"I fall asleep counting my blessings"
1. My mother; the rock of our family, the creator of delicious food, the strong-willed woman with an endless heart for my brother and I.
2. My brother; the mediator, the contemplator. The eight-years-my-senior-sibling who allowed me his time, his friendship, his advice, his hugs, his Nintendo.
3. My fiance. Another rock. Another mediator. A listener. A thinker. A loyal companion to all those for whom he cares.
4. My grandmother; my mother's mother. A curious creation is she, a decades-old embodiment of experiences, suggestions, and humor.
5. My sister-in-law. The woman who has brought innumerous smiles to my brother's lips. She has brought him happiness and love.
6. My Zoë. My Ty. The friends who accept me as I am, who always turn an ear or lend a shoulder. The friends who never fail to make me smile with a quip from a movie, a book.
7. Adam. Andy. Courtney. Travis. My "Iowa friends," my longest friends. The inside jokes whose origin we can no longer distinguish. The embarrassing photographs of "friend piles." The familiarity of a voice, of a person's living room, of a laugh, of a person's encompassing arms around your shoulders.
8. My "Purdue friends," the "Exponent friends." A diverse group of personalities and opinions. Friends who will always "think in AP Style." Friends who enjoy sushi, politics, arguments, journalism, dancing, Insomnia Cookies, the Internets.
9. My little cat. A Siamese wingding of a furball who gives affection when I most need it, but least deserve it.
10. My family; my dad, my aunts, my uncles, my ten cousins. A melting pot of dreams, wishes, characters and memories. Ten blond-haired, blue-eyed cousins. One family newspaper, at which I discovered, "Perhaps." Elegantly wrapped Christmas presents. Oyster stew and the annual stick-all-the-black-olives-you-can-on-your-fingers tradition. "Can you help me with this?" "She's my cousin." "We're all cousins." Homemade cards. Birthday parties. Buffet tables and carols sung around the piano. Dogs like Shadow and Skip and Abby. Cats like Felicity. Family vacations to Disneyworld, to New York City. Graduation parties in the shed. Cribbage games and Apples to Apples. Memories.
11. My acquaintances. Those who met in high school. Those who I met while at community college. Those I met at Purdue. At my first job, my second. At the music camp I attended for four summers. In Australia, when I traveled there as a seventeen-year-old. For those I routinely email, Facebook, tweet to. Those who ask how I'm doing, who post photos and share thoughts and words. Those who consider me trustworthy. Those who inspire me, encourage me. Those with kind words, a snarky response, a link to a most-appropriate gif/photo/story/anecdote.
12. My friends in Australia. Canada. Colombia. France. England. Italy. Spain. Singapore. Taiwan.
13. My car. My beat-up, rusted-out, sans-hubcaps Oldsmobile. You've carried me 160,000 miles, Car. Chunks of your once-sturdy frame now crumble in my fist. Your doors squeak, your tires often sit low. You allow the tears of rain into you, you poor thing. But I love you, Car. You have carried me well. You have protected me through a tire blowout and an accident. Your steering is true, your engine strong. Still, your time will come. But until then, I drive you. I guide you, but you protect me and carry me to the places I need and desire to be.
14. The house in which I grew up. The crackerbox of a home. A bungalow with a leaking roof. With shocking light switches nicknamed "Sparky." With asbestos and the occasional bat. With drafty windows, creaky floors, unreliable fuses. With large rooms. A square kitchen. With plenty of storage. With a full basement. With a mud room. With wide windows. With a picture window. With wood floors. With a clothes chute. With walk-in closets. A cozy home, it is, really. A cozy home with three trees and a line of bushes and a porch swing and flower gardens. You're home, house. Your roof may leak, but it is still a roof over my head. Your windows may be drafty, but they still protect me from the north winter chills. You're not perfect, you're not together, but you're home.
15. My basement apartment. You're not perfect, either. But my imperfect Iowa bungalow has prepared me for you. Leaks? Okay. Light switch issues? Okay. Tripped circuits? Okay. You have some issues, but you're mine. You have character. You have potential. You are in a house in a historic district that is across the street from a vintage store. You are 15 minutes from work. You are my new home. You are both my freedom and my stability within the city.
16. My friendly landlords. The first, a handyman protective of his tenants. The second, a musician resembling Billy the Exterminator.
17. My new job. The opportunity to learn. The experience of creating a tangible product. A product made of words.
18. The ability to ask questions at my new job, and not fear the answers. The willingness of coworkers and bosses to answer my questions.
19. Care packages from my mom. Packages that include, but are not limited to: pillows she constructed, Christmas ornaments, chocolate chip cookies, handdrawn cards, newspaper clippings.
20. My college professors; distributors of knowledge. For Coreen. For Dr. Schmidt. Patt Kelly. Mr. Shorey. Hersh. Susannah. Professor Johnston. Professor Powell. Lucia.
21. My "big girl" camera.
22. My books. My boxes and boxes of books. The Goosebumps. The American Girl. The Gossip Girl. The Harry Potter. The Pulitzers. The Jewish-American literature. The Gothic literature. The YA lit. The Newberys. The dog-eared pages, the smell of printed imagination.
23. Crossword puzzles.
25. Pencil skirts.
26. The crunch of leaves beneath my boots, a scarf wrapped around my neck.
27. The crisp winter air I breathe in when I first step outside after a snow. That fresh, stark scent of atmosphere.
29. Gentle rain, and the tiny reflections of life inside the dew on my windows.
30. The smell and feel of crawling into clean, fresh, white sheets.
31. Un- sharpened, prefect pencils.
32. The animals I've had the opportunity to love. The couple of dogs, the rabbit. And the cats. Salem. Squirt. Cassie. Tigger. Felix. Daxter. Toulouse. Jinx. Strider. And all the others.
33. My computer. My decade-old computer that I purchased when I was fifteen years old. You have stayed with me for all this time, through viruses and crashes and computer games and online exams and long car rides to various universities. Thanks, buddy, for hanging in there.
34. My portable hard drive. My safety net. My digital memory bank.
35. The ability to vote.
36. The ability to read, write, type, and communicate complex ideas and feelings.
37. The ability to walk.
38. My right to a driver's license, and the ability to operate a motorized vehicle.
39. The smooth, rolling terraces of corn and soybeans in my home state. The golden glow from the crops as the sun sets. The agricultural atmosphere, the sense that we provide and produce.
40. The expansive Indiana flatness that allows one to focus on the pinks and reds and oranges and purples and yellows of a sunset. All of the sunset. All of the clouds. No bits and pieces; the entire sky is just above your fingertips.
41. The food in my cabinet. I have but a few cans of tuna fish and chicken. A jar of peanut butter. Some various pastas. A bag of frozen vegetables. But I have bread. I have milk. I have sustenance. It is more than enough, and I am thankful that it is within my reach when I feel the groans of meager hunger, the nauseous ache of hypoglycemia.
42. My mom's doctors. The nurses and doctors and aides and individuals who assisted her when she broke her ribs, smashed her hand, split her temple in two. The ones who helped her walk, who helped her see, who took her to the hospital when I could not. The hospital employees who have aided her physically, mentally, and financially.
43. The MS. My mother's disability is not one at which to laugh. Her struggles to stand, to sit, to walk, are already heartbreaking. But, in its curious way, her diagnosis has educated me. I have learned about it, done some research. I accept what could happen to her, what will happen to her. It has allowed for me to prepare for the future.
44. The freedom to pray to whomever I wish, whenever I want. The satisfaction of silently dipping my head into prayer with words of thanksgiving.
45. Music. The songs of joy. The songs of praise. The dance songs. The folk songs. The blues music. Classical. Memorable. Heart-wrenching. Mellow. Easy. Romantic. Perfect for any occasion.
46. The moment when my mother and I break out into the same made-up song lyric. The moment a friend I quote the same movie. The moment when I'm "jinxed."
47. Deja vu; the questioner of reality, the nagging, tickling, suspicious sensation that there is more to this world, this parallel land of circumstances and coincidence.
48. The warmth of the sun on my skin during the summer. The hot breath of humid air that lets me know that I am breathing, that I am alive.
49. The innocence my mother allowed me to have as a child. There were things. There were always things. But I had happiness then, too. The long bubble baths. The comfy, handmade blankets. The dolls. The feeling of a book between both my mom and I's hands. The plastic pool in which she allowed me play and splash. The bedtime stories she read to me. The cuddling when I awoke in the night, screaming from nightmares. The honesty she gave me when I asked about poverty, homelessness, family issues, and the existence of Santa. She kept me from harm while always remaining truthful.
50. My elementary and high school teachers who had patience with me. I was stubborn even then. Thank you for teaching me basic algebra. For allowing me to hold my pencil my own way, though--years later--that same way would lead to a callus on my ring finger. Thank you for teaching me about how a city's water system works. Thank you for recognizing the danger of cliques and gossip, and how they harmed me. Thank you for standing up for me when spitballs and trash was tossed at me in class. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to succeed and stretch my own abilities and skills. Thank you for your subtle encouragement when it came to discovering what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, what I thought was best for me.
51. My crooked teeth; the devices that keep me chewing, that aide me with eating delicious, delicious, food.
52. My "blogger friends." The ones I have spoken to for three years. The ones I have met. The ones I will meet. The ones I want to meet. The ones who have offered to team up. The ones who inspire me. Who encourage me. Who send me small notes in the mail. Who are wise beyond years. Who have grown and matured and changed and developed into their true souls. Who are the kindest, most gracious people I know.
53. Zoos and museums. Theaters and exhibits and libraries. Historical centers and memorials. Places of interest. Places of knowledge and history and human culture.
54. Airplanes; their fast ability to speed me through the atmosphere, through the clouds, around the globe.
56. Telephones. The sound of my mother's voice. My brother's deep chuckle. My fiance's cooing. Zoë's sleepy drone when I wake her. The purr of friends' utterances, the trill of laughter.
57. Handwritten letters. Snail mail. The licking of stamps, the sealing of envelopes.
58. Pyrex; its organized, delicate patterns. Its utilitarian abilities. Heat. Cold. Bake. Frozen. Thaw. Store. Serve.
59. The tickle of freshly mown grass on the soles of my feet.
60. Appliances; the machinery that accepts our mundane, undesirable tasks (though sometimes with complaint). Our hands are not raw from scrubbing dishes. Not tired and clenched from wringing laundry. We "zap" food, "toast" bread, "brew" coffee. Our hands are free to accomplish other things, anything. Our dreams. Our hobbies. These appliances give us time.
61. Disposable cameras.
62. Flash drives.
63. SD cards.
65. The Internet. Its network of information, its web of social media, news, photos, truth and untruth. Its ability to expose us, to create for us, to give us recommendations. The coding, the creation, its existence and nonexistence as a "thing."
66. Unbroken sidewalks on which I can place my feet, step after step. A place to go, nothing holding me there.
67. Trains and travel.
69. The color palettes at paint and home improvement stores. The imagination that goes into naming each other. Gray Dove. Sweet Nectar. Frosted Pomegranate. Wickford Bay. Taste of Berry. Lemon Pound Cake.
70. Crayola crayons. The smell of a new box, the shape of brand new, unused wax colors. Cerulean. Cerulean. Cerulean. Cerulean.
71. The metallic, rhythmic clacks of typewriters.
72. Vintage dresses, and the mild sewing skills needed to spruce them up.
73. My fiance's car. When mine has been troubled, when faith in mine was doubted, his was used. It, too, has traversed between Iowa and Indiana. It, too, has carried me, has kept me safe. A compact car, it is. A handy, good-for-distance-driving car. It is a trustworthy vehicle even with its hiccups.
75. Unlimited minutes on weekends.
76. Souvenirs; the small tokens of experiences shared with loved ones or by oneself. Small treasures, little monuments to experiences and genuine happiness.
77. The sweet, sweet sound of particular words, of syllables and silky voices: Honeysuckle. Scissor. Existence. Paisley. Serene. Ethereal. Champagne. Sunkissed.
78. Good wines. Good Iowa wines; the friendly moscatos, the chocolate-infused, the cheery berry flavors.
80. Brick walls and painted murals. Bright doorways and steel arches. The architecture of a city, a township. A community. The architecture that defines it as "romantic," "French," "southern," "Greek," "Baroque." Adobe. Tudor. Craftsman. Wide sidewalks. Brick paths. Steep hills, angled streets. Cities, cities, cities. Their layouts and constructions, highways and walkways and buildings. The feel of a place, the word that makes it tick. Click.
81. Red pens, purple pens, green pens. The happy tools of to-do lists.
82. Hugs. From the fiance, a bear-hugger whose arms find just the right place. Familiar, warm, his arms. My face in his neck, his chest, resting on his shoulder. Comfy, familiar, loving. My mom's hugs; comforting, forgiving. My brother; robust, welcoming, loving. The tight affection of my sister-in-law's hugs. Love and friendship and feelings and years of laughter and tears and late-night phone conversations in a two-second, five-second, ten-second embrace of camaraderie.
83. The blankets my grandmother crocheted for me. The yarn will hold for ages, and it will warm the feet of my children, just as it warmed mine. They will finger the stitches, poke their nails between the lines of yarn, the lines and lines and lines of neat rows. They will be tempted to pull a strand, to follow it with their eyes into the maze of woven string. But, all the while, they will be warm.
84. The small conveniences of daily life that I take for granted: detergent, trash bags, trash cans, dish soap, shampoo, lotion, Lysol, Windex, contact solution, Scotch tape, Sharpies, light bulbs, lint rollers, Ziploc bags, paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, bandages, antibacterial soap, Neosporin.
85. Quiet, reflective, foggy mornings.
86. Constellations, and the magic of the night sky.
87. Nature's wonders. Lightning that shines before my eyes, if only splitting-ly, and shockingly. The rumble of thunder, deep inside my chest, echoing. Wind teasing my hair, the leaves, my pace. The jumble of land beneath my feet. The crackle of flames. The tumbling of gallon upon gallon upon gallon of water over a side, the steady, watery roar. Twisting, twirling winds. Pounding rain. Frozen, icy spheres that dance and hop upon the ground. The spewing of earth's core. It's all a marvel.
88. My name. Dawn. A subtle, uncommon name that inspires nicknames, such as "Sunshine."
89. Post-It notes.
90. Mums. Daisies. Herbs.
92. Indoor plumbing.
93. Duct tape, healer of home maladies.
94. Late-night whispers and early-morning kisses. A brush of the lips on my forehead just before he leaves. An "I love you" quietly purred into the gray light of morning. A squeeze of the hand, the weight of a body on the bed, not wanting to say goodbye, not wanting to wake you. Sweet nothings, sweet goodbyes. Come back for more.
95. Dresses with hemlines that are longer than 35 inches.
96. Shirts and button-downs whose sleeves stretch to my wrists.
97. The relatives of old. My great-grandpa. My great-grandma. My "aunt." Madelyn. My paternal grandparents. The many people who have passed on, whose souls have gone elsewhere. I think of them, think of them often. I wonder about our conversations, if we were to have one now. Do you approve? Are you proud? Do you know that I am thankful for the short time we did have together? For the wisdom you gave me? The will to push on? Do you know, Grandma Saar, that your humor even now makes me smile? Even at 92, you would smirk, a joke on your lips. You were a snarky one, a witty one like me. And Grandpa Olsen? Sometimes I imagine you still squeeze my shoulder. And Madelyn ... "Every person gets seven mistakes every day. And every day, they expire. Only seven each day. But you also get nine hugs each day. The positive always outweighs the mistakes we think we make."
99. Six bibles. Six bibles from various times in life. The illustrated Beginner's Bible in 1995. The New Adventure Bible for third grade Sunday School. The Picture Bible, handed down to me by my brother. The Life Application Study Bible, for high school graduation. The Oxford Annotated Bible, for The Bible as Literature. The Story of God, at my second baptism.
100. Time. Time to live. To think. To breathe. To see. To taste. To touch. To experience and memorize. To make friends, to love family, to smile and laugh and feel. Time. Time to be thankful for everything.