My birthday week is over, and let me tell you I was spoiled rotten this year. From lots of time with my beautiful youngest daughter to a completely shocking surprise birthday party from Handsome and a thousand of our fun friends, plus a bunch of really wonderful gifts including some cool mid-century lawn furniture from my parents… Turning thirty nine has never been more fun for anyone, anywhere in the world.
So anyway, it’s high time I wrap up this little advice column. As I edit my final thoughts and prepare to issue these next sixteen pieces of hard-earned wisdom, I want to thank you guys again for your hilarious comments and emails and for your encouragement to share more of this stuff. It has been a blast! : )
#24. Invest in Girlfriends. I have wasted a lot of time in life, not to mention a lot of isolated feelings, underestimating the treasure of female friendships. Even with an incredible marriage (my husband is not only my best friend but also my favorite companion in life, plus the other good stuff, wink-wink…) and a wonderful extended family, having good girlfriends has enriched every aspect of my life. Being surrounded by smart, strong, happy, beautiful women is challenging, summoning the best version of myself when at times I might be tempted to be lazy. It’s inspirational, giving me fresh ideas and higher standards worth seeking. And it helps keep me in balance. My female friendships make me slightly less needy as a wife and slightly more understanding too. I have learned so many things from other mothers and wives, and I have gathered untold encouragement from them in difficult, otherwise crippling times. These myriad relationships have also demonstrated the value of individuality. I doubt you could search my bank of girlfriends and find two that are just alike. My life has been richly blessed with spice and variety, and I hope yours is too.
#25. Don’t Feed Citrus to Your Chickens. It makes their eggshells weak. I learned this bit of trivia just recently. I had been plumping up my own diet with tons and tons of citrus to ward off cold and flu, sharing the leathery orange, green, and yellow rinds with my flock each day. Then, once the chickens finally started laying eggs again, I found their shells were tender, almost rubbery, and very easily broken. After a little reading I found that most people advise against feeding citrus peels to chickens. Now you know, too.
#26. Use Nutmeg. In Alfredo sauce, in white creamy gravy, in spinach, and in lots of wonderful recipes, nutmeg is the secret ingredient. Nutmeg imparts a really subtle depth, and I highly suggest everyone learns to us it.
#27. Study Your Personal Lunar Cycle. And use it to your fullest life advantage. You now what I mean by lunar cycle, right? I hope you take the time to learn more than just which days of each month your purse needs to contain certain delicate accouterments. If you pay attention, you will discover that certain days of your month are wildly creative and beg you to dive into a worthy project. Other days are introspective and can reward you with valuable wisdom if you seek it. And still other days are good for high energy pursuits, for burning through frustrations and obstacles with a special kind of rage that seems to come out of nowhere. These are all natural and normal chemical events, and I hope you learn to control them and do not feel controlled by them. Please don’t become a negative hormonal stereotype. Also, don’t let society’s jokes about “PMS” shame you out of profiting from this almost magical cycle. I promise you, fertility is about much more than having babies and being easily annoyed.
#28. Build your Confidence. Stop being so easily intimidated by other women. Learn how to see the beauty in others without letting that destroy your view of yourself. It’s not always a competition. Enjoy your own individuality as much as you would want those other amazing women to enjoy theirs. I have discovered that some of the most intimidating women are often the ones most worth knowing. It is true that some women can be horrible, truly mean spirited, controlling, vindictive, and manipulative; but thankfully they are in the smallest minority in the world. Most members of our species are open and warm, generous, safe, and trustworthy. Treat each other that way and expect the best. Chances are good that you’ll enjoy new friendships instead of suffering through one bout of insecurity after another.
#29. Choose the Big Things Wisely. In youth it seems like anything seems possible, and really it is for a while, but as time passes we eventually realize that everyone has limits; resources are limited; time is fleeting. Everybody everywhere, all throughout history, eventually has to learn how to say no. So do you. So just learn how to more wisely spend your time, energy, money, talents, and other resources. Living life fully and with creative abandon is not the same as being wasteful with your stores.
#30. Travel Passionately. Explore the world to the best of your ability. Look for unique features in different cities, study the history and culture of those places, and talk to the people. Eat at local spots every chance you get, and avoid chain restaurants. Break your routines. Expand your horizons both geographically and inwardly. Eat slowly, absorb the details, and memorize ideas for your own culinary and decorating experiments later. Take an unreasonable amount of photos, and write down the details of your experiences quickly after you have them. You might be surprised what you forget later. When considering travel destinations, explore a variety of places. But then choose a few that speak to you and visit them often. Become a student of those places. Allow the street names and fragrances and sights to take up residence in your heart. Learn the place better each time you visit, and do your best to depart for home on good terms.
#31. When planting a flower bed, please pay attention to more than the easy colorful ruffles they sell in garden centers twice a year. Design with greenery, shapes, and seasons in mind. Consider scale here just you would in arranging furniture in a room. And remember that garden materials can be salvaged just like clothes, cookware, and furniture. Some of my favorite shrubs and flowering bulbs are either gifts from friends or dug up for free from strangers’ gardens. New is not always best, and expensive is not always necessary.
#32.You Have Two Ears and One Mouth. As a parent, as a spouse, and as a friend, whenever possible, and especially when it’s difficult, listen a lot more than you talk
#33. Eat Well. Eat more fruits and vegetables than bread and pasta, and drink more water than anything else. Keep it simple. Eat slowly. Also, don’t peel your produce. Keep the skin for the nutrients.
#34. Honor Your Parents. I can hardly write about this subject yet. I have made so many mistakes here, it’s painful and embarrassing, and I know I am somewhat reaping what I have sown. Just take my advice and honor your parents for whoever they are and whatever they have done for you. It is almost certainly their best, which means it came at a great price to them.
#35. Manage Your Needs. In my husband’s profession, they use the term “Demand Side Management” which refers to reducing energy costs by restricting or managing consumption, not price. This applies to all areas of life. When you feel stretched too thinly, start by evaluating what you think you “need.” Internalize the fact that, materially speaking, having more often means simply needing and being satisfied with less. Simplify your life a bit to grow in contentedness.
#36. Celebrate Your Education. Whatever stage you’re at, stop looking at school as a burden and realize what a blessing and a privilege it is. Yes, it is possible to return to college later in life, and many people do, but right now may end up being the best possible time for school. Make sure you’re not putting school on the back burner for lazy or wasteful reasons. You’ll regret it.
#37. Smoothest Legs: The best way to get super smooth, silky, touchable legs is to first be really well hydrated internally. Then, scrub and exfoliate your legs in warm water; lather, shave, and rinse them; then instead of drying with a towel, rub baby oil into your skin and air dry. Pinky promise, this is the best way to be silky smooth. As a bonus, infuse your oil with a fragrance or spritz perfume on your legs as they dry. Ooh la la…
#38.Choose your Battles. Here is another piece of wisdom that people seem to have to learn for themselves, myself included. As I look back on my adult years I see so much unnecessary conflict and tumult that could have been avoided simply by humbling myself a little more or widening my view or just deciding the cost is too great. Yes, certainly, some battles are worth all the cost. Just learn to see them clearly. Your time and energy are so precious. Don’t scar your heart or others’ hearts carelessly.
#39. Trust God in Everything. Life will give you tens of thousands of reasons to celebrate, and you will have many years of easy trust in God because of His goodness and generosity. But along with this you’ll have plenty of reasons to rail against Him, too, plenty of times when your faith will shake violently and you’ll question everything. I’m pretty sure that’s okay, but be determined to move past that. Set your sights many miles past your current pain (it is temporary) and know deep in your bones that answers and miracles are being prepared for you. Wonderful surprises come out of the blue just as often as painful ones do. Trust God. Life isn’t perfect in our eyes, but He is. Do some star gazing on a clear night to adjust your perspective and feel small and safe again. He loves you.
Okay folks, that’s what I want you to know. Life’s answers and secrets in thirty-nine pieces. I hope at least a speck of it is useful to you, and I surely appreciate you stopping in! Now my youngest and I are headed out for some fun errands and treasure hunting.
What advice do you have to add?
“I’m a river.
No matter whatever
comes my way
I will definitely reach the sea.”