I turned 35 in November, but I always forget this factoid. B frequently asks me his age and I’ve always wondered Who doesn’t know their own age? But he asked me recently how old he is, and I said, “32.” So, so incorrect. I couldn’t for the life of me remember how old we are. I think it’s probably best I look at life that way from now on, for I am not dealing well with the concept of time since Novella was born. She doesn’t turn 2 until April, but I already tell people she’s 2- I guess so it will sting a little less when she does actually turn 2? I don’t know; I can hardly figure myself out anymore.

They say that your 30s is when you “really know who you are.” This stark realization that I am now in my mid-30s has forced me to sit down with myself and figure out what exactly it is that I think about things. Partially so I can learn myself better, but also so I can know where I stand on some of life’s most pressing issues. Here are some of my truths and, in no particular order:

  1. The best way to spend time with your friends is in each other’s homes. There’s no pressure to leave (former server here; I worry about taking up tables), you can actually relax, and you can laugh as loudly as you want. When you have a friend that’s willing to show up at your house on a weeknight with a bottle of something delicious, you know you’ve made a real friend.
  2. Always be focused on what you eat. I annoy the crap out of myself sometimes, but my truth is that if I am not thinking about what I’m eating, I’m (duh) mindlessly eating. This leads to not only weight fluctuations, but changes in mood. Plain and simple, I feel better when I eat better. It’s not always easy. Heck, it’s never easy. It requires a lot of planning and prep and looking like a total nerd, but it’s worth it.
  3. With that being said, find something you make well, that’s always pleasing, and always make that. I’ve been bringing my Mamaw’s corn casserole for years to every function. It’s not a common thing to bring, but everyone is always glad I did!
  4. Keep a plant in your house that you can easily see. I don’t know why, but my little basil plant from Trader Joe’s brings me odd comfort. I have no green thumb, but I think I can tend to this guy pretty well. Bonus: I always have fresh basil.
  5. Decorate for every season. Time really has a way of blurring together if not celebrated and acknowledged. Pretty much everyone loves decorating for the winter holidays, but it’s such a mood-booster to decorate for the upcoming holiday. I usually decorate for winter, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Summer Holiday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (tip: Target’s Dollar Spot has the cutest stuff and takes some of the guesswork and energy out of decorating.
  6. Give someone you trust your funeral wishes and pray they don’t die in the same fiery car crash that you do.
  7. Never love someone for what they’re not. Love the people in your life as they are and never play the Well-At-Least-They’re-Not _________ game.
  8. The best friends are the ones you can discuss all the unmentionables with and then pray out loud together when prayer is the only hope.
  9. This comes from Maya Angelou, but I’ve found it to be incredibly accurate. When people tell you who they are, believe them.
  10. There’s really no magic number on chances you should give someone, but when they’ve run out of them, you will know.
  11. Before you post or send a picture, ask: “Am I bragging, or am I sharing my life?” If it is, in any way, the former, don’t press send. No one likes a bragger.
  12. Every single day, think of a way you can simplify someone’s life. Someone in your home is a good place to start.
  13. The sneakiest sin is pride. When you get too proud, that’s usually when things go awry. Be grateful for what you have, but always know the things of this world are fleeting.
  14. We have access to all of the music in the world. Don’t let the radio be the only place you hear music.
  15. Make a playlist for every season of your life. The song always remembers when, and it’s a great way to time warp into reflection.
  16. The best feeling is a clean kitchen at the end of the night.
  17. The hardest word in the English language to say isn’t “rural” or “drawer.” It’s “help.” Learn to ask for it. No one thinks of less of you, and they’re always free to decline.
  18. The above especially applies to talking to God in prayer. I know it’s hard to not feel like you’re mooching off of God when you ask for help in something here on Earth, but He wants to hear your heart, including your struggles.
  19. Have a specific prayer you pray every day. We are starting the practice of praying together at night. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve avoided doing this because I’m basically embarrassed to pray out loud in front of my husband of 15 years. But lately, I’ve been hearing God say: Be bold. I know that probably seems like super personal information, but my point is, I also heard that same voice say: Be intentional. And so, we are working on an intentional prayer to say together. Right now, I have an intentional morning prayer, borrowed from Cee-Lo Green’s “Gettin’ Grown” meshed with something I heard once:

Thanks for waking me up today; prepare me for what comes my way. Please wrap your arms around Brandon and Novella and give them strength and comfort where I cannot. Break my heart for what breaks yours, and allow your love to shine through me.

20. (Another prayer one. Prayer is seriously so important to me.) I’m not sure who gave me this advice, but if you have no idea how to pray, or IF YOUR MIND WANDERS LIKE MINE, try 3-word prayers! Example: When B was lying beside me sick, I said, “Help him heal.” Be intentional.

21. Keep a running list of things you love about people. It’s a great reminder when they irk you, and good to have on hand when they’re having a bad day.

22. Take the 5 Languages of Love quiz with your boo, and read the answers aloud to each other. It’s entirely possible to share a life with someone for two decades and not really know how they want to be loved.

23. Less really is more. We’ve been programmed to think we should work for stuff, but there is just as much joy and love in a small house with few clothes and toys. Go for experiences.

24. All children really want from you- all they will remember about you- is how you made them feel. Smile when a child walks into a room. For that matter, try this with everyone, for we are all children with a few extra layers.

25. When you have someone next to you that is hurting, don’t tell them how much worse it could be. They already know this. What they really need to know is that all hurt is hurt. There’s no scale to accurately gauge that, and pain can be blinding- no matter how trivial it may seem to an outsider.

26. Have at least one bright, bold lipstick color. If you’re too insecure to wear it to work, wear it to the grocery store.

27. If you have an Aldi anywhere near your home, do as much grocery shopping as you can there. They are one of the top sellers/ producers of organic and gluten free options. It’s such a small space and alleviates a lot of grocery anxiety. And you can expect to save AT LEAST 25%. Aldi is not paying me to say this; I am seriously their biggest advocate.

28. I know I’ve written about paring down my closet, but the most freeing part is having a “uniform.” For me, it’s a flowy shirt with fitted pants. It works best with my job (teacher) and my armpits need all the breathing they can get.

29. Social media. It’s not real life. It’s not good for you. Yes, I know you’ve reconnected with that cousin of your dad’s (I really did do this, and I really do miss talking to her since deleting my Facebook), but how’s it helping your soul?

30. “How’s it helping your soul?” is a necessary and orienting question now that I’m at this juncture in life.

31. Know your best qualities and let them shine through. Women especially have a way of downplaying their strengths. Don’t do it. I am exceptionally creative and imaginative (but also in my own way, I ain’t gonna write a Sci-Fi or anything), obscurely funny, kind, and incredibly gracious. I don’t say this to brag at all. These are the strengths God gave me, and it would be a disservice to pretend they aren’t real.

32. Know your weaknesses, and work against them constantly. Before this seems like a total bragfest…I am oh, so selfish. I cannot see past my own emotions sometimes. I have a wall around me that is virtually unpenetrable, and that makes the whole “let your light shine” thing impossible sometimes.

33.  There really is not a secret to long-lasting love other than a commitment to each other. That looks different in every relationship, but it all boils down to…did you stay or did you go?

34. Texting is so convenient and supersedes all communication methods we’ve had before. It’s a great way to keep in touch. But. Two things: it’s ok to not text back right away if you don’t want to or you don’t know what to say. Also, be very careful in what you say in text. Anything you put in print is basically a permanent record these days. Ask me how I know.

35. I saved the best for last because I know every single person in my life, especially including myself, struggles with this. Do not, DO NOT give your best self to the world outside of your home and the worst self to your home. Your spouse, your kids…those are the ones that will write your eulogy and hug every single neck that walks through the “receiving of friends” when you die. Don’t let any of the stories recounted about you be a shock, but a reassurance that you were wonderful. You are wonderful. Make sure all your people know this, and if they don’t…they’re not your people.

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