My next 30 years…

30th birthday

I’ve always loved birthdays. So of course, I started thinking about the upcoming milestone of my 30th birthday several months ago…okay, maybe a year ago. Thirty is that nice round year when I’m supposed to be solidly into a career, perhaps be married with kids, and own my own home. So they say.

As I turn 30 today, the most I can hope for is that people will stop thinking I’m still in college, or tell me that I still have plenty of time to find my soulmate. But then again, I don’t think that will change anytime soon, either.

On a serious note: I may still be in between careers, I may be living with my parents, and I may still be single — but these are all actually extremely wonderfully great things. They also say that 29 is supposed to be that crazy, upside down year, and I think a lot of it was. But it (and some of 28) was a year that could have gone differently had I not had the support of my parents, and had I not taken a giant leap out of everything that was comfortable in my life and looked for something more. So for that, I am grateful, and I am thankful that I am turning 30 with two amazing, inspiring, and devoted people at my side, urging me to create a fulfilling life on my terms, and no one else’s.

A few years ago, a friend of mine encouraged me to make a 101 Things list, or as he calls them, Life Lists. I never finished making the list, but when I came across it a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover how many of the 50+ items on it I had completed already, and even more surprising, how many just in the last several months. To name a few: learn to make beignets, join a running group, become a tutor, see the Walk of Fame, visit the San Diego Zoo, visit California (I think I went overboard on that one), learn to create and edit short videos (thanks, Dad!), plant a garden (thanks, Mom!). I was glad to see I had checked off some of the important to dos in DC, and was okay with deleting a few items that no longer held significance.

So, now comes the next part: updating the list and getting it to 101, and then working through it, perhaps this time with a plan. But perhaps more important than the list is focusing on the big picture. Creating memories and experiencing life’s moments are more than just checking off an item on a list. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year — heck, in my 30 years — it’s that it’s within your control (mostly) to create the life you want. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get there. Sometimes it takes fallings out with friends and family and lovers, and sometimes it takes rediscovering why you are meant to do something, or be with someone.

Some things never change, like the fact that I still like lists. So with that in mind, here are a few things I’m looking to accomplish in my next 30 years:

  • Run a marathon
  • Publish a book
  • Sew a quilt for my future child
  • Meet Tom Hanks (I am dead serious)
  • See a show on Broadway
  • Do a literary tour and and royal castle tour in England

29 years of caring for my soul


I blinked and now it’s my 29th birthday. It may be one of the most low key I’ve had in my 29 years – a lovely day with my parents and dogs, a way I haven’t been able to spend my birthday in several years.

So, 29. It’s technically kicking off my 30th year, and society tells me I’m supposed to be freaking out about all kinds of stuff — I’m single, I’m unemployed, I live with my parents, etc, etc. Maybe I am freaking out a little bit. Mostly because I suppose a year ago I didn’t expect this to be my life, and I’m still not quite sure where it’s headed in the next few months. But instead of worrying about that too much, I’d rather be thankful for what these 29 years have given me, and what the next year can bring. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this last year, it’s that plans change, and sometimes it’s okay not to have a plan. I’ve realized that although I was driven to leave DC for a change of pace and to to forge a new path, that none of it compares to the time I’ve spent with my parents, really getting to know them, not just as parents, but as people, and letting them help me take what’s essentially “me” and craft my life around that.

When we celebrate birthdays, we’re showing appreciation for being alive, and it’s a day where others express their joy at our existence. It can be self-indulgent, and I’m the first to admit that I love birthdays, and I love being showered with love on that day (or even throughout the week). But I also want to show appreciation for the moments in my 29 years that have stuck with me, no matter how I’ve changed. The memories that move us and the experiences that nourish our souls are what bring us fulfillment, and keep us grounded and whole. Good and bad, physical and emotional, these moments make us who we are. This isn’t meant to be a collection of greatest hits, but more of the everyday experiences that resonate with us through life. Here are some of mine:

  • Watching my grandmother and her sister sew one of their many quilts in the “green room.” My cousin and I would sit under the quilt rack and pick up pins from the carpet.
  • The taste of my first snowball of the summer in Louisiana. Usually spearmint.
  • Making macaroni & cheese with Velveeta in the kitchen with Dad. We’d use almost a whole block, Mom shaking her head in the background.
  • Every night before bed, listening to a story on tape my other grandmother made for me about a guardian angel taking me to a beautiful castle.
  • A reporter from The Cincinnati Enquirer visiting my class in fourth grade. I got my first reporter’s notebook and it solidified my dream of being a writer.
  • Running down the hallway and jumping into my Jimmy’s (my neighbor) arms, Dirty Dancing style.
  • Endless games of double solitaire with Mom and weekend trips to the grocery store.
  • Walking around campus at Miami University in the fall in my hoodie (still wear it today).
  • A trip to Chicago with Dad. We went to two games at Wrigley Field.
  • A now infamous meal at the Red Planet Diner in Sedona where we ate way too much food, yet still got two desserts. Mom and I ran a lap around the parking lot, cracking up the whole way, Dad taking pictures.
  • Late nights eating boiled seafood with the family and telling stories.
  • Friday night trips to Barnes & Noble after dinner.
  • White cake with lemon filling for my birthday.

Celebrating My Independence…and Fearlessness

Me & Dad
Me & Dad with Harrison & McGee

Eleven years ago today, I started the morning as Jenna Rochelle Brignac. By the afternoon, I was Jenna Rochelle Sauber. I didn’t get married (I was in high school), and I didn’t enter the witness protection program.

I gained my independence, this day before our country’s Independence Day. I had one of my first big steps in a journey to Be Fearless — I chose to make legal a relationship that had started about 11 years before, when my mom married the man who had become my father in every sense of the word.

In my family, we call it my “other” birthday, our anniversary, and my day of independence. We used to celebrate it with cookie cake. Today, I just call my dad, who lives on the other coast, and we talk, and we smile over the phone at this wonderful bond we’ve worked hard to create over the last 22 years.

Read more

27 on 11/11/11

Sugarloaf Hike: thanks Kim for helping me cross of an item for my DC 5th year bucket list AND my 11/11/11 list!

So, it’s finally here: 11/11/11.  I’ve made it a pretty big deal – the birthday piece of course, but also my list of 11 things by 11/11/11. Many of you have been a part of this little two-month experiment, either by sending me recipes, receiving my letters, or taking me to new places. Thank you to each of you — what good is growth and attaining happiness if you can’t do it with others?

And now for the big question — did I actually achieve my 11 things by 11/11/11? Here are the results:

1.   Try 11 new recipes.
I can’t remember all of them, but I’m pretty sure I’ve made more than 11 new things, whether they were recipes or impromptu ingredient mashups. Favorites were an apple crumble and a chicken and tomato crock pot creation.

2.   Give a handwritten note to 11 people.
I believe the number is about eight.

3.   Run at least 11 miles each week.
Some weeks this happened, many I wasn’t even close. I’m running a 10k on Sunday, so I’m feeling back on track.

4.   Write 11 blog posts.
Eh…only banged out five.

5.   Do something nice for 11 people.
I didn’t really do a good job at keeping track of this – but I’d say it happened – all the little things add up.

6.   Do/visit/eat at/try 11 different places, restaurants, or things to do.
Absolutely happened. Can’t even remember them all, but they were all fantastic! Seeing my first TEDX, going to Churchkey, hiked Sugarloaf…and lots of other things.

7.   Reach out to 11 people not expecting to hear from me.
Didn’t do this that well, but did make a few phone calls that were great!

8.   Read 11 books.
Somehow, I thought I would fly through this, but not so much. I read four books. Two of them I read in a day each, the other two I let drag out.

9.   Meet 11 new people.
Hmmm…I suppose this could be true from various meetups and things. I couldn’t name them all, though.

10. Learn 11 new things.
If you count random wikipedia lookups and all the things I read for work on a daily basis, then most definitely yes. But I didn’t learn anything new that was tangible, like knitting or skateboarding. This is probably one of the biggest things I want to work on.

11. Be happy with who I am.

So all in all – it was a fair shot, but nowhere near “successful” if I go by the raw numbers. But the bigger picture here is that #11 seems like it is contingent on the other 10 things, but it isn’t that straightforward. There are so many factors that contribute to our happiness, but as Gretchen Rubin realized for her First Splendid Truth: To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

That means there are good days, and bad days. That some things make us really happy, and some only moderately so. There are things that should make us happy, but all we can do is think about the things that make us sad. But to get to happiness, you’re constantly growing, and working toward things that you choose for you. For me, it’s reading more books, and cooking as much as I can, because those things make me feel the most at peace, the most me. It’s avoiding things and people that make me unhappy – not always an easy task, but within our control for the most part.

On 11/11/11, at 27 years old, I know that today isn’t really the deadline for this list and more – it’s just the start of the journey.

11 goals for 11/11/11

My 24th birthday

In two months, I will be 27. Not such a big milestone, but it will also be 11/11/11, which is pretty epic in the calendar world, so I’ll make the most of it on my end, too. I’m not sure yet how I will celebrate, or whom it will be with, but until then, I have some things I want to do, specifically, 11 things. Eleven things to expand my mind and my heart, to build onto this ideal of wellness I am trying to attain. Things that you can help with, too, if you so desire. Or you can make a list of your own – whatever the number may be.

Here are my 11 by 11/11/11:

1.   Try 11 new recipes.

2.   Give a handwritten note to 11 people.

3.   Run at least 11 miles each week.

4.   Write 11 blog posts.

5.   Do something nice for 11 people.

6.   Do/visit/eat at/try 11 different places, restaurants, or things to do.

7.   Reach out to 11 people not expecting to hear from me.

8.   Read 11 books.

9.   Meet 11 new people.

10. Learn 11 new things.

11. Be happy with who I am.