1. Shuffling a crisp new deck of cards.  They slip by each other, neat as you please, folding into a perfect pile.  Satisfying swishing sounds as they bend in a sort of dance.  Reds and blacks blur together, suits mix, courtiers with common numbers, everything moves into a new space but from the top, the deck looks like it almost hasn’t moved at all.
  2. Spending time with people you miss.  I got to see some of my school friends today and it’s only been two weeks since school got out but boy was I glad to see their faces again.  It’s fun to see them more often than going three months without much contact, plus I just enjoy their presence all the time and why not have more of it off campus?
  3. Secondhand excitement.  My sister gets to travel across an ocean and spend some time in Italy and Greece over the next few weeks and watching her face light up when her trip is mentioned makes me pretty excited for her too.
  4. Taking up physical space to draft an idea.  Writing snippets on sticky notes and plaster them all over the wall.  Moving them and adding to them as you watch your thoughts play out in front of you.  Turning vague ideas into tangible prospects.  It’s pretty satisfying to see that little idea blossom into an entire wall full of development.
  5. Finalizing big projects.  It feels like a physical weight lifts off you when you finish a looming deadline and send it away.  Whatever comes next, it’s no longer in your control, but it’s no longer your responsibility either.  And that’s scary, but a little exciting too.
  6. Having big, unreasonable dreams.  Be irrational.  Aspire to achieve all the quirky, off-the-wall, larger-than-life, terrifying sort of goals that don’t make sense.  Learn something new.  Most of your endeavors probably won’t end the way you expect them to, but a few just might turn out.  And the rest?  Those are adventures worth cherishing.  This might be one of the cheesiest string of sentences I’ve ever written, but it’s all worth it because I mean every word.
  7. Taking on the challenge of a blinking cursor.  Hello to any of my writer friends, and also those of you who may be going through some sort of education that requires you to write Essays.  You know the feeling.  Staring at a blank screen as a thin, black line blinks, throwing down the gauntlet.  Daring you to make it move.  Some days, you have nothing to give.  That cursor may as well be a boulder for as far as you’ve managed to budge it and it only gets heavier by the minute.  You do anything else to avoid it because that tiny blip on the screen is insurmountable.  But then there are the days you are inspired.  Words cascade onto the page, brushing the cursor away like wind in a sail.  Those days, the cursor is nothing more or less than a few pixels blinking white and then black.  White and then black.  Nothing to be afraid of and nothing standing in your way.
  8. Water bottles that keep your water cold for unreasonably long amounts of time.  Modern technology is sometimes akin to the sort of stuff they do at Hogwarts it seems.  And, simple as it is, it’s always an almost magically exciting feeling to pour ice water into your mouth after leaving your water bottle in the sun for hours.
  9. The smell of campfire on your clothes.  The fabric breathes in the remnants of the fire and holds them there, smoldering even without heat.  It lingers, bringing the dichotomy of danger and coziness with every breath.
  10. Musicians who clearly enjoy their work.  With every lilt of the violinist, bounce of the saxophone player, scrunched brow of the cellist, leaning of the pianist, and tapped foot of the trumpet player, music takes on a whole new type of life.  Not only does it inspire movement, it creates it.  And the passion of the people playing that vivacious music is contagious.
  11. Used book stores.  Have you ever walked into a used bookstore without its own personality?  Because I haven’t.  The haphazard stacks packed tightly together, the handwritten signs announcing sections, even the furniture seems to have caught a little bit of the whimsy and imagination leaking out from all of the books who have all been read before and contain a little bit of the readers that came before.
  12. Seeing your influence in the world.  I work with kids and sometimes I wonder whether they ever pay attention to a word I say.  It seems like every time I open my mouth, they go haywire and completely disregard whatever they hear next.  But I know that’s not true.  Kids are sponges and they do listen, far more than I realize.  Today, one of my girls excellently summarized the book I have been reading while they are free to sleep or zone out.  The time I least expect it, they surprise me with how much they do pay attention, and it’s a pretty proud moment when my kids show what they are capable of.
  13. Listening to silence.  God gave us a huge blessing with silence.  Stillness.  It is a rare and elusive thing, but the moments where you can just breathe and listen to the stillness are potent and refreshing.  They are a prayer without words.  Merely awe, exhaustion, peace, and the simple joy in simply listening.
  14. When a piece of home that is missing comes home again.  My sister spent the past couple of weeks traveling the world and I am so happy she got to do that, but I missed her.  Like crazy.  I have spent the past two years living in a different state from her, but I didn’t realize how much she is a part of the fabric of home.  When she isn’t there, a huge chunk of home is missing.  So when she walked in the door and I got to give her a giant hug, it made my heart settle down a bit and have some peace.
  15. The way that water can be perfectly glassy just before a waterfall.  Man, when you live in a place where bodies of water aren’t really around, they are all the more fascinating when you do get to see them.  Water can be so peaceful but it is just as powerful.  Occasionally, right before it tumbles onto rocks and shatters into thousands of tiny rivulets chasing each other ever downward, it is smooth and looks for all the world to be still.  Not a ripple disturbs the glossy finish until the moment it crashes over the edge.  The juxtaposition is beautiful and intimidating and a little awe inspiring all at once.
  16. Baby clothes.  Everything is cuter when it is small.  That includes children and also the things they wear.  The shoes that are only a couple inches long, the overalls that could fit a teddy bear, the bows that clip into just a few wisps of hair.  The reaction to them never quite gets old.
  17. Seeing people tell the world about things that matter.  I have recently become aware of a musical called Come From Away which is about the town of Gander, Newfoundland who took in about 7,000 stranded people when the American airspace was closed in the days following 9/11.  Wow.  This is a true story and it is told in such a beautiful way that it leaves nothing but respect and love for the people who were a part of it all.  The original Newfoundlanders, the people who saw potential to honor it, the people who share the story.  It warms my heart to see people seeing value in the unsung heroes and being so in awe of what these people do that they have to tell the world.  9/11 was a devastating event and this nation will carry that scar with us as long as we carry on, but in the midst of tragedy, there was love.  There continues to be love.  God is faithful, and sometimes he shows that in ways as simple as letting people know about how he is using them to spread his love in the most unusual circumstances and in the most unexpected ways.
  18. Asking a question even when your hands are shaking.  Sometimes, questions are hard.  There are some scary things to ask of people.  But the courage to buck up and ask anyway is a pretty big victory.
  19. When my mother practices piano.  My mom plays for church about once a month which means that about one Saturday morning a month, the whole house brims with the resonance of the strings behind the keys.  There are very few places inside that you can’t hear at least a murmur of the piano when it plays, and my mother knows how to play it well.  It’s funny how perception influences memory because I cannot remember a single time in all my years of listening to the sound drift around the house that the windows were not full of effervescent morning sunlight.  Statistically, I’m sure there has to have been at least one time in all of the years that it’s been a gloomy day outside but I can’t remember a single one.  It’s like the music invites the sun in to listen.
  20. Super tightly curled curly fries.  The center of the potato, peel apart and eat around the spiral, Shirley Temple curled kind of fries.  The ones that stay piping hot because they are all bunched together.  Filled with batter in the minuscule center but not quite crunchy.  Those are the gems that make the perfect batch of curly fries.
  21. The kind of good news that is so exciting you can’t help but scream.  And then your hands start shaking because you can’t quite believe it’s real.  You are so overwhelmed that you can’t express it without a physical reaction.  In other words, I found out I get to study in Oxford for a semester (!!!) and I am completely over the moon.
  22. Liking your old work.  As a writer, I strive to be continuously working toward better quality in my work.  That means when I go back and look at the things I wrote several years ago, I have to stop myself from deleting the entire document and forgetting it ever existed.  it’s progress, to know that I am getting better from there, but it is also a little sad because I can always remember how enthused I was about the idea.  This week, I discovered a piece of writing I started about a year and a half ago.  It’s not old by any means, but it was kind of an out-there idea that I thought I’d be a little disappointed in.  Turns out, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it.  I still think I can do better, but it’s a powerful marker of my progress that I can now enjoy my writing down the road.
  23. Shuffling dominoes.  Skimming your hand across a pond of neatly designated rectangles that click together as they move.  Smooth, cool edges slide around each other, creating a sort of current.  It’s soothing to move the mock ivory around without needing to know what any of it looks like underneath – yet.  A mystery that lets patience solve it.
  24. Coming home after a grueling day and still having stories to tell.  I work at a daycare, which means that some days are chaos from start to finish.  Ammendment: most days are chaos from start to finish.  There are days when the chaos is fun and harmless but there are also days when the only thing I can think about is when I get to walk away and go home to my quiet, ordered house and sleep.  But even on those days when I’m not sure I’ll make it to the end of the day, I still have little anecdotes about my kiddos to tell.  There are still slices of the day that make me smile.  Those little moments of sunshine are the things that make me glad to get up in the morning and do it all over again.
  25. The moment you share with another person before stepping outside into a downpour.  There is a slight but significant connection when you make eye contact as you both stand in the vestibule, steeling your nerves.  It isn’t panic that runs in your eyes, rather something more like the gathering of courage.  A mutual understanding that this is a less than ideal situation, but one that cannot be avoided forever.  A moment longer perhaps, but sooner or later you are going to have to open those doors.  You wish each other luck, brace yourselves, and fling yourselves out into the chaos.  It could be a total stranger that you will never see again running out beside you, but as those doors are opening you are fellow soldiers charging into battle.
  26. The Great British Bake Off.  If you need a wholesome source of culinary joy in your life, this is it.  Puns, cakes, sarcasm, bread, it’s all there.
  27. Creating new games.  You wouldn’t think it would be hard to come up with a simple game, but it’s hard to just sit down and say “I want to make a new game.  Here it is.”  But there are other times when it sort of happens organically, evolves as an idea, refines itself in the transition from theory to practice.  It makes for quite the triumph when all the pieces fall into place and the game just works.
  28. Finally clipping your nails after they have been bugging you for a while.  It’s refreshing to lose the keyboard clicks and accidental scratches.  Your fingers actually end where you expect them too and there aren’t fragile little blunt knives sticking off the end anymore.  They feel new, shiny, and ready to grow again.
  29. When audiences react in movie theatres.  Unbound laughter, audible gasps, the odd snippet of reactionary commentary here and there, and best of all, applause as the credits roll.  It brings a sense of community to the screen.  Sure, it’s something that can’t react back, but it’s a reminder that we are all there reacting and witnessing it together, which is pretty nifty.
  30. Playing go-get-em music behind your work.  The Newsies soundtrack, “Go the Distance” from Hercules, and the Pirates of the Carribean theme are a good starting place.  We’re talking the kind of music that charges forward, heedless of the consequences because there are none to be had.  The kind of music that inspires you to throw yourself into whatever you are doing and feel powerful doing it.