just do it

Doctor’s Day would probably not be my favorite holiday to celebrate. (It was yesterday. I’m behind.) The only doctor I enjoy seeing on a regular basis is the one I live with. Even then, sometimes I have to forgive him his profession. Particularly at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning or nine at night when he’s not home yet. (Yeah, don’t even get me started on a doctor’s life of wealth and ease. You do not want to go there, especially in today’s political climate.)

But the point–I do want to encourage you to celebrate Doctor’s Day by getting out to see your doc if it has been a while. Let me tell you a story that happened about ten years ago. For that pesky annual checkup, I went to see my primary care physician, a wonderful lady who has since moved away from us, sadly. In the course of events, she thought she located a tiny lump in my neck. She suggested I get it checked out. I planned to ignore it, because that is how I tend to deal with things I find unpleasant, like visiting doctors or cleaning out my inbox or relocating the giant dust bunnies under my couch.

My husband, however, planned otherwise, which is how I found myself in another office being told it was probably nothing, but we’d check it out. A few months later, that same doctor removed my thyroid, found cancer, was surprised, and left me with a profound appreciation for my primary doctor who did not ignore that tiny thing that was probably nothing.

I didn’t go because I thought there was anything wrong with me. I went for a general checkup, like we’re all supposed to do in the course of a year. If I hadn’t, when would someone have found it? It was barely noticeable, even to her. So the moral of the story is–go, if it’s been over a year. I know it’s a pain, but so is cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other trouble that could be there unnoticed. Don’t wait for National Anti-Procrastination Day. (I promise you there is one.) Just do it.

And, as we finish out National Kidney Month, remember, if you are not yet a donor, just do that, too. Nike would be proud. And I would be glad to hear from you if you do.

I am woman, hear me . . . squeak?

Taking a day to go completely off topic. (If ever there was a real topic.) Anyway, there are no good holidays this week. It seems perhaps everyone was too busy enjoying spring to come up with creative holidays at the end of March. (But if you care, today is Lemon Chiffon Cake Day. Go for it.)

Last night, I took the girls (or they took me) to a concert. I haven’t been to a concert in two years since I got in free to Jars of Clay because I sold their stuff as a 4H volunteer. (In their defense, I definitely would have paid if I had had to. I really wanted to see it. Being a good 4H mom pays off sometimes.)

In the middle of one of the songs, as the band encouraged us to all sing along, I had a revelation. Here were hundreds of people singing, loudly and energetically, these words: “I’m not all right.” And it occurred to me–in how many places would you find this huge group of people admitting this, joyfully, without feeling any need of artificial stimulus to accept the fact that it is true? The opening band even put it one step further:

Hey, hey, hey, I was always one of the losers

Hey, hey, hey, don’t you think that Jesus loves us?

This gospel sounds like good news to all of us losers.”

Remembering back to the “power songs” of my youth, I wonder about some of them. “I am woman, hear me roar.” Great sentiment, but I wonder how many teenage girls listened and thought, “Roar? I can barely manage a meow right now.” Or how many now, like someone very dear to me, think, “Roar? Some mornings I’m so depressed I can barely drag my body out of bed to face the day.” What I really, really needed to hear as a teenager was someone sing what they did last night, “I’m not all right; I’m broken inside.” Because it was true, and I knew it.

So I guess I should not be surprised that part of the concert going experience for so many includes enough mood-altering substances to make a heifer almost literally jump over the moon. Trying to pretend there’s nothing wrong can take a lot of effort and outside help.

That was the revelation for me last night. Here was one arena where the masks could come off and the defenses come down. And it obviously felt very, very good to a lot of people.

“If weakness is a wound that no one wants to speak of

Then “cool” is just how far we have to fall

I am not immune, I only want to be loved

But I feel safe behind the firewall

Can I lose my need impress?

If you want the truth I need to confess

I’m not alright, I’m broken inside

And all I go through, it leads me to you.”

Thirty years ago as that teenage girl, I finally admitted I was not all right. And it was a very good thing for me that “Jesus has a thing for losers.”

*Lyrics written by: Mark Graalman,Matthew Hammitt, Chris Rohman, Chris Stevens, Dan Gartley,Douglas Mckelvey, (Sanctus Real) and Me in Motion

i would’ve wrote you a letter, but

A few years ago when my family went to Chattanooga (a great place for a family vacation), we took the riverboat lunch cruise. I had already discovered Southerners had a lovely way of laughing at themselves and graciously letting you in on the joke. So I should not have been surprised to look up and see a sign on the boat’s wall that said, “Paddle faster. I hear banjo music.”

Now, I do enjoy folk music very much, and I did love the Celtic fiddling in Canada. But, despite my dad’s best intentions, I have not been a country music fan. At least he can rest easy knowing he did inspire did a love of big band, if not Hank Williams.

Today, however, we can all enjoy the holiday, as it is official Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day. I planned to put these in a top ten sort of order, but I simply cannot choose the best. You will see why. But you can. Vote for your favorite. Or send one I haven’t got here. Especially, if you have the counterpoint, maybe. There seem to be far too many of these that take jabs at the women. Let’s see some equal time!

Here’s A Quarter–Call Someone Who Cares (sometimes, I’ve got to admit, it’s tempting . . . )

Fax Me A Beer

A Boy Named Sue ( I listened to this one a lot as a kid. It really was funny. And did you have any idea the writer was Shel Silverstein?)

She’s Got A Butt Bigger Than The Beatles

I’m Gonna Hire A Wino To Decorate Our Home

You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly

I Made Her the Queen of My Doublewide Trailer

I Don’t Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling (definitely a contender for the top five)

I Flushed You From The Toilets Of My Heart

I Would Have Wrote You A Letter, But I Couldn’t Spell Yuck!

I Wouldn’t Take Her To A Dawg Fight, Cause I’m Afraid She’d Win

If I Can’t Be Number One In Your Life, Then Number Two On You

If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I’d Blow It All On You (another top five)

If The Phone Don’t Ring, Baby, You’ll Know It’s Me

You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

Have fun and let me know your favorites!

sing, loudly

As Young As You Feel Day was yesterday. This is a marvelous sentiment. I feel young. I always want to attempt new things, go new places, and never settle for the status quo. According to several people lately, I look younger than I am. Did I mention I love those people? But, I’m just not positive about the practicality of this.

For instance, I watch my daughter perform back handsprings and flyaways two times a week, and I remember how much I loved gymnastics in high school and college. I can feel the exhilaration of flying off the uneven bars in a twist and sticking the landing. I feel that young, in my heart. But should I try that? Well, as I sit here, recovering from a sprained ankle incurred by simply walking down the street, I’m thinking . . . um, no. I like my assorted body parts unbroken and where they are, naturally. I may wish some of them a bit thinner, but definitely not rearranged.

Watching the recent Olympic games, I think, I could do that. Sure. Twenty or thirty years ago. With a physical body considerably more talented than the one I got. And a lot more self-discipline than God deposited with me. So how to celebrate?

As it turns out, I celebrated a lot last week. Thursday, my daughter had to take indoor pictures for a college class, so we went to the arcade and played games. Almost no one is there at one in the afternoon. You can whack as many moles as you like, and the only people there to look at you funny for being a grown woman in an arcade are the workers. They see so many odd people you hardly register on their radar.

Friday, we took one child out of school early and went to the zoo. No, I do not do this regularly. But it is my hope that, in ten years, she will not remember her Spanish homework for that day, but she will remember we had this very unexpected time together. As today is also International Goof Off Day, I figure we killed two birds with one stone.

Celebrate being as young as you feel. I hope and pray that, for you, that is not older than you actually are. That is a hard place to be. Just for today (or maybe not–maybe any time you feel like it!):

–play on the swings

–eat a double chocolate chip cookie

–read your favorite children’s book

–go for a bike ride to nowhere

–order a Happy Meal

–sing, loudly

–laugh a lot

Let me know how you celebrate!


Several years ago when I was speaking at a MOPS group, the ice-breaker question was “tell about your most embarrassing moment.” As the speaker, it was not enough to spill that moment to my table only. The group (about 200 ladies) determined I should tell it to everyone. Actually, I could have chosen among several parental moments, but I chose one which made me the winner, if anyone really wants to be the winner in a most embarrassing moment contest.

So, as today is National Awkward Moments Day, I shall tell it here. I’m pretty sure the other two stories that come to mind might have been winners too, but one I’ll save for another time, and the other I won’t tell to protect the guilty.

Any harried mom could have done it. Standing in Target, in the long customer service line, with a baby in arms and two bored preschoolers hovering wasn’t the beginning of a good afternoon anyway. When preschoolers get bored, positive things rarely happen, unless they are preschoolers in a 50’s sitcom. Or in a commercial for Mormonism. With two preschoolers who made Ty Pennington look like Walter Cronkite, a “positive thing” for that line marathon would have been just staying within ten feet of me and keeping all their clothes on.

Instead, they decided that the bridal registry kiosk looked interesting. They played on it, pushing the little computer buttons and no doubt registering some poor bride for fifteen lime green bathroom sets before I stopped them. Three times I told them to stop. Three times they went back. Finally, my attention having been called elsewhere by the baby, I looked up to see them at the kiosk again, happily punching buttons. I lost it, grabbed them both by the arm, and began hauling them off to another area for a good talking to. This was when a strange woman started running after me, yelling very loudly, “Stop! What are you doing with my daughter???”

Yes, her child wore a plum coat the precise shade and style as my oldest child’s, and she had the same just-past-the-shoulders brown hair. Since I had grabbed them from the back, I did not notice until I heard the yelling that this child’s frightened face did not resemble my daughter’s. Meanwhile, my oldest was innocently standing at the customer service counter chatting up the employees, as if she had been doing that all along, having left the bridal kiosk for more interesting territory. Of course, no one in the entire customer service area thought anything was more interesting at the moment than me, with my red face, wide eyes, and flustered apologies.

The other mom was not particularly interested in hearing my good excuse for child napping, so we just exited with whatever dignity I had left, which was pretty much none. I did learn a lesson, which I used in subsequent MOPS talks about anger management. The nice thing about embarrassing moments is, when you’re a speaker and a writer, anything is good fodder for a story. Even if, and perhaps especially if, the joke is on you.

So the question on National Awkward Moments Day is, can you top that? Or just chime in with your most awkward moment. To paraphrase one of our great statesman, it is often better for us all to hang together. At least we feel better, knowing it is not ever just us.

be when?

I have set out today to answer a ponderous question I know a lot of people are asking. Why should I, my name not being Caesar, beware the Ides of March? All right, maybe you’re not phrasing it in that particular manner, especially if your name is Caesar. And maybe you had no idea that today, March 15th, is celebrated as the Ides of March. as it has been for centuries. But I can’t help of either one of those unfortunate situations.

As anyone who sat through enough English classes knows, Shakespeare warned Caesar about this particular day, but his warning was not heeded. Caesar went to the Senate anyway, he died anyway, and, as often happens in Shakespeare, a whole lot of other people died anyway as a result of the first dead person doing something stupid. Always listen in English class.

So, for those who have wondered what the Ides of March is, well, it is the same thing as the Ides of just about any other month. The middle. It is not, as one might suppose, always, or even usually, the 15th. Sometimes , specifically in January, February, April, June, August, September, November, and December, it is the 13th. In any month containing a ‘d’ it is the 12th. In any month containing a ‘y’ you’re not legally allowed to celebrate it unless you willingly jump into Lake Michigan in a bikini. (Guys, too.) Strangely, people tend to celebrate only the Ides of July for this reason.

Factually, the Ides were never particularly bewared prior to Shakespeare. It was just another way of saying midmonth and telling time prior to the advent of Swiss watches and Y2K. Its origins were astrological, which explains why the days would shift in various months, since the moon is not known to cooperate well with the Roman calendar.

Two other days also received names, the 1st of the month (which did not vary and was called Kalends) and the 7th or 5th, referred to as Nones. Without paper calendars or palm pilots, people counted days by referencing these three points. How they did this when two of them changed from month to month I can’t say, but the Romans were resourceful. Or was that the Trojans? Had Caesar discontinued this silly system rather than reaffirm it in his Julian calendar, maybe his fate would have been different. I think Congress should take note of that next time they’re considering, I don’t know, reinforcing our reliance on oil or something.

Having spent the entire weekend around a knife-wielding crazy person (no, really; perfectly serious on that one), it’s a bit too late for me to celebrate today by looking around for persons hiding daggers in their cloaks. Maybe I will read Shakespeare. This is a good way to celebrate any day, I think. Or maybe, I’ll challenge someone in my house to a fencing duel. Yes, we really could do that. You have no idea what goes on here. And some days, you don’t want to.

But the real question: how did you celebrate Pi Day? Scrumptiously, I hope.

help wanted–no boys allowed

Today, this post definitely requires your participation. Today is Girls Write Now Day. To quote the Girls Write Now website:

“March 8 is Girls Write Now Day, or, as we like to think of it, Girls Write Everywhere Day. It is a day to encourage girls of all ages everywhere in the world to put pen to paper and explore the beauty and power of their unique, creative voices. It is a day to celebrate girls, girl writers, and overall girl awesomeness.”

I have absolutely no trouble believing all of you ladies out there possess incredible amounts of overall girl awesomeness. So, I am requesting the assistance of all girls (women) for this blog post. We want to write a round robin story. We used to do this all the time when the girls were younger. It’s a great way to pass time waiting in a restaurant or in a car with kids.

I will start the story. All of you must continue it with your own additions, however long or short, in the comments section. So please–if you’ve never commented before and you are female (sorry guys), please do it now. And tell your female friends to come add to our wonderful (strange?) story.

Once upon a time, there was a small rabbit named McGillicutty. She could not spell her own name for kindergarten. Who could? But it left the little rabbit very sad. So one day, she decided to . . . . Take it from there, ladies.

i before e

This is definitely the day created for me. National Grammar Day. I am the woman who corrects song lyrics on the radio. I edit my junk mail.

But although my family and friends, to their utter chagrin, know me as the Grammar Gestapo, the truth is, I came late to the punctuation police.

I grew up in the era when teaching grammar didn’t “foster a child’s creativity.” Too late, we discovered that all the rules we tossed in the 70’s turned out to be somewhat useful. Like knowing how to write in complete sentences on a job application. And spell your own last place of residence. (Those were not complete sentences. Ha ha. Writers can get away with that.)

In fact, my junior high language arts career consisted of reading books in the library and occasionally reporting on them. I had somehow passed, a couple years early, all the information they thought junior high student needed to know by the end of eighth grade. How I did this without sufficient grammar skills mystified me. Thus, the library. I got straight A’s in high school and graduated with honors in my college literature major all without ever knowing what a split infinitive was. Yes, my college professors would make red slashes and vague comments like “comma splice” on my papers, but I had no idea what that meant.

Then, I became an English teacher. There is nothing like a roomful of high school juniors looking at you like you’re the gazelle and they’re the leopard to make you learn quickly the stuff you’re supposed to teach. I did not want to make a mistake. I’d already done that by trying to teach the difference between “lay” and “lie.” Trust me, it’s better never to teach this to teenagers. It is not worth the embarrassment when they snicker all the way through explanations of anything getting laid anywhere. And learn I did, a few steps ahead of them, until they and I could all get near-perfect ACT scores in English, if necessary.

They actually thanked me after taking those college exams. “Mrs. Richardson (Miss Hutchinson) we really needed that stuff! And I knew it!” It always amused me that they had such a tone of wonder when they said that, like they had firmly believed I was up there every day teaching this stuff because I had some sweet but misguided illusion that the English language would be necessary to their daily lives.

In honor of National Grammar Day, I offer some often abused language rules. At least I can sleep tonight, knowing I’ve done my part to save the world.

Oft-abused grammar rule number one– Quotation marks go outside of periods and commas. Always. No exceptions. It does not matter if the quotation marks are around only the last word in the sentence — the period goes inside of them. Question marks and exclamation points are completely up to the whim of the writer. Well, not completely, but I’m not going into that. Thus, the sentence:

He will be reading from that stirring essay, “How to Potty Train Your Cat.” is correct, while
He will be reading from that stirring essay, “How to Potty Train Your Cat”. is not.

Oft-abused grammar rule number two — Unless someone or something possesses something else, please do not use an ‘apostrophe s.’ (Note those quotation marks.) Thus,

“The cat’s flagrantly disregarded the wisdom of that essay,” tells us that there is one cat, and he apparently owns something, perhaps a certain level of disregard. This misguided person meant to say “The cats.” Of course, you could say, “The cats’ flagrant disregard annoyed me, just like writers’ complete disregard for this rule.” But that is another sentence.

Oft-abused grammar rule number three--To add the word “literally” to a sentence means just that–something really did happen. I read this so often when someone is trying to exaggerate, but unless what you said really did happen, it is not “literally.” When I read “He literally lost his head,” I get an interesting visual, but that is the opposite of what the word really means! Literally.

Well, that is enough for today. If i feel any grammar rants coming on in the future, I’ll be sure to write them down. Literally. Now, time to go potty train some cats. Not literally. See how handy that is?

flowers and hockey tickets

So, I actually watched the new show “The Marriage Ref” Sunday evening. This was not because I particularly wanted to. It was because I sprained my ankle and strained my back Saturday morning, and the couch was pretty much the center of my weekend entertainment. The show came on after the Olympics. I did not want to get up.

But–having watched it, I feel compelled to offer some real advice to you men out there. Specifically, about Mr. “I want to spice up my marriage.” Specifically, too, to the lone woman on the panel who did not have the sense God gave her to tell him where to put the pole he had in mind. Really, I appreciated the show’s tagline that marriage is something worth fighting for. That was a good message that needs to be out there.

But, I definitely have some better advice on how to put romance back into a marriage, guys. Advice from a real world woman is preferable, I think, than advice from Kelly Ripa, who likely has never had to change a diaper or unclog a toilet in her entire existence. I am no expert, but nearly 24 years in a happy marriage entitles me to an opinion, at least. And if you ladies happen to print it and leave it lying around the house, well, we all know it was not on purpose.

1. Forget the lingerie and other lacy stuff. If she wants this, she will buy it herself. Trust me on this one. She’d rather pick it out, too.

2. Wash the dishes. There is nothing sexier than a man with a dish rag in his hand. Nothing.

3. Take out the garbage. Without an engraved invitation.

4. Take her out as a surprise. One that you plan, all by yourself. And no, tickets to the Blackhawks or dinner at a sportsbar do not count.

5. See those kids running around that look somewhat like you? Take them out somewhere. Something you plan, all by yourself. Without her.

7. Flowers work. Chocolates are iffy. They’re OK, so long as you remember those ones filled with unidentifiable cream are disgusting. No one eats these. They get left to petrify in landfills, and she will remember that you cannot remember she hates them. Safest to go with plain expensive dark. Unless she just told you she is on a diet, in which case, this could be interpreted as an act of sabotage. You will never crawl out of the hole between, “Of course I want to be supportive of your diet,” and “Of course I don’t think you’re fat.”

8. Wash her car, inside and out, fill it up, and check the fluid levels and tires. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a full tank of gas in the morning.

9. Check her favorite movie out of the library and cook dinner. You can even call your living room Hollywood Palms, if you wish.

10. Never, ever, under any circumstances, pull the line husband #2 tried–“I am the man of the house!” You will be the man of the doghouse. Quickly.

Now, given the famous “five love languages” research, I realize that I fall firmly into the camp of “love is shown by actions” rather than the other four (words, gifts, touch, and I forget the last one, so clearly it’s not very important to me). So this list is weighted. My husband has a hard time believing this. He thinks that since I write, I logically must be a words person. But no, I side with the immortal words of Eliza Doolittle, “Don’t talk at all–show me!” Which is why I find #2 above so compelling.

But, there is yet another authority on marriage much higher than my own. “And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed for the church. He gave up His life for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) I’m pretty sure that would do it, men, no matter what your love language.

suessically yours

“On March 2, the National Education Association calls for every child to be reading in the company of a caring adult.”

The above comes from the official website of the NEA calling us to the celebration of one of the finest daily holidays we could celebrate. Tomorrow is National Read Across America Day, in honor the birthday of the great lyricist, Dr. Seuss.

When our girls were in elementary school, their teachers celebrated this day in style. On this one day, our girls could wake up in their jammies–and stay in them. (Though, technically, I think they usually chose clean ones. I think.) They could wear fuzzy striped slippers and bring Disney Princess sleeping bags, and eat s’mores in class. (No, not over an open fire.) In one classroom, the lucky ones got to read in “the tent.”

Since forcing our kids to read was never an issue for their teachers (though child #1’s teachers had issues with getting her to not read during class), they usually got to read in the tent.

And they read. All day. It was our kids’ favorite day of school. For one day, they forgot about ISAT preparation, PSE preparation, ISPSHUH? preparation and all the other preps for other standardized tests teacher have to administer to prove their own worth to the government (I feel another blog coming on this one). For one day, they focused on the one thing most likely to ensure good school performance–reading. Did you know that, along with the lack of a father in the home, the inability to read functionally is the most common denominator among prison populations?

One year, I was privileged to go into the classroom and read my favorite childhood story. In our house when I was growing up, we had two old, crackly volumes of The Complete Works of Rudyard Kipling. I don’t know why. I’m pretty sure I was the only one who ever read them, but someone must have wanted them enough to buy them. The same goes for the two-volume Complete Works of William Shakespeare that sat next to them. Both of these sets I have to this day. Though my mother was not educated past high school and my father past eighth grade, they made sure we had enough to read around the house, encyclopedias to look up all kinds of questions from inquiring minds who wanted to know, and library cards.

Over and over, I sat reading the small-print no-pictures Just So Stories in that set. I loved stories that answered questions like why and how, and I loved these stories’ singsong rhythm and imaginative language. So, I chose to share Kipling’s The Beginning of the Armadillos with kids I hoped would be equally enchanted. I’m not sure if they were or not. It’s tough to read 4th graders. Especially ones that are in their pajamas, so they already look sleepy.

In honor of Read Across America Day, will some of you share with us your favorite childhood story? Not the whole thing, of course, but what story or stories made you smile? What did you return to the most often? What did you love to read to your own kids, if you have them? And kids who reads this–what did you most like to hear?

Have a great Read tomorrow! I am looking forward to it.