Our Little Work at the Edges of the Stars

For the past few months, I’ve been participating in women’s leadership school with my church. Each week we have readings and teaching on different topics — the Trinity, evangelism, friendship, etc. This past week was focused on the Sabbath. You may remember that I’ve blogged before about my growing love for keeping the Sabbath, which is decidedly my favorite commandment, though I’ve only come to appreciate it in the past few years. [Maybe having a favorite commandment is weird, but I love this one because I have a terrible tendency to picture God as one who tsk-tsks me about all the work I haven’t finished yet. (This is primarily because I tend to tsk-tsk myself about all the work I haven’t finished yet, and then I attribute it to him.) The Sabbath commandment reminds me that the call of God is not a call to work harder.]

Last week, in prep for teaching on the Sabbath, we read a chapter of Andy Crouch’s book Playing God. One sentence struck me in such a way that I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I found myself rereading it each morning this week before starting my day:

I made this image to use as my computer wallpaper this week. (The background is taken from the Hubble photo of Andromeda!)   To download the full version for your computer, click here!

I made this image to use as my computer wallpaper this week. (The background is taken from the Hubble photo of Andromeda!) To download the full version for your computer, click here!

“At the edges of the vast fields of stars we do our little work, sowing what we could never have provided for ourselves and harvesting what we have not sown.”

What a sentence. 

It reminded me of two things — first, of a Hubble Space Telescope photo I’d seen circulating on the Internet a couple of months ago. At 1.5 billion pixels, the composite photo was heralded as the largest ever pieced together. It showed what Crouch had described: a vast field of stars — literally 100 million of them — a chunk of Andromeda, the galaxy next door. (Apparently we can photograph Andromeda because it is a mere 2.5 million light-years away.) Though enormous, it is tiny in the scheme of things — one of more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe. 100 BILLION.

Second, the sentence reminded me of Isaiah 40, which I used to read over and over again in grad school. (When you’re seeing the world wrong, Isaiah 40 will correct you, and if you’re stressed, you’re seeing the world wrong, so naturally grad school lent itself to this chapter.) Here's a snippet, but you kind of have to read the whole chapter to get the full effect:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? …. ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

I can’t wrap my head around the idea that there is a being big enough to call forth 100 million stars by name — just in that one snippet of one neighbor galaxy. Or, crazier still, that there are 100 billion other galaxies that we know of whose stars he also calls forth by name. When I think about it, I feel positively microscopic. Infinitesimal.

It’s tempting to call this sense of my own smallness disorienting. Give me a glimpse at another galaxy, and suddenly I lose my frame of reference. But, in truth, I think it’s the opposite. Recognizing the vastness of the universe is actually reorienting. It causes me to realize I’ve been seeing things all wrong. When my perspective is corrected, I realize I’m far smaller than I like to pretend. When my perspective is corrected, I feel compelled to get down on my knees, to get down in the dust where I belong.

Until now I’ve loved the Sabbath for its reminder of the gospel truth that my work isn’t that important. Everything that ever really needed to get done got done — 2,000 years ago. It’s okay — nay, good! — to take a day off specifically to rest in the completed work of Christ. It’s okay if the laundry waits until Monday. The Lord’s got stuff under control. The world will keep spinning even if my washing machine doesn’t.

But I think I’m only now beginning to realize that the gospel changes more than just the significance of my work. It changes the scope of my work and the purpose of my work, too. What is huge to me is tiny to the Lord. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter to him; it just means that it’s not daunting to him. The projects that seem so overwhelming to me, so beyond what I am capable of, are dust in the dust in the dust of his hands. I do my little work at the edges of his vast fields of stars, and just the act of working — of using the gifts he’s given me — is glorifying to him.

I got the crazy idea a few months ago to write a book — not for the sake of writing a book (that sounds miserable) but because a book had started to write itself in my head without my consent. While I was still in the I-kind-of-want-to-do-this-but-don’t-think-I-have-what-it-takes stage, other people who didn’t even know about the book in my brain started telling me to write a book about the very topic I couldn’t shake. So I started writing it. Even though I’m working full-time. Even though it feels like a freaking huge undertaking.

(I’m almost hesitant even to mention my fetus of a book on the Internet. I’ve read both that you should never tell people that you’re writing a book because then they’ll see you fail and that you should always tell people you’re writing a book because the accountability will force you to finish. So I won’t tell you a lot, but I will tell you that I’m working on it and that that’s part of the reason I have been less present on this blog as of late. Oh, also, it’s nonfiction, and, no, it’s not about grammar. I’ve talked to a fair number of people about this book in real life, so it’s not exactly a secret, but this is all the info the Internet gets for now.)

Here’s the thing, though, about me and book-writing: I feel compulsion and fear in equal measure. On one hand, I want to write this book. I think maybe I’m supposed to write it — or at least supposed to try. On the other hand, I don’t think I have what it takes. I could potentially spend years researching and reading and writing and, one day down the road, realize I’ve gotten myself in way over my head. Nothing about this undertaking feels like a sure thing.

This week, though, as I thought about the true scope and purpose of my work, I found myself worrying less about how this project will turn out. I found myself focusing instead on two things: first, that a book is not big to the God who spoke 100 billion galaxies into existence and calls their stars by name, and, second, that God never asked me for a book in the first place. He never looked at me and asked me for results or a finished product of any kind. He only asked me to be faithful with the gifts that he has blessed me with, to steward the seeds and the land that he has lent to me.

If I base my willingness to be faithful on the likelihood that my faithfulness will result in fruitfulness, I’m not being faithful at all. So I will write. I will spend my early mornings working on what may, in a few years, turn into a book or what may, in a few years, end up on an extra hard drive in a desk drawer, never to be printed, bound, or read. And I will trust that the willingness to use my gifts is honoring to God. I will trust that he is glorified by my little work at the edges of his vast fields of stars, even though he doesn’t need my crops.

Did you miss me?

This blog is dedicated to everyone who was like, "Kate, it has been so long since you have blogged." (Nothing motivates me quite like remembering that I'm not the only person who reads what I write.) The longer I go without blogging, the harder it gets to start again because I become overwhelmed by all the things I should have said. But that's no way to live my life. Here’s a glimpse into what I should have blogged about these past few months.

1. Fall makes me happy and sad simultaneously.

Real talk: I don’t have time to carve you, pumpkin.

Real talk: I don’t have time to carve you, pumpkin.

Funny how fall ushers in both the most color of the year and the most darkness. I miss the leaves that have already fallen, and I miss the sunlight in the evenings, but I love the crispness of this season and the hints of the holidays ahead.

I always get all excited about fall and then fail to follow through with most of my autumnal plans. Exhibit A: I started carving a pumpkin the other day and only got this far.

I'm not letting myself feel guilty about buying a $4 pumpkin and then not carving it. In fact, I'm considering my failure to carve this pumpkin to be a victory over false guilt. There are more pressing things in life than making Pinterestastic pumpkins. 

2. I'm over pants.

One time my mom applauded my April Ludgate impression when, in fact, I was not doing an April Ludgate impression. Sometimes I do Mona-Lisa Saperstein impressions, though.

One time my mom applauded my April Ludgate impression when, in fact, I was not doing an April Ludgate impression. Sometimes I do Mona-Lisa Saperstein impressions, though.

I used to be one of those people who was a hard pass on leggings as pants, but then I tried leggings as pants and repented of my legging-hating, pants-wearing ways. Here's how to make the transition smoothly:

  1. Invest in thick, non-see-through leggings.
  2. Make a friend confirm the non-see-through-ness of them.
  3. Stand in different lighting and make your friend confirm the non-see-through-ness of them again.
  4. Make another friend confirm the non-see-through-ness of them.
  5. Still wear a shirt long enough to cover your rear.

(I will debate you in the comments.)

3. My Facebook newsfeed is like babies babies babies babies BABIES.

This may be my favorite GIF of all time.

This may be my favorite GIF of all time.

Babies in Halloween costumes! Babies in their mamas' bellies—already in Halloween costumes! Babies with their baby friends! Babies holding other smaller babies!

Let it be known that when I finally have babies, Lord willing, I will ABSOLUTELY INUNDATE all of your newsfeeds with pictures of their little faces. Just returning the favor.

4. I am mad at every person who has ever heard of Greg Laswell and not told me about him.

Recently found his music on Spotify and cannot stop listening. This song at right + "New Year's Eve" + "That It Moves" + "And Then You" are my favorite songs of his. It’s the perfect writing music.

I found his music after hearing “Wonderful Unknown,” which he sang with his wife, Ingrid Michaelson, on her new CD. The bridge—“In the best way, you’ll be the death of me"—gets me every time. How countercultural.

5. I LOVE RUNNING. I LOVE RUNNNNNNING!!!!!

That is how I feel every Tuesday and Friday when I get to run and, consequently, get a crazy endorphin high. (Seriously never let me do drugs.)

This past month marked ten years since I quit running due to leg pain. Forty percent of my life. That old lower leg pain is almost entirely gone, but the knee pain plagues me still, and two runs per week is about all these knees can handle.

I'm still doing the run-walk intervals my PT recommended a couple of years ago. I stop every 90 seconds and walk for 30. I hated it when I first started; stopping and walking feels like the ultimate defeat to a runner. Runners are the ones who tell themselves it's all mental and I've totally got this and just push through. But I've found that forcing myself to rest throughout each run has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in my return to running. It improves my form and lessens the strain on my joints and enables me to run farther in the end.

It has actually reminded me of the principle of taking a sabbath, which seems counterproductive until you try it. But once you do, you realize that you needed this rest thing, that you are only human, that you were bearing burdens that weren't yours to bear.

I'm still recovering, still have good and bad days, still get discouraged and fearful about my legs and my running. But things are looking up, and the Lord still knows what he's doing. When I see other runners out and about, I pray the Lord will strengthen their joints and muscles and keep them running. Will you please pray for my little joints and muscles? They've been through so much.

6. I'm in the market for a bookshelf.

My bedside table is starting to get cray. Here are a few of the books stacked there currently:

  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer
    • I've been told approximately 10,000 times to read this book, SO I'M DOING IT. . . SUPER SLOWLY. I like it, but I find it hard to read more than a few pages at a time. It has reminded me of the fact that I am literally in a constant state of breaking the second commandment. PTL for the new covenant, amiright?
  • Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner
    • I'm almost finished with this, but I don't want it to end. It's sort of in the same vein as Blue Like Jazz or Surprised by Oxford because it's part memoir, part testimony. The author tells of her conversion to Christianity from Orthodox Judaism, and she structures the story around the church calendar. It's full of reflections on the sacraments, but because it's written like a story, it feels more accessible than a lot of Christian books that keep you in your head the whole time.
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
    • Anne Lamott gets me. (Or maybe she just gets humans.) This book is full of her thoughts on writing and, by extension, on life. Her tone is so conversational that her writing sounds effortless at times, but this book confirms what I've heard before: The easier something is to read, the harder it was to write. This is my favorite bit: "People tend to look at successful writers . . . and think that they sit down at their desks every morning . . . feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell. . . . But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. . . . Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. . . . For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really $%@&!# first drafts." PREACH, Anne Lamott. I'm 25, completely done with school (maybe . . . er, probably) and still learning the merit of $%@&!# first drafts—in writing and otherwise.

 7. BEING 25 IS HARD, but I’m trying to be 25 wisely.

My bad advice radar is going   weeooo, weeooo, weeooo.

My bad advice radar is going weeooo, weeooo, weeooo.

I saw this on Pinterest today, and it made me want to bang my head against the wall. (Seriously, why do I even go on Pinterest?)

This whole "your twenties are all about yourself and your independence" nonsense makes me want to scream. If you have no obligations, grow up and get some obligations. If you work 24/7, chill out; your career will not keep you company when you're 80. And if you think you have nothing to lose, you’re likely to look back on this decade and realized you lost more than you bargained for.

Go ahead, sue me for saying it. I'M GETTING BOLD IN MY OLD AGE.

8. Mornings are so underrated.

Speaking of lies we unquestioningly accept from culture at large, perhaps one of the strangest is that mornings suck and we should all sleep as late as possible.

I have recently started getting up an hour earlier, and I’m finding that this 60 minutes of margin has become the most productive and cheerful part of my day. (You do have to go to bed an hour earlier for this to work. #math)

I was wide awake this morning (SATURDAY, whaa?) at 4:45, and I actually tried to go back to sleep, but my body was like, HELLO, WORLD. HELLO, SATURDAY. HELLO, LIFE. LET’S DO SOME CLEANING.

This is my get-out-of-bed-already mantra for the difficult days: Getting up early is hard, but being up early is worth it. Turn the light on, Kate.

Can anyone second me on this? Or at least try it and let me know how it goes?

9. A to Z is my new fave show.

I'm mad that no one is talking about it. This is the cutest show, you guys. Everyone please watch it and get back to me. Go. Watch. Now. While the early episodes are still on Hulu!

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10. PTL for Skype.

I've been spending a lot of time on Skype lately. When I moved to Missouri, I used to talk to my parents on FaceTime all the time, and I remember chatting with them on my couch one time—by myself, eight hours from home—and just marveling over the fact that there was technology that would let me see their faces and hear their voices and that I had it in my hands. Does that sound stupid?

I remember feeling in that moment as though maybe God had made FaceTime just for me—as though he'd looked at his wrist in 2010ish and known that Kate was going to be far from home soon and that he better prompt Steve Jobs (or whomever) to get on it. I know this is inaccurate, so don’t jump on me; the Lord's plans and promptings of other people do not revolve around me. But this is what I mean: Sometimes his provisions seem so specific to my little heart that I can't use the phone or Skype or FaceTime or Voxer without thinking that their very existence and my very access to them is a reminder of the Lord’s love for me specifically.

11. New Taylor Swift finally.

It was a very good year.
It was a very good year.

What can I say about Taylor Swift that would convey the depth of my love for her?

I have had 1989 on repeat for a week now, and I'm already sad that I must again wait for more music from her. My immediate favorites are "All You Had to Do Was Stay," "How You Get the Girl," and "I Know Places.”

I'm toying with the idea of doing a blog post in which I analyze Taylor's lessons on love in a song-by-song breakdown of the new album. Would you guys like that? Sort of like a true-or-false quiz covering Taylor's take on life.

12. One year in Louisville.

Halloween marked one year since I moved to Louisville. A WHOLE YEAR. It almost pains me to say that because—though some things about living in Louisville have been great—in general, the year has been marked by loneliness. It's not that people here haven't been welcoming and friendly; they have. It's just—honestly, I think it would be difficult to feel settled anywhere when you’re just one person and 97% of the people you love live elsewhere. I picked Louisville for a lot of reasons, but one was this: I’m tired of moving. Oh, my little heart. I switched schools in 2003, moved states in 2004, graduated from high school in 2007, graduated from college in 2011, graduated from grad school in 2013, and that adds up to five community changes in roughly a decade. I just wanted somewhere that I could stay. I’m tearing up as I write this. On paper, Louisville looked like a logical place to try to settle, but, in reality, I’ve never felt more unsettled in my life.

13. Travel-fest.

Mah people.

Mah people.

Travel stresses me out. I love it in theory and enjoy it once I’m doing it, but when I’m planning for it, I have to, like, repeat Psalms to calm myself down. When I was little, I dreamed up this thing called “Vacation Preparation” and made my brother and sister participate in it with me.

Every summer, for two weeks before vacation, we would have daily meetings in our (non-air-conditioned!) attic in Pennsylvania. There were folders and a Fischer-Price chalkboard involved. As the name suggests, we spent these meetings prepping for vacation. More specifically, we prepped for the road trips. Who was sitting where? Which stuffed animals were we bringing? Did they all have carseats? What candy did we need? How were we going to ration the candy over the course of the 15-hour drive down south? (I remember that one summer we actually decided on one piece of candy per hour, which, in retrospect, seems super self-controlled for three elementary schoolers, but we were also the type to have daily meetings in the attic, so.)

In the year-ish since I moved here, I’ve traveled to Columbia three times, West Virginia twice, St. Louis twice, Chicago twice, Nashville, Georgia, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Charleston. Undoubtedly, all this travel has added to my stress level and sense of unsettledness, but it’s so good for this little heart of mine to see the people I love, and I’m finding myself curious about where the next twelve months will take me.

Adulthood, you know?

A bunch of little blog posts mushed into one.

1. Back in Missouri

Drove back to Columbia last Saturday after another tearful goodbye. My brother rode with me to keep me sane. It was dark by the time we pulled into town and still dark when I said goodbye to him at the airport the next morning. The darkness somehow exacerbated by sadness, and I was a mess until I got to church and remembered why I had loved this city. "I'm so happy you're back!" were literally the first words that greeted me when I walked in the door. And then I got a hug, and, oh, I could've just crumbled into it.

Skyping with (most of) the fam on my first day back in Como.

Skyping with (most of) the fam on my first day back in Como.

The back-and-forth-ness of graduate school has done such a number on my heart. Being away from my family and Kentucky friends weighs on me so heavily, and so much of me just wants this semester to fly by. But I know that when it comes time to leave my Missouri friends in May, I will be an absolute wreck — a giant tear duct in human form.

2. Semester shock

Classes are over, so this semester I'll be occupied with my professional project (which is like a big internship, but we're not supposed to call it an internship) + my assistantship + my master's research. I would be excited if I weren't so anxious. I love my professional project so far. It's really the prospect of doing my research on top of it that sounds impossible. Let's not talk about it.

3. Sabbath

Speaking of not talking about it, my roommate, Bekah and I are taking Sundays off this semester. Shocker, right? I read this book over Christmas break, and it made me want to cry. Not because it is sad — it isn't — but because it reminded me of how tired I am and have been throughout my entire college and grad school career. The main reason I dreaded this semester was that I was so beyond worn out and beaten down last semester. I just couldn't do it any more. So, despite my uncertainty about how all my work will get done in the next few months, I've decided that none of it will get done on Sundays.

Oh, and I bought a "luxury sleep mask" at Walmart for $4. It is hot pink — fuzzy on one side and satiny on the other. It makes me feel very restful. And luxurious, duh.

4. Reading

Speaking of books, I have a problem, y'all. I have a problem with starting books before I finished my last one and then not finishing them. My bedside table is now host to nine books that I'm "in the middle of." A few of them are even from interlibrary loan, which means I went out of my way made a librarian go out of her (his?) way to get them for me.

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Maybe thinking I can finish non-school-related books in grad school is setting my hopes too high.

4. Smoothies

In the same way that I am the type of person to start a book and never finish it, I am the type of person who pins a lot of things to Pinterest and then never makes said things. But I saw this green monster smoothie pin last Tuesday, and I went out later that day to get the ingredients. I have made it three times since. I have a feeling it is going to be my new go-to meal. It feels indulgent, but it's oh-so-easy to make and oh-so-good* for you. The perfect combination!

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*What is the correct way to punctuate that? "It's, oh, so easy..." "It's oh, so easy..." Set off interjections with commas, right? But that looks so weird. Sticking with hyphens...

4. Running

Speaking of things that are good for you but also wonderful, I have been running more and more lately!

Er ... I wrote that sentence last week when I was all excited to tell y'all how much better my legs have been doing. Today I sat back down to work on the blog post I left unfinished, and that sentence is mocking me. My left knee has been hurting again. Aching hips are keeping me awake at night. Before this week, I was running great, and now I'm in pain again and trying not to be discouraged.

Here's to hoping this setback won't last long. I'd had at least two months of doing really well before this. Boo, you know? BOO AT PAIN.

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Apparently retailers think that people have already given up on their new year's resolutions, so they have discounted workout wear. Snatched up this cute pink running jacket for TEN DOLLA NO HOLLA last week. Talk about a score. Pictured right before I hit the pavement in 19-degree weather. I told you I love running.

5. Pop culture

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So much good stuff going on in pop culture lately, you guys. I have thoroughly enjoyed the return of Downton Abbey and The Bachelor, and I want to see Les Miserables approximately a thousand more times.

In related news, I want to marry a barricade boy. They're just so studious and masculine. I know Les Mis isn't primarily a love story, but the scene in which Jean Valjean basically passes the torch of protecting Cosette on to Marius made me swoon and long for times past. You know, times in which men were men and women were women.

6. Dating

Speaking of men and women being men and women, this article, "The End of Courtship" that ran in the NYT recently was totally singing my life with its words and killing me softly with its song.

"Traditional courtship — picking up the telephone and asking someone on a date — required courage, strategic planning and a considerable investment of ego (by telephone, rejection stings). Not so with texting, e-mail, Twitter or other forms of 'asynchronous communication,' as techies call it. In the context of dating, it removes much of the need for charm; it’s more like dropping a line in the water and hoping for a nibble.

'I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,' said Anna Goldfarb, 34, an author and blogger in Moorestown, N.J."

I thought this was a problem unique to Christian culture, but apparently I was wrong. Read the article, marvel at its accuracy, and weep for our future.

7. Blogging

Look whose blog hit 50,000 views this week! Little old me. Thanks, everyone! Thanks for reading and putting up with the fact that I began four paragraphs in this post with the words "speaking of." You are all the best.

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Dream Jobs

Every day this Christmas break, my friend Marie-Claire and I have decided to join up in our blogging efforts. We will be choosing a topic and posting our own interpretation of it. So follow along with both of us as we share our completely reliable opinions on fashion, pop culture, and life before our last semester of grad school.

Today's topic: Dream Jobs

Preface: This does not include the job that I'm actually studying to do (because, frankly, I'm supes tired of talking about that). Reality aside, here are my other top ten dream jobs. 

10. YA Author

Oh, to see my name on the spine of a pink book in the young adult section of the library! I would write about unlikely heroines and teenage drama, and I would say "like" and "you know" and "I mean" a lot. YA authors have that liberty. (I would also use fragments. Like all the time.)

9. Wedding Planner

I cannot think of a more Pinterestastic job than planning weddings. This job would combine my love of fancy events, planning, meeting people, and holding clipboards.

8. Makeover-er

Think Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. When my friends and I were in college, we wanted to start a makeover service through which we could aid the awkward freshmen with their fashion and beauty choices. So many girls with triangle hair, so many boys with cargo jeans, so little time.

7. Photographer

Being a photographer seems glamorous and artsy, and you get to use Photoshop, which is practically one of my love languages.

6. Web Designer

I took a web design class during my second semester of grad school, and it made me rethink all of my life choices. By which I mean, I wished I could've gone back in time and majored in web design. I just want to know all of the code.

5. Professional Runner

Did you know there are people who get paid to run? IT'S LIKE THEIR JOB. I am way too slow to make a living by running, but we're talking dream jobs here. I would wear cute running clothes and have rockin' legs. In this hypothetical world, I might even get a running-inspired tattoo like the one pictured. (Just kidding. That would never happen.)

4. Mindy Kaling

Another dream job of mine is just to be Mindy Kaling. That woman is a total rockstar. She's hilariously funny, she writes and stars in her own show, and her skin always look luminous.

3. Blogger

I'd have to blog way more frequently to be a professional blogger. Oh, and I'd have to get sponsors and hipster glasses. And maybe become a Mormon.

2. Pop Star

Hand me a hairbrush and crank up the Kelly Clarkson, and you will quickly realize that I seriously missed my calling as a pop star. (The Kelly Clarkson needs to be turned up really loud for this to work.) I hope I'd be the KC or T-Swift variety of pop star, not the Britney/X-tina variety. 

[2015 addendum: Sometimes I think back on this post and I'm like LOLOL, why did I put this so high on the list? The older I get, the less appealing being famous sounds. But I still do love the idea of having a job that would let me travel the world instead of looking at a computer screen all the time.]

1. SAHM

Let's be real: Being a stay-at-home mom is my one and only true dream job. I want to hold babies and wipe spaghetti off their faces and, when they get older, make school lunches for them and drive them to track practice. I promise not to wear mom jeans, though. You can hold me to it.

What's your dream job?