From rhubarb to dog biscuits, there’s a day for it

I know your schedule is full and I don’t mean to add to the pressure, but I’m guessing you missed National Compliment Day. You did, didn’t you? Me, too. Even though I received several press releases reminding me, I forgot to give five compliments in order “to make the world a better place.”

My money has always been on a strong national defense to make the world a better place, but a timely compliment can’t hurt either. “That’s a sharp shirt you’re wearing, President Putin!”

We have had such a proliferation of awareness campaigns and designated days that we now have some months that should be lasting for three years. We have far more special days, weeks and months than we have calendar.

The good news is, if you miss one special day or month you can always catch the next one. You may have missed National Compliment Day, but you can still jump on board for National Banana Bread Day, February 23. Of course, Banana Bread Day is also National Dog Biscuit Day. Don’t wait. Pick one and make your party plans now.

You also might want to make room in your calendar for: National Deviled Egg Day, National Paint Day, National CarKeeping Day, Rhubarb Pie Day and Irish Coffee Day.

Please, tell me you didn’t miss Correct Posture month. Of course you did. Look at you slouching.

Some of the days, by virtue of their calendar placement, are problematic. March 30 is Turkey Neck Soup Day. It seems like that one should be in November, but I’m no expert on turkey necks. Well, except for the one I began growing at age 50.

August is Don’t Be a Bully Month, which is all well and good, but when you designate one month as the month not to do something, aren’t you sending a message that the other 11 months in the year may be acceptable? Don’t bully in August, but March or April might be fine.

This is similar to Poverty in America Awareness Month. Think about poverty for 30 days, then go back to whatever it was you were doing. Obviously, this is called Unintended Consequences. There’s probably a month for that, too.

Other special months are simply obscure and, for obvious reasons, do not get a lot of publicity—like National Constipation Month. Did you know about it? Better yet, did you want to know about it?

There seem to be so many things I’d rather not know about today, yet so many others are intent on informing me. If I were to add a special day to the calendar, it would be Thanks, But No Thanks Day. This would be a day when telemarketers, purveyors of junk mail, PR firms and email spammers took the day off and refrained from contact. I’m smiling just thinking about it. I think it would be my second favorite day on the calendar next to Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.

Ma and Pa visit “Little House on the Property”

We had dinner out the other night. That’s out as in outside—in the playhouse. The husband built the playhouse when our children were preschool age. It has served as a fort, a bank, a drive-through, a bakery, a jail, an orphanage and sometimes even as a playhouse.

All of the preschool grands have been immersed in the “Little House on the Prairie” books. A couple of them were here and thought it would be fun to eat in the playhouse, which to them looks a lot like the Ingalls’ cabin.

Pa strapped on his boots, I secured my apron and the little ones began darting between the big house and the little house carrying supplies, swinging lanterns, toting dishes. One of them dropped the tableware, but since we don’t have livestock in the backyard we said, “Just pick it up, it’ll be fine.” I carried out a Dutch oven of spaghetti and wondered if Ma ever made spaghetti.

We squeezed around the little table and thanked God for hot food on a cold night. Then the milk spilled.

Ma dashed back to the main house for an old flour sack for cleanup. Actually, Ma grabbed a roll of paper towels. Paper towels would have revolutionized homesteading. If I am ever a homesteader, I will need paper towels.

Ma returned with an old Brawny flour sack, sopped up the milk and sat down just as the flame in one of the lanterns went out.

“Maybe we can make do with one lantern,” Pa said.

“But it was better with two,” the girls said. You wanted to Little House rough it, Ma thought. Ma kept it to herself. However, Ma did suggest that Pa show the kids how to rub two sticks together to make a flame to relight the lantern. Pa shot Ma a look. Ma wondered if Charles Ingalls got testy in the Big Woods.

Ma shoved back from the little table, crawled out through the little door and headed back to the main house for stick matches. Ma returned with an extra large aim-n-flame. This happens when you send a 21st century woman to do a frontier woman’s job.

Laura, or maybe it was Mary, spilled spaghetti all over her jacket and thought she was messy. “Messy happened a lot on the prairie. Pick it off and throw it back in your bowl. The Ingalls family did that all the time.”

They seemed satisfied.

Everyone was hunkering near the lantern, seeking a bit of warmth, when wildlife announced itself.

“Hoo! Hoo!” rang in the dark.

Laura and Mary’s eyes nearly popped out of their heads. We opened the shutters and looked around. Nothing but a crescent moon tucked behind a thin strand of clouds.

“Hoo! Hoo!”

Shivering, we gathered our dirty dishes. Ma grabbed the lanterns, Pa latched the shutters and we all headed for the main house. No owls, but we were welcomed by light, heat, plumbing and more paper towels.

It was good to homestead. If only for dinner.

Promotional gimmicks bare the bizarre

The husband was having morning coffee at his laptop when I asked if he heard Madonna was in the news again.

“She’s in the nude again?” he asked, without looking up.

“No, she’s in the news. But she could be in the nude, too. I don’t know. They’re kind of one and the same for her, aren’t they?”

“Oh, that’s right,” he said. “I heard she did something to her face.”

“She tied it all up in leather. And then she posted pictures of famous people with their faces tied up in leather—Jesus, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela.”

“Why did she do that?”

“She’s promoting an album—and when you’ve already promoted yourself by showing everything you have to show, shaking everything you have to shake, and your cone bra is so old it’s headed for the Smithsonian, the only thing left to do is tie up your face. And if you don’t get a big enough reaction tying up your own face, then you start tying up faces of religious icons and civil rights leaders.”

“She’s not claiming they sing with her, right?” he said.

“No, it’s just Madonna being Madonna. I think if we all give her a nod, we can move on.”

“Move on to what?” he said.

“Justin Bieber. He’s in the news again, too.”

The husband was silent.

“I knew you’d be excited,” I said. We both yawned. Then we high-fived each other and the husband made toast.

“Bieber is under contract as an underwear model for Calvin Klein,” I said. “I wonder how that looks on a resume?” the husband asked.

“Maybe it’s the kind of thing you work in during the pre-interview chitchat,” I said. “You know, ‘I have dynamic business experience in the music industry. I can take your company to the next level with my background in special events and I can model underwear.’”

“If someone walked up to you at a park and said that, you’d call the police.”

“Naw, I’d probably pepper spray ‘em. Bieber’s already met the police,” I said.

“ I wonder what human resources does with credentials like that?” the husband asked.

“Probably flags them as potential lawsuit material. Bieber said he’s officially part of a legacy.’”

“Wearing boxer shorts now constitutes a legacy?”

“Apparently. Seems philanthropy, personal sacrifice, public service, devotion to family and friends just aren’t what they used to be. That’s sure something, isn’t it? A guy thinks walking around in his underwear will be a lifetime achievement.”

Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing at all. Move along, move along.

Genuine friendships can be genuinely mysterious

The seeds of friendships often grow in mysterious ways.

The friendship with one of my dear friends began years ago when a mutual friend, a young man with a lovely wife and two small children, was diagnosed with cancer. She often cared for their children and saw that the family had meals; I sometimes watched the children as well and lent a hand. Our mutual friend died, but a new friendship lived.

One of my oldest friendships began near an information table at the back of a small church. A woman recognized us as new (that bewildered look on my face wasn’t hard to read), introduced herself and invited us to her home. Over the years we have been welcomed into their home as well as their family.

I met one of my best friends in the neighborhood at the corner one day while taking the kids for a walk. She was walking with her children and said, “You bought that house down the block, didn’t you?” I was puzzled a stranger knew where I lived. “We were interested in that house,” she said, “but you were faster making an offer.” If you like the same house, you’re going to like a lot of the same other things as well.

You never know. A random meeting. A casual hello. An introduction.

I never would have known that an older man from North Carolina who emailed me a decade ago would become a genuine friend. He sent a note of consolation responding to a column about my mother dying. Later, from time to time, he would forward interesting reading material, consumer tips, links to engaging talks or presentations he had attended.

He is a remarkable man—retired military chaplain, constant learner, voracious reader. He grew up hard, with a suffering that yields compassion—genuine compassion—the authentic kind, not the made-for-TV kind.

One day the phone rang and a gravelly voice with a rich southern accent greeted me. He’d read a column I wrote about my nephew who lost his sight and had gotten a guide dog. He wanted to send a small check to that young man, a total stranger. “Enough to cover a big bag of dog food,” he said. I refused. He persisted. “I want him to know someone in North Carolina is thinking of him and praying for him.”

My friend is a dog lover, too, sharing space with Bucky, who weighs in at 73 pounds. So once in awhile, out of the blue, a check for dog food travels cross country. Daniel knows my nephew can easily provide for his dog, but money is not the point. The point is Daniel enjoys giving. And encouraging.

Whenever we speak by phone, I can count on Daniel asking me to do him a favor and look up Luke 6:38. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

Of the great things we often dream of and aspire to, extending the hand of friendship and small kindnesses may be among the truly greatest.