"We live on our front porch in the nice weather." That’s what my husband Michael and I say, which is a bit of an exaggeration. But we do spend a lot of time there. It's a great place to read the Sunday paper, sip our morning coffee, eat lunch on a weekend, or watch a thunderstorm. My favorite seat is the porch swing, which we hung last year after it sat in a box for 30 years.
Evenings are our favorite time on the porch. It's not screened-in, though, so any exposed skin quickly becomes mosquito bait. Recently we installed a ceiling fan to blow away the little buggers, but before that, we relied on citronella candles for protection.
We used four of the large, three-wick candles in metal tubs, placing them strategically around our sitting area. A few times over the years, one of us (i.e., me) has accidentally knocked into the candles, flinging a tsunami of melted wax across the porch floor.
So we bought some cheap plastic decorative pots to place them in, which would theoretically catch the wax in the event of a clumsy kick, although one of us (i.e., me) still managed to spill wax on the floor.
At the end of the evening, Michael and I would blow out the candles. Sounds easy, right? It's not. At least not the way we did it:
- Bend down in a deep squat. If you don’t bend down far enough, you’ll never get close enough to blow out all three flames at once.
- Blow forcefully. If one or two wicks stay lit, don’t take anther deep breath from your squatting position because you’ll get a lungful of citronella smoke.
- Stand up after your first blow, turn your head, take a big breath, then squat again to blow.
- Repeat as necessary. Because it will be.
Sometimes we’d get lucky and get the wicks out in one or two breaths. More often, it took several tries. In the process, we’d started laughing and cursing, which made us even less inefficient.
We’ve done this for 11 years, since we bought this house. Eleven years.
Then one night about a month ago, at the end of the evening, Michael spontaneously reached down for one of the pots.
He picked it up. He held it up to his face. He blew.
And with a gentle “poof,” all three flames were extinguished on the first try.
I was on my third or fourth try on my assigned candles, about ready to hyperventilate, when I heard Michael laughing hysterically. I glanced over and he simply said “look,” as he showed me his technique.
Then we laughed like idiots, because of course that’s what we are, er, were. Then we stopped laughing for a moment, our jaws dropped down almost to the wax-stained floor, and stared at each other, incredulous at our 11-year stupidity.
We were so stuck in the problem that we were blind to the solution.
It was a lesson in opening our eyes and our minds to simple solutions that lie, sometimes literally, right under our own noses.
The next day, I went on a stealth mission around my house to find other solutions to persistent problems. No luck. No more “poofs.”
But I’m sure the simple solutions are there, right under my nose or my feet or my butt. I just have to be open. I have to avoid stepping in the sticky, molten wax in my life. And as long as I keep trying, keep laughing, and avoid hyperventilating, I’ll consider myself a genius.