I combined a manly tradition of watching the NFL playoffs not long ago with a more womanly task of ironing clothes. Now I know that sounds sexist but I'm sure if George Gallup did a poll he'd find that more men than women watch football and more women than men iron clothes. But I figured with my wife gone for the weekend I needed to pitch in a little more than usual and get the clothes washed and ironed and the bathroom cleaned. I think she said something about leaving again next weekend, too. Maybe I need to let things pile up next time.

The mindless task of ironing did leave room for a little thinking. What occurred to me in the midst of spurts of steam is that life is filled with mindless tasks- tasks that have to be done over and over, day after day, week after week. You can only ignore them for so long. Sooner or later the trash can's going to reach out and grab you by the pants leg and shout: "Hey, buddy, if you don't take me out I'm going to spill over on your kitchen floor and smell up this whole house."

The cat met me half-way up the drive way the other day. Feeding the animals is another of those mindless tasks that must be done every day. When they haven't been fed they communicate loudly, too. It meowed and meowed and ran into the garbage. I understand cat talk. It wanted food. I understand dog talk, too. I just don't think the cat understands people talk.

The cat got into the house a few weeks ago. I came in and found it pawing one of the boy's sleeping bags. In case you don't have the picture, this is litter box behavior I'm talking about. Sure enough, on closer inspection I saw the cat had done its business on the sleeping bag. Feeding the cat each day has to be done but it's less of a joy now. The cat's in the dog house. Another episode like that and it may get fed -- to our dog. Just kidding. Maybe to the neighbor's dog.

Now what's my point here? Oh, yeah. There are things that must be done every day. Try going a day or two without combing your hair or brushing your teeth. On second thought, don't try that. Checking mail, preparing meals, making the bed, paying bills, returning calls -- all these activities we do as a part of daily routines. The definition of a vacation is a day when these things don't have to be done.

There is so much that demands our attention that we often let slide things that are more important but we choose to ignore. We get so busy with the everyday "have to's" of life that we don't stop to ask members of our family, "How was your day?" That's not something we have to do but it's nice to have someone care enough to ask and listen. We don't hug enough, either. Hugging ought to be an everyday requirement. Maybe that's why people love dogs so much. They'll accept a hug any day.

We don't say, "I love you" enough either. A woman said to her husband, "You don't ever tell me you love me anymore." The husband replied, "I told you the day we got married, didn't I? If I change my mind I'll let you know."

The garbage can sometimes has more success getting taken out by the man of the house than some wives do. And I'm not talking about a walk to the curb. I mean some real quality time together. Though it's nice, spouses don't always to have a night out on the town to spend quality time together. There ought to be time built into every day for some good conversation. It's a lot more important than making the bed or washing the dishes. But sometimes the most important things get left undone because of the number of little things that press upon us each day.

When Valentine's Day rolls around, a day people are supposed to celebrate love and all that love means, people run to the store and purchase something for those they love, often more out of guilt than anything else. They know they've neglected the little things that are really big things and decide to buy something to try to make up the difference. Sometimes it works. Most of the time it doesn't. But in the long run, if we attend to our relationships with those we love on a daily basis

as attentively as we attend to grooming ourselves, feeding ourselves and the animals, and doing the chores of the home, we might actually discover that Cupid strikes more often.

And I've discovered, though I don't always live it, that if a man will do more "womanly things" like iron and clean and cook and vacuum, there's a lot more time for talking, and sharing, and, well, you get the picture. It communicates "I love you," more than a box of chocolate or a bouquet of flowers. It's cheaper, too.

The Rev. Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie.

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