I Haven’t Mastered the Triple Salchow Yet (Or, Why I Still – Occasionally – Exhibit Toddler Tantrum Capabilities)

When I was young my family didn’t own a television. Occasionally something would come along we simply had to watch and we’d pack up our snacks (always Sour Cream and Onion chips) and walk up the small side-hill to Ralph and Marguerite’s. (Are those not the best and most stereotypical names for an old married pair? If I was ever to write a novel, Ralph and Marguerite are my current frontrunners for the friendly neighbourly couple.)

Ralph and Marguerite (let’s revel in the perfection of their names one last time) lived in a small house with brown shag carpet; their home always smelled odd – as all houses do, I suppose, to outside olfactory senses. I’m sure if I were to open up their back door today – with my eyes closed – I’d immediately know I had been transported to Ralph and Marguerite’s porch circa 1992.

Now back to that TV. We would pile onto the shag carpet and munch on chips; the screen would crackle on and I would live my best life. Almost always the impetus for our visit was to watch figure skating.

It blew my young mind.

More than anything I wanted to be one of those graceful ballerinas-on-blades. I can remember sobbing one Saturday evening in our avocado green bathtub (and, yes, there was a matching avocado green toilet – very classy) because I had seen my dentist’s daughter doing fancy twirls and jumps at the afternoon public skate. I knew we could never afford figure skating lessons and that seemed the ultimate injustice to my 6-year-old soul.

So I watched skating instead. I’d sit with bated breath when my favourite skaters took the ice; I’d pump my fist when axels were landed and groan when toe picks got the better of a landing and someone was sent unceremoniously to the ice. I’d move my body in tandem with the music, strain my neck and elongate my torso as skaters entered a jump sequence as if I could, by sheer force of will, help ensure the successful execution of their technical performance.

One night last week I was sprawled out in our living-room armchair reading; I’d skimmed over the same book years earlier but felt like I was in a better headspace to internalize some of the concepts. I was nodding along, taking notes, and generally feeling engaged with the material.

And then – BAM – I had crisis moment where I literally stopped reading, looked up into the otherwise empty living room, shook my head, and wondered: Why haven’t I figured this out, yet?

And by ‘this,’ I mean life.

I’ve learned a lot of very valuable lessons over the last few decades, but why do I keep getting things wrong? Why do certain positive behaviours still feel so hard to implement?

Why do I still eat my feelings? Why do I still yell instead of hug? Why do I keep forgetting to floss? Why do I still fall into the trap of mindless scrolling? Why do I keep interrupting and nagging and forgetting to be kind?

In the last decade, we’ve (switching to the collective now) watched people we love die in the prime of life or battle horrific diseases. We’ve watched parents/grandparents age and fight against the relentless advances of dementia. We’ve waged an invisible war between work and life, forever trying to strike the right balance. And now we’re all living through unprecedented political, environmental, and global health situations.

And while I can agree I’ve learned a lot, I still sometimes spend the weekend crying and banging my hands on the floor like a toddler in the middle of a tantrum (yes I did this recently and, no, it wasn’t pretty but, yes, it did make me feel slightly better and, no, the children didn’t witness this adult tantrum or capture it on video but, yes, it likely would have been sadly hilarious to watch as a casual observer).

Don’t I realize I’m an adult and can give myself permission (to quit, binge-watch Waco until 2 am, take multiple hot showers in a day, eat ice cream for supper)? What about buffers and values and choosing to fail. I know I can’t do everything, so why do I sometimes insist on trying to do just that?

How can I offer advice to my children about managing their emotions and then have a tantrum of my own (to be fair, at the time of my tantrum the kids had been home – fighting – for days on end, my husband was stuck in another country, and every snowflake in Canada was piling up into my driveway)?

After learning (or at least reading about) so much, how come I often feel like I’m stuck in the kindergarten class at the School of Life? Or my own version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day where I keep forgetting to walk around the hole (even when I know it’s there).

My mind went through all of this in rapid-fire while sitting in my armchair with hot Magic Bags wedged at my feet (obviously). And I decided here’s what I can say with confidence: I have learned a lot. But I’ll always be learning. And for some reason, my thoughts immediately wandered to parallels with figure skating. Random, I know, but at the point of my late-evening crisis, the Olympics were just a few weeks away, so I guess the timing made sense (also, there had to be some rationale for telling you about Ralph and Marguerite, aside from their awesome names).

life lessons from the RINK

  1. All skaters start with the basics. I can guarantee Nathan Chen didn’t do a combination quad lutz + triple toe loop his first time on the ice. The best skaters, ultimately, must learn a incredible number of complicated skills. But those skills are meaningless if they don’t first master the basics of skating. Becoming a wife, mother, friend, employee, etc. – these all require a unique skillset that takes time to develop. Patience is key. Showing up and staying upright is even more important than dazzling displays of greatness. I need to work on the basics first (and recognize they can never be “mastered” as even the greatest skaters can catch an edge while performing the simplest of skills).
  2. All skaters require regular coaching. You simply don’t see figure skaters without coaches. No matter how good they become, no matter how many gold medals they’ve accummulated – they are always led by a coach. We all need coaching. Over and over and over again. To encourage us. To remind us of our strengths and to support us in overcoming our shortcomings. We need someone older and wiser. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of maturity and self-knowledge.
  3. The best skaters pick programs that fit their strengths. Some skaters thrive at artistic choreography, others at engaging the audience, others with footwork sequences. Some figure skaters stoically land jump after jump, but are wooden and unengaging. Others might fall more often, but capture the hearts and imaginations of the audience. We’re all good at different things and we need to spend more time celebrating our strengths and exploiting those than self-flagellating over perceived weaknesses. Life skills are not one-size fits all.
  4. Routines change. Every year or so, skaters require a new program – new music, new costumes, new choreography. Sometimes this shakeup might involve a different coach and training facility. Sure, each routine builds upon skills that have been honed over years and years of practice. But even the most seasoned of skaters spends months of awkward trial-and-error to get a new routine perfected. And guess what? Even then, it’s never perfect. There will be double-footed landings. They’ll pop a twist. There might even be an epic fall. Life changes. If having kids has taught me nothing else it’s that each new stage usually isn’t easier or harder…it’s different. There are unique challenges and unique joys. Things don’t stay static. Do I gain more awareness and life skills as time passes? Absolutely. But I often feel like I’m floundering to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, when I’ve only just gotten comfortable with my routine set to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
  5. Skaters learn how to fall because it’s inevitable. Have you ever been skating and fallen to the ice? It hurts! Now imagine doing that while hurtling at high speed on extremely sharp skates with very hard boards surrounding you while wearing only some nylons and what essentially amounts to a skimpy one-piece bathing suit…while the entire world watches you. Falling is inevitable and it will leave bruises but skaters practice the falling part too and learn ways to minimize the impact. I know I’ll get overwhelmed with life. I know I’ll hit brick-walls. I don’t always time it right, but I’m learning that I need to nap or cry or maybe even eat that chocolate bar to help ease my landing. And I’ve learned to surround myself with family and friends and other supports to help me get back up and move on.
  6. Once the music starts, you keep on going. 99 times out of a 100 what do figure skaters do when they fall or pop their jump? They regroup and carry on. It’s hard (and often embarassing), but after they’ve learned how to fall semi-gracefully, they learn how to get back up. Over and over and over again. If they don’t fall in competition, be darn sure they fell plenty in practice. This is life. Sometimes after a tough fall, I have to skip a few jumps and muddle my way through, looking dazed and confused. It’s frustrating and can hurt as much mentally as it does physically but, eventually, I’ll synchronize to the music and keep going with my program. My mistakes don’t mean I haven’t practiced. They don’t mean I haven’t listened to my coaches. My mistakes are usually just “life” happening.
  7. There is joy and there is pain. Ever notice the name of the landing spot for skaters when they’ve finished their routine? The Kiss and Cry. My theme of late – if you haven’t sensed it yet (but you’re all brilliant and definitely have) – is the constant juxtaposition of easy and hard; joy and pain. Whether they executed their routine flawlessly or spent most of their skate stumbling through jump sequences, they bow to the audience and head to the Kiss and Cry. They might hug and celebrate, or they might sob and ruminate. Either way, though, they learn. Either way they leave the rink – whether it was a good performance or a disappointing one – with another skate under their belts. It’s nice to have good days, weeks, months. It’s encouraging and uplifting. I want to perform at my highest level. I want a clean skate with no wobbles or awkward landings. But sometimes there will be a string of hard days, weeks, or months. And, at the very least, I can say I’ve added another life lesson to my repertoire and can move on more informed and perhaps with fresh resolve as to how I can improve things.
  8. Skaters show up. As long as you’re a competitve skater, you have to keep showing up. Most of the time I imagine it’s a slog. Days are spent in dingy arenas practicing the same technical elements over and over again. Listening to the same cut of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto (I happen to love that song, but can you IMAGINE how many times figure skaters have to listen to the same piece of music)…or Barry Manilow (did you hear that New Zealand played his greatest hits on a loop last weekend – along with the Macarena – to disperse COVID protestors). Sometimes I have to be content with just showing up. That’s an important part of the process, and learning happens then too.

It can feel frustrating to see just how far I have to go. I’m a flawed human being and will never be anything but while here on Earth. But I am learning. Sometimes I fall and it sucks and I’m embarrassed and start crying and the world sees my mascara-streaked raccoon eyes and I want to quit, and other times the ice is coated in a layer of roses and I wave and bow and life feels great.

I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers. I don’t. I’m not going to pretend I always (or even regularly) get it right. I don’t.

But I can say that I’m learning…

When I was in university, the pastor of the church I attended talked about how we like to accrue letters after our names which then get used to inform the outside world of our qualifications.

But instead of a PhD, DDS or CPA designation, you know what he had written on his business card? LLSL.

It stood for Learning, Learning, Still Learning.

And I hazard a guess that those are credentials that deserve a place at the top of all our CVs.

Header photo by Weston MacKinnon on Unsplash

So…I Moved Our CO Detector To A New Outlet (But Why Do Little Hacks Take So Long To Identify?)

Update: I am currently hanging my head in shame (not really; this is very metaphorical). In both the header picture and throughout this post, I referred to carbon monoxide as CO2.

I went to university for six years to study Biology. I have taken enough Chemistry classes that there is no feasible excuse for me to very confidently discuss our carbon dioxide detector. Now both gasses are dangerous, but considering I exhale carbon dioxide about 25,000 times/day, I’m very grateful we don’t have a CO2 detector furiously beeping to warn me of my own breath.

I fixed the blog post text, but am too lazy to fix the header photo. And to be clear – we have carbon MONoxide detectors. And I hope you all do as well.

A few months ago I wrote a post about moving my deodorant out of our ensuite bathroom and into the top drawer of my bedroom dresser. I remain committed to Team Bedroom (though a friend told me she keeps deodorant in both her room and the bathroom, which seems even wiser).

I can’t believe it took me YEARS to move a stick of armpit neutralizer 5 feet. But it did. I also can’t believe how much easier my morning routine is since making this shift.

But want to know what’s worse? It took me even longer to move our CO detector.

When we moved into our home, we dutifully bought carbon monoxide detectors for each level. And, on both floors, we elected to install them in the hallway.

This was great for a while, but the one on the main level was constantly getting bumped.

Over the last year, we’ve started playing hallway soccer. Hours and hours of hallway soccer every single week. That is a lot of action for a hallway and, sadly, for the CO detector, a lot of opportunities to get bumped out of the socket.

It was also just a very annoying placement.

The detector would get loose and then eventually fall down with a jarring bang – managing to scare me every time. Then the soccer game would get prematurely halted (not always a bad thing as I do reliably lose, and I am always trying to win – I can’t think of a single game, soccer or otherwise, where I have not actively tried to beat my children in years. Levi is 7 and needs to learn to lose gracefully, but he’s not learning that skill by playing me – despite my best efforts).

It would also sometimes come loose (which I couldn’t see) and revert to the battery backup which would eventually result in a warning alarm beeping pattern…which always started in the middle of the night. Twice I couldn’t get it to shut off and ended up taking the detector outside and throwing it in the trunk of the car until morning – once in the middle of a horrific rainstorm when I happened to be solo-parenting and was in sock feet…which got soaked.

(Thankfully no one has ever been out walking their dog at 3 am and called the police about a mysterious beeping sound emanating from our vehicle.)

All this to say it has been a major, near-daily, nuisance.

And guess what I did.

Moved it to an outlet in the living room – the room with a gas fireplace (the most likely source of a CO issue upstairs anyway) – completely away from all soccer and general life action. The problem and solution took me 5 years to identify, and less than 30 seconds to execute.

John noticed the switch one day and was like: Oh. Yeah. That makes sense!

So why did it take me/us so long to identify the solution?

I’ve written before about our 1970’s kitchen (the one with the apartment-sized fridge). It’s functional, albeit dated, and I like it. But our dishwasher opens up in front of the kitchen sink.

We have a double sink, but if I use the left-hand sink (my natural preference), I can’t access the dishwasher OR the under-the-counter garbage bin – both of which are quite annoying to have off-limits while handling dishes. I would regularly move out of the way, open the dishwasher, put something in, close it, and go back to washing dishes that need to be hand-washed until I needed to access the garbage bin, which would also require me to move out of the way. Repeat ad nauseam.

A few weeks ago I had a thought: there are two sinks. If I stand in front of the right-hand sink to wash and reach over to the left-hand sink to rinse…I can wash dishes AND leave the dishwasher open OR access the cupboard with the garbage bag AND be closer to the dish drainer. Win, win, win.

But also, why did this take so long?

What about you? Any little hacks to report from life lately that have had a disproportionate impact on your productivity or happiness? I’m all ears…

Word(s) of the Year: Be Kind

Forgive me for being unfashionably late to the party – I realize the “word-of-the-year” idea has been trending for over a decade now. I did latch on to the concept once, with mediocre enthusiasm/success, when I picked the word “Simplify” back in 2015ish. We were a family of four living in a very small apartment that had to serve as our home office, living spaces, and a storage facility for some large work equipment. To say it felt cramped is like saying you might feel a bit damp in the middle of a tsunami.

But I think having that word prompt did have some impact: I wrote it on the outside of my planner that year and would get periodic nudges to say “no” to a commitment or to downsize a particular storage tote. In subsequent years I’ve more fully embraced many of the tenants of minimalism and, in general, aim to keep life as simple as possible (this is often easier said than done).

All that to say: I didn’t feel any external pressure to participate in this sort of thing (I’ve written before about all the “good” things I don’t have to do and this certainly falls into that category), but couldn’t help shake my idea once it lodged itself inside my weary-from-pandemic-life grey matter.


My word(s)/motto for 2022 is/are: Be Kind.


Well, first, why not? Growing up in Sunday School, the Golden Rule was one of the earliest lessons I remember hearing and it certainly bears repeating in our current global milieu. Somehow it can feel harder to live like Jesus as we get older, but those early lessons are no less important.

More specifically? Because I know I have a long way to go in this regard.

I recently got the chance to discuss an anxiety-producing social situation with a very patient and dear friend. I was afraid of how I was being perceived (perhaps justifiably so) in a complicated situation with many moving parts and considerations. At the end of an impassioned speech that left me questioning my motives and capacity for kindness, my friend (very kindly) told me that I was one of the kindest people she knew.

She does know a lot of people…but I’m not convinced.

Because I know myself.

Because I know the (usually unwarranted) glares I give my kids that could melt ice. And I want them to remember me smiling, not glaring.

Because I know the times I’ve modified my walking route to avoid talking to a specific person – someone that I know is looking for friendship.

Because in 2022 I want to be kinder:

  1. Kinder to the kids (with my words and my eyes). Enough said.
  2. Kinder to my spouse. He is my best friend in all the world, but I can be an absolutely terrible nag sometimes (maybe a lot of the time?!) and have a tendancy to “lecture.” I really want to get better about this negative habit.
  3. Kinder to my friends. I have the annoying habit of interrupting other people mid-sentence. I keep telling myself to reign it in, but seem to fail miserably. Hopefully a reminder to “Be kind” will prompt me in this direction.
  4. Kinder to strangers. (I need to smile more, though that can be tricky with everyone wearing masks; side note – when a lady behind me in line complimented me on my earrings a month ago, it MADE MY DAY. I feel so hidden when out in public which, as an introvert, I actually like to a certain extent, but that kindness from a friendly stranger who was standing 6 feet away felt so refreshing).
  5. Kinder to myself. I am going to glare and lecture and interrupt. A lot of the time I’ve been too rigid and have expected too much from myself. I’m hoping, in some areas of life at least, that by asking less from myself, I might – paradoxically enough – manage to do more? Do more things I enjoy, be more productive, explore creative passions…be kinder to those I love.

So that’s where I’m at – looking quasi-optimistically ahead to 2022 with a vision to be kind(er).

If you participate in the one-word annual theme, what did you pick this year? I really like Tobia’s choice of “Celebrate.” How whimsical and…celebratory!

Header photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

Here’s A Thought: Evaluate Your Cart Before You Check Out

With each passing year I find myself more and more attracted to the principles of minimalism. As I’ve mentioned before, minimalism doesn’t look to get rid of everything. It looks to prioritize those possessions or activities that are most valued and then removes the rest. Keep the flowers but pull the weeds is a mental picture I often use.

Yet…this tendency toward minimalism doesn’t mean I’m immune to the siren song of a new throw pillow or fancy storage container. While I appreciate the potential impact of small aesthetic decisions – I also know the subtle regret of coming home with stuff I did not really need (or want).

You know. Those little impulse purchases from Walmart or the DollarStore. Things that I thought I might like/want/need, but that very definitely hadn’t shown up on my shopping list.

Lately, I’ve been trying to curb some of that behaviour with a simple hack: I evaluate every item in my cart before checking out. As in I physically stop and assess each item in the cart (unless I’m at Costco and have one of those giant carts full of things in which case I might as well just drain my bank account and hand it all over to Costco because there is no turning back. When I see people leaving with one item in their giant cart, it blows my mind. How do they manage this sorcery? Costco, if you’re listening, I’m sorry, but I just can’t walk out without spending large amounts of money on giant quantities of things and I kinda, sorta always feel guilty walking through your enormous sliding doors. But I do love your jumbo bags of pumpkin seeds).

I’ve been doing this for a long time via online retailers – I’ll add items to my cart and let decisions simmer for a few days. I often end up moving items to “Save for later” or delete them entirely. But it can be hard to duplicate that delayed check-out experience when you’re standing in line at the pharmacy and happen to see an adorable pair of slipper socks or a festively wrapped box of Lindor’s.

When I take a quick inventory of the items I’m going to be spending cold, hard-earned cash on, I try to think through a hierarchy of questions, including some or all of the following:

  • Was this on my list?
  • Do I want or need this?
  • Is it aesthetically pleasing or of practical use?
  • Does it feed a passion or interest?
  • Is this item built to last/of good quality?
  • Do I want to handle rehoming this item (donating or selling or consigning or – perish the though – trashing).
  • And finally, though we may all be a bit Marie Kondo’d out, I think it helps to ask if the item sparks joy – which can be a sort of umbrella over all the rest of the questions.

Here are a few examples of this reasoning in action:

  1. Abby bought a ukulele this summer, after months of saving up her allowance. It was a wonderful purchase but I knew it wasn’t going to be a long-term passion. Sure enough, aside from a week of near-steady practice when it first arrived, this item has largely stayed on her closet shelf. And that’s okay. At the time of purchase, it fueled an interest and we let it runs its course. It’s aesthetically pleasing, it’s good quality and will be VERY easy to rehome if she decides to completely abandon this hobby (sell or donate).

2. Usually, a plastic action figure selling for $3 that is bound to break in a week would not meet my testing criteria but years ago, when we were taking a long family roadtrip, I wanted to get the kids a few small toys for the drive. I try to avoid plastic toys like the plague and we’ve managed relatively well thus far. But Levi loves Transformers and we couldn’t find one at a local thrift store in time. So I bought one of the $3 variety at the DollarStore. I knew it was cheap. I knew it would break. But I also knew I needed this toy for a very specific purpose. I didn’t need it to last a long time. It was liable to get lost in all the chaos of traveling. I just wanted something, short-term, to fill a specific need. And so I bought it. It broke after about 8 hours, but he spent those 8 hours happily playing with it. I haven’t bought another DollarStore action figure before or since, but don’t regret the decision.

At IKEA last week I opted against buying the sock hanger dohickey for the laundry room (after it had found its way into my shopping cart) and set aside the desk organizer that wasn’t quite right. I made the decision to say “no” quickly and easily by running through the questions listed above in a matter of seconds (neither were on my list, I didn’t need them, they weren’t high quality, and I didn’t want to rehome them) – but it is definitely a muscle that builds over time.

When I’m wheeling toward the checkout I’ll ask myself if I really want to buy those price-reduced bananas (which means I’ll have to make muffins ASAP) or that new painting for over the couch (it’s nice, but do I really want to spend my Friday evening trying to find a stud behind drywall and fighting with drill bits). I still refer back to the concept from Fumio Sasaki of a Silent To-Do List: every single item in our house sends subliminal messages which can lead to physical and emotional clutter.

Sometimes I vote “yes” to the bananas and “yes” to the plastic action figure. But hopefully only after I’ve paused. Because bananas and action figures can morph into big new houses or shiny new cars and I’d rather test these value-driven financial decisions on $1.50 worth of bananas first.

What about you – any frugal hints to help with overbuying/impulse purchasing?

Header photo by Eduardo Soares on Unsplash

Here’s a Thought: Try Giving The Same Gift (But Different) Every Year

I love repetition. I like to eat the same meals. I like to read the same books. I like to re-watch the same holiday movies.

Not surprisingly this tendency has influenced my gift-giving habits over the years.

Yesterday I mentioned how our family opens a new ornament each Christmas Eve. The excitement is always palpable as we’re all eager to see what ornament we’ll get this time around.

In a similar vein, every year (for her birthday in October) I gift a particular friend a new Christmas ornament. Her birthday is close enough to Christmas she only has to store it away for a month and every year she knows what to expect. Somehow, to me, that makes the experience all the more exciting.

Every Christmas my husband buys me a new set of earrings – almost always studs, which is what I wear 95% of the time. Last week I was in a store lineup when the lady waiting behind me commented how much she admired my earrings. I was surprised to receive the compliment (we’re all so hidden behind masks these days) – it brightened my day and it made me so happy I had taken the time to put on those particular earrings that morning.

I buy my husband socks every Christmas, including at least one fun/funky pair. I buy him a new graphic T-shirt. He gets a Star Wars LEGO set. He knows he’s going to receive these gifts, but he doesn’t know the specifics which helps to elevate the experience. Every year I unwrap Twizzlers and Brooksides and new earrings.

Years ago I started making annual photo calendars for the grandparents. It’s a labour of love as I comb through 1000s of images from the year to find the best ones to summarize noteworthy/photogenic events. Last year I debated whether I would keep this tradition going; somehow, this filtered back to my parents who actually contacted me about their concern over this decision. Apparently, it’s one of their favourite gifts. They don’t primarily use it for the calendar function (though I do, very sweetly, take the time to add in all the relevant family birthdays/anniversaries for them) – they just like having ready access to curated photos and often refer to the calendar to show friends updated pictures of all the family (I organize all the pictures from my siblings as well). This year, as in years prior, they will be receiving a photo calendar. And, chances are, it will be their favourite gift under the tree.

It could be a new candle, bath towel, book, vinyl record, mug, or Christmas ornament, but consider the gift of repetition. It can make buying gifts – and receiving them – all the more special.

What about you? Any annual gifts you like to give and/or receive?

Here’s a Thought: Do I Have the Right Tools?

I sometimes (often) put up with minor – or major – inconveniences for a shockingly long time. I wore running sneakers for months past their expiration date when they were giving me painful blisters. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time hunting for the one pen that works among the dozen or so cluttering up my desk.

This begs the question – do I have the right tools for the job? Chances are, if the answer is no, the solution could be quick and inexpensive.

Over the years I’ve developed a frustrating sensitivity to the sun. If exposed for too long, I get intense migraines that level me (often combined with crushing fatigue, how lovely). For years I used whatever hats we had lying around, the branded type you get in swag bags at a conference or buy at a tourist trap on vacation; they never adjusted well, weren’t comfortable, and this meant I’d often opt to go hatless – a decision I always regretted. Then a few years ago, I found a soft, slightly elasticized running hat with a fully adjustable Velcro backing. It makes running and every other outdoor activity so much more comfortable in the summer. I now rarely get migraines from being outside in the sun.

For years my parents had a malfunctioning can opener which was an endless source of frustration. It took 5 minutes, pinched fingers, and close contact with dangerously sharp metal to get the contents out of a can of corn. What a simple problem to fix. Buy a new can opener. Why did it take so long?

Most jobs are objectively more pleasant with the right materials. From a good mop for cleaning your floors to a salon-grade blowdryer that dries hair in a fraction of the time, a small investment can make a job easier, more efficient, and far more enjoyable.

And, for some healthy habits, like running or opening a can of veggies to go with your supper, they may even make you more likely to commit to good choices long-term.

Identify the problem. Then get on to the task of fixing it. More often than not, there’s a simple (and inexpensive) solution. A box of new pens, comfortable sneakers, a can opener, a hat.

Here’s A Thought: Do You Binge or Savour?

Do you prefer to binge or savour?

At Christmas and on my birthday, I binge Twizzlers. Yes, Twizzlers. A huge part of the pleasure (for me) is to eat Twizzlers in large quantities. I feel minimal guilt – I eat very little candy the rest of the year – but that one package is consumed (almost exclusively by me) in about 24 hours. One piece of licorice is never enough. Yet, were I given an entire bowl of jelly beans, I could easily eat just one.

I binged Waco, but only allow myself one episode of The Great British Baking Show at a time. I’ve binged books in one night (regretting the decision early the next morning; though, for the right book, it’s totally worth it). When I recently re-read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I limited reading bouts to a single chapter at a time.

A few years ago I spent a glorious anniversary trip in Paris with my husband. There we binged on: art galleries, long walks, colourful storefronts, and fresh baguettes. We savoured: a van Gogh exhibit, our walk down the Champs de Elysses, a delectable eclair, filled with silky smooth crème pâtissière. One evening we spent several unhurried hours sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, watching the sunlight fade and surrounded by thousands of tourists and Parisians, the air filled with the scent of summer air and the cheerful sounds of music and laughter. Binge and savour.

My immediate family all have poor eyesight (except my Dad, who we joke got all the “good” genes…and now my two siblings who had corrective laser surgery); each year at Christmas my Mom would carve out time to sit in front of the Christmas tree, take off her glasses and glide in her rocking chair while the twinkling lights blurred to create a magical world reserved for the nearsighted. After binging on Christmas treats, concerts, presents, and family, this was an experience to savour.

Sometimes, the same experience can induce both binging and savouring. When we make our annual summer trip to my parent’s home at the lake, I binge s’mores but savour the campfire we toast them over. I binge sunsets, looking for them every single night, but then I sit on the beach and savour them.

Night after night – summer after summer – and it never gets old.

By default, I tend toward bingeing – books, food, sitcoms, activities. Sometimes I need to be reminded that learning to savour is a valuable skill. Slowing down to better appreciate: the moment, the person, the art, the food, can lend a whole new experience.

As Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, so wisely pointed out: there is a time for everything under the sun. There are times to binge and times to savour. Maybe, if you’re lucky and have eyes tuned for it, you can find opportunities to binge-savour your own “sunset” moments this summer.

Zoom in on Perfection – It’s an Illusion

I’ve been reading home renovation blogs for years.*

*To clarify, this is one of those interests that remains strictly in the “aspirational” category. I once tackled a painting project my brother-in-law promised would take an hour – or less – to complete. It took me 6 hours and two trips to the hardware store. I ruined one of my favourite shirts – despite wearing a cover-up. I was sore for a week, got a sunburn and the end result suggested a kindergartener had been wielding the paintbrush (a kindergartener that hadn’t yet fully mastered the art of staying inside the lines).

Back to those DIY blogs. One of my favourite design duos got their start years ago with a very basic internet presence: simple website, simple projects, simple house. Over the last decade, I’ve followed along as they’ve morphed into an empire of sorts. There are furniture lines, partnerships with major brands, sponsored content, full-time staff, and even a clothing line. Despite $2,000 mirrors and a 5,000-square foot house making their lifestyle and renovation budgets a bit less…relatable…I’ve remained a loyal reader, mostly because of the pictures.

They provide spectacular eye candy: gorgeous wallpaper, custom closets with colour-coded clothing, modern-rustic exposed beams. For good measure they might throw in a steaming latte sitting next to a flickering candle on a spotless countertop. With nary a coffee table book, Persian rug or chambray throw pillow out of place – their home (and thus their life?) looks practically perfect. Some days it’s inspirational to view this content and, other days, when my floors are littered with discarded socks and cookie crumbs and when dated light fixtures reveal a sink full of dirty dishes, my life all feels too imperfect.

Last week I happened to zoom in on one of those perfectly staged photos. The lighting was stunning, the distribution of objects within the field of view provided maximum impact. But viewed at 150%, I could see that within this aesthetically “perfect” stairway vignette there was actually cracked caulking at the bottom of each step. And scuffed treads. Another day, new photo. Dream kitchen. Zoom. Dirt and dings on the cabinets, crumbs all over the floor.

From houses to food to bodies to children (and everything in between), we’re inundated with images that suggest perfection. It all seems so…attainable. If we only could find a way to dress our family in coordinating outfits and make it to Machu Picchu for the golden-hour sunset shot – then we’d reach perfection.

But perfection is an illusion. When we’re struggling with our own basket of anxieties, foibles, and griefs, it’s so easy to look at something or someone else and see perfection. Perfection could be: a number on the scale, a figure in the bank, a street address or a particular type of car in the driveway. If only we could get that, life would be perfect.

I have scuffs on my stairs and crumbs on my floor (counter and table, too). And I often wish them – will them – away. But those crumbs don’t make me a failure, don’t reduce my value, don’t make my life less beautiful. They just make me a person with scuffs on her stairs and crumbs on her floor (proverbially and literally). Nothing more or less.

Some days I rail at the kids to eat over their plates and take off their shoes, but on the good days, I zoom out: I ignore the crumbs (or take the time to sweep them up without complaint) and say: Today isn’t perfect. But today is good.