January

  1. Writing the first words on a blank page.  Cheesy metaphors aside, taking an utterly blank piece of paper and giving it words is immensely satisfying.  It means that I have started something, that I have accomplished the first step in writing, which is to begin with words.  Real, tangible, words.  Once you have the words, the rest of the story has permission to happen.
  2. Eating all of your cereal before it gets soggy.  Cereal is a science.  There is only so much time between the time you pour the milk over the bowl and it all begins to percolate and the time it all becomes a pile of mush.  When you have just the right ratio of cereal to milk and just the right timing as you chow down, you end up with the perfect bowl of cereal.
  3. The personality in handwriting.  I have a rather loopy and connected scrawl.  Almost cursive, but it doesn’t quite follow the rules of cursive.  I break letters apart at strange places and some words manage to have individual letters entirely.  I like my handwriting though.  It’s somewhere between a refined socialite and a whimsy whose hand can’t quite keep up with her mind.  I’d like to think that matches my personality pretty well.  Who knows, maybe I’m a bit biased.  In any case, something about handwriting always seems to fit a person’s identity.  My mother’s printing looks like it’s printed.  No joke.  Her writing is perfect.  It’s like the engineering version of Comic Sans, but it’s much prettier.  The only thing that bugs me about my mother’s perfect handwriting is that she never dots the letters i and j.  But, I have to admit, that fits her personality like a glove.  She does something once and she does it well and efficiently and doesn’t go back to fix the little details because she hit all of the important ones the first time around.  Or at least, the ones that are important to her.  One of my friends has some of the most recognizable handwriting I know and I immediately associate it with him the instant I see it.  His letters are tall and skinny, squished together and a little bit tipsy.  He doesn’t have very neat, precise handwriting, sure, but it has personality.  I could not describe to you why it makes so much sense that when he puts a pencil to paper it makes so much sense that the result is what it is, but oh my it does make sense.  Because handwriting is personal.
  4. Getting so invested in a story that you physically scream at the book or screen.  Empathy is a powerful thing, folks.  And if a story can make you feel enough empathy to physically react to what happens to the characters, that story is doing it right.
  5. Going on unexpected adventures with unexpected people.  I don’t know about you, but I am a creature of habit.  Ask my mom, my bedroom furniture has not moved in at least five years.  I tend to fall into habits in my interactions with other human beings too.  I have my same friends that I spend all of my time with and love dearly but sometimes I forget how wonderful it can be to spend time with they people you don’t spend a whole lot of time with.  Watch a movie with them, or eight.  Go ice skating, even if none of you know how.  Before you know it, you’ll start to realize that new friends are good too.
  6. Re-watching all of the Harry Potter movies.  Ah, nostalgia.  Watching an entire generation grow up on screen right before your eyes.  Falling in love with the magic and Ron Weasley all over again.  Crying at everything that makes you cry every single time without fail.  Impulsively correcting book details or filling them in when the movie neglects them.  Falling in love with the magic and Ron Weasley all over again.  Wanting to go to Hogwarts.  Hating Umbridge and rooting for Neville.  Falling in love with the magic and Ron Weasley all over again.  Being a nerd certainly has its perks.
  7. Watching the light change as the clouds move.  You are sitting in your room, maybe reading a book, and all of a sudden a shadow draws across the wall like a curtain.  The line it leaves is almost imperceptible, but the shift in the light is obvious.  Next thing you know, it’s as if the sun came up in lime lapse and the whole place is bathed in light again.  It’s a reassuring rhythm.  Almost like hearing waves break on a shoreline.  A song of sorts.
  8. Singing along to children’s movies.  Musicals are practically made for karaoke.  Especially if you have seen the movie dozens of times growing up and you know all the songs by heart.  Children might think you are strange for throwing your voice behind Ariel, but it won’t take long for them to join in.  It’s irresistible.  Once you start, you are dedicated all the way to the credits.
  9. Listening to choirs sing in vaulted churches.  The choir stands and takes a breath, drawing the audience into an inhale right along with them, then they sing a note and the sound soars.  Really talented choirs can sound really beautiful almost anywhere, but I think God made the structural advantages of building with arches match the acoustic value on purpose.  In a church, a talented choir can make the very shape of their vowels a pure and miraculous form of worship.
  10. Watching people enjoy your hard work.  When you spend all sorts of time prepping a meal for someone or making a piece of artwork or designing an activity, it is immensely gratifying to watch them enjoy it.  It means that the love you put into it is being turned into joy and that makes whatever work it took worthwhile.
  11. Buying yourself flowers.  January can be a bit lacking in brightly colored vegetation.  You would be amazed how much life a little bouquet can add to a room.  It brings a little piece of spring whimsy into the chilled idleness of midwinter.
  12. Wrapping presents.  How much can you personalize a gift before a person even opens it?  That’s the goal of the perfectly wrapped present, to let the recipient know that they are personally appreciated and worth the effort.  Because let’s face it, they are worth it.
  13. Prayer in community.  Prayer is a powerful thing.  As the song goes, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.  What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!”  How wonderful is it to share this privilege with other believers and to lift each other up to the Lord.  To grow closer to each other by growing closer with our God.  That is one of the truly beautiful parts of faith.
  14. Having adulty chores.  It is kind of fun to grow up.  I have flowers in my room so I have to clip them and get them new water and rearrange them every few days.  I have to make sure that none of my food is expired and that I have good foods.  I have to sweep the copious amounts of hair I shed off of my floor regularly.  I have to wash my clothes every once in a while.  I have to schedule and attend meetings.  But all of those things give me such a sense of accomplishment.  My flowers look nice when I maintain them.  I can rely on having food to eat.  My space feels clean and fresh.  Meeting hash out productive information that helps me work toward other goals.  It feels good to be an adult.
  15. How nice clothes look after you attack them with a lint roller.  Sure, they might now look terrible to start with, but when you whack out that trusty little tool and roll all of the little fuzz balls and stray hairs and the odd cat hair off, you look sharp as a tack and ready to take on anything.
  16. Showing love by sending people hideous photos of yourself.  This era contains all sorts of amazing technology and advancements that are insanely complex, but they are nothing more than commonplace, everyday things for us now.  We have cameras that require no film and that can send photos instantly to someone else without ever involving a physical copy of the photo.  We have facial recognition technology that can literally find a face in a camera and change its appearance.  These are crazy things.  And we use them to send the most hideous faces possible to the people we love.  What a time to be alive!
  17. The way the sky changes color throughout the day.  The sun stretches at dawn and splashes hues of rose and gold and lavender across the horizon.  As the morning stretches on, the expanse presents a pale blue, full of possibility.  As the day wears on, cobalt ink diffuses its way down from the tip top of the sky to the place where it drops out of sight behind the earth until the sun dives away and flushes amber and crimson onto that intangible canvas.  Soon the cobalt has darkened to indigo and only a whisper of periwinkle settles on the horizon to remember the light.  Indigo deepens further to an inky velvet, punctuated by millions of pricks of light.  And then the sun wakes up and we set the whole kaleidoscope spinning again.
  18. Associating a scent with a memory. God made humans with all sorts of crazy little quirks and abilities and one of those is the ability to make some of our strongest memories based on smell.  I was putting on a new pair of nylons today and they smelled quite a bit like nylons.  As soon as my nose caught the scent, I immediately thought of early mornings, bus rides, binders, schematics sheets, heels clicking on linoleum, awkwardly maneuvering bleachers in business clothing, scoping out an unfamiliar school, writing codes on whiteboards, the flutter of nervousness and excitement that comes before performing, the crack of pages flipping in sync, sitting silently, listening to a judge’s pencil scratch and the distant screams from a different classroom, vegetable trays, card games in the middle of a gym floor, rushing to join the mob as gigantic papers are brought through, clapping once, and the beat after a performance.  In short, I thought of speech.  I haven’t been on a speech team in two years, which is a little sad to think about, and yet there it all was, clear as day.  And it is crazy to think that all of that instantly came to mind with no more prompting than the aroma of nylons.
  19. Perfectly harmonizing to a song on the first try.  I’m a soprano.  I’m used to singing the melody.  When I can slip right into that note that perfectly compliments the melody, it’s a big accomplishment.
  20. Watching my sister’s face light up.  I got to surprise her at school today and it was so fun to see her eyes sparkle and her grin grow until I couldn’t see her anymore because she was hugging me.  It’s super cheesy but I don’t care because I love her.
  21. Braving the elements.  Winter can be cold.  Shocker, I know.  One day it gets cold enough that you  don’t feel like going outside and that marks the end of your winter motivation to participate.  Trust me, it is worth going out there in the cold.  Go play in the snow, you may be cold and wet later but that makes hot chocolate taste even better.
  22. Opening the door when you get home after being away for a little while.  There’s an old tradition, I have no idea where it came from, that the first time a couple comes to their new home after they get married, the groom should carry the bride over the threshold.  Seems a little bit random until you think about the fact that thresholds are the only real distinction between home and not home.  Once you have crossed that line into your space, you are home.  It is as though you have to walk straight into a wall of comfort to step into the space you lovingly call your own.  And home is a place where all of the uncertainties of life seem to settle just a bit.  Home is warm and comfortable and safe.
  23. When your heart perks up at the sound of someone’s voice.  Eew!  Get that cheesy romantic garbage out of here I’m gonna be sick! Hang on though, hear me out.  Voices are so distinctive and when you hear the voice of someone you care about, it is almost instinctive to turn toward the sound because the way that her sentences squash together at the end or he enunciates his plosive consonants are all a part of that person, which means they are things that you love too.
  24. Taking off your makeup when you were wearing a whole bunch of it.  Wearing scads of makeup is fun.  You feel classy and empowered and ready to take on the world.  But at the end of the day when you close your door on the rest of the world and stare longingly at your soft bed, you get to smear the grime and drudge of the day on a rag and bring your bare skin to the surface again.  It’s like letting out your breath when you didn’t realize you’d been holding it all day.
  25. Funky shaped chairs.  Set me loose in a furniture store and I will sit on everything that is meant to be sat on.  The recliners so plush you are worried you might get lost in them.  The high backed dining chairs that straighten your back into instant royalty.  Circular sofas and egg-shaped chairs that are so odd looking that sitting into them becomes an experience all on its own.  It’s a huge scatterbrained adventure in texture.
  26. Hand writing a thought.  Computers are great.  I love being able to type a sentence, obliterate it, and type out the exact same thing again without ever even thinking about white-out or erasers.  But at the end of the day, there is something personal about pen and paper that creates a genuine thoughtfulness that can’t be conveyed as well through the tapping of keys.
  27. Leaving my curtain open for a while after it gets dark.  My humble dorm room looks out over a typical midwestern neighborhood.  Not a bad view, but certainly not an exciting one.  But when it gets dark, the hospital complex across the street lights up and the traffic lights throw up an ever changing spray of color.  The motion outside coupled with my low lighting makes this tiny space feel like a fancy studio apartment in a big city and I won’t say no to that.
  28. People who lean into a piano when they are playing it.  Passion is enthralling.  It’s contagious and magnetic.  When someone is passionate about the piano, they will move with the music, flirting with the instrument, coaxing it to understand the sound through movement.  When someone is engrossed in their music, it is almost impossible to look away.
  29. Unreasonably thick, ornate, heavy wooden doors.  They feel like you have nature itself protecting you, unwilling to budge against the elements.  And also, they look pretty darn sweet.
  30. Turning your room into an exotic fabric forest after you do laundry.  I don’t know how you do laundry, but I line dry a majority of what I wear for one reason or another.  One thing, I live in a college residence hall and I don’t have a line to hang my laundry.  I get clever, hanging clothes from shelves and doors, wherever I can find space.  Before you know it, everything is covered in denim and dresses and you have to wade through slightly soggy civvies to see the wall.
  31. Watching a friend react to something you already knew was going to happen.  I am a fan of surprises, pleasant ones of course, because I love to watch the shock blossom in their mouth and spread to their eyebrows.  It’s fun to lob a little joy at people when they aren’t looking.
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