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25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years

At a quarter of a century, I have a life that I’m pretty proud of. I survived boarding school, maintained friendships from elementary school, graduated with my B.S., lived in 4 states, travelled all over the world, and started the most perfect little family. Every experience has taught me immeasurable life lessons and little nuggets of wisdom that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

1. Eat the Ice Cream

Nothing good ever happened from turning down a bowl of Edy’s French Silk. My grandmother and I have had dozens of conversations over the silky-smooth bowls of frozen goodness. She has taught me so much and continues to be such a huge influence in my life. There are some things that are worth the calories and I wouldn’t trade them for anything over those moments with my Nana.

2. The 2-Year Rule

I’m a hoarder, and I find a reason to save everything from that little flowery crop top I wore pre-baby to the mesh bodysuit I bought for a Halloween party in college. Things I will never (aka SHOULD never wear) again are still hanging in my closet or folded up in the depths of my dresser. So twice a year I go through my closet and get rid of things that I haven’t worn in 2 years. It makes room for the new, and guarantees I won’t wear something that is only seen on 17-year-olds.

3. Patience is More than a Virtue

Being short-tempered gets you nowhere. Learning to be patient isn’t just a solid life skill, but it’s something that matters more than ever when you’re a parent. Sitting at the table for an hour while Caroline feeds herself dinner takes a lot of patience, but it’s worth it to see Caroline learn new things every day. Even sitting in traffic on the beltway at rush hour, walking behind a gaggle of chatty girls at the mall, or just waiting for pizza delivery takes loads of patience, and the more you practice it, the easier it gets.

4. Learn to Cook a Signature Dish (or a few)

The older I get, the more I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. It may have something to do with marrying a chef, but I attribute it to learning to experiment with new recipes. At family gatherings, I don’t shy away from bringing a dish or offering to host now that I am comfortable with cooking, and have found a few go-to dishes. It doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy, in fact, the simpler, the better. Have a go-to dish that covers a side, entree, and it can’t hurt to have an easy casserole in the rotation! My signatures include Ricotta Spinach Pasta Salad, marinated grilled chicken, broccoli and rice casserole, and goat cheese mashed potatoes.

5. Have a Hobby

Find a hobby that makes you happy. Maybe it’s something that can be done after the kids go to bed, or something that relaxes you. Having something that is your thing makes life a little happier. Whether it’s adult coloring books, DIY-ing, bee keeping, or baking, your hobby will help you regain a little sanity when life gets crazy. Trying different hobbies is fun, too, like learning a new language or learning to play an instrument.

6. Read Everything

Never stop reading. Read books, magazines, newspapers, sports reports… anything you can get your hands on. Reading stimulates your brain, keeps you thinking, and teaches you new things. I love reading, even though I don’t have loads of time to read novels anymore, I make time to read at least one book a month.

7. Wear Black

If you look at my closet, it’s all black with some neutrals and grays mixed in. I don’t wear black because I am stuck in the 2000’s punk-rock-emo era. I wear black because it makes me feel great. Black is slimming, sophisticated, and chic, not to mention makes you feel slightly empowered. And it looks good with all skin-tones. My skin tone changes a million times throughout the year, and black is a solid color that works year-round. If you must, throw in a pop of color with accessories or a pop of lip color.

8. Take the Vacation

You can’t take money with you when you die. So go on vacation, take a weekend trip, plan a girl’s getaway. Those memories are worth more than anything you could buy. Plan a family vacation and create moments that are picture-perfect. Nothing beats the sun in your face, the smell of the ocean, and playing in the sand. Take the trip, and it’ll last a lifetime.

9. Silence is Gold

I learned this at an early age - my sister never knew when to stop arguing and it got her into trouble, so I learned that if I just kept my mouth closed, I’d play it safe. Not only does that work in family situations, but everywhere in life. Don’t say anything in the heat of the moment or you may regret it. And silence has the power to speak volumes. Sometimes actions speak louder, so if you can’t find the words to say how you feel, act on it. Kiss the boy, hug your mom, dance to your favorite song.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

10. Exercise… Even if You Don’t Feel Like It

Something I’m still struggling with is motivating myself to exercise a few times a week. This doesn’t mean I go to the gym, but I do something active. Take a walk, take the stairs instead of an elevator, swim extra laps, or find 20 minutes to do yoga. Anything to get your body moving benefits you and your health.

11. Keep an Extra Shirt in Your Car

You never know when you’ll spill mustard on your shirt, splash coffee on your way to work, or get sweaty when you’re running late… keep an extra shirt in your car. After I had Caroline, an extra shirt came in handy more than once - babies spit up, leaky boobs, breast-pump malfunctions… Thank goodness for an extra shirt.

12. If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Do It

Peer pressure is hard to say no to, but it’s stupid. If you don’t like something, don’t do it. If you hate camping, don’t spend a weekend in the woods with your sister. If you don’t like EDM music, don’t go to the concert. Life is too short to do things that you don’t like. You won’t lose friends over skipping out on the movie if you aren’t thrilled about seeing the newest Fast and Furious flick, but you’ll save $20 and have time for something you do enjoy!

13. Try New Foods

When I was younger, I was a little hesitant to eat new (& exotic) foods, but once I realized it was mind over matter, I started trying everything. Growing up I stuck with what I knew and didn’t ever want to stray away from those foods. Some of my favorite foods are things I never thought I’d eat - sweetbreads, chicken/duck liver mousse, escargot, even salt & vinegar chips… the list goes on. There are smelly cheeses that I can’t get enough of, flavor combinations that I obsess over, and if I hadn’t been willing to try new foods, I would have never eaten some of my favorite things.

14. Stick to the Basics

Trends go in and out of style every season. There is no need to buy a whole new wardrobe every time something new is popular. That’s a waste of money and not every trend suits everyone. Stick. To. The. Basics. Jeans and a white v-neck will never go out of style. A little black dress will always be fashionable. Solid-colored shorts and a simple tank top is a constant summer staple. A handful of trendy clothes can spice up a basic wardrobe, but use accessories and shoes to stay in style and on top of trends.

15. Eat Your Veggies

It has taken me about 24 years to learn this, but learn how to eat vegetables so you like them. Eating healthy makes my body feel great, and I’ve learned how to cook vegetables so they’re palatable and something I willingly eat. Marinating veggies and grilling them, sautéing peppers and onions, stir fry mixed vegetables with chicken… there are loads of options, so experiment and figure out how you like to eat your veggies!

16. Have a Tool Box

Whether you’re in an apartment, dorm, or homeowner, have some kind of tool box. There will never be a time in your life that you don’t need a screwdriver, hammer, or a wrench. Keeping the basic tools on hand will make easy fixes a breeze.

17. Pray.

There’s power in prayer, no doubt. If you can’t fall asleep at night, pray. When you’re stressed about that job interview, say a little prayer. At 3am when your child is wide awake, pray hard for peace and patience. When you’re happy, sad, thankful, or upset, there’s always a prayer to be said. The Big Guy is always listening.

18. Take a “Mental Health” Day

Once in awhile, you need a day off. From life and responsibility and anything that’s weighing you down. Use a personal day (that would otherwise get wasted on jury duty or a trip to the MVA) and go get your nails done, go shopping, explore a park or local beach. Just spend the day doing something you want to do that will get you feeling refreshed.

19. Buy the Shoes

I firmly believe a girl can never own too many pairs of shoes. My collection is huge, but it makes me happy. I have flats, wedges, stilettos, chunky heels, patent leather, suede, canvas, espadrilles, sneakers, and anything else you can imagine. But if you find a pair of shoes that fit like a glove and make you smile, buy the shoes.

20. Take All the Pictures

Be the person who is borderline obnoxious with the camera. Take pictures of everything. Family, friends, landscapes, cityscapes, food, drinks, anything you want to savor forever. A picture says a thousand words, so fill albums with a lifetime of memories. And make sure you are in some of the photos (don’t be afraid to ask for pictures!). You’ll never regret having too many pictures, just the photos you didn’t stop to capture.

21. Wear Lipstick

Something I recently started doing was wearing lipstick. Not gloss or chapstick (my go-tos), but real, pigmented, creamy lipstick. Makeup isn’t something I pride myself on applying very well, so I can keep a simple eye and have lipstick be the focal point. Keeps my mornings easy, but still makes me feel put together and gives me a little attitude! Some of my favorite brands are Urban Decay, M.A.C., and Sephora.

22. Indulge in Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

Watch the crappy TV shows if it makes you happy. Reality shows usually get a bad rap, but there’s something so satisfying about watching fake-real drama. Grab the popcorn, cuddle up on the couch and watch your guilty pleasure: Real Housewives, the Bachelor/ette, or my personal favorite, Chrisley Knows Best.

23. Never Assume

Assuming anything causes all sorts of unnecessary worries, drama, and problems. Don’t go into any situation assuming how you’ll feel about it, because it will be a mind-over-matter turnout and you’ll end up creating situations in your head. Everyone has their off days, so don’t make quick assumptions about people before you get to know them.

24. Do Something That Scares You Once a Year

Keep yourself on your toes by doing one thing every year that scares you. Take a risk, make a move, or try a new thing that may be unlike you. I took a risk and moved to Austin, TX. I did a ton of things in TX that scared me (that whole year was a risk). I have jumped in deadly swimming holes, zip-lined over no-man’s land, “bobsled” down Austrian Alps, and a ton of other things that were scary. But I don’t regret any of them. Doing things that scare you make you stronger and realize that fears are all in your head.

25. Mothers DO Know Best

It has taken me 25 years to realize that my mom is not the dumbest person on earth, that she does in fact know a lot, and really does want what’s best for me. Now that I’m a mom, I understand that. I spent majority of my childhood thinking that she didn’t know anything, was out-of-the-loop on popular topics, and didn’t understand anything about me. I can’t wait until Caroline grows up and realizes that same thing. Moms know best.

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