refuse to think of 40 as anything to dread, but I also wonder if I’m sticking my head in the sand.

  53. Karen

    I’m 40 and it doesn’t look much different from 35 which didn’t look much different from 30. Busy, crazy life homeschooling a large family. I just have more balls (kids) in the air and have now added the whole college experience to the mix.
    Interesting about the more money=more happiness. I just don’t see it that way. All I see is more money would equal less stress but I guess that would be more happiness in a glass is half empty vs. glass is half full way. More stuff, more trips, newer cars would not make me happier. Not worrying about next semesters tuition, paying our portion of orthodonture, and this month figuring out how to cut the food budget by about half and it was pretty modest to begin with…that would make me happier and probably sleep better too.

  54. Karen

    PS. The logical book to pick up after Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is Emperor of All Maladies. Really, not just for science geeks.
    I enjoyed Immortal Life of HELA too but so so depressing.

  55. Missus Wookie

    35 was oooh (I have to do the maths, I never remember how old I am) ok 2002. Sheesh, now I feel old ’cause I’m going to be 45 this year. Ah well – a decade ago I was homeschooling my kids – 8 & 10 years, working two part time jobs and doing tutoring in my ‘spare time’. What would I tell myself? To save more (see number 4), to remember the kids are only small once and that yes 8 & 10 is still small. We did lots of field trips, read lots of books and I scrapbooked rather than blogged. 2002 was a good year.

    The bunny ears are cute 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed “The Clockwork Universe” which is non-fiction, lots of bio/stories not much about the author though. Immortal Life is on my list for this year and I’m now adding Emperor of All Maladies.

  56. Sarah in Ottawa

    Happy Birthday, Jen! I’ll be 35 in October, so I’m not sure if I’m really qualified to answer the question. And you’ve far more will power than I; I caved and watched streamed S2 of Downton from a UK feed.

    I did, however, want to echo how much I also love the ‘infoir’ genre. I adored both “Born to Run” and “The Immortal Life…” so much that I gave both of them to my BFF for Christmas/her 35th birthday (which was on Wednesday). I find that some of the stuff written by Malcolm Gladwell (especially “Outliers”) falls into that genre, as well as a lot of stuff by Bill Bryson (“At Home” is excellent). “Rawhide Down”, a book about the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan is great. And while some of the views they espouse are not in line with Church teachings, I enjoy the books of Sandra Steingraber and Sarah Vowell.

    Knowing that you also enjoy this style of writing makes me even more thrilled about the memoir you’re writing.

  57. Maria D.

    #1. Happy birthday! I’m 25… in ten years, I’d like to be more financially secure, maybe making 20% more than we are now. 😉

    #6. Have you ever read any of Mary Roach’s work? It sounds exactly like what you’re looking for, and it’s very humorous, as well! “Stiff” was especially good.

  58. Sarah @ Beaten Copper Lamp

    I’m turning 27 next month, and I hope that in 8 years my adult life is finally place. I.E. I hope the Beau and I are married with a couple little ones, that he has tenure at a school he likes, that we aren’t too far away from our families, that we own a home and don’t have too much other debt. I hope that my Mom’s health problems are a thing of the past and that my kids are friends with their cousins. For myself, I hope that I still find ways to be scholarly/creative when I’m not housewife-ing it up. Sooo book deal? Haha.

    Don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to watch Downton either.

  59. A Year in Skirts

    #4 my husband and I have had this conversation a few times. At what point do you say “This is enough. We have enough”. Enough of a house, good enough location etc… There will always be someone with a nicer house in a better location NO MATTER WHAT! Our home supplies everything we really need…except it’s a townhouse and not a single family home. So sometimes we have this romantic notion that we’d really like to have a house, but why? Why do we need to increase our mortgage a bunch just to say we don’t share a wall with someone? (We never hear our neighbors.) Anyways, it is true. And I’m sure people with lots of money always look at those with even more money and what they have and pine for it.

  60. Bobbi @ revolution of love

    Happy birthday, Jen! At 35 I was praying for another baby. (I only had my daughter and we were dealing with secondary infertility/miscarriage.) After things were fixed I made up for lost time and had three little boys in a row. 🙂

    Congrats on your resolve to focus on your writing. Plus, when you’re done you’ll have your extra long Downton fix as your reward!

  61. Barbara

    I will be 35 in a year and a half, and what I look forward to is 1. Not Being Pregnant and 2. Finishing my @#$%! !@#$%$ dissertation.


  62. paige

    i just turned 35 this summer & man has it brought on the hard… My 6 year old niece started chemo, my parents filed for divorce, i lost my best friend & my husband took a new job that will have him on the road more than half time… i’m trying to remember that His mercies are new every morning & keeping my eyes on the horizon for a glimpse of dawn 🙂
    i *do* love 35 though, i feel more confident, less scattered than i did even 5 years ago. i’ve been married for almost 16 years & we love our seven littles… 35 is awesome. And hard. And awesomely hard.

  63. Jessica

    I love how everyone’s so positive about growing older! I’m turning 25 this year so in ten years I’d like to be settled down with three children, living in a smaller town than bustling LA-area. And if I’m being very optimistic, that both hubs and I will be Catholic converts! (I’m very interested while he’s pretty ambivalent, so I’m waiting patiently to move any farther down that road.)

    Keep up the hard work writing! Downton Abbey will be there waiting for you. 🙂

  64. nancyo

    Just came across this quote and thought of you:
    “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” (Thomas Mann)

  65. anna lisa

    What a beautiful baby girl!! Happy Birthday Jennifer, you are so blessed. You have a fantastic mind, and are a great writer. I lost my first comment because I’m an internet idiot, but I just want to say how advanced I think you are for such a young age. I’m 45. At your age I had five kids too. I’m chagrined to say that ten years ago I wanted a *perfect life* with ski vacations too (wrote about it in Simcha’s comments) Today I am happier, less materialistic, and eternally happy for my eight beautiful children. I pray God sends you many blessings today and in the next “chapters” too.

  66. Judy Dudich

    Thank you for that precious glimpse your sweet baby bunny(I mean, girl, hee hee). Ironically, when I was 35, I was HAVING my 5th baby; and little knew that there were FIVE MORE to come, after her! LOL
    If I remember correctly, that this the year that all of the gaping-mouthed comments and affronting interactions about having a “LARGE family” began.Needless to say those did not stop in the years that followed 🙂
    When my husband and I were 21, we thought “35” was “half-dead”.How funny.
    As I look back, prompted by your invitation to do so…I see that I was really on top of the world; growing in my faith, embracing my vocation, and looking forward to the place where I felt God was leading us. I hope that you are enjoying “35” as much as I did…more than a decade, ago! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JENNIFER and GOD BLESS YOU!

  67. Jennifer L.

    Happy Belated Birthday Jen! I’ll be 28 in two days and am still just a single working gal right now. I pray every day that I’ll find a husband and have a family someday, hopefully by 35, I’ll be there. Pray for me!

  68. Amity

    I said just today that I am three weeks and two years from the midpoint of my life. I hope to be less selfish and more self-controlled by then, and more used to seeking the Holy Spirit. Being in agreement with my husband about trying to conceive a third child would be a lovely additional blessing.

  69. Lauren B

    I’m 25 and a single mom to a nearly 4-year-old daughter. It would be great to get married and have more children by 35, but at the very least, I hope that over the next 10 years I get much better at seeking (and then following) God’s plan for my life.

  70. Leanne Shawler

    I didn’t have time to do my 7 Takes this week 🙁

    My hubby, a biologist, read the Henrietta Lacks book and really enjoyed it. Of course, he’s used those cells in research projects he’s been involved in!

  71. barbara

    Happy birthday! I am reading and enjoying Henrietta Lacks as well.

    PS I forgot to link up when I wrote my post this morning. Oops!

  72. Stephanie D

    When I turned 35, my daughter was 8 and my BIL and his 8-yr-old daughter were living with the 3 of us. For my birthday, my BIL got me a card that read something about “beating them off with my cane” and my husband gave me a pin for my birthday. I don’t wear pins. In addition, he had forgotten about a cake, so he dashed over to Baskin Robbins and got me an ice cream cake–strawberry flavored. Of all the kinds he could have gotten me, he just got strawberry.

    I felt as if my life were half over and I had accomplished nothing of importance. I felt if I died then, it wouldn’t really matter. I was so down, I took a long hot bath and went to bed at 6pm rather than go out to dinner with my husband. Yeah, it was a major pity party.

    Just a few days later, I was caring for a trucker in the Cardiac Care Unit (I’m a nurse). He was a Vietnam Vet who still had health issues, was divorced from his wife and never saw his kids anymore, lived primarily in his truck, except for a small little house about 200 miles from the city we were in, and when we notified his sister he was in the CCU, she just said to call her if he died. He truly WAS alone, with no one to care if he lived or not.

    It was if God had whopped me upside the head, and I was deeply ashamed of myself. I had a family who loved me, friends who loved me, a job I loved and allowed me to sometimes make a difference, a nice enough house to share, and this man had next to nothing.

    No birthday has bothered me since.

  73. Stephanie D

    Oh, and I turned 60 last summer.

  74. Gina

    When I turned 35 . . . I was listening to my biological clock tick. Now I’m 36 and I still am.

    Sorry to be such a downer. But it’s been really hard. Some days I’ve needed every ounce of faith and strength to hang on.

  75. Marie

    Happy Birthday! No comment here about turning 35. Still trying to figure that out! 🙂

    Just wanted to say thanks for introducing me to Downton Abbey. I watched season 1 then watched season 2 last weekend. Love the clothes, the drama and the dialogue!

  76. Elena

    Happy Birthday!

    At 35 I was heavily pregnant with my third child/third son. I was starting to homeschool and my husband left his job to start his own business – or as I like to call it, our decent into poverty. But we survived, even prospered and had three more kids.

  77. Karen LH

    The year I turned 35 was the year I took the question of Christianity off the TBD shelf and finally settled it once and for all. (I was received into the Catholic Church two years later.) It’s also the year I met my husband. So I guess it was a pretty good year. 😉

  78. Barbara

    By 35, which is slightly more than 3 years away, I’d like to never think about losing weight again, figured out a hairstyle that I don’t grow tired of in 3 months and be moved into a house that we own instead of rent. I dare not wish to be a better person because I think that’s asking for more challenges.

    Thank you for avoiding election stuff. I’m tired of it already.

  79. Lisa

    Happy Birthday! I’m 47. At 35, I had five children and was half way through our blessings of family. If I knew then what I know now, I would have paced myself better and enjoyed my first five blessings more. They’re little for such a short time — and because I was home teaching all of them, I got teriffically bogged down in the “to do” list and forgot about the “to love and enjoy” list. ALSo — I would SO have taken better care of my skin! Holy Cow, but the wrinkles just pop up all of a sudden if you’re not watching out!

    Blessings, Jennifer!

  80. Clara

    #1. Happy belated Birthday! I’m about to turn 33 in two days…When I’m 35 I want to finally be a mother, to have an even stronger marriage with my husband and to have, hopefully, bought out first home.

    #2. Thanks for introducing me to Downton Abbey–I love the show. I caught up on all of season 1 the last two weeks, and am now watching season 2 on-line.

    #7. Just adorable!

  81. Ebeth

    Seven quick takes….I’ve not gotten into this, but guess I ought! I’m older than 35, happy birthday, BTW. I just finished homeschooling our children and am surrounded by teens now. Going a bit crazy, but determined to survive!

    blessings and can’t wait for your book!

  82. Kim

    I just got around to reading your last weeks quick takes.
    I am 27 and when I am 35 I hope that my husband will be finished at the seminary and be finally ordained a Byzantine Catholic Priest. I would love to be living in a home that has a yard for my kids to play in and to be a little closer the holiness that we are all called to (and that my three children under 3yrs old are definetly helping me with!)
    Happy Birthday!!!

  83. jojomama

    “Your desires adjust to your income…” yeah…but I think there is a BIG DIFFERENCE between the people who are wishing for the basics like running water, a home, food, transportation, medical care, winter coat, etc. and those that are wishing for a vacation home, nicer furniture, “bigger” house, or designer clothes.

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