#328 The smell of a library

Come on in.

Pull open the wooden door with those giant oversized handles that are smooth and worn down to a light brown finish. Drag your boots over the dirty green carpeted floor that bubbles up in the corners and splashes tiny dust clouds into shimmery orange sunbeams with every step. Feel the calm and comforting library quiet settle like a blanket over your body and your brain as you shuffle past the counters and make your way inside…

Massive atlases, worn-out hardcovers, and crinkly plastiwrapped kid’s books fill rusty metal bookshelves and cover that overly-lacquered table at the front — dented from that time someone smacked it with their wheelchair in 1988. Yellowed pages with pencil lines, cracked bindings and broken spines, cover every corner of the place…

Feel our shared histories softly swirl together through old books and stamped checkout cards as you smile and soak up all the little library smells of

AWESOME!

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#329 Twisting the lid off a jar after nobody else could

I used to hang out at Jean’s place.

Yes, back when I was in second grade and my sister Nina was in Kindergarten we spent our lunchtimes and after schools at a do-it-yourself daycare run by a leathery old woman named Jean. Her home was a cold and dark playground of plastic toys and Thundercats reruns and we spent hours and hours there for years and years.

At lunchtime the seven or eight kids she looked after crowded around a wobbly plastic table to dive into her famously greasy lunches. Grilled Cheez Whiz on buttery white bread, mayo-drenched tuna casseroles, and bologna and processed cheese sandwiches were a few of her faves. And Jean always capped each meal by pouring a big jar of apple sauce, syrupy peach slices, or fruit salad into little bowls for each of us.

I remember watching Jean try to open those jars like it was yesterday. Honestly, she’d be huffing and puffing till we thought she’d fall over. Sometimes she’d hold the jar under hot water, other times she’d twist it with a dish cloth, and then there was my favorite — the spectacularly loud bang-and-clang-the-lid-with-a-knife move, which we always suspected would result in a serving of pear halves sprinkled with shattered glass, but fortunately never did.

Poor Jean was surrounded a weak and wide-eyed army of tiny hands, spaghetti noodle arms, and saggy biceps. We couldn’t help her much but after watching her suffer for years we took firm blood oaths to help others open those tough-to-open jars whenever we could.

Yes, twisting the lid of the jar after nobody else could fills you with a strong sense of Superman Pride. Suddenly you’re Popeye, Mr. Universe, or The Incredible Hulk, beaming like a flashlight in front of the kitchen counter as you hand back a freshly opened jar of

AWESOME!

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#330 Clean Baby Smell

Sniff those powdery fresh fumes as you pick up that fuzzy bundle of flabby cheeks and drooly drips.

Someone just had a bath.

AWESOME!

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#331 When someone already highlighted your textbook

Thanks for the helping hand, friendly stranger.

AWESOME!

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#332 When the dust gets so big you can pick it up with your hand

If you’re as bad at sweeping as I am then this is one of the few moments you get of complete cleaning catharsis.

“Hey dust, you got cocky.”

Also applies to hairballs.

AWESOME!

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#333 The day your cafeteria serves the best food they got

Have you ever had a panzarotti?

Well, if not then let me tell you that panzarottis are magical miniature pepperoni pizzas folded over into a giant doughy envelopes and baked to a golden brown crisp before being slathered with steaming tomato sauce. Sawing into them with a knife and fork gets the melted mozzarella oozing out like lava before swirling into a savory sea of puffy crust, salty pepperoni, and even more sauce that was baked inside to a tangy finish.

Our high school cafeteria served panzarottis every Tuesday and every Tuesday our high school cafeteria had raging lines out the door and down the hallway with sweaty backwards-cap wearing teens each holding five bucks for the most delicious lunch in our known universe. Lose the Lunchables and toss the tuna sandwiches because on Panzerotti Tuesday we’re a salivating room of equals buzzing over life, liberty, and the pursuit of giant, greasy folded-over pizza things.

Yes, it’s a beautiful moment when your cafeteria serves the best food they got.

Whether it’s Mac and Cheese Monday at the cubicle farm, Taco Thursday at the plastics plant, or Fajita Friday at the old folk’s home, it always tastes like fun … it always tastes like excitement … and sure does always taste like

AWESOME!

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#334 The first meal you eat after a cold

I had a streak going.

See, for the past two years I narrowly avoided getting sick. Have you ever made it through a winter or two with that kind of luck? It was my first time and let me just say there’s nothing like a little run of good health to make you feel invincible. I felt like He-Man. I mean sure, I ran from sneezing toddlers, used my feet to open bathroom doors, and washed my hands six times a day with a homemade cocktail of industrial-strength bleach, hand sanitizer, and imported echinacea flowers.

But I was healthy.

Unfortunately, my invincibility cloak against all germs was ruthlessly shredded this year with a brutal three-week bug that drained me completely. Sore throats, clogged nostrils, and dull headaches caused sleepless nights, lost weekends, and hours and hours combing pharmacy aisles in salty boots and tattered bathrobes looking for some magical combination of pills, cough syrup, and throat lozenges to pull me through. My credit card statement even claims I bought a humidifier during this foggy, desperate period.

Worst of all, my appetite shriveled to the point where two saltines and half a banana was my big meal of the day. I couldn’t swallow, I couldn’t taste, and I lost my love of chips, chocolate, and chicken chimichangas … all at once.

Truly, it was agony.

But that’s what made it great when my marathon cold finally disappeared. Yes, once my immune system warriors buckled down, fought the brave fight, and ended the three week war, well … let’s just say I got my tastebuds back and it was time to get chompin’. The battlefield was still bloody and the ink wasn’t even dry on the Peace Treaty of My Lungs before I started drooling for dinner.

Yes, the first meal you eat after a cold welcomes all your senses back into the magical World of Food. And the World of Food is a good world. It’s a safe world. It’s a tasty world. And it’s a world you lived in since the day you were born. After sipping back milk and slurping mushy peas your tastebuds opened into carbonated seas full of coffees and teas and macaroni and cheese.

Bubbly drinks or cheesy nachos, juicy burgers or dripping tacos – it don’t matter, it don’t matter, it don’t matter at all. What matters is the gates are open, your tongue can taste, and it’s time to come on back in… and start enjoying food all over again.

AWESOME!

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#335 Catching someone you love admiring you from across the room

Baby, it’s true.

Toss your mushy clump of skin, blood, and bones together and we get the beautifully strange and wonderful package that combines to form you. Jokes and smarts, stutters and starts, smile and farts — we’re into your everything even though we probably don’t tell you enough.

But that’s why it’s a beautiful moment when you glance up from the party chatter or kitchen clatter and catch someone you love smiling silently at you from across the room.

Maybe it’s the dog head-tilting from the couch as you race to grab your keys and run out the door all stressed, maybe it’s your daughter sneaking a peek in the bathroom mirror as you zip up your dress, or maybe it’s your grandma smiling with wet eyes as you stick your hands in the cake making a big fat mess.

Maybe it’s your little brother smiling silently from the stands as you come up to home plate, maybe it’s your mom waiting at the train station for you to come through the gate, or maybe it’s your boyfriend bumping at the back of the bus at the end of the date.

When you catch those quick and quiet glances let your heart melt and feel at peace because you just got told without words that you are admired, you are loved… and you are

AWESOME!

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#336 Getting the perfect ketchup to fries ratio

Squeeze too much and you’re stuck with a syrupy red pool smeared across the side of your plate. Squeeze too little and you’ve got a cold and tasteless pile of potato blandness. Squeeze just right and you’re

AWESOME!

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#337 Getting buried under piles of heavy blankets on cold nights

Joey doesn’t have heat.

Honestly, when I crashed at his cramped apartment a couple nights ago he welcomed me in wearing three sweaters and a set of chattering teeth while explaining that his apartment has no heat, so while he was glad I came over it was going to be a matter of setting up an army of space heaters to keep warm.

After catching up for a couple hours it was time to hit the hay and since Joey’s a great friend he took care to drag his arm along the spare mattress to wipe the loud clattery pile of extension cords, extra keys, and cell phone batteries onto the rock hard floor before bed. He then apologized for having no blinds in the room, said to watch out for the mouse trap under the bed, and tossed a pin cushion onto the mattress for a pillow.

“Need anything else?”, he asked, while yawning and scratching his armpit.

“Blankets,” I replied, my tired eyes narrowing at the slippery cold mattress and terrible sleepless night before me. I pictured waking up with my eyelids frostbitten shut and my big toes turned blue and dead in the dark. “Blankets Joey … for God’s sakes blankets.”

“Oh … right,” he said. “Hmm, lemme see what I’ve got around here.”

And so began a fast-paced five minute hunt around his apartment for anything resembling a thin bed covering. First a dusty duvet was yanked from the closet, then a few mothball-smelling sheets recovered from under a bed, and then finally we hit a forgotten motherlode stash of blankets piled up behind the couch. Pretty soon we’d built a thick and heavy eight-layer fortress from the cold and I brushed my teeth, stripped right down, and jumped into those frozen sheets.

And let me tell you.

That beautifully thick stack of blankets kept every single ounce of heat in all night and helped me sleep in a heavenly bed of bliss. The heaviness on top of me felt safe and secure and I rested knowing that outside my Fortress of Fire lay an ice-cold deathtrap trying to lure me to the bathroom. Well friends… the good news is my bladder didn’t burst and I managed to spend a beautifully warm and toasty night under a giant thick pile of

AWESOME!

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