i hope you’ll excuse the lack of updates from over here in seattle, but the cold weather that’s been plaguing the nation has been making me somewhat sluggish. we are still without heat, and that means that we have all been spending a lot of time crowded around the various space-heaters doing a bunch of nothing.

the happy news is that, as of friday, the sewer line is repaired.

i should be cautious and say that at least the first break in the line is repaired- since nobody was able to get the cameras past the initial break, they can’t guarantee there aren’t other breaks further down the line. but for now we are happy to have indoor plumbing, and we are taking things as they come, and trying not to worry too much about things that are so clearly out of our control.

today i am doing lots of baking, with the payoffs being that the kitchen is warmer due to the oven being on and that we get hot food as a bonus. the cold snap is supposed to be over on tuesday, and i am finding it is much easier to tolerate being uncomfortable when it is a finite experience.

it occurs to me over and over that so many people in the world are so uncomfortable so much of the time, and that we are so used to being pampered that we just about go out of our minds when faced with any kind of challenge like this.

so, first off, i am flooded with appreciation for just how good our lives normally are. and second, i am awed by the reality of how other people usually live.

because, let’s face it- in real life, most people without heat in the winter are not in a situation where they can just rummage in their pantry for ingredients of their choosing and fire up the mixer and turn on the electric oven and bake some muffins, right? most people without heat either have their power cut off or are homeless or live in a country where luxuries like indoor heat don’t even exist.

and to go to bed last night and run a space heater- even though to my kids it was a real challenge to have to cram into the same bedroom so they could use the same heater so the fuses wouldn’t blow out (yes, we are having fun juggling that one!)- c’mon, that was a luxury not having to worry that my kids were catching pneumonia from sleeping in sub-zero temps… and to have enough bedding and enough warm clothes and enough food and even enough medicine in case anyone did get sick… all luxuries that it’s really important to appreciate.

this morning we woke up and the house was cold. like super cold. it was cold enough that your fingertips hurt and your nose runs and anything on your body that might ache does.

what does that mean to me? about 48 degrees.

what would someone sleeping on the street give to be in a house, out of the wind, where it is 48 degrees? a lot, i would bet.

want to hear a true confession that totally grosses me out? i have just been layering clothes on top of each other for about the last 3 days and i haven’t changed the bottom layer (it’s just too cold to completely change…). this morning i feel so nasty i can’t even stand it, and i am changing even if i have to spend the next hour afterward wearing 3 extra layers to get warm. why?

oh, because i have an indoor washer and dryer that are connected and i have detergent and even fabric softener. and i have electricity. and i have clean clothes to change into. i could even shower if i wanted to (um, no, i am not that tough…).

i have so many options that i take for granted every day of my life. but when i have less options i remember to be grateful for the ones that i have left.

i’m not sure how many of you remember me friend dave who i wrote about a while back on the blog. he was diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer and it had metastasized and his prognosis was looking pretty grim. he has 3 children who love him very much, and a wife who is one of my oldest and dearest friends.

he passed away last week.

a lot of what was spoken about at his funeral had to do with gratitude. he had so much gratitude to his friends and family for everything they had done for him during his illness. he was so grateful for the fact that he didn’t have pain from the cancer (that was true right up until the very very end). he was grateful that his children were able to be with him and that he was able to be present with them emotionally and cognitively and he was grateful for every moment of perspective he gained from being sick. i know he was grateful that *h and i had come to visit him when we were in detroit, and we were so happy to see him and be with him and spend time with him.

and now it’s surreal that he isn’t here any more.

it’s such a bitter irony of this life that we so seldom appreciate things unless we long for them or lose them. each of us is such a collection of miraculous things, but i know firsthand how hard it is to be happy about things we just take for granted. when you suffer real anguish it doesn’t help to be told, ” well, at least you can breathe unassisted!”.

i think the trick in life is to find that sweet-spot, where you can appreciate how lucky you are and to not forget to look at the world with wonder and amazement. at the same time, you have to acknowledge that suffering is real, even if it is your own, and suffering is bitter, regardless of how much good you have to be thankful for.

life is so short, and every experience we have is over in the blink of an eye. i can say this now because i am not in a crazy amount of pain today and the heater is blowing against my back. the real test will be to see if i can think like this when i am having a hard time.

if past behavior is any predictor of future behavior, that answer will be no. i can philosophize a lot when i feel okay, but when i feel cruddy i crumble into self-pity. but maybe now that i’ve said it publicly i will have a bit more incentive to walk the talk. i guess we’ll see. wish me luck…