Every Day Is Special
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times
, Greensboro, NC.
Thursday, Sept. 23 -- Innergize Day
Innergize Day is set aside for anyone who has said, "I don't have time to do the personal things I
want to do for myself." Today, take the time to do whatever it is you want to do that can be done
in a single day.
This does not mean that you suddenly become a totally selfish person. It simply means that you
take a break from the constant demands of routine and do something you've wanted to do for a
For instance, you could throw a glass of cold water on anyone who says the horrible word
"innergize." That would certainly make me feel better.
Not really. I'd be consumed with guilt.
The fact is, I'm a deeply lazy and selfish person who often does things I want to do. So I hardly
need a day set aside for the purpose. But I know a lot of people who are so dedicated to the
service of others that they almost never do something for the sheer joy of it.
This day is for them, not for me. In fact, what I need to do is the opposite: I need to do many of
the things my wife normally does, so she has the time (and feels free enough) to do something
she loves to do.
Planet Neptune was discovered on this day in 1846 by German astronomer Johann Galle.
Neptune, the eighth planet, is 2,796,700,000 miles from the Sun (about 30 times as far from the
Sun as Earth). Neptune's year is 164.8 Earth years. It is named for the Roman god of the sea, I
suppose because it was his turn.
Friday, Sept. 24 -- Love Note Day
Sometimes words have more impact when they're written down. In earlier generations, the
sentence "I love you" was too rarely said; but today, it can be said so commonly that it begins to
seem empty -- and not just when it's turned into "love ya."
On the telephone, between husband and wife, "I love you" can become like "anyway" --
something you say in order to signal a desire to end the conversation. "Well, I love you. Bye."
This isn't bad. It's good. But every now and then -- today, for instance! -- why not let your
loved one discover a love note from you. Not a purchased greeting card with somebody else's
words, but your own words on anything from a 3x5 card or the back of a grocery receipt to a
wordless picture card.
If all you write is "I love you," that might be enough. Or you might go on a little bit about why,
or how the other person makes you feel, or one of their attributes you admire most.
Make sure you sign the note, however. Don't run the risk that your loved one might think it's
from someone else.
This is also Hug a Vegetarian Day. I'm not sure why this day exists. Vegetarians come in two
categories: those you know, and total strangers. Among your vegetarian friends, you already
hug them exactly as often as is appropriate for your ongoing relationship. In the total stranger
category, how will you know who the vegetarians are, unless they make themselves obnoxious
by proclaiming it to people who couldn't care less?
Maybe "Hug a Vegetarian Day" is meant to help us overcome the desire to throw a glass of
water on the kind of vegetarian who openly criticizes strangers for eating meat products.
In which case, why not just call it, "Hug Somebody Who Makes You Want to Throw a Glass of
Water on Them Day"?
National Punctuation Day exists for only one reason: to use spray paint or black felt-tip pens to
correct horrible punctuation on signs.
Candidates for correction:
1. Any sign that uses it's (contraction of "it is") when they mean its (possessive that means
"belonging to it" or "of it").
2. Ditto with you're used for your; or the absolutely vile her's, which is never correct.
3. Any sign that uses quotation marks for emphasis, as in:
Don't miss this "great" deal!
Those who make this mistake apparently don't realize that for emphasis we use underlining or
italics. Quotation marks in such a case imply irony or sarcasm, not emphasis. So the above sign
is saying that it's not a great deal at all -- in fact, calling it "great" is a kind of joke!
Saturday, Sept. 25 -- Family Health and Fitness Day
The other day I ran across a gift my youngest daughter gave me for Father's Day back when she
was about twelve. It's a series of certificates for services she was willing to perform on demand.
Most of the certificates said, "Good for one walk without complaining."
It dated from a time when my wife and I tried to include her in our frequent walks through the
When she was younger, she loved to come along, and she and I would run in short bursts, and
sometimes I would carry her, and sometimes we would dance in the street.
Sometimes only she and I walked together, and then she would tell me the plots of favorite
episodes of mind-numbingly dull children's TV shows that were her particular delight at the
time, and I would listen and enjoy her excitement and delight.
But there came a time when she got sick of it, and if we made her come she would either turn her
iPod up so loudly that she couldn't hear any of our boring adult conversation, or drag behind
making a great show of how much she was suffering to be forced to take a walk on a hot day.
And finally we gave up.
Then she got older and discovered that being physically fit was actually useful. She began to
take walks on her own. She began to select her own workout routines. The other day, when her
older sister was in town, I was coming back from my own (solo) walk and passed my two
daughters, walking briskly and talking animatedly with each other.
And I realized: Even though we don't always exercise together, we all take fitness seriously
and all of us are working on it.
So I can affirm: Even when you run into serious resistance from some of your kids, family health
and fitness are a worthy and important goal, and September 25th is as good a day as any to begin.
Just remember not to overdo it when you start out. A single mile is a long walk for kids with
short legs. Thirty crunches can debilitate you for three days if you haven't done crunches in
several years. Running full-out on an irregular surface can sprain your ankle if you haven't first
built up your muscles through walking.
But if you begin by making it a happy, fun family activity, and don't overtax yourself or others,
you can turn fitness into a vital part of your family life.
The first American newspaper was published on this day in 1690. The first (and only) edition of
Publik Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestick was published by Benjamin Harris at the
Long-Coffee-House in Boston, Massachusetts.
Authorities considered this first newspaper in the US to be offensive, and ordered its immediate
Fish Amnesty Day. Give them a break by not fishing today. But you can still eat fish, as long
as it wasn't actually caught today.
Sunday, Sept. 26 -- Keep Cool Day
There are two reasons this is Keep Cool Day.
First, West Side Story premiered on Broadway on this day in 1957. Composer Leonard
Bernstein worked with lyrics by a young kid named Stephen Sondheim, a script by Arthur
Laurents, and Jerome Robbins choreographed memorable dances to Bernstein's music --
including the brilliant and unforgettable number "Cool."
Second, this is the fiftieth anniversary of the first televised presidential debate in 1960.
Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy faced off. Kennedy looked perfectly natural on television,
but Nixon was visibly uncomfortable -- and sweaty. Those who listened on radio thought
Nixon won; those who watched gave the victory to Kennedy. The difference was a matter of
who kept cool.
We moved to North Carolina in time for the Senate election in which Governor Jim Hunt vied
to replace Jesse Helms. For many excellent reasons we had already decided to vote for Hunt (or
pretty much anybody but Helms), and so we were appalled when we watched them debate on
television. Helms was avuncular, relaxed, cool. Hunt got angry and it showed.
When it comes to TV debates, whoever gets mad, loses. Whoever looks nervous, loses. To win,
you have to keep cool.
This is also the start of National Keep Kids Creative Week. But kids are naturally creative.
You don't have to try to keep them creative. You merely have to refrain from beating down their
I can just imagine teachers giving kids assignments designed to "encourage creativity."
Naturally, these assignments will become just one more deadline, one more set of activities that
kids would rather not do.
So here's a thought: Why not declare this to be National No-Homework Week. Let kids have a
whole week in which, once school is over, they're actually free to be creative!
Monday, Sept. 27 -- Ancestor Appreciation Day
If you happen not to have a shrine to your ancestors in your house at which to leave them
offerings on special occasions, you may not know how to show your ancestors how much you
appreciate them -- especially the ones who aren't alive anymore.
There is no Hallmark card that says,
I remember all you did
And everything you said.
I have not forgotten you
Just because you're dead.
Everything that's wrong with us
My parents blame on you.
I remind them that one day
They'll be ancestors too.
And even if there were such a card, neither the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, nor Fedex would know
how to deliver it.
But what you can do is gather your family and tell stories about your ancestors. And if you
don't know any stories, then for heaven's sake go to your eldest relatives armed with a recording
device and get them to talk about dead family members that they knew. Believe me, they want
to talk about them (or at least some of them!), and the more you listen, the more you'll enjoy it.
Then save the recordings and play them back for the whole family -- or tell the stories in your
own words. By keeping the memory of your forebears alive and making them part of your life,
you have a better idea of who you are and what it means to be in your family.
The Tonight Show premiered on NBC on this day in 1954. Steve Allen was the original host,
and introduced the format of the show, with an opening monologue, games or segments for the
studio audience, and then a series of interviews in a simple desk-and-couch setting.
Jack Paar hosted from 1957 to 1962, and then Johnny Carson took over, turning it into the best
talk show ever for thirty years, from 1962 to 1992. Carson's monologues were wonderful; he
launched the careers of dozens of comedians and singers; he was a generous interviewer who
seemed to genuinely like his guests and help them make a good impression; and his sketch
comedy was better than anything on Saturday Night Live.
Following Carson, Jay Leno hosted a much inferior show until he was replaced by Conan
O'Brien for a few months in 2009. Then Leno came back with a show that was even worse than
before. In fact, all the late-night talk shows seem to me to serve no other function than to make
me miss Johnny Carson.
Tuesday, Sept. 28 -- United Nations World Maritime Day
A good portion of the world's prosperity depends on goods being safely shipped by sea --
including oil, of course, but also practically every other kind of goods. The health of the global
environment also depends ultimately on maintaining the lush, vibrant life under and on the sea.
Oceanic shipping and ecology have never been more threatened than today. Between pirates and
polluters, we are teetering on the brink of collapse of significant aspects of both.
Eliminating piracy depends on establishing strong governments in areas where pirates currently
find safe havens. Unfortunately, that would require military action and/or nation-building,
which are out of fashion among the nations with the power to bring them about.
And don't think that ocean pollution is limited to industrial polluters or oil spills. There is a vast
sargasso sea of plastic swirling around the center of the Pacific Ocean, and most of it comes
from litter that was discarded on land -- particularly airborne sail-like plastic grocery bags.
Wednesday, Sept. 29 -- Horatio Nelson Day
Horatio Nelson was born on this day in 1758. Few Americans know who he was, but he is
considered by many to be the finest -- or at least the most important -- naval commander in
British history. And since the British Navy was unquestionably the most important naval force
in the history of the world, dominating the seas worldwide, from the sinking of the Spanish
Armada until American air power emerged as a serious rival, that might make Nelson the most
important naval commander ever.
It comes down to this: He whipped the French fleet at Trafalgar, and died in the process. It's
hard to realize it today, but Napoleon was the Hitler of his time, conquering all of Europe; and,
as with Hitler, for many years only Britain stood against him. Nelson's victory was crucial in
containing Napoleon's limitless ambition.
Veterans of Foreign Wars was established on this day in 1899. This non-government
organization has made itself useful in promoting the interests of America's veterans -- and
because we have had the great good fortune of fighting all our wars since the Civil War on
foreign soil, they seek to achieve fair treatment for all the men and women who have served
America in the military, and to keep the memory of our heroes bright.