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Monday, July 27, 2009

Bucking Bath Time

I tell my youngest son to go take a bath and he panics like I keep our pet piranha in the tub.

"Why do I have to take a bath? I just took one yesterday," he wheedles.

Before I can tell him, "Because you're a boy. You were born with dirt under your fingernails," my husband supports me, saying, "You're dirty. You've been outside playing all day."

"But Mama's rule is two days," he insists, trying to be as compelling as a smudgy-faced, blond, sweaty boy can be. And I have to admit, I've probably misled him. I have let a kid here and there skip a bath.

But I jump in. "No," I say, "my rule is you take a bath when you need a bath. And, buddy, you need a bath. That's final. Look at your hands. Look at your fingernails."

He begs, "Can I please just wash my hands, then?"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Definition of the Day

Brainstorm (n.) - A hurricane in my head. Brainstorms most often occur at points of change.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly - The Done List

My neighbor's dog persistently, but unsuccessfully, tried to retrieve a tennis ball, from the interior of what I dubbed The Ball of Insanity, its snout shoved deeply into one of several holes through which the tennis ball would not fit, even if the dog could open its mouth wide enough to grasp the tennis ball, which it can't. The only way to get the tennis ball is to crack the plastic outer ball in which it is encased.

"Y'all must not love your dog," I joked. "That's pure torture. It'll be chasing its tail in a week."

That night I lay awake, my eyes wide open staring into the darkness, listening to the creak of the off-balance ceiling fan. I scrolled down my visual image of my t0-do lists, paying particular attention to every item without a line drawn through it. I didn't pick up my husband's shirts from the dry cleaner (I was supposed to have done that on Monday), I still hadn't mended the hem of my daughter's dress, I blew off writing the thank you note to my sweet great-aunt (who I picture sitting at her mailbox night and day awaiting my correspondence), and I forgot to take the team drinks to my son's baseball practice. Plus there were three things from Sunday's to-do list, one from Friday's, and four from Monday's that I had moved over to today's and would again be moving to tomorrow's.

As my list grew to monstrous proportions within my sleepless head, my heart pounded like I was running from a dream-world faceless stranger. Suddenly, the voice of my father-in-law popped into my head, a remembrance of a frantic day when he asked me, "Exactly what will happen if you don't mark off those things on your list?"

Trying to cross off every item on my to-do list was like that dog trying to get that tennis ball out of the The Insanity Ball. It would never happen. But because I was so determined to draw lines through random projects like wash clothes, make grocery list, call dentist, clean off book shelf, wash out kitchen trash can . . . , I made myself a slave, I lost my courage to let things go.

I couldn't quit uselessly sticking my snout in that hole. The key to setting myself free from the Ball of Insanity, I decided was to find a way to be glad that I had things to put on a list, and to focus on everything I accomplished, rather than the stuff I didn't. So, I grabbed the flashlight out of the basket on my bedside table, opened my Book of Lists, wrote Done List at the top of a blank page, and began recording everything I had completed.

It started with minor stuff like organized the medicine cabinet, sorted the dirty laundry, found my lost earring. As I got into it, I couldn't stop. I wrote and wrote and soon I acknowledged that I had sewn a kilt for my son, cleaned out the garage, spent a week at the beach with my kids, told my husband I love him, talked on the phone with an old friend, and visited with my mama and daddy on their screened porch on a cool summer evening while the crickets sang their hearts out.

Good stuff. Important stuff.

Measuring myself by what I have left to-do is not as effective as measuring myself by what I have done. The Ball of Insanity will never release that tennis ball, but I can live without it.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Do I have to say it? Girl, get out your Book of Lists and write that Done List. It will set you free.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Driving through town with my kids a couple of weeks ago, my 11 year-old breaks the backseat bickering, by urgently addressing me. "Mama."

"What?" I answer, fearing he will report that someone has lost an eye and the fun has abruptly ended.

But, no, that was not it. "Why do hospital signs always have errrr on them?"

This question baffles me. "Errrr? What are you talking about?"

"Like on that billboard, there," he points. "It says errrr underneath the name of the hospital."

I look, trying to keep one eye on the road while I study the lettering on the large billboard. Then I ask the only question I can think of. "Do you mean the capital letters E-R?"

"Yes, ma'am," he answers, making the phonetic pronunciation again. "Errr."

"E-R, honey. Emergency Room." I give him a shrug and an inquisitive look in the rearview mirror.

He sheepishly says, "Errrrrr."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly

Wherever you are, make it better.

My chosen bathroom book is a little hardback by Donna Smallin titled, The One-Minute Organizer Plain & Simple. I flip through looking for inspiration, even though most of the suggestions are things I will never, ever do, like taking pictures of my shoes and labeling my shoe boxes with them. But that doesn't mean my I'm not serious about my quest for organization. It is my obsession despite its slipperiness. So I skim through Smallin's book periodically, in hopes of finding a tidbit I haven't yet considered.

Because I sometimes get rewarded with an "A-ha!" moment. One that changes the way I view not just my personal possessions or my home, but the way I view my life. For example, one of her suggestions for staying organized once you get there (as if that is a destination where anyone stays for very long) is to never pass through a space without making it better or improving it somehow.

I tried it. As I passed through the kitchen, I took a dish out of the sink and put it in the dishwasher. Walking up the stairs I grabbed a belt thrown over the rail and put it away. Resting for a moment on the den sofa, I plumped the pillows. I started to feel like I was making a difference, if not a remarkable dent, in my clutter. It was reward enough, since my family had failed to notice.

And it hit me, while wiping the top of the dryer with a rag, that this wasn't just a method for finding satisfaction in my immediate surroundings. This was a method for living - to make a small improvement where ever I am. To put a misplace can on the correct shelf in the grocery store. To pick up a piece of trash off the sidewalk. To write a thank you note to the housekeeper who cleans my hotel room.

Isn't that how we picture ourselves, we southern belles, making grand entrances and exits, sweeping gracefully through rooms, changing the world as we go? And aren't we brave enough to do it, even if we have to actually sweep, even if we are not dressed in a flowing ball gown, and even if nobody notices?

TODAY"S ASSIGNMENT: Stop where you are right now. Do one thing to make it a better place.