Nancy Roman


When I was a junior in high school, I missed the same verb on two consecutive French tests.

This pissed me off – only I didn’t say ‘pissed off’ at the time – I don’t think anyone used that term in 1968. I think we were just easing ourselves into “bummed out.”

In frustration – and in the certainty that the word would appear again to screw with me – I wrote it on the back cover of my French text book. No, I wasn’t defacing school property. Back then all textbooks had covers. You usually started out with a cool blue cover provided by the Bristol Savings Bank, but if you were as doodle-prone as I was, by November, you were using brown paper grocery bags.

And I wrote on my paper-bag covered book:


And here it is, forty-seven years later, and I not only remember that Tenir = To Hold, but I remember the present tense conjugation listed below the verb.

This is an incredible example of how just seeing something every day for a period of time will make a permanent impact on one’s brain.

No studying. No effort. Tenir = To Hold has a hold on my brain. Tenir is indelible.

After all these years.


Why not put that subliminal power to work right now?

I don’t need to conjugate any French verbs at the moment.

But there are lots of ideas that would be beneficial if they ‘tenired’ themselves into my brain.

So today I took a sticky note and put it in a place that I visit repeatedly. My favorite spot, so to speak. My obsession. The bathroom mirror.

I gave some thought as to what would be the best message to subconsciously absorb a dozen times a day.

I chose this:


This is a perfect message to osmose into my soul.  And I get a triple bonus:

  1.  Straighten Up!   

Put away the clean laundry.

Pick up shoes.

Throw away the junk mail.

  2.   Straighten Up!

Stand tall.

No slouching.

Walk with confidence.

  3.  Straighten Up!

And fly right.

Do good.



  1. Excellent idea!


  2. My dad taught high school and would bring home those shiny book covers with his school’s logo on them. I preferred the paper bags…and once I got into high school I wasn’t going to be caught with books covered in a rival school. There are so many ways to straighten up, thanks for the reminder.


    • I always started with the bank-donated covers, but ended up with paper bags. I liked paper-bag covers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ray G

    Sounds like your dad, who I miss.


  4. Victoria Block

    You brought back good memories of brown paper bag book covers. I wonder if kids today would even know how to make them without consulting their grandparents?? And I really like your idea of a sticky note message. I’m going to think about that one.


  5. Dana

    Isn’t that a song by Archie Bell and the Drells?


    • The Tighten-Up? I loved that song!


      • Dana



  6. Sometimes I’ll put a little sticky note on the outside of my phone with reminders and/or to-dos. I can’t miss it if it’s something I have in my hand constantly. Now at work I’ve had a note on the edge of my monitor that’s been there for so long, the ink has faded. Not sure why I’m still hanging into it, probably the fear that as soon as I toss it I’ll wish I hadn’t.


    • My husband’s phone always has a sticky note – usually with the writing worn off.


  7. I recently had to show my 13 year old how to do the brown paper covers. He was in awe of my skilz, like I just pulled that trick out of my pocket that day. I was thrilled that he gets to experience a year with the “blank canvass” of the book cover. I’ll recommend that he add something motivation to them instead of just anime sketches. Or maybe I’ll sneak one or to on it for him!


    • I guess we are in possession of a magical dying art.


  8. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.


  9. One year of French in school, and seeing your note to your self brought it all back. Great idea with the straighten up message!


  10. I’d have to write it 100 times, like I did my french verbs for it to stick. That would be lots of post-its on the mirror 😉


  11. I like it, you actually made me sit up as opposed to straighten up when I read the note!


  12. I write notes to myself on my bathroom mirror with an erasable whiteboard marker. I love your triple-threat “Straighten Up” message.


  13. Paper bag book covers! So much nicer each fall than the ones with advertisements printed all over them.
    Love your note to self “Straighten up and Fly Right” (Nat King Cole sings it here:
    Now that ought to get you moving 🙂


  14. I had forgotten about that song! Going to add it to a play list!


  15. Oh, I like that! What a good reminder too.


  16. When sticky notes first appeared i had a colleague who filled them with his tiny handwriting. It was his to do list and if he couldn’t fit it on that days list it didn’t get done. He never got caught out by his unique prioritising policy. And yes straighten up is a good motto


  17. Love this and you’ve inspired me to do my own sticky note. I honestly can’t think of anything better than “Straighten up” although “Lose ten pounds and become a billionaire” might be a good start.


  18. That verb makes me think of the way my now hubby used to tell me that he loved me, only that he was a bit shy to say so, so he did say ” Je tiens à toi”. ( I care for you )


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