It's been an interesting month for my family and me.
Sure, the children all started school again last week, creating a more hectic schedule. But we knew that was coming, so we were able to brace for it.
(Frankly, I get jealous of them during their luxurious summer vacation, so I'm a bit gleeful when they have to hit the books.)
Yes, we've had lots of family activities to attend. But that's been great, as we've enjoyed a Kratz family reunion earlier in the month and, since then, the close proximity of my wife's parents, two of her siblings and other members of her family.
What's really made this month more interesting than most has been the strange run of bad luck we've had with our stuff.
Many of you will probably relate to my tale of minor woe, as you, too, have faced a time in your lives when everything seemed to be breaking at the same time. That's certainly how it has felt to us lately.
It all started the day before that family reunion I mentioned, when one of the fans in our minivan inexplicably started making a nasty noise when we ran the air conditioner. And since this was in early August, we were running the AC constantly.
We didn't have time to get it fixed until after the reunion, but in the end we spent a chunk of money we had earmarked for other purposes to replace that noisy fan.
Right around the same time, we noticed that the picture on the 55-inch LCD television in our family room was turning strange colors after it ran for a while. We checked online and found that this effect was known as "solarizing."
I found a website that advised me of one possible way to fix the problem, but when I tried it, it didn't work. Since I wasn't jazzed about the prospect of spending $1,000 to replace the TV, I decided to see if anyone still repaired televisions in our area.
Somewhat surprisingly, the answer was yes, so we hired a guy to make a house call and fix our television. However, we decided that we wouldn't pay more than about $250 for a repair because, beyond that, it would probably make more sense to save up for a while and buy a replacement.
The repairman brought over several little electronic parts to replace a bunch of other little electronic parts that he assumed were causing the problem, and he charged us $250. But alas, the repair didn't work. In order to really fix it, he said, it will probably cost another $200, but I don't want to sink that much more money into a TV that's probably nearing the end of its life, anyway.
So now, every time we gather for family movie night or any other TV-related activity, we're on pins and needles, just wondering how long we can watch before the problem reappears.
Worst of all, football season is right around the corner. Yikes!
While we contemplated the TV problem and the loss of more money we weren't expecting to spend, our vacuum cleaner broke. (Fortunately, my wife was able to take it apart and fix it.)
Then the locking mechanism on one of the doors of my car stopped working. We haven't had the time, energy or resources to fix that problem yet.
Our practically new clothes dryer also seemed to be having a problem a couple of weeks ago, but luckily it corrected itself.
Still, you can see why I'm a bit jumpy now, and constantly looking around the house, wondering what's going to break next.
Will it be the clothes washer, whose partner dryer we already had to replace about a year ago?
Will it be the dishwasher, which was here when we bought our house and has to be at least 20 years old?
Or will one of our vehicles give up the ghost completely, as they both approach 100,000 miles?
I worried about this endlessly the other day, starting at every unexpected click or clank I heard throughout the house. But somewhere around the thousandth time, I stopped and gave myself a mental slap in the face.
Yes, I thought, these are some unexpected expenses and annoying little problems. But in the grander scheme of things, how lucky am I to face challenges like these?
Can I really complain that my huge television needs to be replaced when I have two other TVs in the house and considering I have access to TV at all?
Should I get upset about minor car repairs when I'm fortunate enough to have two vehicles that work quite well most of the time and that safely deliver me and the people I love to work, school, church and meetings with family and friends?
Shall I fret about the possibility that one of our other appliances could break, when for many people the dishwasher and clothes washer in the house are not machines, but rather the people who do those jobs?
When it comes right down to it, I'm incredibly blessed. I have a good job that allows me to use some of my skills and talents to find personal fulfillment and earn a living. Even better, that job leaves me enough time at the end of the day to be with my family and friends and actively work toward my goal of building work-life balance.
And as for those family and friends, well, I think I've got the best anyone could ever hope to have.
So while I may grumble about my "First World problems" from time to time, I'll try to keep them in a bit better perspective from now on.
After all, I can always go to my in-laws' house to watch football. Isn't that right, Ray and Kathy? Please?
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