Flooded apartments and flooded hearts

Sometimes it takes bad things happening to you to remember that you have many reasons to be thankful.

Like when your apartment floods.

The past two weeks have obviously been an adjustment for me. California is very different than Texas, and I won’t say the transition has been a walk in the park. Sure, I really like my new job, and this is a gorgeous and exciting place to live, but it’s also nothing like what I’ve been used to for the last 32+ years. I understand it will take time to get used to, and I’m trying to be patient about that.

But Saturday’s events really put that patience to test.

My shower and everything in my bathroom had been pretty normal on Friday. When I had woken up that morning, my kitchen sink was full of soapy bubbles, which I thought was weird because I hadn’t washed any dishes (I actually don’t even really own any), so I put in a maintenance request. They took care of it, and I assumed everything was fine.

I forgot about a key life rule: NEVER ASSUME.

After I took a shower on Saturday morning, I noticed my tub wasn’t draining. It sounded like it was sort of trying, but the water wasn’t going anywhere. I put in another maintenance request, but I was still pretty concerned. I took my mind off of it for a little bit while I had a FaceTime chat with my niece and my brother, but then disaster ensued—a very disgusting disaster. The tub situation was making me really nervous, so I opened the lid on the toilet to make sure it looked normal. It was doing a bubbling thing, and immediate anxiety overcame me. I HATE toilet issues. I flushed it, praying it would actually flush, and it did, but then a bunch of sewage starting bubbling up into the tub.

I wanted to throw up.

I heard one of my neighbors’ showers start up, and then my tub and toilet both went crazy. The toilet began filling with nasty water that was rising. By this point, I had called emergency maintenance, but it was too late—the flooding had begun. I started throwing towels on the floor and tried my best not to freak out completely, but I wasn’t having a ton of success in that regard. I was pretty much in full panic mode.

They brought out the professional plumbers and had to sanitize my apartment, and they thought they had everything fixed, but then the same thing happened to my neighbor next door, so it ended up being a day-long process. Apparently one of the families upstairs has been flushing a bunch of baby wipes down the toilet, and that clogged up the pipes for multiple apartments in our building.

Thanks, guys.

I had to leave my apartment because the entire situation was frustrating and gross, and I really needed to go take care of my car registration stuff because it expired Saturday. That ended up being another point of annoyance because I had to get new plates (I didn’t even want new plates—I really liked my Texas ones and wasn’t quite ready to let them go so quickly) and then replace them on my car. It should have been a rather simple task, but the screws in my car, which is not an American vehicle, didn’t fit in any of the easier tools the people at AAA offered me. So, I had to use a wrench, and two of the screws (one on the front plate and one on the back) had been stripped when they were originally put in, so they were beasts to take out and put back in. I ended up having to get help from a can of WD-40 and a nice old man named Michael.

I didn’t want to take a pic of an overflowing toilet or a tub full of sewage (you’re welcome), so I had a stranger take a picture of me as I was leaving the beach, instead.

I was there for way longer than I expected and then took a much-needed drive to one of the nearby beaches. I sat on the lifeguard stand and caught up with a friend on the phone and then sat and read. It was really nice to find peace in the midst of a day of stress and chaos and emotions I didn’t want to feel.

The next morning at church, the worship leader had us all pause to think about three things we could be thankful for, and that’s when it hit me: I had been focusing so much on all of the bad things that had happened lately that I forgot to truly appreciate all of the great parts of my life. Sure, my apartment had flooded, but Eddie the maintenance guy (he might be an actual saint) saved all of my shoes and my longer clothes that were hanging in my closet and were at risk of becoming flood victims. I enjoy my new job, and I live in a place of beauty and adventure. I still have all of my family and friends, and the distance between us can never diminish the love in my heart for them. Those are only three things, but in that moment, a flood (a much better use of this term) of reasons to be thankful poured into my thoughts.

Life can do that to us sometimes—throw so much harshness at us that we forget about what’s wonderful. Yes, there are certainly some truly awful situations in life—much worse than anything I faced in the last few days—but if we let ourselves get so caught up in the badness, are we really getting to enjoy as much as life as we can while we’re still here?

I hope I can focus more on living a life of hope and trust rather than frustration and anxiety. We don’t know what the future holds for us, and one bad situation doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of your life has to be gloomy. Apartments might flood, hearts might break, unexpected health situations might occur, and a number of other things I don’t even want to imagine might happen, and we have every right to be emotional and upset about those battles we face. But we shouldn’t let them ruin so many other special aspects of our lives. Because, no matter what happens to us while we’re on this earth, we’re still capable of loving people.

And love is more powerful than anything life throws our way.

Finding little pieces of joy

Lately I’ve been trying to find the less-evident things in life that make me happy.

You know, like fruit punch Jolly Ranchers.

The month of November reminds us that we need to be thankful. In reality, it would be great if we could express our gratitude about more things in life much more often than only one month out of the year. It’s probably really good for our well-beings. I’m no doctor or psychologist, but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate.

I’m thankful for Tie, my koala given to me in elementary school by my best friend. (Yes, I’m 32 and still have a stuffed animal. It’s cool.)

I honestly think it’s important to remind yourself that there are wonderful aspects of life that often arrive without huge grandeur or obviousness. I’m not the best about doing this. Sometimes I let the big things in my life—both positive and negative—overshadow what my focus should really be on: little pieces of joy.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and many of us are likely going to gather around tables and express our gratitude for family and health and homes and so many other wonderful facets of our lives. And that’s good. We should do that. But I want to take a moment right now to mention some of the other blessings in life that I really love but often overlook in terms of giving thanks. I’ve compiled a short list of thank-you notes to shine spotlights on those important bits of greatness.

SportsCenter—Truthfully, I don’t know what I would do without you, SC. Sadly, I cannot always watch every single game played in every single sport, but you make that OK. You let me know what happened, and you make me smile by bringing in some pretty witty anchors to deliver it all (I’m looking at you, Neil and Stan). I start my morning with you, and I end my day with you. Thank you.

The treadmill—Let’s be honest: Most of the time, I say that I don’t like you. But that’s not very kind of me, because you really do come in handy when it’s lightning outside or on those very rare days when it ices in the winter months. Where would I run on those days if it weren’t for you? Through the halls of my apartment complex? No. That would wake up my neighbors. But you don’t wake up my neighbors, and that’s an admirable quality. Thank you.

My personal space heater—The office feels like what I imagine living in an actual refrigerator would feel like. It’s almost like the episode of “I Love Lucy” when she gets trapped in a freezer. (There is zero exaggeration here.) But you change that. You make it close to 80 degrees all of the time at my desk. Without you, I would probably have lips bluer than those of Kate Winslet when she’s telling Leo DiCaprio that she’ll never let go. You’re an actual life saver. Thank you.

The Musers—Fellas, my drive to work in the morning could be so boring, but it’s the opposite. Your observations and fake interviews always make my mornings full of laughter and happiness. I never thought I would be entertained by something like a pretend station mouse with a high-pitched giggle (or admit to it), but for some reason I am. Please never stop talking. Thank you.

Scarves—I hate cold weather. I normally don’t like to use the word “hate,” but I mean it in every sense of the word right now. I hate it. But you help provide me warmth. I cannot effectively tell you how much you mean to me, but you are part of the reason I survive the colder air. You come in so many colors and styles, and you match with anything (because anything matches if you wear it with confidence). Thank you.

Genuine people—You know what it means to be honest and care about how you treat others. You say you’re going to do something, and you actually follow through with it. Others appreciate that. Hearts matter to you, because people matter to you. Thank you.

When I was a teacher, I used to take my favorite class outside every once in a while on nice days, and we would sit in a circle and go around and share highs and lows of our weeks. I was really thankful during those moments, and I think the kids were, too. It forced us all to find at least one good thing going on in our lives to share for the highs, and it felt good.

Because being thankful feels good.

Life is hard. There’s no way around that. There’s a saying about learning to dance in the rain, and maybe being grateful for the “little” (I think they’re actually really big) things in life is doing just that. Maybe it will help during the tough times to remind others how thankful you are for them—because they matter. And you matter. And being grateful matters.

Because, to me, thankfulness is another way to spread love that’s so badly needed in this world.