I remember, when I was about 8 years old, it was my mother's birthday. Wow! I had never seen so many candles on a cake. You could have toasted marshmallows or warmed a small home with the heat.
I asked my mother the dreaded question. I asked her how old she was. She was 30. I remember being absolutely astonished and a little worried that she was so old. I wondered if she would die soon.
When I hit 30, I realized how young my mother really was. Now that I am 50, I can tell you that I feel the exact same as I did at 30, with a few wrinkles and laugh lines. I can also tell you that I am completely changed.
I am grateful not to be 30 anymore. Fifty comes with 20 years of life lessons. I am absolutely brilliant compared to my 30-year-old self. I am fairly certain that I will only increase in wisdom, whiskers and body function issues as the years pass.
So, at a little over 50, and before I die of old age at 53, let me give you some advice based on my journey on life's long road. In fact, you could say that I have been on a long road with way too many weigh stations, and not nearly enough rest stops.
Chances are if you have been within 10 feet of me, you have heard me say these things before. Just smile and nod. You don't want to upset a woman at my age. It is also highly likely that if you are my child, you have heard me say the following things repeatedly and, yet, have not heard a single word I have said.
Sage advice from an old woman
Don't waste a minute being afraid
Go with God and go with faith. Let go and know that if you do all you can, the best you can, he is there helping. When life feels overwhelming and you aren't sure where the next dollar or meal is coming from, have faith in a higher power and greater plan.
Love really is the first and greatest commandment
Nothing else matters without love. I am not just talking about the love you have for a spouse, I am talking about the love you have for your family, children, friends and spouse.
Love never diminishes when fed
Love is like a tender young plant that must be fed and watered constantly. A little dirt is actually good for it. It can even withstand an annual spread of manure. But if you don't give it light, air and water, it will wither and die. Give love, the most important thing in life, your first and best effort, energy and time. You will never regret it.
It really is the little things that count
When your nest empties you will remember the big events and joys, but it will be the little things you miss most. Relish the sweet and simple moments spent snuggling children, smelling new born babies, making cookies and sitting with your sweetheart after all the children are asleep. These will be the moments you want to bring back and have all over again.
No time in this life is guaranteed. As you grow older, you experience things — like talking to a friend about going to lunch and then burying them within the week. I have seen friends send husbands off not knowing it was the last time they would ever say good-bye. It is better to get to the end of this life ride with a list of things you did, rather than with a list of things you regret not doing.
People trump stuff
Don't waste too much time on stuff, including houses, cars and boats. The more stuff you have to organize and take care of, the less time you have for love and people. When you decide what stuff to bring into your life, look in your child's eyes and consider how much time you are willing to spend away from your child to care for whatever stuff you buy. The same is true for hobbies, clubs, sports and yes men, even fishing. When you decide what to do with your time, remember people trump all. Then, make your plan around quality time with your family.
Narrow your focus
There really is a short list of birthdays you need to remember. I know that Facebook reminds you when all your friends have birthdays, but you won't spend the rest of your life with that friend from Ohio. You can improve the quality of your interactions with your family if you show them how important they are. Yes, it is great you have so many friends, but invest in your family. Remember their birthdays, holidays and even the anniversary of your first kiss. Do sappy silly things that show them regularly you love them. You will never be able to give them more than you get back.
Plan, prepare, invest then trust
Always have cash, bank cards, a clean handkerchief, aspirin, lotion and Chapstick in your purse. Always plan ahead. Delay gratification for stability. Stay out of debt whenever possible. When all your plans fail, refer to the first piece of advice, let go and let God.
I guess that when I really think about it, the first two pieces of advice I gave are all you need. Have faith in God and fear nothing. Love God, your family and others. Keeping those things in mind makes everything else fall into place. And if it doesn't, at my age, you will forget about it anyway.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh