Lessons in Gratitude For Our Modern, Stone-Age Family

The events that have transpired over the past few weeks have me feeling like I’m the matriarch of a modern, stone-age family. But unlike Fred Flintstone, I’m not feeling compelled to shout out with glee, Yaba-daba-doo!

It all started a couple of weeks ago when our dishwasher that’s slightly more than five years old kicked the bucket. More precisely, it began leaking buckets of water all over the kitchen floor, and then wouldn’t run a cycle past the 10-minute mark. Knowing the likelihood of being able to fix it was slim to none (because LG doesn’t make replacement parts for its appliances older than five years), we opted to save our time and energy and just go buy a new one. Now we’re waiting the two to three weeks for delivery and installation, and we’re doing dishes the old-fashioned way in the mean time. Scrubbing pots and pans and constantly having dishpan hands has got me feeling quite primitive. I mean, come on, even Wilma Flintstone had an octopus to wash her dishes for her!

Then, earlier last week, our house was a touch chilly, despite the furnace being on, or so we thought. My husband went downstairs to check, and not only did he discover the furnace wasn’t running, but also that he wasn’t able to reignite the pilot light. We placed a service call to our friendly neighbourhood furnace company, and when the technician came out the next day his assessment was that our furnace was destined for sheet metal heaven. This left us feeling a little blue—because we were cold AND were facing a huge, unplanned expenditure to replace our home’s primary heat source. And once again, just like cave people thousands of years ago, we sought warmth by fire while we we waited for our new furnace to be installed. Thank goodness for fireplaces!

In spite of all of this, and all kidding aside, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of viewing these trials for what they really are—challenges that are simply a part of life, without feeling oh-so sorry for myself, being too over-the-top dramatic, and creating all kinds of stories around what was happening. This may be partially due to the fact that I do my best to practice an attitude of gratitude, and my daily meditation practice may also be helping to keep me more grounded and centered. Whatever the deal is, I realize these kinds of things just happen and it’s really not worth getting bent out of shape over. Acknowledge. Address. Move on without any stories and attachment.

Nonetheless, these situations have, once again, presented me with the opportunity to see life from a different perspective. And, oh, the lessons they’ve revealed. Here’s just a few that I think merit being shared:

  1. While I had initially thought otherwise (probably because it gave me flashbacks to the numerous marathon dishwashing sessions of my youth), doing the dishes by hand hasn’t been as completely awful and tedious as I thought it would be. On the contrary. Washing and drying our dirty dishes by hand has very subtly provided time for me to bond with my husband and children. Surprisingly, everyone has been quite willing to help out, so that’s a HUGE positive right there. Plus, I’ve had some interesting and heartwarming conversations with my family members that I may not have otherwise had if not for our time washing dishes together. And, to my credit, we haven’t even resorted to using paper plates and plastic cutlery to eat our meals!
  1. Related to the point above, I’ve seen how our incapacitated dishwasher is teaching my children the value of hard work and doing something productive with their hands, aside from holding a device or playing video games. The situation has allowed us to explain to our children how not everyone in the world has all of the luxuries and amenities we do, which I hope will instill in them a sense of appreciation for how privileged they are. Also, having them help with the dishes gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. (My son now tells me he is a dish-drying expert.) I’d say this is a win-win for all of us.
Kids caught in the act of helping.

Kids caught helping. Who needs an octopus, or a dishwasher, when you’ve got these two?

  1. As I already alluded to above, these circumstances have framed and reaffirmed for me just how fortunate we are to have modern conveniences, such as central heating, air conditioning, and hot water, and the luxury of a machine to wash and dry our dishes for us. Much of the world’s population can only dream of having access to these things at some point in their lives, while it’s easy for us to take them for granted. And while it causes us some minor inconvenience to be without, I know we’ll have these things working again in relatively short order. Choosing to see beyond the initial inconvenience allows me to see how truly blessed we are.
  1. I believe it was Oprah that said, “You are responsible for the energy you bring” (to every situation). This is something I am aware of and watch closely about myself. The concept was further illustrated for me by our furnace installer. The first day, he was visibly frustrated from the moment he arrived at our house. As I was home for the duration of the work being completed, I observed his behaviour on that first day, noticing how he cursed when things weren’t going according to plan and how his mood mirrored the angry thrash metal music he had blaring in the basement. At the end of the day, he shared how his work truck had broken down on the side of the road the day before, he was without his regular helper, and the guy who had been assisting on our job was quite inexperienced. It was obvious to me what had been happening, so I simply smiled and told him to have a good night’s rest and come back the following day with a clean slate. The next morning he showed up with both of his helpers and a notably sunnier disposition. His music selection had morphed from the previous day’s death metal to The Beatles and other assorted softer classic rock music. And, as you can well imagine, the installation process went much smoother that second day. The shift in his mood and energy was palpable, and the trickle-down effect that had onto the installation process was nothing short of a miracle.

The bottom line in all of this is, no matter how bad things may seem, we can always choose to find something for which to be grateful. It can be tough to do in practice sometimes, but it’s a choice each one of us has the power to make. And when we consciously choose gratitude, positivity, and happiness, the odds are pretty good that we’ll make life easier for ourselves and those around us.

What are you grateful for today?

En route to the Big Apple & already missing the apples of my eye

Start spreading the news. I’m leaving to day.
I want to be a part of it. New York, New York.

Alright, alright. I’m happy to leave the crooning to Frank Sinatra. As it should be. I just couldn’t help but use the reference. After all, it is very apropos under the circumstances.

You know when you go months at a time without any dedicated one-on-one time with your significant other? Then, by a strange twist of fate, the stars align, you get a reliable sitter, and you’re finally able to go out on a real adult date with your hunny? Only to be able to spend the entire evening talking about your kids? Ya. That.

Sitting in the lounge at Edmonton International Airport at the start of our first kid-free holiday in quite some time, and I’m already missing my kids. Even though getting through airline check-in, security, and customs was a dream without them in tow. Even though I’m sitting here in blissful, yet eerily quite. I feel like something’s missing.

And something is, because we always have them with us when we travel. It’s what we do. It’s what I know. My daughter was just 11 months old when we took her on an eastern Caribbean cruise. My son was just four months when we traveled as a family to Maui. And as I sit here in this peace and quiet, I am flooded with memories of all the trips we’ve taken together.

Like the time we went to Turks & Caicos… The trip was planned in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary. We had planned a vow renewal and were very excited to have our kids with us to mark the occasion. Yet, if I had to give the trip a name or title, Trouble in Paradise would barely begin to describe it. My daughter got a black eye by running into a luggage cart before we left Edmonton, she nearly lost one of our passports by putting it into a suitcase moments before it went onto the conveyor belt at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and we all spent over half the week knocked out by an awful stomach virus. Despite the crappy run of luck (pun intended), what I remember most is having that time together, as a family.

Even though I miss my kids already, I must say I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be going back to New York with my hubby. We visited once before and found the city magical. I think it was in 2003 because I remember going to see the rubble at the World Trade Center site, and it was definitely part of our pre-kid life. We’ve been wanting to go back for quite some time, but never thought it would be a suitable destination for our seven and five-year-old children. With all the sightseeing and walking, it’s a much different type of vacation than what they’re used to.

We’ve intentionally kept our four days in the City that never sleeps fairly unstructured (and we may not sleep for four days, either). If you have recommendations for Broadway shows, restaurant, and must-see sights in NYC, please drop me a line. Not sure how much we’ll be able to squeeze into the next four days before leaving for St. Martin, but we’ll do our best!

After an adventurous cab ride, we’ve made it to our hotel, which is just a couple blocks off of Times Square. More adventure awaits, just outside our doors, and I’m sure we’ll be back in the New York groove in no time. (Ok, that’s my last song reference. For now.)