The unavoidable summer refrain has hit my house: "I'm bored."

These words were uttered shortly after I returned home from work Monday evening, merely three weekdays into summer vacation. The issue? My child was told to take a break from anything electronic.

That's when the dramatics came in, flopping around on the couch with heavy sighs. He may have been trying for an Oscar.

I know summer is a time of leisure and sometimes time will seem to drag. And yes, it may seem like there's nothing to do that you haven't done before, or at least recently.

But don't tell me there's nothing to do. There's nothing you WANT to do.

I could easily come up with a list of a dozen things that could or need to be done. I rattled some of them off: read, draw a picture, play with your toys, play outside, pick up your room better, play with the dog, take the dog for a walk with your brother, work on the word find you brought home from school, write a story ...

Those were quickly met with an, "I don't want to." OK, fine, but don't tell me there's "nothing" to do.

This may strike a nerve with me because I quickly learned as a child never to utter that phrase. My dad has an extensive baseball card collection numbering in the hundreds of thousands. He has a very specific system of keeping them organized. That system involves sorting the cards by their numbers on the back.

Whenever one of us four children uttered that dreaded phrase, a set of cards was handed to us for sorting. And there was a system to the sorting: first sort, second sort, third sort.

I usually handled a first sort, meaning I separated the cards by the hundreds. My sister usually handled second sort, by the tens, and my brothers handled the all-important third sort — putting them in final order.

As we got older, we were promoted to higher sorts. I felt super important when I moved up to third sort.

It actually wasn't so bad, and it was quality time spent with my dad, though I didn't recognize it as such as a child. My dad still gets some razzing about the sorting, but it all comes from love.

However, I tried to avoid the work as much as I could. Maybe that's part of the reason I became an avid reader. If I had a book in my hand, I was busy and therefore did not need to sort any cards. It didn't always work, but it was worth a shot.

I don't think a summer vacation has gone by where I haven't used the "sorting" threat on the kids.

Granted, I don't have a stack of cards on hand needing organized, but if I really wanted to, I could probably get some.

So, I found myself referring to that old tradition the other night. "If you're so bored, maybe I should call Grandpa so he can send you a box of cards to sort." He didn't fully understand the reference, but he knew it was something he probably wanted to avoid.

Maybe I should have Dad bring a box down when he visits next month just in case.

Who knows? Maybe I'll actually end up sorting them. It actually sounds rather relaxing as an adult. Just don't tell my dad.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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