me. at 29. and squeezing.

In large part the writing I do on this blog is effortless. Sometimes I force it when I fear times are slow and you won’t come back. Or when there’s an event that demands to be documented but the words won’t cooperate. Then it feels contrived. But for the most part it’s spontaneous, unplanned and just easy. I like to see what’s in my head become words on the screen. It’s rewarding to watch my thoughts hammered into a string of consonants and vowels that land on your part of the world at whatever hour you choose. It’s pleasing to be read and heard and responded to.

I came across this shot of myself today that my sister took last month in California. And I thought, “oh cool…I’ll post a blog today about myself on the eve(ish) of turning 30…”

(blinking cursor…blinking cursor…blinking cursor…blinking cursor…)



Let’s see.

So much for effortless writing on the ol’ blog, huh? Why did I think this would be a good idea again? Ah yes, because I have nothing else to blog today and no one reads this thing on Fridays anyway.

Let me try this from another angle. Next month I’ll turn 30. No biggie. I’m not actually worried about 30. 34* of course is a different matter entirely but I have four years to figure that out. To me 30 is all celebrations and specialness and welcome-to-the-best-decade-of-your-life stuff, right?


Yeah, me and 30 are cool. But I can’t shake this feeling that after 30 life takes off at a little faster clip. Days are faster, months are faster, years are faster and then you’re 80. Or so. And I’ll admit that sometimes just before falling asleep I’ll get a random unsettling thought floating through me head that says, “one day you will die.” And I get a little shiver. But then I remember that I’m not afraid of death. At least not my own. (for the most part.) And then me and 30 and the ticking clock and the death thoughts are good again.

But I do want to remember what my 20’s felt like. So excuse me while I wax sentimental just for a bit.

I was engaged, married and a college graduate at 20. Brent and I moved into our first home (rented, not owned) and life was good. We had a little yard with apple trees in the backyard around the corner from a zippy mart with Mountain Dew freezes and a Mexican restaurant with perfect margaritas. I didn’t think it couldn get better than that.

When I was 21 I met my best friend. I got my first (real) job teaching kindergarten at a school that I previously thought I could only have dreamed of. Two weeks into that job I found myself face to face with 40+ kindergartners who wanted to know why planes flew into buildings. I didn’t have answers. But I gained a newfound interest in my country, the world, and the people in it. I listened to a lot of NPR on my hour (roundtrip) commute  and I reveled in a feeling of independence and adulthood. Life was good.

At 22 I discovered Cooking Light. I spent weekends shopping with Samantha and I spent weekdays with my class of little people who are now in middle school. I spent time missing my Mom and wishing I lived closer. I took a trip with my Dad to Savannah, just the two of us. I started wondering what it would like to be a mother.

At 23 I said goodbye to my little old lady, Sarah Lucille Hughes Finch, forever. I braced for saying goodbye to the friends we’d made in Dayton. I dreaded saying goodbye to Samantha and Steve. And my school. And my colleagues. At 23 I thought I’d be a teacher my entire life. There was nothing I loved more than teaching kids to write.

When 24 rolled around we packed up our first house and headed West for Colorado. I watched the moving van as it pulled away and thought, “my whole life is inside that truck.” My “whole life” contained only one new item – a full sized mattress. Everything else we owned was handed down or purchased used. When that same van pulled into our new home in Colorado Springs we unpacked and greeted Steve and Samantha four days later. Our Ohio best friends were now our Colorado around-the-corner neighbors. Life was a dream.

In the winter of 2005, at 25, I found out we would be having a baby. I was terrified to tell Samantha who had been trying to conceive for months. I told her. Four days later she called me, elated. Our girls would be due four days apart – October 17th and October 21st. I finished up my last year of teaching, and carefully organized and packed away my things thinking I would return to the job I loved in five years or so. I was wrong. The first great love of our lives was born on October 28th, 2005. Nothing could have been better.

At 26, (or almost) I started this blog. I barely understood the internet, much less MySpace or Facebook, my point and shoot camera or what a dSLR was. But I had a baby in my arms and time on my hands. I was ready to learn. This was the year a whole new world opened up for me. I purchased two new cameras that year, desperate to take the very best photographs of my little princess pigbear that I could. I scoured the internet and read every book I could get my hands on. I “met” Wendy. In November we found out Sarah was a semi-finalist in the babyGAP casting call and then later, the winner. The month Sarah turned one I was pregnant again. Days later, I wasn’t. Still, life was good. The possiblities were endless and we were headed in the right direction.

27 saw us leaving Colorado and heading to Huntsville. As the moving van pulled away I watched it, then I looked around my car with my husband and my baby daughter and I thought, “my whole life is in this car.” In Huntsville  a new (rental) house and new (wonderful) neighbors and a new (owned) house and new (wonderful) neighbors awaited. I celebrated being closer to family and Brent having a job that seemed to be so perfect for him. I sported a mullet and a tummy and I feared I’d never make friends. Ephraim McCray was born and I found out what it meant to love two things with your whole, undivided heart. I started making plans for a business in Huntsville and worried that no one would call. They did. My hair grew. My tummy shrank (slowly). And life was good.

When I turned 28 I learned to laugh at my former 21, 22, 23, 24-year old self who thought I was too busy for anything. I discovered what true multi-tasking was and I watched in awe as mothers of 3 and 4 did it all around me. I felt like I might die under the weight of two children and all their laundry, meals, and needs. I lost my temper (a lot) and counted my blessings (a lot) and tried to remember that a baby and a toddler and a business were blessings. And they were. They still are.

And now, I’m 29. I see the laugh lines and the forehead furrows hanging around a little longer than I’m comfortable with. I’ve learned a few things in these 29 years and I know enough to know that when I’m 39 I’ll look back on my 31, 32, 33, 34 year old self and laugh at the girl who thought she was too busy for anything. I see 30 on the horizon and I know it holds promise.

But for the next 41 days I’ll hold on a little tighter to my 20’s, squeezing them for every ounce of goodness that they’re worth.

*34 is officially the first age I remember my Mom being. As in, I remember telling people as a child that “my mom is 34.” 34=my mom’s age. Yes, I realize my mom is no longer 34 but in my heart and mind she always will be. So for me 34=I am my mom. And while, yes, I embrace that no, I’m not ready for it. (love you mom!)

britApril 16, 2010 - 1:30 pm

that blinking cursor turned into an awesome post, love it! happy (early) 30th from someone who 2 weeks ago turned 30 herself – it’s not so bad!

SallyApril 16, 2010 - 1:42 pm

This was an awesome post, Erin. What a very full and lovely life you’ve had so far! Here’s wishing you an even brighter, more lovely second thirty years!

Martha HernandezApril 16, 2010 - 1:42 pm

Well here it is a Friday afternoon and I’m reading your blog and loving your picture at 29! Erin, your 30’s only get better than your 20’s! Enjoy every day of it and cherish every moment. Your kids grow so fast and in a few years you’ll be like me seeing your 16 year old (17 in 4 months) about to become a Senior in HS and looking forward to being on her own in college! Enjoy your 30’s!

Have a great weekend.

MeganApril 16, 2010 - 1:49 pm

That’s funny that 34 is the age you remember telling people was your mom’s age. That was the same age I remember telling people too. Now that 34 is less than a year away it doesn’t seem so old to me. I feel like I am improving myself (at least a little) each new year. I love this post.

melissaApril 16, 2010 - 1:50 pm

This is a great post! You did good work with your blinking cursor.

AmyApril 16, 2010 - 1:55 pm

That’s a pretty awesome decade you had. . . and as an older and more experienced 32 year old 😉 I can tell you that it does just keep getting better. I’ll let you know how 34 goes, though!

ellen pattonApril 16, 2010 - 2:03 pm

I loved this post! Happy (almost) Birthday! Life only gets better!!

MomApril 16, 2010 - 2:08 pm

Great post. I loved reading all the twentys memories you’ve listed and remembering them myself. You remember me being 34? I don’t remember a party or anything special that year. I wonder why you remember that one. My 20s and 30s were wonderful because of being a mom to you and your sister, but the 40s were by far the best, because I feel like it was then we became friends. I’m so proud to call you daughter, and lucky to call you friend.

JenniferApril 16, 2010 - 2:15 pm

I read on Friday’s! Love the cliff notes version of your last 10 years, helps catch those of us who have just recently met you up with your life! Happy birthday early!

robinApril 16, 2010 - 2:24 pm

what a GREAT post! how fun it must’ve been recalling all those special times that happened each year of your 20s. thank you for sharing your intimate moments with us.

you graduated college at 20? smarty pants! 🙂

btw, your 30s will be just as great!

robinApril 16, 2010 - 2:25 pm

one more thing, GORGEOUS shot of you in cali! so ethereal.

SaraApril 16, 2010 - 2:32 pm

LOVE this post! And I loved reading your mom’s reply (with a tear). I am loving my 30s and I am sure you will too!

JenniferApril 16, 2010 - 2:45 pm

First of all, let me say that the picture of you is absolutely gorgeous! Great job Meg!! You’re just as beautiful on the outside as you are on the inside.

For me, it wasn’t 30 but 31 that was the killer – because I was officially OVER 30!! It’s so funny about 34 – because that’s the age I associated with my mom too, but because that’s how old she was when I was born. Great job DeeDee – and it looks like you were wrong about no one reading on Friday’s!! 🙂

SierraApril 16, 2010 - 3:07 pm

I’m so getting your ‘turning 30’ vibe. I’m not so far behind and I think about what ‘turning 30’ means on a regular basis. I’m not 29 yet! But I seem to have skipped straight to 30 in my head.

This is one of my favorite posts you have ever done. I get it. All of it. And I appreciate you for that so much.

I will be doing the same kind of post when it is my turn. Inspired by you!

SamanthaApril 16, 2010 - 3:09 pm

I’m all teary. It has been my great honor to be a part of the last decade of your life, and to watch you grow into such an amazing woman/wife/mom, and most importantly, best friend. I love you so dearly. Can’t wait til June.

cathyApril 16, 2010 - 3:15 pm

That’s funny that 34 seems scary to you. I thought the same thing until it happened & now I’m about to turn 36 which is by far the scariest number there is to me because it truly means I’m closer to my 40s than my 30s. But eventhough life goes faster it’s so much more full. Thanks for the 20s update. I find your style of honest writing truly inspiring.

JoeyApril 16, 2010 - 3:18 pm

Embrace the 30’s…they are awesome! I am 35…yikes! I can honestly say that 30’s are even better than 20’s…honest! Like you, I have had a great life full of blessings that have multiplied even more through my 30′, and so will yours!

MandyApril 16, 2010 - 3:22 pm

Erin that is a fantastic picture of you! You should put it on canvas! My favorite part was when you realized your whole life was inside your car the second time and not in the moving van. You could be a Mastercard commercial. Priceless!
30 isn’t so bad. I’m 33 and the good thing about getting over the 30 hump is that now I’ve quit counting. I ask my husband how old am I again? 33 or 34? I’m sure that will change the closer I get to 40 though. This is my favorite thing I’ve read all day.

TinaApril 16, 2010 - 3:26 pm

Okay, so I beat you by 4 days…I’ll turn 30 in 36 days. Wonderful post. I have experienced many of the same things you did during my 20s too. And maybe you’ve even inspired me to write some things down somewhere…to look back on in the years to come. 20s have been good, but I’m looking forward to my 30s {although I’m a little apprehensive at the same time} Thank you for sharing your writing…love this post on a Friday afternoon!

KatherineApril 16, 2010 - 3:28 pm

What a great recap. It’s sort of amazing to me that I’ve known you for nearly half of your twenties!

As one who is also in the countdown to 30 (in July), I can totally relate. And your remark about squeezing the goodness out of your twenties made me chuckle, because every time I go to the gym lately I’ve thought about how I’m squeezing out every last ounce of my twentysomething metabolism.


Daisy ReyesApril 16, 2010 - 4:18 pm

Your. effortless. writing. makes. me. cry. Life is beautiful. And I just want to say amen to everything you said. Your blog is one of my absolute favorites. Thank you for sharing your heart and the beauty you see in the world around you. Happy 30th (in 41 days).

shelbyApril 16, 2010 - 4:23 pm

I dreaded 30, oh how I dreaded 30, and then 30 came and it wasnt so bad. It was the year I (finally) got pregnant with my first little girl. Now I am 34 and inching closer to 35. My 30’s are awesome. I have a wonderful husband, two beautiful little girls and friends that love me. Your 30’s will be great too, and every year of your 30’s will bring something new to celebrate!

kathypApril 16, 2010 - 5:19 pm

what a great post! i absolutely LOVE how you write and love how you’ve documented these important years in your life.

NatalieApril 16, 2010 - 5:28 pm

What a lovely post.

Nora GriffinApril 16, 2010 - 5:28 pm

I’m so glad I read this considering I’m turning that dreaded 34 in a few weeks 🙂

Hope there’s lots of happiness in the last 41 days of your 20’s!

P.C.April 16, 2010 - 6:12 pm

I remember meeting you for the first time at B&T’s apartment in Auburn. You were folding laundry, and I thought “Wow she has the whole package–beauty inside and out!…and you still do 🙂

P.S. Lily and I saw this post together and here is what she said:

Lily: Is that Chachi?
Me: Yes.
Lily: I like that picture.
Me: Yeah you do. Why?
Lily: Because I love Chachi. (pause) But I want to see her toes.

MarlaApril 16, 2010 - 6:33 pm

You look A.Mazing, Erin! I really enjoyed reading your recap of your 20s. Have I mentioned how glad I am you moved to Huntsville?! 🙂

P.C.April 16, 2010 - 6:39 pm

P.S. Here is short Powerpoint a friend forwarded about a year ago that has helped remind me of some of life’s great lessons…they hold at any age.

DaphneApril 16, 2010 - 7:09 pm

Great post, friend. Your 20’s were certainly impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do in your 30’s!

JackieApril 16, 2010 - 8:02 pm

Wow, Erin. You never cease to amaze me. Your 20s are an inspiration to this close-to-34-year-old! I can’t wait to see what your 30s bring. I’m so glad you give the rest of us crib notes on the insight that your journey has given you. You are an inspiration to me as a mother, a friend, and of course a photographer! 😉

adminApril 16, 2010 - 8:26 pm

Thank you guys so much for validating my need to recap my last decade. Thank you for reading. Thank you for responding. And thank you for your kindness. Always the kindness…

Kathryn ReynoldsApril 16, 2010 - 9:48 pm

Beautifully written, as always!

Catherine KraftApril 16, 2010 - 9:56 pm

Not only are you an awesome photographer, you’re an awesome writer. Always so captivating! Love your blog!

KristinApril 16, 2010 - 10:01 pm

I want to say thank you for the insight to you in your 20’s and for letting us into you living room on a daily basis. I found you when you were getting ready to give birth to Ephraim and I was getting ready to give birth to my #4 who is a month older. You are an inspiration to this old lay IN her 30’s(32 to be exact, see at 30 and 31 is was young but now I’m officially IN my 30’s SCARY) and I hope you continue to open your door to us and keep on inspiring us! thank you!

JaimieApril 16, 2010 - 10:35 pm


I don’t know you personally, but I feel like I do! I’ve only been reading your blog for a little over a week now and I’m hooked! A friend of mine (Shelby) shared your blog with me and I’m so glad she did. You have a way with words and your pictures are amazing. Keep on writing (and posting on Friday’s 🙂 since I DO read this thing on Friday’s! And…Happy (early) Birthday! Embrace 30, you’re gorgeous!

LaraApril 17, 2010 - 6:27 am

What an incredibly beautiful reflection on your adult life. But then again, I think every word you write and picture you post is beautiful!

staciApril 17, 2010 - 7:50 am

Turning 30 isn’t so bad…..I was lucky to turn 30 after finding Melanoma cancer at 29! You are so much farther ahead in life than I was…and probably most people….right now! Good for you to enjoy the last days of your 20’s…it does fly by fast! And I am with you…..34 seemed to be the age I remember my mother at too…..I am saying 34 because I really think it was 33, but I am 33 so that can’t be right!!! Loved your post today and it’s fun to see photos of you too!!! Something I need to do more of for my kids…….happy weekend!! xo

AnneApril 17, 2010 - 11:03 am

Really beautiful post Erin. Gorgeous picture too – yellow is definitely your color.

AnneApril 17, 2010 - 11:04 am

Really beautiful post Erin. Gorgeous picture too – yellow is definitely your color.

I enjoyed running into you yesterday and meeting your friend and cousin.

Tammy WaidaApril 17, 2010 - 2:35 pm

Beautiful post. I love reading your blog because your life is so similar to mine (two kids, 4 and 2, a former teacher and have a love for photography) and you always make it seem so effortless to juggle it all. Glad to know you lose your temper and have the same fears we all do. (I, however, am about to turn 34 next month, but it’s not so bad!)

TracyApril 17, 2010 - 3:48 pm

so funny because earlier today Jeremy and I were talking about photography and I was telling him more about your blogs and how I feel like I know you because I frequent them so often, but that it’s one sided. He just came up behind me and asked what I was doing….getting to know Erin better:) You are a great writer girl!

tara pollard pakostaApril 17, 2010 - 5:42 pm

Happy Happy Birthday Beautiful girl!!~
30 was hard for me, but 35 was worse!
this whole 40 thing coming in October
is FREAKING ME OUT! I hope you have the
best day ever! you deserve it! YOu are a
truly beautiful person inside and out!

Lorena MoraApril 17, 2010 - 7:13 pm

I love your recap it’s a wonderful one. I dreaded turning 30 but when I did it wasn’t so bad, now that I’m 34 I keep thinking of once I turn 40. Beautiful picture by the way.

JoannaApril 17, 2010 - 9:58 pm

Erin – awesome post. I have been following your blog for awhile, but not since the beginning. So I like reading the stuff I’ve missed. Your writing is just so effortless and really fun to read. I don’t know you, but I feel like I do just by reading your posts. I stalk a few blogs (who doesn’t 😉 but yours is one that I really read on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing your family and you.

DebsApril 18, 2010 - 12:06 am

Goodness me, what a moving, beautifully crafted post. You are one clever (and beautiful) lady. I am certain your 30’s will be amazing.

JenniferApril 18, 2010 - 3:59 pm

45 comments and counting and you aren’t even doing a free give-away!! 🙂

ToniApril 18, 2010 - 4:10 pm

Simply beautiful, just like you!

Ella WalkerApril 18, 2010 - 5:21 pm

hi erin! HAPPY 30th!!! that’s an awesome picture of you, and you are an incredible writer! i like how you write with your heart and you make it so … effortless. i am envious because i would love to be a great writer — without putting much effort into it. enjoy turning 30! life is a journey at every age.

nickiApril 18, 2010 - 8:04 pm

Oh Erin…such a great picture of you and wonderful words to go along with it. How funny that you are turning 30 and I am turning 40! So, NO complaining by you! haha 🙂
You are such an amazing person. I can’t wait to see what your 30’s have in store for you.

Amy RApril 18, 2010 - 8:17 pm

Erin, I love this post. There seem to be some people in this world who have absolutely NO problem with turning 30. I was NOT one of them and I laid in bed on the eve of 30 literally staring at the clock watching my last few minutes of 29 pass away. I tried to will it away and it would not. Time marches on. You are right about two things. Life gets faster and life gets better!

LoriApril 19, 2010 - 5:29 am

Love the photo and your journaling!! Such great advice

Stacey TApril 19, 2010 - 5:57 am

I have followed this blog for sometime and this by far has been my favorite post. It so hit close to home. Especially this paragraph:

Yeah, me and 30 are cool. But I can’t shake this feeling that after 30 life takes off at a little faster clip. Days are faster, months are faster, years are faster and then you’re 80. Or so. And I’ll admit that sometimes just before falling asleep I’ll get a random unsettling thought floating through me head that says, “one day you will die.” And I get a little shiver.

I’m 31 and when I turned 30 I was cool with it. 31 was a different story… this is when mixed emotions filled my being and I was never able to quite put those feelings into words and you did. This is exactly what I feel.

Not only do you have a talent for photography, but I think your talent with words is even greater. To me, your photography complements your written voice.

You touch and inspire alot of us with this blog. It’s amazing. I can only imagine what you are like in person. Your children are so blessed to have you has a guide in this crazy world called life and I’m sure your husband can’t be more proud of the person you’ve become since you were 20. =)

LoriApril 19, 2010 - 5:10 pm

I must be your oldest reader according to most of these comments. Actually I just stumbled onto your blog today from a post Karen Russell made about getting with you. I’m already “hooked” by reading just a few posts, young lady. I’m probably closer to your mother’s age … I’m 53!! I just want to say it’s such a gift to yourself that you are recording your life in words and pictures because truly I don’t even remember turning 30! I’m not sure if it just didn’t phase me or it was because I was the mother of two little boys under the age of three (15 months apart in age)!! It was probably the latter. I do remember turning 40 and I could never forget 50 because my husband threw me a huge party that is legendary in my “neck of the woods.” I’m rambling now … treasure every day … they do get by us “in a blink.”

Brooke - in OregonApril 19, 2010 - 7:26 pm

This totally made me smile (I am 52) Love the thought process. I popped over here cause Karen posted how excited she is that you are coming up. You will love her, she is fabulous, funny, kind and a great gal to hang out with. I remember my Mom at 35 and she stayed 35 until I was 22. lol I realized she was not 35 anymore 🙂 Man I miss her like crazy still after 6 years and it seems like yesterday. Have fun with Karen, I know you will!

Janelle AndersonApril 20, 2010 - 5:18 am

Love the post, thank you. As for me, 34 years old this May 18th…hmmmmm…I have to remind myself that I’m not the only one. However, when I look back at my thirties, I have to say I love being 30 or so. 🙂 Life/Love is amazing.

JESSICA LEIGHApril 20, 2010 - 3:50 pm



Daniel MendezApril 22, 2010 - 9:36 am

wow… what an amazing story… and how nice that Wendy also posted a bit of history about you two ( It is just amazing how God worked it all out and how you were a blessing for each other.
Congrats on your birthday! Wishing you many more 🙂

KristiApril 23, 2010 - 7:11 pm

This needs to go into your “cliff notes” Erin! And later, into your book. Because you really need to publish a book. On photography or life or whatever you want to–you have such a way with both words and pictures! xo

DawnSApril 25, 2010 - 7:42 pm

Hi Erin! I too got introduced to you & your blog by Karen Russell. I can see why she loves your photography…it’s simply gorgeous 🙂

Your 30’s will be great…your 40’s will be even better…and your 50’s, I don’t know how they’ll be yet (but I’m hoping they will be the best yet). I’ve never worried about getting older cause I figure it beats the alternative! I’m going to be 50 in May and I’ve chosen to look at the good in my life (instead of worrying about a few wrinkles). I’ve been blogging 50 things I’m thankful for before I turn 50:

j.j.April 28, 2010 - 7:46 am

this will be wonderful to look back on and have it all surmised – especially for the kiddos. and yes i think you’re right, that one 30 hits, it does go a litle faster. WATCH IT, missy – i’m 1/3 of the way to 34!

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