Today is my 39th birthday.

Looking back … I’ve been lucky enough to have had some incredible life experiences. I’ve gone from flat broke to having enough money to live comfortably to being broke again, and then back.  I’ve had loved ones who were here one minute and gone the next. I’ve had my heart filled to the brim, I’ve had my heart broken and still hold hope to find my soul mate. I must say, it’s been a pretty wild ride so far! Taking a page from the great book of history and nostalgia for those that have come before me,  I thought I would share 39 things I’ve learned over my 39 years …

“Knowledge gained through trial and error may be the hardest earned, but it’s usually the longest remembered.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the mistakes I’ve ever made. I started out wanting to make it 39 tidbits of wisdom, one for each year, but come to find out … I’ve made a LOT of mistakes, so the list is a bit larger than originally anticipated.  These are just the ones that immediately sprang to mind when I sat down to write this list. I’m normally a quick study — once was enough to convince me I didn’t want to make most of these mistakes a second time — but I confess it took a few repetitions before I got the message on a handful of the following.

So I offer you fifty gems of practical wisdom, all gained through firsthand experience. It’s less painful to learn from someone else’s mistakes instead of making your own, so if you want to spare yourself unnecessary anguish, take note:

  1. Don’t say anything in front of a five-year-old that doesn’t bear repeating.
  2. In the eyes of a peace officer, a “California-stop” is NOT a stop at all.
  3. Never use your teeth to pry the cap off a bottle/container.
  4. Listen to your mother. She’s lived longer than you, and “she’s not just talking to hear herself speak.”  At least that is how I think she said it.
  5. Don’t sit down in a cow pasture without first checking the ground for fresh patties.
  6. Never play Twister with a full bladder.
  7. Pack an extra change of clothes for slumber parties (especially if you’ll be playing Twister).
  8. Don’t ignore the “check engine” light. If it comes on while you’re driving, pull over immediately and call your dad.
  9. Don’t circle your answers if the teacher told you to underline them.
  10. It may not seem fair, but you can actually fail a test for not following the instructions, even if you mark all the right answers.
  11. If anything normally refrigerated has been sitting at room temperature for more than three hours, don’t eat it.
  12. When riding a bike down a steep hill, don’t jam on the front brakes without also applying the back brakes. And you should probably wear a helmet.
  13. In your quest to be the best middle school thespian you can be … NEVER agree to wear tights.  Also, research cod pieces.
  14. Fair-skinned, Midwestern Caucasian males should wear sunscreen at the beach. Or a turtleneck. Or both.
  15. When you go down the speed-slide waterslide for the first time, check to make sure your swim-trunks are still on your body before you climb out of the pool.
  16. If all the people in the vicinity seem to be watching you, stay in the water while you locate your swim-trunks.
  17. Confirm that your clothes dryer is plugged in before calling someone to fix it.
  18. Don’t take a sleep aid and a laxative at the same time.
  19. Don’t teach your ten-year-old niece what a “dutch-oven” is.
  20. If you happen to teach your ten-year-old niece what a “dutch-oven” is, make sure you’re not at the Mall of America where she repeats it several hundred times … to all the strangers … in the elevator.
  21. Make sure your ten-year-old niece doesn’t tell her parents what you’ve taught her.
  22. Lift with your legs, not with your back.
  23. Never tell a lie, even if you know the truth will get you in trouble.
  24. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying every occupation you’ve ever wanted to try … just make sure you’re ready for adventure.
  25. Never store your medication where a toddler can reach them.
  26. Always double-check the bathroom before letting a guest use it.  Flush.
  27. If you find yourself in a turn-only lane, make sure you turn.
  28. Don’t hang all the ornaments on the same side of the tree.
  29. Eyebrows can burn off. Especially if a gas grill is involved.
  30. Anytime you go anywhere with children, call roll and count heads. Twice.
  31. When pulling forward out of a parking space, don’t turn too early. Let your front tires clear the car parked next to you first.  That is really important … who’d have thought?
  32. If your doctor’s nurse tells you to remain undressed until the doctor comes in to examine you, be sure to cover your twig and berries while you wait … Also, when the nurse opens the door, the people in the hallway will see said twig and berries if not shrouded.
  33. Be extremely careful what you pray and wish for in this life, but still care to pray and wish.
  34. Don’t assume a person who works at a beauty salon has haircutting experience. (They might just answer the phones … and neglect to tell you until after they’ve cut your hair.) Yeah, learned that one the hard way.
  35. Those awesome shoes on the clearance rack are no bargain if they’re two sizes too small. If you don’t want blisters, leave them for someone with smaller feet.
  36. It is NOT advisable to urinate on electrified fence.
  37. Always, Always, Always read the fine print.
  38. Butter toffee peanuts are not your friend, even if they do come packaged in sturdy, square, reusable containers that fit perfectly in the rack on your pantry shelf. The extra pounds will remain on your thighs much, much longer than the makeshift canisters will stay in your kitchen.
  39. Turn off the electricity before replacing a light switch.
  40. Never feed fried food to a ten-month-old puppy.
  41. Don’t jump in the deep end unless you know how to swim.
  42. Before leaving home for a movie, a restaurant, or extended vacations, check the children’s feet for shoes and socks. Just because they’ve piled into the van and claim to be ready to go does not mean they’re not barefoot. (No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service)
  43. Make sure the dishes are pretty much clean before you put them in the dishwasher.
  44. It is physically impossible to separate two dogs in the act of mating, so don’t bother trying. Any children will be much more traumatized by watching your failed attempts to get that stray mutt out of your yard than by observing nature taking its [inter]course.
  45. After eating anything with poppy seeds or peppercorns, check your teeth before smiling at your date.
  46. Never do laundry without checking your pockets. Or Sharpie markers. Or advance purchase movie tickets. Or cell phones.
  47. Don’t let your three-year-old niece play with your cellphone, especially if she knows how to call 911.
  48. Always check your face after picking your nose in public.  Or at least ask someone if you have a huge-crusty-boogie stuck to your cheek.
  49. Never use a ballpoint pen to scratch an itch on any part of your body.  If you do, ensure the pen is not activated.  (Yes, learned this one the “hard way” too.)
  50. ALWAYS double check who you’re sending a text message to before you send it.  Just in case you are sending the text complaining about your boss … to your boss, because they had texted you last.  Ooops.

I could go on… but considering it’s 10:30pm and WAY past my bedtime, I think I’ll stop there.

What are some lessons you’ve learned the “hard way”?  I want to learn from somebody else’s mistakes, instead of my own.  Ready. Set. GO!