Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

How can ‘what I learned in kindergarten’ stay with me all these years later?

By Marilyn L. Pinsky

The “quarter test” to check if your freezer is working appropriately.
The “quarter test” to check if your freezer is working appropriately.

Since kindergarten, I was brought up to come home and change right out of my “school clothes” and all these years later, I just can’t seem to get out of that habit.

I am so envious of people who can get dressed in the morning and stay looking neat and well put together in the same clothes the whole day.

For instance, in the morning I usually put on exercise clothes, hoping that the outfit will inspire me to go to the gym or for a walk. Then I come home, change out of those clothes because I don’t want to stain my few good exercise outfits, and get into my “cleaning and cooking” clothes, meaning clothes that I won’t be upset if the stains don’t come out. If I go out after lunch, say to a medical appointment or running errands, I then put on something else. If I’m going out at night, in my head that means changing into another type of outfit, like a nice pair of slacks and a top that I save for “good wear.”

Consequently I have clothes all over the place, way too much laundry and am usually a mess during the day. Either staying in gym clothes and not wearing makeup to Wegmans, where, when you think about it, is really the place you see the most people, I just can’t make myself look good before 6 p.m. Doing my hair and putting on makeup to last the whole day is not in my mindset. But I am open to suggestions on this one.

My childhood training created the same problem with turning out lights. I was brought up to turn out a light whenever leaving a room and as my children will tell you, to this day I still follow them around turning out lights. Sure, I’ve read articles that say it uses more electricity to turn them off if you’re only going to turn them on again within 10 minutes, but I can’t help it, I know my mother is watching me.

But on this one, there was motivation to change, at least at night. I overheard a conversation recently that has changed my behavior. A woman at the gym who was about my children’s age, was telling a friend that she had to leave early to help her mother out because her mother had fallen recently going upstairs in the dark and was having trouble recovering. It hit me that her mother was probably my age, living independently and because, like me, was probably too cheap to turn on lights when walking around the house at night, fell and really did a number on herself. It made me rethink if saving a few dollars a year on electricity is worth the possibility of not remaining independent so now I’m flipping them on like crazy at night. The right motivation can change a mindset and therefore behaviors.

Now I’m loving being an old dog who can learn new tricks. If I don’t learn something new every day, the day feels wasted. Here are my latest….

The toe thing. All the sneakers for exercising that I seem to find have mesh on the top. After going through the toes of two pairs of these not-so-cheap shoes, I asked the podiatrist if there was a solution and indeed there was. There are these little rubber thingies you roll on your toes that both protect them and keep them from going through the mesh. If this brings an image to mind, you’re right, but hey, they work and no one can see them to make snarky remarks.

The next idea was from my friend Debbie S. when the country was experiencing hurricanes. If you were away from your home for a few weeks and there was a storm, how would you know if your freezer defrosted and then refroze and therefore your food was no longer good? Whenever you plan to be away, fill a paper cup with water and put it in the freezer. When it’s frozen put a quarter on top of the cup. If it’s still on top when you get home, then everything is probably safe to eat. If the quarter is on the bottom, that means the ice melted, the food defrosted and then refroze when the electricity came back on, and it may not be safe to eat.