• Kara Errico

Finding Gratitude in an Odd Place

(Originally written on November 12)

As luck would have it, our washing machine decided to stop working over the holiday weekend (this is actually the third machine the rental company has given us and was the “new and improved,” “better model” replacement brought over the last time we had an issue ... also on a holiday weekend).

So, I find myself in a laundromat in San Clemente, ignoring some crazy back pain while engrossing myself in a book, some games on my phone, and gratitude journaling. (And blog writing, of course!)

My family is so fortunate to have (and thankful for) the ability to pay a company to rent a washer and dryer. It not only saves time, energy, and money lugging laundry to/from our apartment complex’s on-site laundry room, but is a major convenience. (They’ve been housed in our little porch area — easily accessible to all three of us at any time of day or night.)

In college, doing laundry was a weekly chore. It required getting quarters from the bank, having detergent on-hand, as well as a sense of perfect timing (to run up/down three flights of stairs to the basement to transfer clothing from the washer to the dryer ... and praying no one had decided to steal your laundry (or just remove your stuff to set aside and hijack your cycle)).

We take for granted the many luxuries we have in our homes today, and often have a sense of entitlement and privilege about us (even if we don’t know it). This place — this public laundry facility — humbles you, but in the best way possible.

As much as I grumbled and complained to my husband last night about hauling some very heavy baskets (because, naturally, our washer crapped out during the rinse cycle and many of the items were soaked still) out of our home to clean, it beats the alternative ... stretching the wear time to somewhat unhygienic limits (and no, not underwear — I draw the line there!) and watching the laundry pile grow seemingly exponentially until a tech is sent out to repair/replace our current washing machine.

Yes, I had to haul two jam-packed and quite heavy laundry baskets down three flights of stairs (WHY do I always find myself living on the top floor of places?!?) and having to pay additional money that wasn’t factored into our super tight budget this month. But now I get to experience something I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to.

In my mind, laundromats are much like a scene from Sesame Street — a mix of characters from all walks of life, humming along to music played over a loudspeaker (in that fantasy, they would break into a choreographed dance and sing joyfully too).

But the reality is that many folks have to use a laundromat out of dire necessity. They fork over what little money they have to be able to have a few key wardrobe items cleaned.

Yep, you heard me. I GET to do it.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this month, we’ve been doing a lot of gratitude exercises and activities at home, school, and church.

One of the best illustrations of how we moms can flip the script on our lives, stop whining and complaining about everything, and be grateful is to change those “have to” moments into “get to” ones.

Moments a Day blogger, Chelsea Lee Smith, showcased her "get to" items in a list of things she's grateful for -- shown here. This wonderful visual is available at her site for you to print/frame to remind yourself of these typical mom moments we all often gripe about.

Sitting here now, I feel like the little stuffed bear we’ve come to know and love in A Pocket for Corduroy. (Yes, he was technically "abandoned" by Lisa, but she came back to find him the next day when she’d realized she had left him behind and he wasn’t really lost as she’d first thought.)

I forgot how much fun a laundromat can be!

I find myself delighted by the whirring sounds and hypnotic sight of people’s clothes and linens are soaped and tossed about. I’m in awe of how powerful the industrial strength versions of what we have at home are.

And, though I know I’ll probably fall back into old habits once we have a functional washing machine again, I have plans to return here to do more laundry with my daughter.

She would love it!!!

And there are SO many opportunities to play (and learn) here — from getting quarters by making change of bills, to inserting them into each machine, to sorting by color, to measuring detergent for each load, to getting a snack from the vending machines. It’s all like make believe come to life for them.

Even Miley is having a great time at the laundromat!

Kids don’t see economic status like grownups do (they have a vague understanding of the concept of rich or poor, but don’t place judgement like adults do).

My husband makes a decent amount of money (compared to what he earned back on the East Coast, anyway), yet it’s shockingly considered poverty level for Orange County. So it was no surprise to me that the attendant greeted me — a white woman in her 30s not looking too worn down by life — this morning, ready to accept all of my dirty laundry (literally), only to give me a stunned and somewhat shocked look that I was asking about the self-serve machines and insisting that, yes, I was looking to DIY these loads I'd hauled in.

I don’t know why it still surprises me that people pay so much for convenience — I did the calculation and it’s $58 to start (with a 30 lb minimum) for the full-serve drop-off option here, which includes washing, drying, folding, and packaging. No thanks, dude! I'll save myself a ton of money if I do it all myself.

When I started to look at today’s unplanned errand with a gratitude mindset, I noticed a shift in my mood.

Yes, we can’t really afford this today and the laundry could have waited. But I get to use my last day with ample free time (starting a temp job tomorrow!) to do something to serve my family.

And knowing that we have caught up with the laundry (so cool that I can do it all in one shot here!), means I get to rest easy and relax later today ... there will no longer be a mountain of dirty clothes sitting on our porch taunting me, or a potential for mildew/mold to set into the clothing I had to yank out of the wash when I realized there was a problem.

It sounds weird to say that I’m actually thankful for a broken piece of equipment (essentially wasted money too). But, I get to experience all of this today. And I’m pretty darned thankful for that.

#laundromat #gratitude #grateful #thankful #laundry #mindset

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