Stuff you should know

pancakesYesterday, Mike showed me an article on “54 Things Everyone Should Know.”  On first glance I saw: you should know how to build a fire without matches, and you should know basic first aid. I was immediately stressed because my first aid card is out of date. And I’m not very good at building a fire with matches. Not even with those lighter-fluid soaked briquettes. Maybe if I wrap a stick of dynamite with kerosene-soaked tissue paper and take a blow-torch to it. Maybe.

I also worry because printing out articles like this could mean Mike is either on the brink of a mid-life crisis or worrying about whether we’re teaching the boys anything worthwhile – either one could mean a busy winter coming up.

“Things you should know” depends entirely upon who you are. Mike’s list as a kid included how much hay it will take to feed a horse all winter. Our kids’ list includes which controller goes to the DVR and how to avoid rolling one’s eyes when mom asks that question for the bajillionth time.

Somebody else right now is thinking he should know how much to pay the sherpa and how many oxygen cartridges to pack for the trip up the north face. It’s about perspective.

Back when we were newlyweds, Mike’s mom was pretty concerned he know how to do his own ironing. I assured her if he ever needed ironing done I’d encourage him to do it himself. Just as I was sure if we ever needed the iron I would be able to find it. Eventually.

How the heck did the author whittle his list to 54? Are they the things you should know in case of a zombie apocalypse? In this house, it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, it always comes around to zombies.

How to iron? Balance your checkbook? Change a tire? When to hold ‘em? When to fold ‘em? This got me started on my own list of things I think the boys should eventually know:

How to flip a pancake without a spatula. This will win you the girl every time. Add: how to wash the pan when you’re done. That’ll seal the deal. Even if you’re not trying to impress a date, you should know how to cook a meal for yourself anyway.

How to figure out a tip, or your gas mileage, or your grade point average. How to figure whether the cards add up to 21, or how far above the speed limit you were actually going. Being able to do basic math on the fly always comes in handy.

How to say no with kindness. Whether it’s your buddy asking to copy test answers, hoards of Guatemalan kids asking you to buy their hand-woven fliberty-goobers, or your adorable baby wanting you to hold him all night, if you live on the same planet I do, you’re going to have to let people down once in a while with good reason. Do it well.

How to give, as often as you can, what you can, from where you are,* without worrying about whether it’s enough. Don’t throw up your hands and think just because you’re not Bill or Melinda Gates you can’t make a difference.

How to live with an air of gratitude. Make it a daily habit to count your blessings. DO NOT whine about what you don’t have.

How to never, ever, write down anything you don’t want to read on the front page of the paper. Whether it’s typed on the screen or carved on a stone tablet, you will regret announcing how hungover you were at work this morning, the juicy news you heard about so and so, or what you really think about your best friend’s son’s grade in AP physics. Think about your grandma reading it in a headline, over her toast and jam in the morning. And then don’t write it down.

How to eat a frog. Answer: do it first thing in the morning. Get the crap you don’t want to do out of the way so you can get to the fun stuff.*

How not to freak out. Nothing’s productive about panic. Or despair or depression for that matter. Breathe deep and keep your wits. There is always a solution. Think: how would MacGyver get out of this mess with only a paperclip, some twine and a loofa?

And finally …

How to drive a stick shift. For God’s sake. Drive an automatic if it’s better for gas mileage and all that, but at least know how to operate a car with manual transmission. And even though you might never have to do it again if there is indeed a zombie apocalypse some day, it wouldn’t kill you to learn to parallel park.

* Thanks to Mark Twain and Theodore Roosevelt for their help with this blog (they were really easy to work with).

** “What the heck is this ‘vote for me’ baloney?” Don’t worry about it. Voting for me only encourages me to post more stuff. You don’t want to be an enabler by clicking on this. Every day. At least once a day. That would be bad.

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