Having adult conversations with the adults you’ve known your whole life. When you grow up with roughly the same people your entire life, you know the people at church and your friends’ parents as The Adults. And when you come back home and see them again, it is a strange feeling to know that you have joined their league now. But once you get over the shock, it is fun to have real and meaningful conversations with people that you have known from a distance your whole life.
When people are thoughtful about the little details. My mother owns some plates. I don’t know the technical term, but they are dessert plates or salad plates or something. Anyway, they are white with a blue stripe around the edge of the plate and another one where the flat center meets the gentle slope of the sides. Between those two blue lines, the plate is surrounded by diagonal yellow tick marks, making the whole thing look like a little piece of sunshine with blue sky behind it. Kind of. I love these plates. I use every excuse to eat off of them. I call them my happy plates because that’s exactly how they make me feel. When I first went away to college, I asked to take them with, but no luck. One of my mother’s birthday gifts to me was a set of plates that she had hand painted to look just like the happy plates. She even wrote Happy Plate on the back of them. They might be a sweet gift to someone else, but to me they are a treasure. I will love using them, but I will love the fact that my mother thought to make them specifically for me more.
Tea and shortbread. Perfect partners. Give the cookie a dip, barely enveloping it in rich warm comfort so that the whole thing dissolves into bliss the instant it hits your tongue.
When someone runs their fingers through your hair. There are few things more calming and inherently comforting than gentle lines tracing down your scalp. Over and over again they soothe and promise rest in the safety of a place called home. At least for the moment. But that moment could last forever.
Watching people dance spontaneously. Some people know how to dance. It’s one thing to be able to memorize a series of movements, but it’s a completely different thing when a person hears music in their very sinews. You know the people I’m talking about. You give them music and let them go and they will absolutely shine. My medium is words, but those courageous humans use their own bodies to express profoundness and it is mesmerizing.
Listening to a story on a road trip. When my mother has to drive any great distance by herself, she goes to the library first and grabs an audiobook to stick in the CD player of her car. When my sister and I were younger, my parents used the same tactic to keep us quiet and occupied on long drives. It worked pretty darn well, to be honest. Recently, I did the drive from home to school with the soundtrack to Hamilton, which might as well have been an audiobook. I found tears leaking rather ungracefully out of my eyeballs by the end, but it was so fun to let the story engross me. To sink into the world of our fledgling nation as the asphalt sneaked by beneath me. To listen. That was the real gift of it.
The fact that people have been inspired by the same things since God breathed life into Adam. All of history’s greatest romantics have filled their eyes with the stars and tried to wrangle them into something tangible. Waves rolling across the enormity of the sea have always intimidated and fascinated us. We dance with them and do our best to do them justice in love letters. Sunlight meandering to the floor of a forest has caught us staring and it flirted back by ruffling our hair in the wind. We are never at a loss for wonder.
Walking up stairs that have dry leaves collected on them. Crunch, crunch, crunch, every single step. And it’s not little single leaf conquests either, these are full blown piles that you can plant your feet in with every step. Your inner child is gleeful by the time you reach the end of those stairs and it tends to bleed onto your disposition of the day at least enough to turn the corners of your mouth.
Omelets. Whoever invented these things deserves an award. Eggs with cheese and goodies all snuggled up inside. Surgically slit a fork through the film of the egg and feel the cheese melt around it as you place it in your mouth. Mmmmm.
Spoken word poetry. You may have noticed that I like words and sentences and things. Spoken word sends shivers down my spine because it is such a beautiful rendering of those things that I adore. Spoken word is raw and vulnerable and dare I say incredibly alluring. It is unorthodox and compelling and my soul gives a little flutter whenever I have the pleasure of gracing my ears with that lovely sound.
The little wiggle you do to get comfy in bed. You shimmy underneath the covers and readjust until you are the perfect amount of warm and cozy and relaxed. Then you nestle in and close your eyes and that is when all of the day’s burdens manage to shake themselves off and you can simply fall into the repose of sleep.
Coming to the end of a story. I used to hate endings. I still do to some extent, I guess, but what I can’t stand more than an ending is a story that refuses to tie up the strings and let bygones be bygones. A story does not become invalid or irrelevant when it ends, it merely becomes complete. It takes a whole lot of audacity to be able to step away from your work and call it done. But once you finally manage it, you can look at your creation with a sentimental sort of pride and nostalgia. You can rest easy knowing that you haven’t beaten your characters to a pulp nor have you unraveled the plot. You have created a finished work of art and for that your should be pretty darn impressed with yourself.
When all of your dishes are clean. I don’t mind doing dishes. When I’m at home, I actually kind of like it. Time after dinner to linger just a little longer with the family. However, if I don’t do my dishes right away, they pile up. And then that pile becomes more stressful and I don’t want to do it so I let it slide and it gets bigger and the destructive cycle continues. But when all of my dishes are clean, I could conquer the world.
Being unsure of yourself. Hello friend, I want to tell you something: you will not always know what you are doing. There will be days when you doubt every step you take and are always looking down, shrugging your shoulders. Don’t close in on yourself when that happens. Revel in the joy of being lost. Seriously, it is therapeutic. Soon, you will find your feet again and then you get to call this learning. So why don’t you start the learning now?
Watching people you love interact with their families. No matter how close you may be to someone, or how well you know them, they are always going to settle in around their family in a way that they will never do in any other place. They are less reserved, more confident, maybe not in their favorite element but certainly their most familiar. There is a new threshold of intimacy added to any relationship once you have seen that side of someone and it can be an incredibly beautiful thing.
Resting in nature. Guys. I am such a city girl, but I actually really love slowing down in the good old outdoors sometimes. God made us to rest and he gave us this big beautiful world to do it in. The earth is intrinsically nourishing and refreshing. There is something about walking among the trees that gives you some spunk, some perk in your blood. Nature is pretty neat.
Homemade bread. One of the wonders of the world is made with flour and kneading and a whole lot of love.
Friendly pranks. When people care about you, sometimes they show you extra attention, like putting sticky notes all over your room reminding you that you are in mortal peril. You know, simple stuff. It shows that they care and that they want to shower you with their time and energy. Even if it’s in a slightly strange way.
Watching the steam rise off of coffee. There is a quiet calm in the eddies that roll off of a warm mug filled with cheer and comfort. It is mesmerizing to follow the vapor’s twisting trail to the sky. The littlest disturbance in the air sends it roiling, but even that is not frantic. It is nothing more than a misstep which takes the dance somewhere else.
The names of paint colors. If I could have one obscure job, it would probably be naming colors, because they are clever and adorable. It isn’t green, it’s Wanderlust. What makes that particular shade earn that particular name? They fascinate me.
Getting as many people as you can together to try and solve a puzzle. I grew up on mind games. Puzzles and problems and tricks. I love thinking about a situation and trying to figure out how I can maneuver it around to something new. But I especially love doing it with other people. Everyone huddling around to look for clues and hints. Throwing out far fetched ideas that lead to less far fetched ideas that lead to solutions. Bonding over being overly competitive toward a book that refuses to give up its secrets. Those puzzles are the most fun ones.
Long life conversations with people you love more than you see. I have a precious friend who lived on the same floor of the residence hall as me last year. This year we are both RAs in the same building but she lives on first floor and I live on third. Let me tell you, two floors is too far. We have both said that we don’t see enough of each other any more so when we do get to catch up it is a breath of fresh air to spend time with her again.
Getting to the point in a friendship where you are comfortable giving each other a little bit of sass. There’s almost a mutual vulnerability required to give and take snark to and from each other. And you have to understand someone reasonably well to know that they mean no malice by it.
When you randomly end up cleaning everything you own. I confess I’m not always particularly skilled at keeping all of my ducks in a row and regularly cleaning house. But when one thing leads to another, it does occasionally happen and I feel like the most useful human alive.
White chocolate. This little gem doesn’t get the attention it deserves. There is merit in all types of chocolate, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like white chocolate is the artsy airy girl who always has a vase full of flowers in her room and she seems kind of out of it until you get to know her and find out she’s actually a really sweet person with huge dreams she means to accomplish.
Finding the culture beneath your feet. Close to ten years ago now, my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska launched a campaign urging Lincolnites to “be a tourist in your own hometown!” At the time, that sounded like a pretty worthless campaign for such a dinky city with only a bit to offer. Then I found out what Lincoln had to offer. There is culture oozing from the very streets of that town. Sure, it isn’t the sort of culture you would associate with San Fransisco or Toronto or London, but if you are willing to look for culture of a different kind, you will find it everywhere. In my current home of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I thought that one year of exploring was enough to know more or less what was out there. Not so, as it turns out. I am writing this from an adorable little bread/coffee/pizza shop not twenty feet away from the railroad tracks at the edge of downtown. Sitting upstairs, I can look out the window and watch the tops of the trains slide by. If I take the time to turn my head a little, I can see the exposed bricks and lines where the second floor of the building sat when it was a warehouse. If I lean over the railing, I can look down through a tangle of vintage lightbulbs to a pizza oven covered in bright white tiles next to a modern kitchen counter top covered in a brilliant array of fresh seasonings. I stumbled upon this place completely by accident and almost couldn’t figure out the door to get in. But it was worth the effort. A little treat hidden in plain sight if only you know where to look. They are all over, folks. Culture is a part of what we do as humans, finding it is the fun part.
Sitting down to write when you have ample ideas and motivation. It is actually a pretty rare thing that these two coincide. When your brain is feeling creative enough to write and energized enough to put the words on paper. That’s when things like yesterday’s Daily Beautiful happen.
Going to bed early. I think over the course of any given day it is almost guaranteed that I will utter the words “I’m going to go to bed early tonight” at least once. Spoiler alert: I don’t usually make it to bed early. But the days when I actually manage to turn the lights off and tug the blankets up to my chin are few and far between. But man, the next day always thanks me for doing it.
Working really hard with a group of people to pull off something really cool. The whole staff in my res hall has spent months planning what our Halloween costumes were going to be for the dance and accompanying costume contest this year. We plotted and schemed and kept the whole thing one giant secret from the rest of the world. In the week leading up to the dance, we crafted and took care of every minor detail to make the whole thing truly spectacular. Then we showed up to the dance impeccably dressed like the characters from Up and we stole the show. It was so gratifying to be so well received after we put so much work into our costumes. Also, it was pretty fun to do it with those people and see them succeed alongside me. (PS: we won the contest too.)
Singing A Might Fortress is Our God on Reformation Sunday. That was a whole lot of Lutheran in one sentence, but bear with me. That particular hymn is such a triumphant and bold declaration of faith, but we don’t seem to sing it very often. But Reformation Day is the one day I can pretty much guarantee that if I show up at a traditional Lutheran church service, I will most definitely have the privilege of belting that confident assurance in my God.
Getting to listen to people sing. I love when people have the courage to take their voice and put it on display for all the world to see. There is a vulnerability in doing that, but it usually turns into something resonant and enthralling. God gave us a blessing when he taught us to sing.