Some habits need to be broken

Categorized as 11/25/09 Goshen News column

“A habit is something you can do without thinking, which is why most of us have so many of them.” So says Frank A. Clark.

Nuts. Just as I’m getting ready to bounce along in time with the sunshine, I run across this little jewel.

We certainly are creatures of habit, aren’t we? That’s good, and that’s bad. Good habits can keep you alive. Like looking both ways before crossing the street. Like getting your annual physical. Like brushing your teeth twice a day if you’re 19, 16, 11, or 3 and you live in my house. (Remember boys – the Brushing Nazi is watching.)

Bad habits, on the other hand, range from mildly annoying to downright dangerous. Not kicking off your shoes before climbing into a certain Big Red Truck, for instance, falls into the latter category. That’s how it looks when I live dangerously.

I was certainly no shoe kicker-offer when I was bombing around the dusty washboard roads of Hutchinson, Kansas, in that old Sherman tank of mine. I wasn’t much of a kicker-offer with Old Red, either, especially toward the end of its long run.

With Red now parked in the barn (Little has dubbed it “the barn van”), that bad habit has suddenly disappeared. It may be that years of Mr. Schrock’s influence have finally begun to show. More likely, it’s the advent of New Blue – Mama’s chariot, Mama’s wheels, Mama’s ride.

In fact, the rest of the crumb crunchers are just lucky I let them wear shoes to ride in New Blue, that’s what. If I were independently wealthy (which I’m not) and had a butler named Jeeves (which I don’t), I’d pay him cash money to stand by with a vacuum hose and suction every piece of dirt off of all eight shoes as they barrel, hop, and tumble in and out of my van. Since I have no Jeeves, this is how four boys live dangerously.

Another bad habit of mine, which I’ve confessed to you before, is my propensity for losing things. I don’t know how it happens. I just move something from one spot to another and then develop instant amnesia. Not every time, but way too often.

Poor Mr. Schrock. Through no choice of his own, he has become a class A certified expert in swinging from the rafters by his fingernails. It makes him nuts to put something important on the dresser only to have it picked up and transported by a whirling dervish with a horrible memory.

Whenever something turns up missing, I’m the number one suspect. That’s because often in the past, I’ve been the guilty party. I’ll cop to that. But just once in awhile, even habitual offenders are innocent, and since I’m confessing, I’ll also admit to an unholy glee when it turns out it was the accuser who actually moved the keys and not the accused.

Still. Those one-woman lineups are getting old, so I’m trying to make a new habit. I just hope it won’t throw The Mister into utter confusion when his things stay put for once.

Another bad habit that needs to change around here has to do with socks. And underwear and jeans and dirty shirts. Thankfully, for once this isn’t my bad habit to break.

Why this crowd is singularly incapable of walking their clothes to the nearest laundry basket is beyond me. Their legs are unbroken; I’ve checked. Their arms are whole and unblemished. So, it’s very interesting, in a maddening kind of way, to see all of those incapacitated arms and legs come to life at the sound of a chip bag rustling throughout the land. The resulting stampede is a danger to women and small children.

And now you know why I’ve actually established a very good habit – running. Being able to pick it up and move it real quick when the snack stampede begins is a matter of life and death around here. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to come on over and shake a bag of Doritos or a package of Oreos and see for yourself. Better wear your running shoes, though. I’m just sayin’.

One other bad habit that needs to change belongs to the current YA (Young Adult). I remember now why I was encouraging him toward any career but the CIA or the FBI. See, in order to be a spook, you have to be able to sneak and tiptoe, and you certainly must be good at whispering.

I mean, really. If you’re on a secret mission in a dark alley in, say, Kazakhstan, you just can’t go galumphing in, slamming doors, banging skillets, and running power tools (like a coffee grinder, for instance) and expect that your mission will succeed. Such was his performance in my kitchen on a recent early morning.

Hence, I’m looking to lead a big brass band right past his pillow as he’s slumbering away just so he can see how it feels. Got a tuba? A trombone? I need your help. I’ll pay you in Doritos and Oreos.

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