#5 Collapsing into bed when you’re completely, massively exhausted

Burn, baby, burn.

Life’s not long and we only got so many moments we’re wide awake. So take, take, take — grab that run at sunrise, laugh with baby before the door, clock into work with energy, and clock out looking for more. Run to that soccer practice, grab ice cream when it ends, stir up a recipe the slow way, and finish by connecting with a friend.

Bomb’s ticking, clock’s clicking, you’re going underground soon.

So before you die make sure you try to squeeze every drop from your days.

Run till you bleed, love till she leaves, power up with passion and fire.

Give it your best, forget all the rest, and collapse at the end of the day.

AWESOME!

The Happiness Equation is currently #1 overall on the Globe Int’l bestseller list!

The Happiness Equation - Cover

Photo from: here

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#6 The last day of school

My friend Jason had a tradition.

Every year on the last day of school he’d stop on the bridge over the creek on his walk home, pop open all his three-hole binders, and dump and shake all his pen-scrawled notes and sticker-covered tests into the bubbling rapids below. Somehow the sight of the sheets soaking up and smearing the ink and then drowning and drifting away gave him the therapeutic closure he needed before summer officially began.

Although we didn’t all celebrate by polluting local waterways, the day always had so much meaning.

I don’t know about you but our school board didn’t spring for air-conditioning, figuring we could make it through a few hot weeks before summer break. So as the cold winter thawed into muggy summer days, the heat just sank and stank, despite pleading windows propped open with dog-eared textbooks and plastic yellow rulers.

As that last day approached, a certain smell drifted from all the backpacks, lockers, and gym closets, too. It was a musty combination of dodgeball rubber, cheap floor polish, and acne medication, complemented by a fine sprinkling of locker mold.

But that heat sure did bring some excitement, too.

Calendar days flipped by and teachers taught with a little more pep, homework assignments got lighter, and projects deadlines came and went. Tank tops came out as flip-flops clip-clopped up and down the hallway — with everybody locking eyes, smiling big smiles, and waiting patiently for that beautiful last day to finally come.

And then one day … it did.

And it sure whipped by in a whirlwind.

Maybe your teacher brought a batch of homemade brownies in a heavy glass tray and everybody sliced a square with a plastic knife while passing around yearbooks and watching a movie with no educational value whatsoever.

Maybe you wrote exams early so half the class skipped while the rest come for board games, Students vs. Teachers baseball, or just to collect report cards.

Maybe you were graduating and spent the afternoon kicking pebbles in the parking lot while chatting about all the moments you were going to miss as you moved on. There was your first cigarette, The Tuba Incident, and the hallway drama of prom season.

Making plans for pool parties, summer birthdays, and sleeping in every morning gives you a great rush and as you walk home with that pen-scratched yearbook in your light and baggy backpack, you curl your lips into a tight smile and stare way off into the distances… thinking tall thoughts … and dreaming big dreams … to fill those beautifully wide open spaces.

AWESOME!

Thank you for making The Book of Awesome a bestseller for over 200 weeks! It’s back on the bestseller list this week over seven years since publishing in 2010! Check it out!

Photos from: here, here, here, and here

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#7 That feeling in your stomach after a really big dump

We’re all just twisted messes.

Sure, you might look fine in your pleated pants and your frilly dresses, but beneath all that we’re just twisted messes. Brown slippery organs, brittle bones, and bubbling blood cramp every tight little space in your body’s homeplace, fool.

Sometimes you can’t help feel stuffed.

Yes, sometimes you can’t help notice how cramped, full, and heavy you feel — after a long night at the bar or a couple Big Mac meals. When you’re carrying a big load and dragging that heavy sack I’m saying nothing feels as good as getting home… and getting unpacked.

Yes, that feeling in your stomach after a really big dump feels like you’re suddenly reborn into a new, improved version of yourself. Your stomach muscles twist “thank you” waves, your brain floats sky high, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage’s theme song trumpet-blasts in your head as you wash your hands, smile in the mirror, and return to the dinner table with a big smile pasted on your face.

AWESOME!

Frank Warren does it again! Join me at an upcoming showing of PostSecret The Show! – Neil

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#8 Looking back, smiling, and saying thanks

This is the end, beautiful friend.

Late next week 1000 Awesome Things will hit #1 and we’ll have finished four years counting down one awesome thing every weekday. So… like Luke Skywalker’s triumphant final battle against the Fish Monsters, the Jamaican bobsled team’s mighty last-second push to capture gold in ’88, and Milli Vanilli’s final sold-out show in Wembley Stadium, so too is my time writing about awesome things climaxing in one last blaze of glory.

Four years have gone by like that snap and now I’m forced to picture life without steaming burritos wrapped in paper towel on my keyboard, piercing migraines in the morning from staying up too late, and getting together with a group of friends around the world every day to talk about rusty see-saws, glue movies, and almost names.

It’s time to look back, smile, and say thanks …

To Mike Jones, for so many stories and ideas over the past four years. You’ll always be my Superman.

To Frank Warren of PostSecret, thank you for running the best blog out there and still finding time to help me along the way. You have contributed so much to the world and are a true inspiration.

To Drew Curtis of Fark.com, thank you for believing in old, dangerous playground equipment.

To wires, thank you for connecting my computer to people around the world. You turn classy, sophisticated thoughts into pixels and words — filling minds and connecting strangers. You ask for so little and give us so much, wires.

To readers and commenters who are the soul of the 1000 Awesome Things community, especially Freddo, jdurley, Laura, Bekah, Kathy, wendy, simone, lovethebadguy, trixierix, and galileo. I’ve read every single one of your comments and laughed so many times. I’ll see you at the Nutella bar at Freddo’s afterparty.

To the journalists who have written, spoken, and shared stories about 1000 Awesome Things, thank you for being Apostles of Awesome. Special thanks to Misty Harris, Nancy White, Roger Ashby, Marilyn Dennis, Darren Lamb, and Dina Pugliese.

To Louis Sacher, David Sedaris, and Bill Watterson, thank you for getting a kid excited about writing.

To nachos, thank you for being my dinner a couple hundred times, after I got home late from work and needed to write tomorrow’s awesome thing. I love you so much, nachos.

To Chad Upton, nobody has supported 1000 Awesome Things like you — from editing photos, submitting links, and sending ideas all hours of the day. You are a truly awesome friend. Thanks for saying yes to this blog.

To Chris Kim, you didn’t get to see this site win awards, score book deals, or get millions of hits. You just called me every couple days when I started the thing to tell me you liked it. Somehow that’s the most important thing of all.

Thanks to the many great teachers I’ve had over the years, especially Mr. OlsonMs. Eales, Ajay Agrawal, Mike Wheeler, and André Perold. Special thanks to Mrs. Dorsman for pushing me out of my shell in third grade.

To Mom, Dad, Nina, Dee, and Leslie, thank you for your patience, ideas, and love through it all.

To everyone who has ever read, blogged, emailed, Spacebooked or Pintweeted any post from 1000 Awesome Things around the electronical intertubes, thank you sincerely for your support.

To WordPress, thank you so much for hosting my site from Day 1. You give people all over the world a voice. (To start your own free blog, just like I did, click here.)

Finally, thank you to you. Yes, you! I’m talking about you! You, the person staring at this computer. You, the person who just read the word poo. I mean you. Nobody else. You! Thank you so much … for reading this sentence. Thank you for giving those eyeballs to these fingertips and connecting our brains.

When we finally hit 1000 Awesome Things I know we’ll both look back, smile, and say thanks many times.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

AWESOME!

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#10 Canada

Do you remember bank calendars?

When I was little my sister and I always waited between velvet ropes with my dad to see the bank teller — while lines rounded, stamps pounded, and thumbs counted, bills. Sometimes we grabbed faded pink and green deposit slips — the ones printed on the thinnest paper ever — and amused ourselves drawing on them or making million-dollar withdrawals on behalf of Scrooge McDuck.

Trips to the bank were pretty boring with only three major highlights: 1) Watching someone slowly open that thick giant door to the vault with metal-prongs the size of tennis ball containers, 2) Listening to the dot matrix printer screech a few lines onto my dad’s vinyl bank book, and 3) If we were really lucky, being handed a brand new calendar for next year full of beautiful scenery shots of Canada.

Yes, my sister and I would flip through those calendars in the back of the station wagon on the ride home. Our eyes popped at misty rainbows over Niagara Falls, snow-capped peaks smeared like icing over mountains, and tiny people walking on Bay of Fundy floors. We stared at evergreens standing silent behind mirrory Algonquin lakes, red and yellow leaf-covered drives on twisting Cape Breton roads, and a dim orange sun setting over a sparkling Toronto skyline. We gazed deeply at mossy boulders beside frozen lakes, a majestic Chateau Frontenac looming over Quebec City, and bright green grasses rolling over Prince Edward Island hills.

“Just remember how lucky you are,” my dad used to say, while steering us back into our shady subdivision. “All those pictures are from your own country. It’s the best country in the world and you get to live here!”

Dad, you were right:

1. Drink till you drop. See all those blue puddles on the map of Canada? Yeah, the last ice age ripped deep holes up here and now they’re filled with the world’s largest supply of fresh water. Sometimes they’re not even frozen.

2. As the world turns. Our tiny planet tilts on its axis every year and since Canada is smacked on the top of Earth, those big tilts result in big seasons. There’s a quiet rhythm with the seasons in Canada — with ice scrapers, wet umbrellas, chipped picnic tables, and heavy wool sweaters all making annual appearances.

3. Share the wealth. Canadians toss about half of everything they make into a big glass jar and use it to pay for health care, education, and services for all. Oh sure, the system’s never perfect, but if you shatter your leg in an icy parking lot, need a dozen years of free school for six kids, or want to drive on clean roads across the country, well we got you baby, we got you.

4. Paint it black, and green, and blue. Canada has a long history of investing in culture and arts. There’s afternoon storytelling on public radio, film festivals all over the place, and musicians and movie-makers scoring cash from the government to make their masterpiece. People paint bikes, spraypaint alley walls, and busk on sidestreets, with folks always looking, finding, and sharing beauty.

5. Free to be you and me. “It’s a free country,” my dad used to say, and he meant it, too. You can live where you want, pray to anybody you please, marry anyone you like, and watch anything on TV. Plus, being one of the world’s most diverse countries means you can find temples, neighborhoods, and sports broadcasts to fit your taste.

6. Deliciously disgusting. With so many backgrounds and cultures a city in Canada might have samosas, schwarma, and ceviche on the same corner. But there are other very Canadian treats too like Nanaimo Bars (chocolate, coconut, icing squares), poutine (hot fries covered in gooey cheese curds and steamy gravy), butter tarts (melted brown sugar with raisins in a greasy pastry), Montreal smoked meat (salted, cured, steamed beef brisket served with mustard on rye bread), and Ketchup chips (ketchup chips).

7. Canadian animals seem polite too. No pythons, scorpions, sharks, crocs, or kimodo dragons here. Just cute and cuddly arctic hares, polar bears, Canadian geese, Canadian meese, and beavers. (Sidenote: Do not cuddle a beaver.)

8. This land is our land. Canada is the second largest country in the world after Russia. It’s big! You can drive from one side to the other in about a week if you floor it and don’t mind putting almost 8,000 clicks on your car. But size helps with other things, too. If you live in a city, it’s easy to get away go camping for a day. If you pee your pants at school, it’s easy to skip town and change your identity.

9. 2 Languages, 2 Distinct Cultures, 2 Legit 2 Quit. Hey, hey! The province of Quebec makes all Canadians richer with French culture smeared coast to coast. There are two official languages so French classes broadens minds while Cirque du Soleil, French films, and delicious foods keep adding to the Canadian identity.

10. It’s full of Canadians. Sure, we’ve got lots of faults like apologizing too much and beating each other senseless in hockey. (Sorry about that.) But Canadians are some of the most peaceful, progressive, and cultured people in the world, if we do say so ourselves. Shaped by waves of new folks (40% of Canadians are first- or second-generation immigrants) the community is inclusive, funny, and polite. Also, Canadians are extremely humble, rarely extolling their virtues in long, meandering essays published online. (Sorry about that.)

So … after my dad parked the wood-panelled wagon in the driveway Nina and I headed inside to hang up the calendar on the yellow kitchen wall. It was hidden behind December for a month but soon we’d slowly scroll through polar bears on frozen lakes and setting suns over silos and hay bales. We gazed fondly on those pictures and dreamed of distant trips to far off places… and of course, like any country, like your home country, it’s only with exploring  that we really truly see all the beauty that makes our home

AWESOME!

Wow!!!

The Happiness Equation is still #1 on The Globe’s Canadian and International Bestseller lists! Three weeks since debuting — and counting! Thank you!

Neil

The Happiness Equation - Cover


Photos from: here, here, here, here, and here

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#11 Driving through your old hood and stopping to see the house you grew up in

When my friends Chris, Ty, and I went on our cross-country road trip a few years back, we managed to stop in the small, hardscrabble dirt town of Paris, Texas.

In addition to visiting the Kimberly-Clark diaper factory, miniature Eiffel Tower, and famous Jesus in Cowboy Boots statue, Ty insisted we drive through his old neighborhood to see his old home.

Pulling down curbless sidestreets on our way out of town, Ty was already in that cloudy nostalgic dream before we even got to the place. “Sure is a lot shadier than I remember it,” he commented quietly. “Trees a lot bigger.”

We pulled up to Ty’s old house and his eyes popped as his brain flash-flooded with piles of distant memories rushing back all at once. He got out of the car and started walking around the yard, slowly taking it all in.

Because even though it was just a nailed-together stack of wood, bricks, and shingles to us, for Ty it was so much more. And, you know, there is something profound about driving through your old neighborhood and visiting an old home.

Depending on the time and place, you might notice some strange things.

Maybe you wonder if the new family discovered the side fence door made a perfect backstop for pitching practice. Do they know if you hit a chalk-square between the outermost boards the tennis ball almost always bounces back to you?

Maybe you notice somebody trimmed the old, jaggedly sharp evergreen with the tiny, rock-hard berries on it, which was always the best spot for Hide and Seek and the perfect burial ground for He Man action figures when you moved on to Transformers. You remember the soft needles jabbing your forearms and dirt sticking to your elbows when you were down there at dusk, and you remember it was worth it.

If you’re bold enough to ring the doorbell or take a quick peek in the backyard, you might see a new glass door replacing the rusty screen one that always slammed and had that thin sliding metal lock that never lined up properly. Or maybe you notice the same wobbly patio stones that remind you of birthday parties spent eating hot dogs and playing Frozen Tag in bare feet on the dandelions and crabgrass. Photos flash and flip through your brain: sun setting over the fence, everyone licking frosty popsicles, mosquitoes coming out and buzzing in your ears.

Oil stains from dad’s truck still dot the driveway and the little handprints you made in the corner of the sidewalk still sit there. And you wonder: Does the dog next door still bark when someone jumps in the pool?  Do they still leave the Christmas lights on until January? Do the kids dunk on the basketball net off the hood of the car?

But whatever you wonder, whatever you see, it sure is a sweet head-trip driving down those old roads leading to the home you grew up in. You smile and remember summer nights, holidays with your cousins, and couch cushion forts on Saturday mornings. Maybe you’re lucky and your old home is close by or maybe it’s torn down or far away, but if you haven’t done it in a while and can still pull it off, take that sweet Sunday cruise down memory lane.

AWESOME!

Wow!!!

The Happiness Equation is still #1 on The Globe’s Canadian and International Bestseller lists! Three weeks since debuting — and counting! Thank you!

Neil

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Photos from: here, here, and here

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#12 Your sister

My sister’s name is Nina.

She was born sixteen months after me and we were tight from the beginning. When my parents brought her home from the hospital I couldn’t stop marveling at her thick chock of black hair, tiny smudge of a nose, and tightly closed eyes.

We traveled together a lot from those early ages. Now, our family never went anywhere too exotic – leaving elephant safaris, ancient trail hikes, and exotic reef dives for other families – but we did cover our fair share of the Northwestern, uh, quadrisphere of the Earth. Yes, we owned that quadrisphere. It was like our quadrisphere.

For a long time we rented a cottage for a week every summer. One big year we splurged and went to Disneyworld and then another year we went on on a Caribbean cruise. And we always did it together. The four of us. As a family.

Vacations as a kid were a bit of a mixed blessing. You got to spend time with the fam, catch up on your Fear Street novels, and master the art of calling trump in Euchre with a Queen and a Ten. But you also left your friends, your Nintendo, and the safety and stability of Life Back Home. The world didn’t seem as small when we were kids so traveling – for me at least – was a bit daunting.

Fortunately, I always had Nina. Some of my fondest memories growing up together were on these trips – sharing John Grisham novels, talking day and night, and inventing games to kill time like ‘Who Can Do the Best Brother Love impression?”

At the cottage Nina shuffleboarded and threw horseshoes with me – games which, I’m pretty sure, wouldn’t have been much fun on my own. That wasn’t it though: Nina also encouraged me to swim, which is not my strongest suit. I was afraid of fish touching my legs and she’d front crawl to the dock way out in the lake, encouraging me to make my way out there as well. I can still remember my five, six, seven year old kid sister helping me learn to swim. There are photos of us building sandcastles, fishing with twigs and string, and cheering my mom from the dock as she tried water skiing.

At Disneyworld Nina encouraged me to go on some of the “moving” rides, since all I was prepared to do was play mini-golf and talk to the Funnel Cake Guy about his business model. Nina never said she was sick of hanging out with me, even if I forced her to play chess on my Traveling Chess Board or quiz me on Blue Jays trivia. She was always there, always supportive, always up for anything.

On the cruise ship, Nina accompanied me to the casino, when as pre-teens we gambled on international waters and walked away with a cool thirty bucks in slot machine winnings. She was more than my partner and alibi in that heinous crime — later dubbed Ocean’s 2 by Interpol.

She was my friend.

Nowadays all these far-off vacations, long drives up north, and full days with each other aren’t really gone to me — they’ve just grown from Things I Did Last Summer into reasons I am who I am.

Another thing about Nina is that she’s got a huge heart. Hey, life is short, after all. We live, we die, we give it our best shot. Life is a lucky little marble of a thing and Nina enjoys it fully. When you’re around someone so into life, so into putting a lot into life and taking a lot out of it, well…that makes your life sweeter. One of the best traits anybody can have is putting a lot in and taking a lot out. Their ability to live a big life. And Nina does, she sweetens life with her genuine nature, and her unrelenting love for it.

I mean, I can still remember…

Nina’s sixth birthday party! It was at our old house and she invited every single kid in her class. Every single kid! There were thirty sweaty, corduroy-wrapped knee-highs with side parts and drippy noses running around the house. At this birthday party, against all pleas for sanity, Nina ordered a giant bubble gum ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. I can still see all the kids, in their best clothes, running around screaming, with bright pink Bubble ice cream smeared across their faces… and our furniture and walls.

That Big On Life attitude also came out at school when she ran for Vice President of Student Council and hired me as her Campaign Manager. Well, we ran a gutsy campaign that made people think. And Nina nailed the speech – dressing up, putting on a show, and getting the whole school rolling with laughter. Well, she lost the Vice-Presidency by four votes, but seeing how she gracefully handled defeat and seeing her go on stage inspired me.

That’s a little bit about my sister but I know you’ve got your stories, too.

So let’s hear it today for sisters!

There’s so much beauty in those connections, memories, and long lives lived together. From setting up skits in basements to inventing new languages to knocking secret codes on bedroom walls … well, sisters are with us from the beginning and sisters know us best through it all.

AWESOME!

The Book of (Even More) Awesome is now out in paperback! Buy it on Indigo, Amazon, or Barnes&Noble.

Photos from: here, here, and here

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