Life Hacks

I love life hacks.  I especially love practical hacks in Popular Mechanic-esque type of magazines.  Maxim had an article, years ago, on how to win a sword fight.  I thought that was a great article.  We all harbor the need to have survival tips in our back pocket in case of the next zombie/climate/nuclear/asteroid induced apocalypse.  While we wait, let us focus on some tips you can use in day-to-day life to win back precious time and let you focus instead on enjoying your latte while reading celebrity gossip on your smart phone.  Let’s begin:

1)Pee in the pool.   I fessed to doing this in front of a group of parents and it was the only time I have been truly judged and found wanting.  My husband even let out a small groan after I said it.  The former lifeguard/now mother was particularly appalled.  Since then, I’ve given it more thought after a self-imposed year off from peeing in the pool.  After many times of dragging my cold and wet self, and that of my young daughter, to the pool bathroom and diligently peeing in the toilet and getting toilet paper stuck to our wet bums I reached this conclusion:  I had been walking from the bathroom with untold bacteria picked up by my feet and washing them in the pool.  99% of pool bathrooms are disgusting.  Change rooms are where everything on our outside shoes comes into contact with pool drippings. It is like a gravy concocted of feces, bacteria and mold and the bathrooms are where it happens best.  Everyone either pees before or after they change and nine times out of ten, people are wearing their shoes – because the bathroom floor is so gross!  So, no thank you, I no longer trudge myself to the bathroom to pee, instead  I  envelope myself in the wonderful warmth of my urine and then swim away as it churns and mixes with all the other urine and chlorinated waters.  What doesn’t kill us, only makes us stronger.

2)Dress your kid in the next day’s clothes for bed.  Admittedly, this only works for about the first five years of their life because most of the clothes for babies and toddlers look like pajamas anyway and your kid is a total buy in because they hate getting changed in the morning too.  Kids get it:  wearing your pajamas all day is awesome!  Let’s be honest, changing those rascals in the morning is worse than pulling out your own hair and who hasn’t threatened to take away their cute stuffy if they don’t comply?  Like yourself a lot more by dressing them the night before.  On an extremely happy note, you’ve just bought yourself 2 hours!

3)Macaroni and cheese from the box.  I know, some of you organic, non processed parents out there are freaking out right about now.  Don’t!  I chop up some chives and maybe throw some fresh cucumbers and tomatoes in it and voila, a main with  salad!  Yay, us!  If your kids are assholes and won’t eat vegetables, tell them about the pitfalls of scurvy.  I did, and I have never looked back.   Even a 3  year old can comprehend the downside of bleeding gums and scaly skin.

4)Set the bar low for birthdays and Christmas.  I had a friend years ago that was diligent about remembering birthdays and trying to give the perfect gift.  She enjoyed it, I think, but she was setting herself up for a world of pain later on in life.  I have found you can never manage people’s  feelings or reactions but you can manage their expectations.  Case in point: I forgot my husband’s birthday a few years ago.  He lightheartedly teased me about it but what he didn’t realize was from that moment on, I could pretty much give him the lamest gift and he would be happy because at least I remembered.   It had great spill over affects at Christmas because I was able to do all my shopping for him at Mark’s Work Wearhouse.  When he opened up his presents, he was happy to receive a down vest, wool socks and  fire retardant long johns (I especially remember that gift because I  emphasized the awesome safety feature of his thermals).  I didn’t have to spend long hours at the mall fussing about his gifts but instead found that I could create thematic gift giving with one stop shopping!  I did this one year at IKEA too.  Everyone in my family got pretty Swedish coffee cups, plush bath mats and practical kitchen gadgets.  I miss my parents’ birthdays, my sister’s birthdays, my friends’ birthdays and then, bam! I surprise them with a thoughtful gift.  I average about one gift every three years for people.  Years ago, after completing my first year in the Faculty of Geology, I gifted family members with dusty samples of rocks. I used black permanent marker to label the rocks with  the chemical formula of the minerals found in the rock.  After that, they were happy to receive a tea towel.  Set. The. Bar. Low.

I have one caveat for this hack – don’t ever forget your child’s birthday and make sure Santa pays a visit.  They are awesome little creatures and the best gift I ever received.

5)Buy toilet paper in bulk.  There is only one thing in your house that would make you suffer to go out at some strange hour, in a cyclone, to get it.  Unless you have a pile of rags lying around and an outhouse out back, you need to get yourself to Costco and buy their Kirkland house brand 36 roll extravaganza of bulk toilet paper.  Buy two packages.  Buy three packages!  It doesn’t go stale, it is literally 50-100% cheaper than any other brand IN THE WORLD!  I know, because if you have read a previous post, you know I have actually stood in the toilet paper isle at several grocery stores and figured out the best damn deal in the world for toilet paper.  Why?  Because I have too much time on my hands from all the great life hacks I utilize.  My household has never run out of toilet paper and it never will.  This is the greatest life hack I can offer you.

Now, go to your nearest coffeehouse and buy that beverage that you deserve.  Enjoy licking your lips softly, savoring the aromatic essence of your favorite liquid.  Before you leave, go to the bathroom, sit down to leisure in your throne time and when you reach for the toilet paper, chuckle softly at first and then burst into laughter once you realize those bastards have run out of toilet paper.  Apparently, they can’t hack it (pun intended!).



I need to let go of lost socks

I was folding the laundry the other day and I tossed a few uncoupled socks into my lost sock basket.  Then, I paused to  stare long and hard at the basket that had been slowly accumulating lonely socks for years.  Various ones had begun their desperate climb for freedom, standing on the toes of the fallen and beginning their accidental accent over the lip of the basket.  Their tragic limbo beckoned me to begin the arduous task of trying to find their lost mates.

Twenty minutes later I had created two piles:  a small one where rediscovered twins embraced in mangled balls and a much larger one that held a jumble of sizes, colors and fabrics.   I kneeled in front of my bed to behold my past.  There were my older son’s black & white, black & grey, striped, and white socks that had anti-slip lettering embossed with T4-T5 and which were now being used by his younger sister.  A few of his present day socks presented the same sad engendered palette of black but with daring blues and reds on the heels and toes.  There were her socklets with ice cream cones, flowers, decorative ankle trim in hues of lavender, green, pink and orange.  I was baffled how a multitude of highly eye catching socks could go missing.  Did our dog have a penchant for purple? My husband’s single sports socks were a timeline of his changing tastes: black calf socks had given way to black ankle socks and finally to black below-shoe-rim socks,  a shortening struggle to avoid the fate of being yet another old man wearing calf socks with shorts.  A few of my socks were thrown into the mix but not many:  I tended towards more color and patterns and these were always sold in singles such that upon discovery of a hole I often chucked the pair.  I also habitually wore my husband’s black socks since my ‘nice’ socks never lasted long.  His rapidly changing taste in style might have been a subversive attempt at dissuading my borrowing.

There the pile sat and taunted me with an overwhelming question:  were these single socks a metaphor for all the leftover items in my past that I had failed to discard?  Was I hoping I would find the elusive missing part to the whole; would I find resolution to relationships and events that had ended in whimper? These thoughts flowed over my consciousness on a particularly grey and snowy day (if it had been sunny and warm, I would not be writing this blog.  I would have ignored the sock basket  and gone for a walk instead).

Socks are a funny covering for our bodies.  It absorbs our foot sweat and odor and is an intimate olfactory trace of our existence.  This might explain why our dog rifles through the laundry looking for socks to parade around the house.  She is either getting sensory  comfort from her pack’s smells or she is thumbing her nose at our authority by reminding us we shit, eat and smell just like her.

Unlike underwear, we freely flash an odd assortment of patterns and colors on our ankles and for reasons I have yet to fathom, they appear to be an acceptable flamboyance on buttoned down men.  Whenever I have sat through a terribly long and boring meeting, my gaze  inevitably wandered to the foot and sock wear of the attendees, trying to ascertain some hidden character traits I may have overlooked, followed by a skittish attempt to hide my own socks, which were often black and borrowed from my husband.  Based on my own boring proclivities and an unimpressive collection of practical cotton underwear, I assumed anyone with fabulously colorful socks must harbor kinky tendencies – at least that is what I imagined to get me through those terribly long and boring meetings.

Imagining the character and history of people and their socks probably led to my soul searching on that fateful laundry day.  Letting go of socks with holes is easy:  it has obviously come to its demise through ample contact, you may have even let it go on  a bit too long because the hole wasn’t too big and wasn’t too worrisome, and one day you realize some part of you is being strangled or exposed by the irregularity and raggedness of the hole.  I think the metaphor is self-explanatory: abusive or annoying people that are black holes, sucking the light from our lives while emitting harmful radiation until they themselves evaporate and disappear.

Missing socks are another matter.  They are the epitome of unfinished business.  Should I wait for their return?  Should I try to improve their functionality by creating a mismatched pair?  Will people judge me because I am wearing one striped sock and one polka-dot sock?  Or does the idiosyncrasy of the mismatch prove charming?  There are no easy answers to the dilemma but I think for each one of us, the answer is in the basket.  On a quiet laundry day, lay out those burdensome socks on your bed and look, I mean really look at the possibilities and the dead-ends.  Don’t be afraid to throw away those dusty socks that have no wearability – neon yellow was just a passing fancy but a bold move nonetheless, the Eiffel Tower motif was super cool in the gift shop but this year we are traveling to new sights unseen,  gray is just so….gray and can’t be mismatched successfully with any of my husband’s black socks.  Today is the day of reckoning and once the pile has been cleared in fitful starts and stops of anxiety and pondering, wander to the garbage bin and finish the job.  Then, take your wonderful self and go shopping for a new pair of socks.  Nothing is more cathartic than starting fresh.