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    Thirty by 30

    April 24, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    Back when Sallie was still blogging at A Gracious Home, she did a series called Forty by 40 in honor of her fortieth birthday. Basically, she listed 40 things she thought she had learned in the first four decades of her life. I really liked the series, and I loved the idea of reflecting a bit on the lessons life had brought her.

    I suppose I don’t want to wait another ten years before writing a list like that. I’m feeling the urge to reflect since my thirtieth birthday is about fifteen days away or so.

    My other thought is that I will write a list, and then look back on it with wise amusement when I turn forty. And that could be interesting. It’d be like those lists you write when you’re a teenage girl. You know, lists about what your wedding will be like, what kind of man you’ll marry, etc. And then you look back and laugh.

    Was blue eyes really in the top ten? Lucky for Si he has blue eyes, I suppose…

    So I suppose a few disclaimers are in order. First, this is not an exhaustive list. Second, this is not necessarily the most profound list you’ll ever read. Sorry, but some of my life lessons have reinforced those little cultural sayings that we’ve all heard our whole lives. One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. That sort of thing. Third, I am not writing this list to teach anybody anything. I am simply reflecting on what I learned and why or something like that.

    I will elaborate on possibly every point because I like it when Si comes home and tells me my post was too long.

    So…here goes. I will dispense the list in bits and pieces partly because I really don’t have time to write thirty lessons in one day, partly because the list isn’t totally complete yet, and partly because I like to drag things out.

    1. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder. For three years of our marriage, Si worked from home. I think I will always look back on those days as the best in our lives. Because he was at home, our worlds were completely combined, and because they were completely combined, there was a sense of understanding that just isn’t possible with a job-away-from-home. Sure, I try my best to visit him at work on occasion, touch base with him once a day, and become familiar with the people he works with. But I have to face the fact that his work world is totally separate from me. And my daily happenings at the home are totally separate from him. This is the way life is, and though it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, I am totally aware that life in Post-Industrial culture tends to demand it. So I guess my life lesson could also be stated in reverse: Presence makes the heart grow fonder. Presence knit together not only our hearts, but our worlds. Working side by side {even if not at the same tasks}, gave us a common purpose. Reminds me of a quote:

      Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible–unthinkable–for either of us to suppose that we could ever recreate such closeness with anyone else. And our trust in each other will not only be based on love and loyalty but on the FACT of a thousand sharings–a thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable.

      -Sheldon VanAuken in A Severe Mercy

      By the way, I have found that this also goes for kids. Spending too much time away from my children causes me to build a life without them. Then, my attitude upon their return is that they are in my way. Learning to live life well together with them is my goal, and I believe it will have the same results that working with Si once had: a knitting of hearts and lives together.

    2. There are things you’ll do for your kids that you’d never do for yourself. For instance, I completely gave up soda. I read one too many stories about its detrimental effects. I became fearful that sodium benzoate would completely undo my DNA over time {Google that one sometime!}. I became convinced that drinking soda {something I loved to do} was bad for me. But I would never have quit drinking it just for me. I did it for them. I want them to have a long-lived mother. More importantly, I want to be healthy in my old age.

      We are seeking to build a family culture that takes care of its own. We consider it important to care for our elderly in our own homes {though we haven’t actually had to put this into practice yet}. However, old people who didn’t take care of themselves in their youth are much more difficult to take care of. So, along with other life changes, I gave up soda. It was symbolic in a lot of ways. I wanted to do what was best for me because it could potentially ease their future burdens.

    3. Don’t fly through Vegas if you can help it. We have never had a positive experience in the Vegas airport. It starts, of course, with the soft porn advertisements on the walls. I don’t like porn websites. I mean, I frequently watch websites like but I’m not just going to advertise that fact, nor do I appreciate adverts for porn. Not exactly a view for children in the place. But it is more than that. If your connecting flight is on another airline, sometimes you have to go out and go back through all the security checkpoints. And they don’t tell you this in advance and you end up running to your flight and then your husband’s backpack flies open and paper goes everywhere, and yet you get up and run again hoping against hope that you will make your flight.

      But you don’t and they lose your baggage as a bonus.


      But wait, there’s more! If, upon your return, you have a long, nighttime layover in Vegas, you will find it impossible to get any sleep at all. This is because there are casino lights everywhere {yes, inside the airport}, and there is this constant electric sound: slot machines, in every gate. So even though it’s 2am and you’re trying to sleep, some gambling junkie is out there making those machines go ching ching ching.

      I’m just saying.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Kristina April 26, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    I agree with you about the Vegas airport! We didn’t know about the exit/reentry problem before this Christmas. What a pain! (Yes, we did miss our connecting flight, but thankfully we ended up on a better alternative which eliminated an extra connection–flying coast-to-coast is a real pain!)

    I also can relate to the presence vs. absence phenomenon. This year we have had a lot of closeness– from the one-bedroom apartment, sharing one car, and not knowing many people in town, we have grown, well, closer!

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