Old School Paper Writing and Feeling Old

Today’s “story from a ways back” is brought to you by 80’s radio.  The best place to find all your high school and college memories.

Yesterday as I was shuttling my little people hither and yon, the song “Like a Prayer” by Madonna came on the radio.  It immediately took me back to college.   And then to an afternoon a few months ago.

The song came on the radio that day, and I looked over at Aub, who was riding shotgun.

“That song goes back to my junior year, I think.”

She nodded and kept looking at her phone. “I wrote a paper about that song,” I told her, glancing over to gauge her response.

“Really?” she asked.

“Yeah, it was for a Religion class with Dr. Ledbetter.”

“Huh,” she replied, finally looking up.  “About the song?”

“Well, about the song and the video combined, I guess,” I told her.  “It took me over a week to write it.”

That got her attention.

“What?  Why?”

“I had to go over to the Rec Room every day around six to catch the video on the top video countdown on MTV on the big screen TV in there.  I had to hurry over to eat supper and then get down there before it started, because you never knew if that video was going to be at the beginning or closer to the end.  I’d sit and watch and take notes.  I went back several nights in a row before I had what I needed to write it.”

Ahem.  I might as well have been speaking Greek.

“You had to do what?  Wait now, you…..well, I mean, whaaa–I’m confused.”

Well of course you are, baby girl.

Kids these days.

If I were to write the same paper today–it was about the spirituality in the song and video, as best as I can remember–I could pop it out in just a couple of hours or so.  Suffice to say, it wouldn’t have been one of those all-nighters that I needed to keep doughnuts around to reward myself for every hour or so that I stayed awake writing.  (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) First of all, this was back when MTV actually showed Music Videos.  (Not that I’m aware of what they show now, but I’ve heard things.)  It was back before there was free cable in the dorms, where I could have watched it in the comfort of my room.  Back before the invention of the DVR, so I could have recorded it to watch at any time and not had to rush through my suppers all week long.  Wait, with DVR, I could have replayed the parts I needed clarity on over.  And over.  And over.  Until I had everything I needed.

But wait, there’s more.

This was before the advent of YouTube.


I know.

This was before we could pull up every possible music video with the exception of those by the artist Mr. Garth Brooks by going to a website on the world wide web and typing a few key words. Yes, there once was such a time, my friends. I had a computer while I was in college, thanks to my Daddy’s guidance and a gift from my Granny.  It served me very well.  But internet? Puh-lease.  I was lucky it wasn’t one of those wall-to-wall units.  It had a dot-matrix printer with the paper that fed through with tear-off holes on the sides, for goodness’ sake. As I listened to the song yesterday and caught my littles’ glancing with more than a little curiosity at their Mama belting out a song that wasn’t from the “Frozen” soundtrack or sung by anyone previously or currently known as a Disney Channel star, I thought about that paper, and what it would be like to write it now. I could totally do it in one sitting.  On a laptop.

Pull up video on YouTube.  Check.

Watch a couple of times, making notes.  Leave the tab up for quick reference.

Look up on Bible Gateway or another scripture website the key words from the notes I took to find Bible passages that will help me connect the meaning behind the song and video with Scripture.   (I think I used a Bible with a concordance the first time around.  It was neither quick nor efficient.)

Take notes from the Bible passages.

Click open the YouTube tab.  Watch the video one more time.

*Pause to check Facebook notification and comment on the cute pictures my roommate just posted.  Text my friend back who asked if I was about to head over for supper in the dining hall.*

Sort my thoughts, make some semblance of an outline.

Open up Word or a document file.  While I wait, message my classmate that I’m almost done with this paper.  Score!

Begin typing.  (MOST useful class I took in high school.  Hands down.  Thank you, Mrs. Pearson.)

Have the computer proofread for me.  (My old computer could sort of do that–it thought “toady” was an acceptable word so that didn’t go so well a time or two.)

Save it periodically as I type, as I probably would have learned my lesson before then.   I hope.

Save the final copy.

Open up my email account.

Compose an e-mail to Dr. Ledbetter.  Attach my paper to send.  Press SEND.



I don’t think my girl and her crew get how easy things are today.  Almost all knowledge and entertainment (with the exception of Mr. Garth Brooks’ videos–this troubles me greatly, y’all) are literally at their fingertips.  Just a few minutes ago, I opened up a tab and looked up “advent” to make sure I was using it correctly. By moving nothing more than my fingers.


I know I sound old, but when I think about how different such a simple thing as writing a research paper is today it blows me away.  My next child in line to go to college will be there in nine years.  What?  I wonder how much more advanced things will be.

Maybe the computer will write their papers for them.

Y’all. I’m old.

And on that note, I’m going to bed.



Touched by Random Words of Kindness

Remember that I was mistaken as the newest family member’s grandmother by not one but two nurses? Not even Sister grabbing my hand in the midst of her discomfort and worry and her whispering, “I just must be looking really, really young today” could console me. It only got worse. I was at the grocery store on Thursday morning stocking up. Our resources had gotten a little low, and it was go to the store or we’d be eating jelly on tortillas with a side of avocado and orange juice. And Cooter, my creature of habit, was already stressing that we had run out of milk and there was none for cereal for breakfast that morning.

I stocked up on the buy 5, get $5 off your bill sale. Suffice to say, our cart overfloweth from my bargain hunting. I had a good visit with our cashier. I’m pretty sure she was new; at least she had yet to become jaded. I apologized for having such a hefty order to ring up and she told me never to apologize–that they get bored when they don’t have enough to do. Ahem. Note to the Grocery Store–KEEP. HER. We had two baggers on the case, and when they finished loading up my bagged groceries, they asked if they could help me out. Y’all, that whole deal stresses me out. With the exception of the one store which does not allow tipping, I always worry if I should or not. Then there’s the arranging of the groceries in the car. If I’m tired or hungry or whatever, it might be that only the cold stuff comes out at first, I take care of business, and then I go back for the rest. Which requires that I pack the car a certain way. So I rarely accept their generous offer of assistance.

Thursday morning, when I declined, the sweet cashier said, “That’s a lot of groceries. You should let them help you.” She then started tilting her head and staring at the baggers in such a way as to say, “Go. Help her anyway. Insist. I mean, look at her.” Yes, a look can say all of that.

I again said I was fine, and she assured me they didn’t mind, again with the head tipping thing. A little more urgently. At this point, I had been having symptoms of vertigo for a week, and I was getting a little concerned. When this sweet girl kept insisting, I was really worried. Finally I asked, “Do I look bad or something? I mean, I think I can do it.” Sweet Girl assured me I looked fine, just that it would be good for them to help, that they didn’t mind. I pointed at my “help” checking out the folding Georgia Tech chairs against the window, and said, “Don’t worry, we’ve got it.” I pushed the cart out with a wave goodbye, a quizzical mind, and a thankful heart.

The next day, after we picked up our Aub, we all went to the GW Boutique. Our Princess is not satisfied with me making her a Princess Leia costume; she keeps insisting on looking for one. They are out now, y’all, if anyone is looking–new and much lower-priced than they were originally. So she looked for that, and we made a round of the toy aisle where we look for Legos and K’Nex and educational toys. Cooter is fascinated with all kinds of weaponry, and no matter what it is, he usually asks if he can get it. And usually I say no. Such was the case this time. While they continued to look, my eye was drawn to this vanity top organizer. It had a glass base with chrome accents and two glass jars with chrome lids sitting on it. It was around $8 I think, so that gave me pause. As Cooter checked out the assorted weapons and cars, and Princess looked for all things pink and purple, I asked Aub what she thought. She was nonchalant, and I finally said, after much thought, “Nah. It will have to be kept clean. I’ll have to clean under it and wipe it down regularly. Probably more trouble than it is worth.”

Just a moment later I heard laughing. I turned around to see a beautiful white-haired lady pushing her cart past us. She said, “You’re too young to be talking like that.” Oh dear. I wondered what Cooter had been re-enacting with what weapon. I said, “Ma’am?” And she looked straight at me, pointed at the item I had been looking at and repeated, “You are too young to be worried about something like that, about cleaning it. But you are right, you know. It will be a bear to keep clean.” Well I declare. I placed my hand on her arm, and looked in her eyes, “Thank you. Thank you. You don’t know what that means to me.” I told her about my escapades at the hospital, and she clucked her disdain. (Yes, I will talk to anybody–I get it from my Mama.) “Pshaw, you do NOT look old enough to be anybody’s grandma, and don’t let anyone tell you any different.” I looked over at Aub. “You heard her right? What she said? You’re my witness!” We all laughed, and I left with a lighter heart. (and a less light head, as the vertigo finally seemed to be going away)

I am thankful for the random words of kindness from this sweet woman. She could have just laughed to herself at what I said and later called her BFF Forevuh and told her the story. And they could have shaken their heads together at how silly I was to be worried about such as that. Instead her kind words touched me and healed a wound for me–albeit a superficial, silly, and perhaps vain wound, but a hurt nonetheless. With words, she lifted me out of a funk. Isn’t it amazing what we can do when we are intentional about what we say?


This is from one of my favorite songs ever, “Hey Jude.” Turns out it was the number one song the year I was born. I love what it says, because it is true–we can take a sad song and make it better–with a look, a touch, a smile, kind words, listening, or even just our presence. And these words come later in the song:

And anytime you feel the pain, hey Jude, refrain
Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders

Good advice for all of us. Not easy, but good. And perhaps it is through the kindness of others–their words, their acts, their presence–that we can begin to let go of some of that weight.

And in the spirit of that, my friends, I leave you with this video. I love the Beatles, as Daddy enjoyed their music almost as much as he did Elvis’. He would make me laugh by calling them the Be-at-les. While I enjoy seeing recordings of their performances, this is my favorite version of this song. Because you see, it makes me very, very happy. Let me know if the surprise that comes in lifts your spirits as it did mine. And let’s go and scatter words and acts of kindness and laughter together, shall we? You never know when it could make someone’s day.