“Things I Wish I’d Known Way Back When,” Oct. 11, 2016

(Note to readers: I’m on vacation this week. This column originally appeared in October of 2014, but it still holds true!)
My daughter has a birthday coming soon. As birthdays go, it’s a pretty big one. At least, it was for me when I was her age a lifetime ago. We will celebrate the day with joy and thanksgiving and a little party and a lot of cake, as if it were the only birthday in the history of the world.

Lucky for me, I won’t have to do much. She’s been planning her own birthday parties since she was 3. Basically, all I’ve ever had to do was light the candles and clean up the mess. Now she has a 3 year old who plans his own parties, too.

And so it goes, this thing we call “life,” a beautiful circle that spins like a carousel from beginning to end, then begins again, round and round.

My daughter grows more beautiful with every passing year. Inside and out. She doesn’t seem to notice, but I do. I wish you could see her.

Like her brothers and all children, really, she took the best from her parents (a lot from her dad, a little from me) and made something better, something entirely her own.

When I think of things I wish I had known at her age, I have to tell you: She already knows them. How does that happen? How do our children get to be so much smarter than we were?

Here are a few things I wish I’d known at her age _ things that she already knows and, some of which, I’m still trying to learn:

1. Not everything is about you. Sometimes it’s about others. Let them have their turn.

2. Know that you are whole. You have everything you need. Look around and see who needs you.

3. Say yes to everything that will make life better and no to anything that makes it worse.

4. Clean as you go. Keep short accounts. Pay your debts on time. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger or your dishes.

5. You can get grease spots out of most anything with Baby Powder (sprinkle it on, rub it in, brush it off with a damp cloth, repeat until the spot is gone) but nothing erases an unkind word.

6. If you have to swallow a frog, don’t look at it too long before you put it in your mouth; if you have to swallow two frogs, go for the big one first; and if you have to swallow three frogs, you might want to ask yourself what you’re doing in that pond.

7. Be your own best friend, not your worst enemy. Love your body. Take care of it. Change it if you must any way you see fit. But remember, it’s the only one you’ll get, so try to make it last.

8. Surround yourself with beauty. Flowers on the table. Birds at the window. Wind in your hair. Sand beneath your feet. A dog by your side. A song in your heart. Food that makes you stronger. Words that feed your soul. Music that makes you dance. People who lift you up, make you laugh and leave you better.

9. Do the right thing for yourself and for others and the world. The wrong thing may be easier or even more fun, but in the long run, it’s hard to live with.

10. Smile at everyone–old people, children and strangers. It might not do much for them, but it will make you feel better.

11. Be thankful. Think about it. It’s not hard to do. Start and end each day by consciously noting five things for which you are truly and deeply grateful.

12. Make and keep at least one good, longtime friend who reads you like a book, likes you anyway, and will always have your back and your trust.

13. Be the kind of person that you want to be and give others the freedom to do the same.

14. When you look in the mirror, see someone who isn’t perfect, but is most surely loved, a sinner saved by grace.

15. Finally, celebrate every birthday _ especially your own _ as if it were the one and only birthday in the history of the world. Because it is.

Happy birthday, sweet girl. So glad you were born.


  1. Adrienne Thomas says

    Beautiful column, thank you for your wise words…..so true, every word.
    Sent a copy to my own daughter 🙂

  2. Anne Burkhart says

    I love this column and yes, I remember this particular one about your daughter’s birthday from its first printing. I have saved your column for years! Yes, I have a folder in my filing cabinet labeled ‘Sharon Randall’. I started that folder before realizing that since cellphones and the internet, I can now read your columns on my phone and even reread them if I wish! (However, I’m still keeping my yellowed folder of your clippings…won’t part from them for anything!) I would love to meet you in person. But until that day (may or may not come to be), I will continue looking forward to your weekly columns and relish reading your every word! You are awesome!!
    One more thing…I feel we are close in age and I know that when you speak, you speak from the heart. So many of your stories could be mine!

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