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A Matter of Perspective

        “This is an advisory from the National Weather Service. The first major storm for the season will arrive Friday with another system arriving late Saturday night and the final more powerful system arriving Sunday morning. Power outages and minor flooding will be expected through the I-5 corridor.”

The warning scrolled across the bottom of my TV screen as I was watching the news. Usually if they say there will be power outages we need to brace for the worst. A few hours of power outages for many in the valley usually ends up being a 24-hour outage for us. Since we live away from town it always takes a lot longer for our power to be restored.

I had wanted to spend the day writing but after that warning I knew there were other priorities that superseded the writing, like the laundry. I sighed, took a deep breath, turned off my laptop and made my way to the laundry room. I have always hated doing the laundry, but now more than ever.

A few weeks ago our washer went on the fritz. The cold water hose quit working. I disconnected the supply hose at the shut off valve to see if maybe it was blocked with debris from the well. There is a small strainer and it tends to accumulate debris from the well. The line was clear. I then checked the other cold water strainer, which is located on the back of the washer, where the water supply hose connects, for debris as well. It was clear. At that point I exhausted my knowledge base of washer repairs. I knew we needed a back up plan.

Since funds are as tight right now, a repairman was not an option. I decided the best solution would be to disconnect the cold water line from the back of the washer and manually fill the tub. Of course that means that we have to remember to check the water level as the washer is filling up, which is easier said then done! On the upside, our laundry room floor is the cleanest I have seen in some time. Twice now, I think it was twice but my daughter said it is more like 4 times, I have forgotten about the filling up process. Nothing like 2 inches of water flooding the laundry room floor and running out the back door!

As I was cleaning up the water on the laundry room floor again, and complaining about the inconvenience of this situation, and the weather changes that were taking place, I began to remember days gone by. Nothing like memories of the past to help put the right perspective on current life issues.

It was the early 1960’s. Our family lived in Bandon Oregon, which is located on the Oregon coast.  The house we lived in, on Two Mile Road, was rustic to say the least. It had no indoor plumbing; hence there was no bathroom, just an outhouse. There was water running to the house, but the water came from a make shift water line that my dad constructed and it ran from a spring located several hundred feet from our house. Until that line was put in we carried our water one-bucket load at a time to the house.

Since there was no plumbing, there was no hot water heater. All of our bath and laundry water had to be boiled on the electric kitchen stove, and it had only one working burner. The fact that my mom was able to fix meals with just one working burner, keep house for 5 children and a husband with no indoor plumbing is amazing to me, but she did it.

Our laundry was washed in boiling water, in a large pressure cooker, on the stove in the kitchen. Mom hand rung the cloths, which is no small chore, and placed them on the cloth’s line outside, when the weather was nice, or on a hand-made close line that was located in the kitchen during the rainy seasons.

Baths were taken in a large metal tub which dad placed in the middle of the kitchen floor. By the time my younger sister, Katye, and I took our baths the water was luke warm and cloudy. 5 other people had bathed before us, so you can guess what the water looked like. To this day I love a good long clean bubble bath. Though to be honest I kind of miss that metal tub.

Yet, even with all the limitations of that house I do not remember hearing my mom complain. I am sure she had days where she did. Life had to have gotten hard and frustrating, yet she did what needed to be done and in the process taught all of her children to appreciate what we did have. Believe it or not there were other families in our community that were in worse shape then we were. Hard to believe, but it is true. Amazing how society has changed in just a mere 50 years.

As I was cleaning up the waterfall in the laundry room and thinking about how much easier my life is than what my mom lived through my complaining ceased. My perspective shifted from whining, to appreciation.

I began to appreciate the lessons I learned as a small child in that house. Lessons that I temporarily lost focus of. Lessons that helped form me into the person I am today. Even though life was tough back then those days built character within me for today. Character that is woefully missing in society as a whole today.

Even though I have listed the lessons separately, they actually are intertwined. Here are a couple of the things I learned as a child, yet still need reminding of every now and then, like today.

Life isn’t always easy, do the best with what you have.

Complaining will not help. Complaining leads to a bad attitude, and a bad attitude will make life worse. Complaining puts a person in a proverbial fetal position. It renders a person helpless. If I am feeling helpless, then I need to stop and evaluate my complaining level. Chances are it is out of control.

The solution to this situation is simple, get up! Stand straight; stop complaining and move on with whatever daily chores need to be done. Life could be worse. In fact, in the midst of doing my laundry I received a call from a friend who is struggling right now. While speaking with her I realized my life was not that bad, in fact, far from it. The washer thing was just a bump in the road, not a matter of life and death.

Be thankful for what you do have, not bitter for what is missing.

It took me years before I understood the importance of this lesson. I spent many years being bitter. Years where I complained and looked anxiously toward the future or towards what I thought would bring me joy. In the process of the bitterness I missed out on the current joy of the day.

Life is a matter of perspective, and that perspective can turn on a dime. I may not be able to change many circumstances in life, but I can change my perspective of those circumstances.

Our laundry was eventually completed. The house was thoroughly cleaned in anticipation of a power outage, yet we never got the storm the weatherman was forecasting, but maybe the storm was not the main focus. Maybe the main focus was my attitude.  Maybe the main focus was for me to regain an attitude of appreciation.

With that said, “Thank you mom and dad for the lessons I learned on two-mile road. It was those lean years that helped prepare me for today.”

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