The Aspirational Life and New Year’s Resolutions

January is the month for Aspirational Lives. New Year’s Resolutions, goals, big changes and all the jazz, commitments designed to inch us closer from how we are to how we want to be.

I haven’t put up a “2013 Resolutions” post because, frankly, 2013 just pitched in of its own accord, and like most things these days, I wasn’t fully prepared to catch. For the last six months of 2012 I abandoned all of last year’s well-meant resolutions and narrowed my focus to simply surviving the rest of 2012. Mission accomplished! And I know it’s a bit late, but good riddance, 2012. Kiss off and don’t come back. So far, 2013 is looking far better, I must say.

But now January is almost over and we are to the point where, statistically, most people have abandoned their New Year’s Resolutions anyway. What would be the point in a public declaration of goal setting?


But you see, I have an Aspirational Life that runs parallel to my real life. In my aspirational life I have bathroom mirrors that never have toothpaste schmears and mystery flecks on them. Shoes and coats put themselves away, Magical Mary Poppins-like. Socks and gloves stay paired, my dirty laundry never makes a mountain on the floor, and the clean laundry is always hung promptly and cheerfully.

In my aspirational life, my children ask me for second helpings of kale and chickpeas, and say things like, “Oh, no thank you, mommy, that cupcake is far too sweet for me.” I never feel the need to tell my children they need to just hold on a fucking second, or lie and say I need to go to the bathroom when what I really need is three minutes of quiet and privacy (in my real life it takes a locked door and earplugs to get that much).

In my aspirational life, my garden has not been left, abandoned, for months, and grown wild and grassy in my absence. My windows are not growing mold from the humidity that seems unparalleled this year. Everything that passes my lips is organic, grown by me or a farmer whose name I know.

In my aspirational life I weigh 150 pounds, like I did for that glorious few months when I was 30 (my husband reminds me that, in reality when I was that thin I was cold all the time, often cranky and had no sex drive). Still, in my aspirational life, I am still fit and strong and have ridiculous abdominal muscles.

In my aspirational life, my husband and I have people lining up to watch our kids because they are so damned charming and well-behaved, and we go on dates, just the two of us, every Friday night. Usually we stay local, supporting our little town with our dollars. We sample local microbrews and craft bourbon, or get takeaway Thai food and have a picnic at the beach. Sometimes we drop the kids with Grandma and Grandpa so we can spend a weekend in San Francisco and do the Napa-wine thing, or we drive to the coast, or spontaneously go for dim sum in Vancouver. We also save 60% of our income and don’t spend unnecessarily, living lean and homemade and frugal. All of this is part of the vision, you understand.

I have experienced all these things, at one time or another. But in my aspirational life all these things happen concurrently. That’s the key. The fact that many of my Aspirational Life fantasies conflict with each other is never a problem because in an Aspirational Life you can have it all.

This is all pure make believe – every bit much as if you stuck a Minnie Mouse head and a red spotted dress on my goals and shipped them off to Disneyland. And yet, there is always the temptation in January, to believe that this is the year we will claim some part of our aspirational life for our real one.

2012 taught me a lot about what is and is not in our control, and while I am, and always will be, a Girl of Lists, I’m not sure I really believe in New Year’s Resolutions anymore. A day set aside for forcing change for tradition’s sake? Or holding off on making needed modifications to your life until the clock turns? No, surely that can’t be the optimum way to set and meet goals.

And yet, and yet…I do still love setting goals and challenges for myself. I am never happier than when I am working towards something, growing something, developing the next project. And nothing saddens me more than a day with nothing to work towards. Publicly proclaiming a goal does hold one accountable…. So, oh, sure, what the hell? Here it goes. Here are my – I won’t call them New Year’s Resolutions – so let’s say Areas of Focus for 2013.

Garden and Homestead Stuff

  • Continue to explore ways of maximizing both yield and “attractiveness factor” in garden while lowering time investment. Possibly more permaculture-influenced stuff.
  • Really try to grow a ton more broccoli. Remember how much broccoli we eat. Perhaps plant entire garden in broccoli?
  • Try carrots in pots as rust fly deterrent. Nothing else has worked.
  • Limit planting of winter squash to butternut and buttercup. No huge squashes this year. Go for easy.
  • Stop being a slave to the tomato fantasy. Four plants, tops. Okay, maybe eight. But no more! I mean it this time.
  • Ripen at least one melon! It is possible!
  • Get more chickens. Make them weed.
  • Avoid major expansion projects in the garden this year and focus on just improving productivity in the area I have.

Blog / Professional

  • Submit book proposal to publishers. If book proposal accepted, write book.
  • Present at the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show (this is really, actually happening – if you are in the Seattle area, please come see me Wednesday, February 20th and Saturday, Feb 23rd at the DIY Stage.)
  • Post articles to NW Edible 2-3 times per week. Respond to great user questions with blog posts when appropriate (as always, feel free to let me know if you have a topic you’d like to see me cover).
  • Write six or more paying longish-format magazine/journal/online articles in 2013. If writing book, ignore this goal. :)


  • Lose weight, get strong again. Yeah, sorry to be such a cliche but I feel fat. My clothes are all tight and everything comfortable has an elastic waistband. Last year’s stress piled upon sleep deprivation piled upon 10 pounds of never-lost pregnancy weight has left me with about 20 pounds I don’t want or need, and I finally feel like I’m in a place to work that off. I’m know how to lose weight when I set my mind to it, so I know I can get back to a healthy, fit weight for me. It just means eating simple food and working out kinda like this (though I’m not even a-hundreth as badass as this lady.)
  • Keep to more consistent schedule with family. Out-of-house play time for my son a minimum of four days per week (ideally outside) and “mommy-daughter dates” with my girl several times a month. Just enjoy being with my kids on a regular, consistent basis.
  • Date night with husband six times in 2013. Is such a thing possible?

That’s plenty to focus on, I think. Eliminating the toothpaste schmears and dirty laundry piles will have to wait until 2014. No need to put undue pressure on the Aspirational Life.

Do you do New Year’s Resolutions? What are you Areas of Focus for 2013?

*Unending thanks to Lisa for introducing the phrase “Aspirational Life” into my lexicon.


    • says

      Here’s the link for anyone interested:

      Very interesting post, thanks for suggesting it. I think a lot of this life hacking type stuff is about getting people to realize they can do amazing stuff. At the risk of sounding maybe kinda arrogant, that’s not my focus because I’m pretty good about doing what I set my mind to. I am quite good at meeting goals and holding myself accountable, but I get tunnel vision to do so. I can shut out and ignore everything else but my current project, but then I emerge 17 hours later from my zone and realize I have barely talked to my kids and everything I haven’t been focused on is a mess. So I am more concerned about appropriate balance right now. I think achieving amazing things is fantastic, but if you look at the lives of the “beyond typical” people featured in this post – “the Gandhis, the Edisons, the Picassos and Gretzkys” – would those be lives you’d actually want to live? All these people are geniuses and greats, but….Ghandi apparently ignored his family (and maybe a lot more if you believe this book), Edison was an idea-stealing bastard, Picasso pretty much hated women, when he wasn’t seducing them, and Gretzky…I don’t actually know anything about hockey, so I won’t venture there. But my point is, I think the genius that drives those types of people to “atypical” or that degree of amazing lives is often an unbalancing genius. I’d rather be more quietly satisfied and have a better sense of balance. I don’t think that’s settling, because, at least in my case, I have to work on being more balanced! :)

  1. Amy says

    I once heard someone say that you can have it all, just not at the same time, and I think it is so true. There have been years where my garden has been picture perfect, years where I have worked challenging and fulfilling jobs, and times when my house was lovely and clean all the time, and we ate homemade bread and fresh organic vegetables at every meal, but those times were not at the same time. This post is lovely. Thank you.

  2. says

    My goal this year has been to say “no”. Can I get everything I want done? Actually yes. I’m very efficient and I can get it done, but at what price, and what is the quality of the product?

    The church needs helpers for the community garden that produces food for the family meal nights that we serve to low income members of the town. Do I want to help? Yes! Should I help? Probably. Am I going to? No. Because it would mean spreading myself thinner than I am comfortable with.

  3. Bella says

    I love this post! Yep, have nothing else to add. One of my goals – try to share more with real people than virtual ones on blogs. But I really liked this post so I had to say something. :) Good luck!

  4. says

    I really like the idea of having areas of focus. I’ve never been big on goals or resolutions, but this year I set out a whopper of a list (with a special focus on using 2013 to get happier and healthier than I have been) – areas of focus sounds more like what I was hoping for. After what was a rather hard 2012 I really needed some changes and wanted an ongoing reminder of things that I feel are important and worth working on. It won’t be perfect, and I’m going to be forgiving of myself if they all don’t happen, but I still think it’s useful to think about where I am and where I want to be going..

    • says

      “why shouldn’t
      I have always
      known be the
      very best there
      is. ”

      I adore this. Thank you so much for sharing. What a wonderful, bouncing set of perfect observations on love and nature and learning to just be satisfied.

    • says

      Thanks Sundari – I think talking about my goal weight must shock petite girls, for whom 150 would feel large. But I’m nearly 5’10” and am the very definition of “big-boned.” At 150 (and 12% body fat) I was a size 4/6, my friends told me I looked like a bobblehead, my husband missed my curves and I was *always* cold, even in summer. Truthfully, scale weight is far less important to me that physical work capacity and body composition, but I’m working to re-stabilize between 155-160 pounds and around 17% body fat, which is a nice, athletic but not too thin look on me.

      • Bella says

        Okay, so to make you two feel even better. I’m 5’7″ and my ‘skinny weight’ is anywhere south of 175. In order to get there I have to work out so much that that results in about a size 8, and I feel fit and strong.

        • says

          If, at 5’7 and 175 pounds you are a size eight, I’m guessing you carry a huge amount of muscle on you. Do you lift weights? I think more muscle is great! It means you can eat more food and stay the same size!

          • Bella says

            Or when you’re getting there – it means you can eat more and still lose weight. I don’t think of it as a lot of muscle – but that I can hang with the boys on the mountain bike, and hike for hours with a pack. Guess that’s the Colorado girl right there.

  5. says

    I decided this year to really simplify any resolutions I might choose to make. So, that’s what I did first. Simplify. Then, I decided what my guiding motivation would be for everything this year. I came up with the word “healthy.” It’s handy because it covers my body and mind, and also my business. We all need healthy! When making decisions (so far) I’ve tested to see if the choice is in alignment with “healthy.” It’s easier to let things go that don’t fit with healthy.

  6. Greer says

    Really nice post. I too have Areas of Focus and lists, lots of lists. So far so good in 2013, I am concentrating on actually doing what I can do now and not fretting about what I’m not doing yet.

    Have you posted about how to get started with gardening when you’re a total newbie? I might just need to read your whole blog to answer that question, but that hasn’t made it onto any of my lists yet, sorry.

    • says

      When you say “getting started” what are you looking for exactly? Seed starting? Easiest plants? When to plant things? I’ve got a lot of info on this site, and most of it is geared towards beginning gardeners. The Monthly Guides might be useful if you are in the Pac NW.

  7. David Johnson says

    A commendable list!!!
    My only advice would be to give up on the melon. Sure you can ripen one in the Seattle area with effort. Having done that a long time ago I found it looked nice but tasted like crap. Go for the tomatoes; at least you have a good chance of success if our summer gets hot.
    PS: There is a reason you did not include melons in your Year Round Vegetable Planting Guide (which I thank you for).

    • says

      Good advice. ::sigh:: Maybe I should just buy melons from eastern washington like I do for peaches…You know how it is when you are a gardener, it’s the GOAL of the thing, sometimes. The reason melons aren’t on that spreadsheet is because I have really only successfully grown ONE in my cool, near-Puget Sound-ish location, and that was in my greenhouse, so I didn’t really feel like I could give decent advice. If I was asked I’d say: get the most cool-adapted, short season seed you can from a local company, use black or clear plastic on the soil for heat transmission and, ideally, vented plastic or reemay cloching until temps are consistently 58-60 nights and 70-80 days (possibly all summer). Follow timing like summer squash but treat like cucumbers from a transplant and cold perspective.

      • David says

        I agree with your advice but I think that the critical factor lies more in the realm of sunlight (intensity) rather than heat (temperature). By far the very best tomatoes and peaches that I have ever tasted were in the eastern Mediterranean in August. The fruit oozed liquid sunshine. I have an unheated greenhouse that roughly replicates an eastern Mediterranean summer temperature wise and it produces very good (for Seattle) eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers but nowhere close to what can be grown in climes with more intense sunlight. Alas, I think most of our solanaceous annuals suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and are in need of additional radiation.

        • says

          Quite right. I agree 100%. This is why I tell people to ignore USDA Hardiness for West of Cascades. 8A in Georgia is different than 8A in seattle. Sure the fruit they grow there might not freeze out here, but that doesn’t mean it will RIPEN for us here as it does there. Our light is so diffuse for so much of the year…great for broccoli, too weak for real flavor in the fruiting veg. : ( I find this is also why NE US gardening fall/winter gardening advice is rarely helpful out here too…they have a lot more real cold, but also seem to have enough solar radiation even on cold days to generate a lot of heat and create a greenhouse effect under cover, where our solar gain for 6 months of the year is useless.

      • Karen says

        Don’t give up on the melon yet!!! We’ve had two successful years (not in a row, sadly) in North Bend, WA. Those melons were out of this world. I’ve never, EVER bought a melon so good as those were. Irish Eyes and Territorial have great short season varieties. My current favorite is Alvaro from Territorial.

  8. dixiebelle says

    You are still a hot looking chick to me!! I am mad at myself for still not losing the ‘love handles’ (thick layer of waist blubber) that I’ve had, well, pretty much since the birth of my second child. Who just turned 5. I am less mad at the fat, and more mad at myself for not having that self-control, strong will, got it altogether, can handle everything mentality that I ‘aspire’ to have. Sure, I’d like to not have 2 belly rolls when I am sitting down, but more so, I’d like to feel like I actually got something done that I planned to! My solution… stop making plans. I do so wish you well with your 2013 non-resolutions, but I also hope you give yourself a little bit of slack in there too. That’s what I am working on!

    • says

      I let my fitness slide for a long time because it just wasn’t where my focus could be, not with a kid who didn’t sleep and various other challenges I had to get past. But since I’ve been quite heavy in the past (200 pounds / 260 pregnant), I know I am not one of those “naturally slender” people. Weight doesn’t fall off me, I have to take it off, bit by bit. That’s why it’s important to me to turn around my creeping weight gain now, before it gets any more overwhelming to tackle. So far, so good! But even two months ago, and even knowing exactly how to lose weight and get stronger, I just wasn’t ready. When you are ready, you’re ready…and then you just do it. That’s what I think, at least, and not just about fitness, about almost everything.

      PS: That “self-control, strong will, got it altogether, can handle everything mentality” is advertising. No one is like that all the time in all areas. It’s hard to do when everyone else seems all shiny and together, I know, but I try to remember no to judge my “insides” by other people’s “outsides”.

  9. says

    My family is in the process of migrating to Washington from California, if only the right hobby farm land would come on the market. Anyway, I just wanted to say I really like your honesty. You pretty much summed up my current experience.

  10. says

    I called them ‘Life Changes’ this year and started a blog to keep me honest. Unfortunately, while they don’t necessarily conflict with each other there just isn’t enough time in the day for me to do everything. I tried. I lasted a week before I was going crazy with the stress of trying to do it all. I dropped working out and art with my kid and suddenly I have a nice day back. But…somehow I need to work them back in.

  11. says

    Lovely post. I have let myself off the hook by simply not making resolutions that I routinely break every year. The main one is spending more time outside in winter. It is not going to happen.
    Great excuse: I am still in recovery from 2012.

  12. says

    Oh, jeez…I am heading an entirely different direction this year. My aspirations: 1-DO LESS, MUCH LESS—and feel really good about it. 2-Learn to spend time sitting and doing nothing but pondering. 3–nap occasionally. My experience is that unless I slow way, WAY down, critical aspects of my psyche/spirit go into hibernation/torpor/death. Piss on the tomatoes (a good idea actually, but that would be another post…). Give me my soul back.

    Many years ago, I went on a vision quest—four days in the forest with just water, a tarp, and a sleeping bag. I did the “quest” in a national park, sneaking into an area where no one was supposed to stay at night, all by myself on the far side of a river (a friend paddled me over). I was surrounded by wildlife: Moose, deer, eagles, beaver, swans, coyotes. My revelation morning after morning: “My god, but they all move so slow. Even the damn beaver!” Nature moved at a pace that seemed glacial to me. But by the fourth day, that pace was my pace, and I vowed to make real effort to bring that pace into my life. I think that is how life is best lived. I think we’ve all forgotten that as a culture.

    I am at my best, my sweetest, and life is most tender and vivid, when I can slow way down. In that slow place, a spider’s movements are ballet and the smile of a tree frog on my squash leaf sends me into a moment of absolute glee. My motto is not perfection or striving. It is to find deep peace with “Good Enough.”

  13. says

    I also am SO done with 2012. But when 2013 rolled around, I was trying to write down what I hoped to accomplish this year and came up with a big blank. That caused me considerable consternation. I have always been a goal-directed person, with lists of interesting projects ready whenever I wanted to decide what to do next. I knew this blank had more to do with my somewhat depressed mental state than lack of possibilities. I decided it was time to pull out of it and get myself moving again.

    The main area of focus I settled on for this year is weight loss and fitness. I realized I needed a long-term goal to motivate me that requires the kind of fitness I want. I also knew it had to be a big goal that I could get really excited about. For decades, since I was in junior high, I loved backpacking, but eventually quit backpacking when my daughter was born (31 years ago) and never got back to it. I think it’s time. The goal I’ve set is to hike the WA portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in August-September of 2014. I’m so excited about it that I’ve been working on both incremental fitness goals and trip planning goals literally every day this year. The more I read and plan and start getting gear together, the more real it is becoming. It’s wonderful to be moving again, both literally and figuratively!

    Thanks for your articles!

  14. says

    what a great, honest post. it’s fun to dream about the aspirational life and it’s even more fun when some of those dreams/moments happen! excited that you are going to try writing a book – best of luck to you. i imagine it would sell well.

    i’m also not a huge resolutions person, though i did jot down a few goals on my blog ( i think in general i want to focus on people more, giving, living simply and worrying less about what other people think as i dig deeper in to a more sustainable lifestyle.

  15. Faith says

    I have three areas of focus this year:
    Plan more (that includes garden planning, meal planning and social planning),
    Health – move my body more often and make time for meditation
    Get rid of unnecessary stuff, both mentally and the stuff in the house/garage/garden

  16. barb judd says

    This is my favorite:
    • Get more chickens. Make them weed.
    Let us know how that goes! Any training tips? (Am still trying to train mine in the basics – like — play nice together and no ‘poking’ of my pants when you want scratch.)
    Besides eggs & fertilizer, chicken TV is the best!

  17. says

    I like it when you make me laugh, mostly in self-recognition :)

    My ‘goal’ is health. Healthy weight, healthy eating, healthy garden, healthy mind. I don’t make it hard, just keep it in mind when I’m making decisions.

  18. says

    The fact that the garden show gave you 1:30 on a Saturday pretty much makes you a rock star. I skipped work on a weekday to go a couple of years ago and the place was packed like they were giving out free furry footed chickens. Will definitely say “Hi” if I can make it through the crowd of other groupies. Maybe I’ll bring a flag to wave over their heads or something. I really don’t like crowds.

    My 2013 goal is to let everything else go to Hell if necessary in order to get my health and fitness back. I’m doing 13 Half Marathons (1 down, 12 to go!) getting medical testing to help with weight loss, eating better, and getting rid of the sort of stress that never pays off. I think all these things combined will lead me to a much happier 2014. And thus far, Chevalier has realized when he was running out of underwear and done his own laundry. It’s awesome.

  19. says

    I had some pretty good resolutions to start the year, especially as I also turned 30 earlier this month. My first goal was to really get a handle on cleaning and organizing my apartment. I was off to a good start when I got a call that my dad (just turned 65, not an ounce of fat on him, eats healthier than just about everyone, and has been a runner for 50 years and even when I’m in shape I can’t finish his warmup) had a heart attack, and needed a quadruple bypass. Then my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. And the plane I was on had to make an emergency landing. All within the past 10 days.

    I, like you, do NOT like feeling like I’m not in control. So I realize I take control of the things I can–I clean, I bake, I organize, and apparently I fix unraveling buttons. I have to be content with the small things I can do.

    Now my resolution is to just get through the rest of the year keeping in mind how incredibly lucky I’ve already been so far this year. My dad is still around, and will be back running this summer, my grandpa was diagnosed early and with a treatable form, and my plane experience now just makes a good story.

  20. cptacek says

    My resolutions are:
    Don’t eat out for lunch
    Do my chores for the house every day without skipping
    Work out

    Since it is the end of January now, I can say that I haven’t eaten out for lunch all month, I have only skipped one time of washing the floor, and I have not worked out at all. 2 for 3. I’m happy with it. Except I really do need to carve out some time to work out. Don’t know when that will be, and don’t know if my knee will let me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>