Let’s face it: if aliens came to earth and their criteria for assimilating humans was based on how messy their house was, I would be taken for sure.

I thought of this sentence while washing dishes…and had to quick dry my hands, run to the computer (for the umpteenth time today) and write it down before forgetting it. I do this often. I keep a notepad by my bed for late-night inspirations. (I have learned this the hard way, after losing way too many “perfect” sentences and mental lists of things I have to do when I wake up.) I also keep old business cards of my husband’s in the car, along with a yellow pen that the kids don’t like because it’s too faint. I write down my reminders, sentences, status updates, thoughts, on the clean, white back of the cards…and then squint at the messy, faint writing later while sitting at my computer. Usually I can read it.

Sometimes I can’t. It’s times like that when “brd ckn ar frsh” can be really confusing. Is it a grocery list? Bread, chicken, air freshener? Or is it “bird checking art fish?” And what does that mean, anyway? There are times the epiphanies get lost in translation.

There is a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry writes down a phrase in the night on his bedside tablet of paper…and can’t read it in the morning. When it is finally discovered what it is that he wrote, he says, “Why did I write that? That’s not funny!” So much was hanging on the meaning of his scribbles…yet it was, ultimately, not worth the time and trouble he’d spent trying to decipher it.

Are my scribbles worth deciphering? Sometimes, yes. Usually. I think. If there’s no bread or chicken for dinner, then for sure they were! But I wonder how many brilliant thoughts have been lost due to the messiness of my writing? When I was in third grade, my teacher threatened me with remedial cursive class. She said something to the effect of, “If you can’t write your capital “G’s” better than that after all the practice you’ve had, you’ll stay after school with Mrs. So-and-So.” (I don’t remember Mrs. So-and-So’s name…I’ve blocked it out.) My eyes got huge and my heart thumped a little faster. I’d never been threatened with staying after school for anything, ever. I knuckled down and worked on my cursive “G’s” as well as my other worst letters: “F’s” and “T’s” and “D’s”…not to mention those crazy-weird capital “Q’s”. (What’s with those?) I also worked on my capital “L’s”…but just because those were fun and my favorites.

I never did have to stay after school so I must have improved to some degree, though to see my handwriting today you might wonder. At least the “G” in my signature is legible.

Every time – okay, probably not EVERY time – that I sign my name to something I think of the day I opened my first-ever checking account. I was 12 and was depositing around $100 of saved-up babysitting money. I remember the teller instructing me, “Sign your name here.” And my mom saying, “Write neatly. This is the signature you’ll have for the rest of your life.” The pressure was unbelievable. THE REST OF MY LIFE?!! YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! When I got married, I felt almost guilty writing my new name.

Now, when I put my John Hancock on anything, I am intensely aware of how all the “n’s” and “l’s” of “O’Donnell” turn into a scribble of childish proportions, a mountain range of jagged lines. My mother would never approve.

She probably wouldn’t like the state of my house, either, which the aliens are zoning in on as we speak.