Searching for thanks to give

MH900422849 (Cornucopia)This has turned out to be the most difficult blog post I’ve ever written.

It’s about giving thanks.

Now, granted, that kind of subject shouldn’t be too hard to write about…but you haven’t had the month my wife and I have had.

One Sunday morning about four weeks ago, we started get brownouts and power surges whenever we ran electricity here at the house. I couldn’t turn on the microwave, flip a light switch, or even let the water pump come on without losing power and hearing sizzling downstairs. (My lovely wife described the sound as “Frankenstein’s lab” – and that was, unfortunately, a perfectly accurate description)

Being a Sunday, it was a herculean task contacting an electrician. Most were unavailable (including two who supposedly ‘specialized’ in 24-hour emergency service and have still yet to return my call) and the two or three I was able to reach were busy and wouldn’t be able to get here for a few days. Finally, by late Monday morning, we had an electrician here working on the problem…and what he discovered was not only surprising, it was confusing.

Water had gotten inside the main electrical panel and corroded most of the breakers. What was bizarre was the fact that the water had seeped in via the cable running from the meter box into the panel. It hadn’t seeped into the house, mind you, it inexplicably had gotten inside the cable itself.

But that was only the beginning of the problems.

Not only did we discover that we were living in a 100-amp house – it was built in 1905 – but we learned that to upgrade to a 200-amp breaker box (which we would need to do, since the entire thing has to be replaced, anyway) would run about $1400.

And then something worse happened.

boiler
That’s a 4″X8″ hole blown out of the side of the cast-iron. The entire house smelled of steam and antifreeze.

A mere ten minutes after we got our electricity back up & running…the water boiler blew. And by “blew,” I don’t mean it died and stopped working. I mean it blew apart.

So after going 2 days with no electricity or water, we got to spend a couple more days with no water – and no heat, since we use forced hot water via the boiler. Thank goodness for wood stoves. I had plenty of wood available, as we go through about 5 or 6 cords of wood each season…but unfortunately, although the house was warm, I didn’t get to shower until the following weekend.

In case you’re wondering, ice-cold sponge baths suck.

Of course, our home insurance won’t cover any of this – the adjustor told us the boiler isn’t covered for one reason and the electrical panel isn’t covered for the opposite reason. I’m guessing they have NO reasons to cover anything, which is why the insurance company is in better financial shape than we are.

Oh, and our plumber spent nearly an hour over the course of two days explaining to the adjustor how boilers even work. So to recap: a guy who doesn’t know how something works was the guy responsible for deciding how and why it stopped working.

A few days after all of this began, I received a call from my mother to let me know my father had been taken to the emergency room with a severe systemic infection. He spent a week in recovery and has been at a rehab facility for the past week and a half. Mom doesn’t drive, so it’s been up to me to drive 35 minutes to pick her up, drive another 40 minutes to visit dad, then bring her back home and bring myself back home on a near-daily basis.

I’m fitting all this in while trying to be a stay-at-home dad to my 4-year-old and 1-year-old, and doing my voiceover work.

Guess what I haven’t been doing?

Other than voicing some scripts for a couple of my regular clients, I have had no time to actually try to make money; no auditions, no emails, no phone calls. It is ironic that at the point where we need as much money as we can get ($1400 for the electrical panel, $7000 for the boiler system, and who knows how much for the leaking roof – oh, I forgot to tell you about that?), I’m making less than I ever have.

And…the first snowstorm of the season is on its way and will prevent me from bringing my folks to our house for Thanksgiving. The last thing I want is for dad to spend his day alone at a rehab center, but that’s exactly where he’s going to be.

And…the toe I smashed last year when I dropped a 6-foot log on it is still causing me problems and I will probably have to have minor surgery on it this Monday.

And…my wife just broke a tooth which now needs a crown.

And…I’m having cataract surgery on my right eye in 3 weeks.

The reason I’m explaining all of this is not to sound like I’m throwing a pity party or anything, but simply to give you an inkling as to why I haven’t been around on social media much lately and why I’ve been having a hard time being thankful this year.

The view from Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury, where we often go apple-picking. One more thing to be thankful for.

I would love to be the person who remains chipper and positive throughout all adversity, shouting out profundities like, “God doesn’t give you more than what you can handle!” while smiling cheerfully as my house collapses – but honestly, I’m not that person. I am, however, a person who is capable of taking stock in his blessings when given the opportunity to just take a deep breath and survey his situation.

After a few moments of consideration, I can come up with quite a few things I am genuinely thankful and grateful for:

  1. My kids are safe.
  2. Dad is safe; if he had been even slightly worse when they brought him in, we very likely would have lost him.
  3. The boiler could have blown in mid-February (thank God for small favours).
  4. My wife was able to get a loan from the bank to cover the repairs; we have no idea how we’ll pay the loan off, but for now, we’re ok.
  5. There will be food on the Thanksgiving table.
  6. The roof might be leaking…but at least we have one.
  7. My wife will get a nearly-unheard-of 5 days off in a row, from Thursday through Monday. I can’t wait to spend time with her.
  8. My wife’s father, who underwent scheduled knee-replacement surgery 2 weeks ago, is doing well.
  9. I’ll have at least 7 children’s poems published in 2015. For a guy who didn’t have any children’s poems published this year (or ANY year), I’d say that’s a good start.
  10. Bacon exists.

I realize I have many things to be thankful for, and I kick myself for letting them take a back seat to my troubles. Of course, I have many more blessings than just the ones I’ve enumerated here…but being able to spend time considering them is not only cathartic, it’s absolutely essential.

For me, and for everyone.

Find the time. Make your list. And have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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19 thoughts on “Searching for thanks to give

  1. And in our lives, we do carry on, don’t we, Matt? Wow, what a few weeks you’ve had. You do have a wonderful list of blessings, and I hope the other work fills your home with heat and hot water and electrical magic, for which-despite the cost-it will be good with the snowstorm on its way. I’m glad your father is okay, and that the electrical ‘stuff’ didn’t cause a fire, and that your poems are on their way to many children who will love them. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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    1. Thank you, Linda…you’re right, it’s a VERY good thing the electrical issue didn’t cause a fire or that the boiler didn’t blow up any worse than it did. I hope you folks have a wonderful Thanksgiving, too!

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  2. Catherine Johnson

    Yikes Matt! At least you didn’t have a turkey in the oven at the time. I hope Christmas is trial free and wonderful. Super congrats on 7 poems. That is remarkable and not surprising. You deserve it.

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  3. margaretsmn

    House problems are the worst, I think, because there is really no one to blame. We want to live in a house, like we want to drive a car, but sometimes they seem to be totally against us. So sorry for all your troubles. Glad you can find ten blessings to count. Look into your children’s eyes and know why you do this, why you will get through this. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  4. Karen Eastlund

    Matt: I’m sorry you are having so many challenges at once, but I am really proud of your list at the end of the post. Thanks for setting such a good example for the rest of us. Best wishes for a bright future. May your Thanksgiving be happy in spite of it all! (We love bacon, too!) Haha.
    Karen

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    1. Thank you both! Thanksgiving, unfortunately, was not what we’d expected, due to a major storm dropping 12″ of snow on us and knocking power out from Wed. night until just a little while ago (8pm EST). >sigh< Some of us just can't catch a break!

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  5. Wow, you have a right to complain, Matt! Feel free to have at it!
    Congratulations on all your poetry pubs and your lovely list of blessings.
    I’m hoping that you have a bit of time to catch your breath!

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  6. djtsmith

    Actually, God gives us more than we alone can handle all the time! It is so much easier when we don’t just rely on our own power. I’m so glad that you can still discern your true blessings in all the trials. There are so many bright spots in your life!

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