Tell Someone Day

Other than your regular holidays—ones like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Arbor Day—there are some pretty crazy celebrations that a handful of (probably very invested and enthusiastic) people choose to celebrate. From “Fruitcake Toss Day” in January to “Wear Brown Shoes Day” in December and a bunch in between, such as the one on May 21st called “Talk Like Yoda Day,” everyone can find a reason to party.

Even though we may already have an overabundance of holidays on the calendar, may I still propose new one? I’m not planning to make it official with an act of legislation or anything, but I am working on the name, possibly “Tell Somebody What They Mean to You Day.”

You see, I’ve been spending time with a group of women, and we’ve been taking turns telling our stories. Even though I already knew most of these women fairly well, I’ve learned so much about them. I learned about their childhoods and their parenting experiences, and most of all, I’ve learned about their faith journeys. And for each of these women, they’ve mentioned someone other than a family member who loomed largely in their lives. They each had at least one person who stepped in a gap left by loss or doubt or natural consequences. Someone who showed up at just the right time and spoke spirit-filled words of encouragement and love and even reproof. After an anecdote about this angel in disguise, all of us would often say something like, “And to this day, she probably has no idea what she means to me.”

This exercise got me thinking: Who needs to hear this from me? Who are the people in my life who I rarely see anymore, but I would’ve been lost without their intervention? Who are the ones who modeled for me how to be a godly woman? Who are the precious souls who are walking around this world every day—doing normal things like folding laundry or making a sandwich or walking a dog—and they have no clue what their words and very presence have meant to me?

So I texted the woman who popped into my mind first, and I told her. I let my friend know that she made a giant difference in my life. I told her that she was my gold standard for compassion and leadership. Not that the date was especially significant, but I told her on May 11th. I’m not saying that this should be the annual date for “Tell Somebody Day,” but it’s a start. There’s no reason to wait until next year. Go ahead and tell someone today.

It’s like the lines from that Garth Brooks’ song:

“’Cause I’ve lost love ones in my life/Who never knew how much I loved them.
Now I live with the regret/That my true feelings for them never were revealed.
So I made a promise to myself/To say each day how much she means to me.
And avoid that circumstance/Where there’s no second chance to tell her how I feel.”

Washing windows

A few weeks ago I washed the inside and outside of most of the windows in our house. This is worth mentioning because I often feel like I don’t have enough time to do a thorough job of cleaning up. Sure, I’ll sweep floors and wipe countertops and do a little light dusting, but how frequently do I take the time and spend the energy to move furniture to wet mop the floors or wipe down the countertops and the cabinet doors and the tile backsplash or dust the ceiling fan blades and the baseboards?

 

Well, it was a pretty Saturday and we had no where we had to be until that night, so I started taking down window screens to hose them off. I even stood on a ladder to clean the transoms at the tippy top. I felt like Martha Stewart was whispering in my ear, guiding me through all the steps, and she was pleased with my labor. (Her magazines are chock full of cleaning tips, though I have to wonder how often she’s the one who’s actually Windex-ing the windows of her vacation home in the Hamptons.)

 

Once it was done, and the sun-dried screens were replaced, I sat in our sunroom and marveled at how clearly I could see the world outside. The dirt and dust had accumulated so gradually on all those windows, so that I had no idea just how hazy and obscured my view had become. It’s like the day I got glasses in the 9th grade. As we were driving home, I kept looking out the car window and seeing details I never would’ve been able to see before my vision was corrected. I kept remarking to my mom, “I can see each brick on that building!” or “There are separate, tiny leaves on that tree!” It was a revelation.

 

It’s incredible how easy it is to get used to living in a way that’s unnecessarily bad for us. Over time, we can stop questioning what we intuitively know to be unhealthy and just accept it like it’s our only option. Then there are some instances where, due to our past experiences, we don’t know that there is anything better.

 

It reminds me of the story of Saul (later known as Paul) meeting the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus on his way to persecute Christians. Saul was blinded and dropped to his knees in sheer panic. He asks, “Who are you, Lord?” and Jesus introduces himself. It’s an amazing story, and one which Paul (“Saul” no longer) recounts to King Agrippa years later as we see in Acts 26.

 

Paul tells the king that Jesus was sending him to go and bear witness. Christ told him, “I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” I love this scripture for lots of reasons, but also because these are the words we used in a prayer group I was a part of a few years ago. We’d randomly choose staff and students from our school to pray over, and that was what we’d pray. Without knowing any specifics about these precious souls, we’d ask that God would open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light. We prayed that they would no longer peer through smudged, hazy glass and think that was the best life could offer. We hoped they’d experience their own eye-opening revelation.

Canopy bed

I always wanted a canopy bed, a canopy bed with a frilly dust ruffle and tons of fabric draping over me as I dreamed perfect, happy dreams. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I believed I would have everything if only I had that canopy bed. Well, a canopy bed and Tretorns. Not necessarily Tretorns but at least some kind of name brand footwear—Keds, Sebagos, Nike Pegasus, something like that. Instead, we had what my friend Jenne called “buddies,” knock-off K-Mart sneakers with an empty white rectangle on the back of the shoe that my sisters and I would fill in with a blue marker, which unfortunately was nearly always a dry erase marker so it would be worn away by the end of the day.

 

When we would sing that song in church about the lilies of the field and how “they toil not…and neither do they spin,” I had an idea that the lesson I was supposed to be learning was about how that stuff doesn’t really matter. “And yet I say that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,” we would echo each other in a swelling finale to the hymn. It was moving and I knew better, but I still wanted a canopy bed.

 

If you go back to the Biblical text of that hymn, you’re transported to a mountainside where Jesus is teaching people a variety of relatable principles—don’t worry, don’t judge others, help the needy, lay up your treasures in heaven. His Sermon on the Mount is compared to Moses delivering the law to the Israelites so many generations before. In the middle of Jesus’ sermon, he offers this object lesson. Birds are flying above his head, and He says “God takes care of them. Don’t you think He’ll care for you?” Then He says, “Look at these flowers. They don’t have to do anything to be beautiful—even more beautiful than the clothes worn by a fancy dresser like King Solomon—and God did that. And He did it for these flowers which will be gone in no time.”

 

The next part of Jesus’ sermon is pretty convicting, especially if you’ve been enviously eyeing someone else’s car or home or other possession. Jesus says if you’re eaten up with worry over what to eat, what to drink and what to wear, then you’re no different than those who don’t know the Secret of the Gospel. He says to calm down, because God knows you need those things, but worrying over them isn’t the answer. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)

 

I don’t think He’s saying that we shouldn’t work hard at our jobs or never go grocery shopping. Jesus actually got frustrated with the people who were following him around later on because they seemed to only want Him to feed them again, like the time He divided a little boy’s lunch into enough food to feed thousands. Instead of getting caught up in the details, He advises us to begin by seeking His kingdom. As Eugene Peterson puts it, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving… Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

 

Now that I’m an adult and not an adolescent pining away for name brand shoes and a canopy bed, I’d like to think I’m beyond the reaches of such immature, materialistic transgressions, but I still have those moments where I’m tempted to futilely toil and spin my heart out. So today I’ll choose to be grateful for what I do have and focus on the God who makes it all possible.

Stockpiling God’s blessings

Our two sons are both on travel soccer teams. This means that they seem to be playing ball all the time. In the winter, we’ve watched them play in high school gymnasiums and indoor soccer facilities, but most of the action is outside. We’ve stood under umbrellas watching them play in the rain. We’ve stamped our feet to keep warm at spring tournaments where there was still snow on the ground. And there have been plenty of games where we have sat, sweaty and sunburnt, in the blazing heat. This was our experience the last weekend of August.

 

Last Saturday, our older son played in Murfreesboro on those beautiful new turf fields. As nice as they are, that hunter green rubber grass also seems to draw in the heat, creating an atmosphere similar to the surface of the sun. Now I’ve been watching him play soccer for more than a decade, so I was mostly prepared for the magnitude of the heat. I started the morning drinking from my water jug, hours before I ever sat in my camping chair in the noonday sun. I had chugged 32 ounces by 10:00 a.m. and brought along more to drink during the game. I knew from experience that once you begin sweating, it’s almost too late to start drinking water. You have to start before you even feel thirsty.

 

This idea of storing up what you need before you get to a moment of crisis isn’t particularly profound. You can see it exhibited in the grocery stores at the first sign of a snowflake. The bread aisles left bare, with only a few loaves of raisin bread remaining. But there’s more to stockpiling necessary goodness besides just water and other staples. We can also store up sweet memories and miraculously puzzling developments. The light of these reminiscences brightening future darkness.

 

You have to wonder if Mary, Jesus’ mother, did just that as she held her newborn in her arms. She couldn’t have known the scope of Jesus’ ministry or the horrific death he would suffer, but the Book of Luke paints a beautiful picture of a mother treasuring the sweet moments in her heart.

 

Mary had given birth. Then a pack of shepherds came bursting inside the stable where Jesus was born. They must’ve blurted out crazy stories about an angelic choir announcing the Savior’s birth. They were joyfully spreading the news all over Bethlehem, and people were listening. Then, in one brief verse, we read that “Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.” (The Message) She tucks away the image of the shepherds and the story that they told about the hillside concert, almost as if she knew she might need this precious memory for later. Perhaps she knew she’d need to take out the sweetness of that night and hold it, turning it over in her mind to escape a challenging time.

 

How are you preparing your heart for future difficulties? What’s the spiritual equivalent of building a Y2K shelter? Make a list of the good things God has done for you, counting your blessings and thanking the One who provided them. Commit Scriptures to memory, giving yourself an arsenal of God’s Word to have at the ready. Store up treasures, just like Mary. Ponder them and then share them with a thirsty world desperately in need of relief.

The Invention of the Microwave

When I was 6-years old, my dad bought our family’s first microwave oven. It was a giant behemoth with its own designated piece of furniture, a cart made of lightly stained oak which sat on little caster wheels and had a cabinet underneath to store all the sundry accouterments a microwave might require. This included cookbooks full of recipes designed especially for the microwave, such as the Betty Crocker one which contained such favorites as “Parmesan Sole with Mushrooms” and “Chicken Fricassee with Parsley Dumplings” and “Egg Foo Yong Casserole.”

 

If memory serves, my grandmother wasn’t overly pleased with it, at first. Those of us who do a lot of cooking aren’t always quick to embrace newfangled gizmos when it comes to making our tried and true, ordinary weeknight to special holiday recipes, but my mom was sold. She used the microwave for everything—from cooking eggs to making meatloaf, boiling water for iced tea to browning meat for spaghetti sauce. In the years that followed, it became a regular occurrence for Mom to leave a side dish in the microwave. We’d finish up our meal, and then she’d remember it—the  covered Corningware dish full of corn or the broccoli slathered in now-congealed blobs of Velveeta still sitting in the microwave. Disappointed, she would place the uneaten dish in the refrigerator to be eaten at the next meal, easily warmed up in the…yeah, you guessed it…the microwave!

 

Microwaves are fairly commonplace now, but when they first hit the scene in American homes, the major selling point was their ability to simplify our busy lives. This rationale was revealed by the ad slogans for some of the brands: “Life becomes more convenient when you have one of the Easy Waves from Toshiba” and “Whirlpool…making your world a little easier.” The commercials would show frazzled housewives who can barely keep it together. They had to deal with various disasters and distractions, simultaneously: the son knocking over a lamp with his baseball in the living room and the daughter screeching away on her violin and the dog running through the kitchen with muddy paws and the phone ringing incessantly. Enter the microwave…ta-da! In spite of her crazy household, she now has a perfectly roasted chicken, in no time!

 

With school starting back for my four kids and all that goes with it, I feel a little like that woman before she gets her time-saving microwave. I’m always in a rush, always behind, always wondering what I’m forgetting. But I’m finding that the easy way isn’t always the best way (just like microwaved Egg Foo Yong Casserole might be fast, but not so tasty!) There’s something to be said for taking it slow when we can.

 

I love this passage from Isaiah: “The path of right-living people is level. The Leveler evens the road for the right-living. We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. Who you are and what you’ve done are all we’ll ever want. Through the night my soul longs for you. Deep from within me my spirit reaches out to you…In the land of right living, the wicked persist in wrong living, blind to the splendor of God.” (The Message)

 

I’m pretty sure there are way too many times when I am “blind to the splendor of God.” I think I need a microwaved day, quickly done and over with (and not cooked all the way through in the center), but then I’d miss the contented lingering our Father offers. Microwave ovens have their good points, but don’t zip through life too quickly and miss out on one of God’s guiding sign-posts.

Nonsense

With my recent COVID-19 diagnosis, I acquired a strange, unwelcome gift—the loss of my senses of smell and taste. First of all, you should know that I’m kinda famous (at least within the confines of my own mind) for my uncanny ability to smell things. I even wrote a fictional character in my middle grade fantasy series who has the power to smell the future. (I called his power “Olfavoyance…Nose-tradamus? A Schnoz-ard?”)

 

As with most super-powers, mine is both a blessing and a curse. For instance, I knew fairly quickly when my kids had poopy diapers. I could detect when the food in the oven was done without the aid of a timer. I could narrow in on the source of a bad smell like a bloodhound. But odors, even ones that first came well-received like Chick-Fil-A nuggets from the drive-thru line, would linger and eventually displease me. The smell would have to be eradicated, or I would find no rest. (Cue Hero Shot—Abby’s cape blowing in the wind as she stares off into a busy, nighttime metropolis.)

 

But once the virus took away my ability to smell—and therefore my ability to taste—I struggled to find pleasure in the same things I enjoyed before. My daughter baked banana bread, but I couldn’t smell or taste its goodness. I couldn’t appreciate a flowery hand soap or the scent of clean bed sheets. I could no longer delight in outdoor smells like the honest, sneezy splendor of a freshly mowed lawn. It felt like I was taking in the world only halfway. Something was definitely missing.

 

Being able to smell isn’t the same as being able to truly love others, but when the Apostle Paul describes the gifts of language and intelligence and faith and generosity in 1 Corinthians 13, he says they are nothing without love. Just like banana bread is just a brown lump of sugar and carbs if I can’t fully smell and taste it.

 

“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

 

I don’t know why this virus does what it’s been doing. None of it makes sense to me. So much of the madness of the last year has been a series of “puzzling reflections.” That’s why I’m grateful for my faith in a God who has all the answers when I feel like I have next to none. I’m hanging on the promise that someday I will understand everything just as completely as my Maker understands me.

Great Grandpa

This pandemic may be called many things—scary, inconvenient, ill-timed, unprecedented. As a mom to two graduating daughters and two soccer-playing sons, the main word is aggravating. “Why now?” they ask. “Why did this stupid virus have to interrupt my final year of high school/senior prom/graduation party/mission trip/soccer season/out-of-town tournament/church camp?”

 

They’re pretty good kids, so after spending some time lamenting the loss of these events and milestones, they sit a little taller with a newly developed perspective. They’ve come to realize trips and parties, while fun, aren’t vital to our survival as a species. It’s an invaluable lesson about how the planets don’t revolve around them and their whims. And it’s a lesson we’re all learning every day as we strive to find better ways to appreciate our blessings and look out for each other like it’s our full time job.

 

I had one of those epiphanies last week when we attended the funeral of my husband’s 94-year old grandfather. We traveled a couple of hours to a funeral home where we knew the attendance would be low. The visitation was family-only, so 15 of us sat in the chapel and visited with mask-muffled voices, as Grandpa lay in his casket at the front of the room.

 

Eventually it was time for the graveside service, so we drove down the road to the cemetery where Grandma is also buried. On the drive, I told my husband how sad it was that more people weren’t there to pay their respects to this amazing World War 2 veteran. A radio operator on transport ships in the Pacific, he was so proud of the fact that he was on the ship next to the USS Missouri when the Japanese foreign minister signed the peace treaty to end the war. After the war and until his death, he lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where he worked at the National Lab. (Grandma also worked there as a Guardette tasked with, among other things, making sure everyone had left the building in case of an evacuation. Her time there and her exposure to uranium led to her battle with breast cancer.)

 

Grandpa traveled with bombs and parts of bombs. He was a genius at fixing things—weed-eaters, chain saws, telephones, watches. He was the one they called in to pull wire through buildings and set the locks on giant safes. These were my thoughts as we parked at the cemetery and saw car after car lined up beside us. People were standing around, mostly strangers to us who had gone to church with Grandpa, waiting for us to take our place under the canopy and sit in the folding chairs reserved for family.

 

Then we saw the two naval officers in their dress whites, standing at attention by Grandpa’s flag-draped casket. They were facing each other, as still as statues. As one of the men crisply spun around and stepped away from the group, I noticed he was holding a bugle. At a safe distance from the crowd, he removed his face mask and began to play Taps. Those sad and lonesome notes drifted above us as we looked forward in silence, tears trickling down the sides of my face before being absorbed by my mask. When the bugler returned to the canopy, he removed the flag and worked with the other officer to meticulously fold it into a perfect triangle. Then the other officer held the folded flag in front of my father-in-law and said, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” Once the offered flag was taken, he snapped back and saluted with perfect solemnity and respect.

 

I had started the day with an unshakeable feeling of sadness that this aggravating virus would prevent a dear man from receiving the deference and appreciation that was due him, but, in the end, I was wrong. Like so much of these last few months, the essential was revealed and lessons were learned. Each of these days which fall under the heading of PANDEMIC CONTINUES will not end in the way I would choose, (because…why should life start being perfect now, anyway?) but when things do turn around and the clouds part and we get a little sunshine where we expected thunderstorms, it’s always worth mentioning.

Be the gift

How did I end up sitting on this metal bench next to a Customer Service desk? I just wanted two $25 gift cards, but instead the cashier rang up one $50 card and one $0 card. After talking to three different employees while nearly sweating through my Christmas red sweater and with no time to rectify the mistake because I needed to pick up kids from school, I left with what I thought was the $50 card, only to discover while sitting in the carline and finally examining the receipt that it was the other one.

 

I dropped off my kids at home and drove back to the store. My parting instructions from management were: “If you want to change this, come back and ask for me, (insert Assistant Manager’s name here),” so that’s what I did. I didn’t want to get in that long December return/exchange line, so at first I wandered around looking for my assistant manager friend.

 

“Do you know ______?” I would ask vested employees, as if I were searching for a missing child. “Have you seen her?” Finally, I found one of the employees who had been a part of the original purchase, and she helped me find the correct member of management. And that’s why I’m sitting here now, waiting while she checks the store log to find which card has what. As shoppers walk past me, I wonder if they think I’ve been caught shoplifting and that’s why I’m sitting here with no bags and no buggy. That’s silly, I tell myself, why do you assume people think you’ve done something wrong?

 

Other than being a slight inconvenience, this is really not a big deal. It’ll be worked out and I’ll soon be on my merry way, so in the meantime I’ll sit and watch the busy afternoon foot traffic. In spite of the festive decorations and the countdown to Christmas, generally-speaking, people look tired. They look stressed. They look not-so-Christmas-Spirit-like. A mom just snapped at her young son as he wailed for something she wouldn’t buy him. There’s some tension over a bike return at the Customer Service desk. No one is yelling, but there is a cloud of disappointment lingering over the participants in the bike return dispute. Everyone in that line looks they’d rather be anywhere else doing anything else at that moment.

 

I’m suddenly aware of an aspect of Christmas I hadn’t considered before. We (me included) get so caught up with the buying and wrapping. We can easily become consumed with lists and costs. So what if I were the gift? Not that I don’t think we should give each other presents! I’m not suggesting we eliminate any opportunities to be generous and kind. But as I sit on this metal bench on this busy afternoon, I can choose to be the gift. Nothing material. Nothing to be bought. Nothing to be wrapped. My smile, my understanding, my attentiveness can be what this stressed-out group needs this afternoon.

 

When the assistant manager comes back with my loaded gift cards, I can be the gift of calmness without a trace of self-righteous anger. When I get home, I can be the gift of patience with my kids while I try to juggle helping with homework, making supper and getting kids to ball practice. Hopefully, if I keep looking for ways to be a gift to others, it will become my natural inclination, then it might become contagious. Imagine what a pile of presents we’d have if we all endeavored to be a gift!

Fireflies

A friend recently told me about taking a group of Texas teens to Nashville for a mission trip. As they sat outside at an evening devotional, the group became fascinated when one by one fireflies emerged from the grass and shrubbery to soar around the darkening sky. The majority of the mission team had never seen fireflies before. My friend showed them how to catch the insects without harming them and how to capture them in empty water bottles (from which they eventually released them). She told me that one of the girls in the group began to cry. The beauty of these tiny insects overwhelmed the Texas teen who’d never witnessed their brilliant dancing in her hot, dry hometown.

 

As someone who has spent each and every summer in places where fireflies are common, I was amazed at their reaction. For me, it is a case of the extraordinary becoming ordinary through repetition and the assumption that it will always be there.

 

Later that day, after I had told my family about my Texas friend’s story, my daughter was standing outside with a group of friends. Prompted by my friend’s experience, my daughter asked a guy who had just come to Middle Tennessee from another country if he had ever seen fireflies before. They were outside, so she pointed to the flying dots of light.

 

“No,” he said. “I’ve never seen them before.”

 

“Aren’t they awesome?” she asked.

 

He shrugged, unimpressed.

 

His reaction surprised me. Is he so accustomed to seeing strange insects that this particular species failed to astonish him? Is he so well-read about the cold light of bioluminescence that seeing this energy produced right in front of him left him unmoved? Whatever may be the reason for his indifference, it’s a cautionary tale for me. I don’t want to be a person who loses the wonder. I don’t want awesometo turn into boredom.

 

And if you’re thinking that it can’t happen to you, beware. The Israelites had seen amazing things in the land of Egypt: the Nile turned to blood, three days of total darkness, a river that was split for them to march through just in the nick of time. And yet, they complained that the manna—their food which fell from the sky—just wasn’t tasty enough. “We don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything, but this bread that we’ve been gathering every day just isn’t cutting it anymore. We know that all we have to do is pick it up from the ground and eat it, and don’t get us wrong—it was great…at first—but we could really go for a hamburger. Actually, a cheeseburger would be even better.”

 

How could they have lost the wonder so quickly? Who has the nerve to complain to a God who had produced these miracles?

 

I wish I could say that I’m always in the “Awe Zone,” but it isn’t true. I forget to be grateful, forget to see how far He’s carried me, forget how I didn’t get here on my own, just forget.

 

So when I look at those fireflies, at least for this summer, I’ll remember the wonder.

Sudoku

In a house with 4 kids who go to 3 different schools, weekday mornings can be hectic. Breakfast must be eaten. Backpacks must be packed. Lunches must be made. Pajamas must be traded for school clothes. The majority of my kids are relatively self-sufficient, but I still need to be available to monitor the morning progress if I want everyone out the door and to school on time. So the busyness of the morning makes completing the newspaper puzzles fairly difficult.

 

Since my older sister homeschools her 4 kids, her mornings are a little less hectic (but the rest of the day is pretty busy!). Therefore, she prioritizes her morning time and her newspaper puzzles. She has told me, “I do the top left scramble, then the sudoku, the bottom scramble, the crossword and then the cryptoquote. Brain work!!” She said that the first 4 puzzles are her prep work for the tricky and often perplexing code-breaking exercise of the cryptoquote.

 

If I do get around to completing any puzzles, I usually only do the sudoku puzzles on Mondays and Tuesdays. This is not because those are our less crazy days of the week. It’s actually because I’m aware of my limitations. The difficulty of each sudoku puzzle is noted with a number of stars. Monday is usually a 1-star and Tuesday is a 2-star. I’m just not willing to devote the amount of effort to a puzzle that’s more difficult than that. Call it lazy or call it self-awareness, but it’s true.

 

According to sudokudragon.com, the name sudokuis “abbreviated from the Japanese suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru, which means ‘the numbers must occur only once.’” Because of its name, many might assume the sudoku puzzle is a Japanese invention, but there’s a lot more to its origin story.

 

It started out as the invention of a Swiss mathematician named Leonhard Euler in the late 1700’s. It eventually made its way to French newspapers between 1890-1920. Then the puzzle showed up in an American magazine in 1979. By the 1980’s, Japan started printed the eventually-named Sudoku puzzles in their magazines and newspapers. The Japanese people love a good puzzle as much as anyone but found that the structure of their language and lettering made it difficult to construct a Japanese crossword puzzle. A number puzzle worked much better for them.

 

For those who don’t really care for newspaper puzzles, the history of the sudoku might seem as mind-numbingly boring as actually completing a sudoku puzzle, but there’s an interesting evolution to its existence and popularity. This grid made up of 81 boxes and a few well-placed numbers, has changed over the last 250+ years as it was altered by various cultures. Instead of keeping it just so, when a new group discovered it, they would look to make it better or more challenging or more universally appealing.

 

Though the name Su Dokumeans “number single,” its persistence in so many diverse places shows its multiplicity. It’s an excellent example of the melting pot theory. Learning from and sharing what we love with others can create some pretty amazing things.