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Thirty

For over two weeks I’ve been trying to write a brilliant post full of wisdom to mark the milestone of my 30th birthday. But one of the things I’ve learned over the past 30 years is that sometimes less is more.

Also: Marking occasions on the internet is not as important as living them

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If my next 30 years are even half as wonderful as my first 30 have been, then I can have no complaints.

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Riley's #1 love? Kibbles.

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There are dozens of additional photos that I would have loved to include here. Unfortunately I have no idea where they are now after our recent move. But even if I could find them, I would still have to leave so many out. How do you narrow down 30 years of life, love, and memories to just a handful of images? How do you capture the breadth of family, friendship, and fun that I’ve been so lucky to enjoy?

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When I was a little girl, 30 felt like a far-off galaxy. Too distant and nebulous to fathom. Or even bother thinking about.

Now here I am. Exploring these strange, beautiful stars.

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World on fire

There is a stack of books on display in my living room that is very dear to me. One is a scrapbook of all the ideas that Andy came up with for proposing to me. One is the novelty book about our relationship that he actually did use to propose to me. One is the children’s book that my two best friends wrote and illustrated for me as a wedding present, based on our Twenty-Somewhere characters. And one is the scrapbook of our wedding weekend and three receptions.

If my house were on fire and I could only save one thing (other than Andy and Riley, of course) I would save that stack of books. It is priceless. It represents the best, most sacred things in my life. Love and family.

When I was in college, my sister-person’s house burned down. Luckily neither she nor her mother were home at the time, but they lost basically everything. Clothes, computers, photographs, heirlooms, keepsakes, and most heartbreaking of all, their cat and dog.

(We were told that the animals didn’t suffer. The smoke muddled their brains and caused them to simply lie down and sleep.)

My sister was not able to save anything. She was not given that choice. She could only make peace with the ashes and rubble, and move on. So that’s what she did, with unbelievable grace.

Last week, Paris burned. Literally and figuratively.

It seems like every day there is a “house” burning down somewhere in the world. And in the wake of those tragedies, we see what people chose to save. We see what they value.

We see people who have suffered yet still reach out their hands to offer assistance or comfort to others.

And we see people who turn their backs, trying to protect themselves from further pain and fear.

I am lucky. I have never been in a fire. I have never had to see my home or my belongings reduced to smoky nothing. I hope that I never do.

But I also hope that if that unthinkable worst were to happen, it would not reduce me to smoky nothing. I hope that I would not be ruled by anxiety and anger. I hope that, like my sister-person, the experience would reinforce my strength, not reduce it. I hope that I would honor my loss not by hoarding what little remained, but by sharing it freely. I hope that my heart would remain open, and full of compassion.

I hope.

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Tweet treats

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Home (part 5)

It’s the first house in weeks that has caught your eye. Timeless brick, attractive landscaping, and oh man, those hardwood floors. You click through each photo, waiting for the “but.” The catch. The compromise. But there is none.

It’s even better in person. You’re not supposed to fall in love — not yet, not yet — but how can you resist that sunny window seat in the attic dormer? Or the inviting front porch where you can unwind in the evenings? Or the fenced, shaded yard where your dog can roam and your future children can play?

It’s what you’ve been waiting for. The “quickening” sensation in your chest that your realtor described. A sense of rightness. Of possibility. You spend several days walking the nearby streets, poking into local businesses and getting a feel for the neighborhood. No, you’re not supposed to fall in love yet, but something is blooming inside you. Your lips flower into a smile.

It’s a whirlwind process. Offer, counter offer, contract, loan, inspection, negotiation, closing. Less than 30 days after you first set foot on the property, someone hands you the keys.

It’s so surreal.

It’s yours.

OUR NEW HOUSE

It’s over a hundred years old, but brand new to you. You can barely take it all in. There’s so much space. So much to learn. Cast iron radiators, plaster walls, knob and tube wiring. You have no idea what you’re doing, but that’s what makes this an adventure. Even the dog has to discover all the sunny spots anew.

It’s a blank canvas. An eternal work-in-progress. You both want so badly for it to be just right, right away. But perfect doesn’t exist, and even good enough doesn’t happen overnight. Take a breath, take a break. Take it one day at a time. If you just keep going, you’ll get to where you want to be eventually, probably without even realizing it. (There’s a writing metaphor in that, by the way.)

It’s dripping onto the baseboards when you’re painting a room. Then fixing a leaky valve in the basement. Breaking the blinds when you’re cleaning a window. Then finding a cool new light fixture for the dining room. Hitting brick when you’re trying to hang a picture. Then hosting a dinner party for some wonderful friends, and realizing that this — jokes, drinks, warmth, love — is what it’s all about.

It might not be guaranteed, but it’s more than a maybe.

It might not be forever, but it’s a future.

It’s a dream come true, and a dream unfolding.

It’s a mix of hopes, expectations, and the unknown.

It’s the next chapter in your most treasured story.

It’s time to turn the page.

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Home (part 4)

It’s a leap of faith. He asks you to follow him to a new city, and you say yes. You’re moving in together, but it doesn’t feel like a sin. Just the opposite, in fact. Like puzzle pieces clicking into place.

It’s a jumble of hand-me-down furniture and college dorm cast-offs. The big blue recliner. The IKEA drawers that don’t align quite right. The creaky bed, with two comforters because someone hogs his blanket in the night. He springs for a new sofa though, big and comfortable. And a new flat-screen TV too.

It’s every bit as much yours as it is his, even though your name isn’t on the deed. You fill a closet with your clothes. You buy a piano as a graduation present to yourself and then play it (occasionally) in the spare room. You vacuum, wash dishes, and do laundry. You help decide where the paintings and souvenirs should be displayed.

It’s that first night with a new puppy, who is so soft and adorable and whimpering. Just this once, you sleep on the floor next to his crate. You both barely get any rest at all, but you both feel better anyway.

It’s watching Twilight with girlfriends from work. Cooking together and setting off the smoke alarm. Hosting four other couples for dinner, everyone cheerfully crammed into the living room, playing charades and euchre. Dog-sitting for neighbors. Watching deer wander through the backyard, their ears pricking at the sound of your dog’s bark.

It’s where you finish writing your first novel, just before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

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It’s where you finish your second novel, too, the one that gets you an agent.

It’s where you dream and work and despair and push through.

It’s where you realize that you’re already living the life you want. Now you just have to enjoy it.

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