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!).

 

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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.

 

 

We Got A Puppy

I haven’t had the wherewithal to publish anything in a long time.  I got depressed.  And sick with some horrible flu virus that made me understand how the flu could possibly kill someone.   Then there were the deaths in the family.   First my mother-in-law and then my step-dad.  Oh yeah, and my father had a couple of convalesces at our home after hernia and hip surgeries.  I basically hit a wall and started crying – a lot.  Then I lost my appetite, whether from the flu or from depression I’ll never know but I got locked into a horrible spiral so that I lost 20lb (best diet ever!) and could barely ingest the same amounts of food as my 3 year old.  I bought powders and canned drinks they give old people to gain weight.  I ate a lot of ice cream.  Like I mentioned above, best diet ever.  After my step-dad’s funeral I started shaking.  I thought:  Oh fuck,  I got bit by a tick and now I’ve caught Lyme Disease (sidebar: Lyme Disease creates neurological damage and is often misdiagnosed as MS).  Except, the shaking was psychosomatic because I’d shake when I was agitated and never when I was seated or resting.  Skip forward to the dreadful month of February and the doctor puts me on anti-anxiety pills.  I thought, “Great, a pill that fixes everything!  Sign me up.”  Except, it didn’t.  I still needed to go to a counselor and realize that my family was, is and will always be neurotic, eccentric and draining.

Fast forward to April.  My kids and husband had been cooped up with me for a very dark winter and I decided my priority was to create happiness for myself, my kids and my husband.  We began going for hikes again and going to the swimming pool.  We spent a weekend at a fancy hotel in the same city we live in and ordered room service and luxuriated in the hotel’s marble pool.  We started remembering what it was like to be happy and then we bought a puppy- a teeny, tiny puppy that will grow into a small dog.  It’s a ShitsPooPoo – a Shitzu, Pomeranian, Poodle cross and her name is Bella.  My husband and I had been mulling it over for a couple of years while we recovered from euthanizing our Chocolate Lab in 2014.  He had grown old, something for which I wasn’t familiar because of premature deaths of all my childhood dogs and cats.  Reasons for early death of above mentioned dogs and cats:  falling from a tree during winter (cat), getting run over (dog), accidentally being stepped on and then dying from a broken back (cat), getting run over again (dog #2), and my most loved pet, my dog Chico, being passed on to another family because we were moving households every year.  Having a dog survive to old age was a sign I had graduated from the family dysfunction of shoddy husbandry and a disruptive home but it was bittersweet.  The old boy suffered from advanced arthritis  that received little respite from pain medication and in his final year he couldn’t bear to suffer the agony of getting up to plod down four steps and squat to take a shit.  He’d sprawl on the kitchen floor and a few seconds later a couple of warm logs would roll from under his raised tail.  He’d give us a look so sorrowful and resigned that we gave up scolding him and began the reluctant conversations of when it was finally “time.”

Having a puppy is about joy; having a puppy is about pee everywhere in your home.  I’m going to give you some good advice right now:  never ever buy pee pads.  They have become ubiquitous in the last 10 years and they are totally useless because you are teaching your dog it’s okay to pee inside.  If you have a yard, let your new bundle of joy spend lots and lots of time in it so the outside becomes a natural part of their habitat and by extension, their toilet.  They’ll soon realize the green carpet outside doesn’t elicit the same groans of agony or yelling the (formerly) white carpet inside does.  If you live in an apartment: what the hell were you thinking?  Go buy yourself a house.  Better yet, a country acreage.

Back to joy: puppies have three basic tenets and they are eating, sleeping and playing.  They will do all three with you if you let them and let’s be honest, you will.  A bit of scrambled egg at breakfast never hurt anyone now did it?  The crate seems comfortable but your bed is soooooo much better.   Besides, it’s too cold in the winter to sleep on the floor even if it’s on top of a $100 feather dog bed from a boutique pet store.   And you’ll realize throwing things over and over and over and over and over again can be fun!  Especially the part where you have to play capture the ball or rope toy between every single toss.  It never gets old.  Really.  I promise.

When you bring a new creature into your home the best parts are the unexpected moments, those times you could never have imagined in your adorable baby animal fairy tales you were playing across your mind while you were psyching yourself up to make the purchase.  It’s only been two months so far but the two most memorable things about Bella are 1) when holding her she likes to lean her head back over your shoulder and nuzzle into your neck and 2) when you are pooping on the toilet she runs into the bathroom and starts sniffing the toilet bowl, scratches at the crotch of your underwear and gives you a startled look every time you grunt.  I’ve never felt so scrutinized as when I try to defecate in my own home now.  I guess it makes sense it would be your canine family member that would have the most judgement pertaining to your rear end considering this is where the meet and greet ensues at every dog park.  Still, I wonder how I stack up against the Labradoodle on the next block.

Every day with my family, including our newest member, Bella, I’m remembering what it feels like to have parts of my day injected with pleasant surprises.  This blog isn’t advocating buying a puppy every time you fall into depression.  It’s just a story to remind myself that changing up the pattern in the fabric of our lives (yes, I know this is a super cheesy catchphrase) might be what’s needed to freshen up one’s perspective and catch a few more rays of sunshine.

 

My Daughter Burps Like a Truck Driver

My daughter burps like a truck driver. She somehow lets out low, prolonged belches like it’s nobody’s business.  She probably learned it from her big brother but even he can’t burp like she can.  She is almost three.  She stands on her tippy toes and tries to spin like a ballerina.  She wears taffeta and adores rhinestones.  She can also fart like an old man on a warm bench in July.  She will suddenly fart, say “fart” and then chuckle like a self satisfied old man on a warm…… never mind, you get the picture.

I suppose admonishment is what is called for in these situations but secretly, I’m impressed.  Her older brother is definitely impressed.  Yeah, we insist she says, “Excuse me.”  But, she also knows that every time she either farts or burps, our eyes will open wide and then a smile will follow and then a suppressed smile will follow after that.  She’s got the world by the balls and she knows it.

Kids are good fun.  If only we remember to laugh before we scold.   I doubt my daughter will take her burping or farting beyond her middle school years.  If she does, I may be risking the chance at future grandchildren or she marries a truck driver.  I just hopes she never stops laughing.  Even at her own jokes.

Her eight year old brother has an equally impressive talent that would offend good company.  Here is his effeminate characterization of a fashionista:

“Oh. My. God.  Look at my nails.  They are sooooo glamorous.”  Hand postured outwards, head tilted sideways, a dramatic roll of the eyes.

“Oh my goodness.  Look at what I’m wearing. I’m sooooo perfect.”  Swagger, provocative sideways shoulder glance.  Flittering eyelids. Big flashy smile.

The flashy smile gets me every time.  Only because eight year old boys are a toothy mixture of large adult teeth and awkward gaps where the adult teeth have yet to come in.

I lamely tried to copy my son’s antics one day when I was attempting to regale my friends with humorous stories about my children.   Either my son is not as funny as I think he is or I’m not funny telling people how funny my son is because they gave those painful polite chuckles when your story has fallen flat but they are trying to humor you.

We have a family joke that we’ve been riffing on for  a couple of years now.   It starts off by someone directing serious attention at another person.

“Son, I have something very serious to tell you.”  This is followed by son’s eyes getting wide and concerned looking.

Big sigh. “Okay, this is really hard to tell you.” Another big sigh. “I’m not sure if I should.”   Kid’s eyes are starting to look scared now.

“What I’m about to say may shock you.”  Look down.  Pause.  Kid has stopped breathing.

Look up with a slight twinkle in the eye. “I LOVE YOU.” Big grin.  Kids exhales a huge sigh of relief and then gives you a crazy smile.

We randomly initiate these exchanges whenever the mood hits us, trying to fool the person so they don’t catch on the I Love You bit is coming.  My son loves it and likes to parlay off of me and his father.  His little sister caught on to the concept this year except she can’t keep a straight face yet.  She does a lot of sighing while she’s trying to suppress a huge grin.  When we’ve all forgotten to play the I LOVE YOU game for awhile, it’s really fun to remember to trick someone you love.

I realize this type of humor has a shelf life along with flaxen haired dolls and G rated movies.  But, right now, it is pretty awesome.  Take that Jon Stewart and Amy Schumer.