Still Grateful for Water (Or, Why I Re-Wrapped Christmas Presents at 4 AM)

I’ve touched on our home saga before. After years of apartment living we bought our first home – in a wonderful neighbourhood in a town we love – and almost immediately (exactly one week after getting the keys) hit some major snags. Sewer and drainage issues consumed the better part of six months – hours of phone calls with insurance companies and consultations with contractors and many thousands of dollars.

After dealing with these issues – most of which required us to undo existing infrastructure like flagstone pathways and cutting down mature trees – we’ve slowly picked away at other structural and aesthetic improvements.

This post was supposed to be about how thankful I am for a new front door. Of all the renovations, this has thrilled me the most. Most winters I’ve stuffed rags around the perimeter of our very drafty front door. A repair attempt earlier this year only made things worse, rendering the door draftier and almost impossible to open and close. So seeing a new door installed this week thrilled me to no end.

But then we hit a snag, as seems to be the lot with renovations.

When dealing with an external water faucet, it inadvertently impacted piping inside the house. In the guest room closet. In the guest room closet where I was storing all my wrapped Christmas gifts.

With both kids happily entertained yesterday before supper, I decided I would capitalize on the relative peace and goodwill by tackling a batch session of Christmas wrapping. Once a small pile was completed – and feeling quite proud of my handiwork – I went to add these new additions to the growing stash in the guest room closet.

Let’s rewind for a minute. Earlier this week, in light of pending torrential rain (and based on the recent catastrophic flooding in British Columbia) I removed ALL the wrapped gifts from the closet…just in case. They stayed high and dry and, thankfully, the storm passed us by without any impact. On Thursday we moved the gifts back into the closet so we could have the basement deep-cleaned for the first time in SIX months. The floors were mopped, the gifts were neatly stowed away, I had a new front door. Life was glorious.

And then I opened up the closet and saw the water.


So that’s how I found myself unexpectedly unwrapping several bags full of neatly wrapped, but completely sodden, Christmas gifts.

And then I started counting my blessings.

It’s not that water in the house doesn’t suck and it’s not that I don’t wish this hadn’t happened (although I’m a bit grateful it did, read on). I’m definitely not naturally the “Pollyanna” type (the word pessimist has definitely been attached to me). But I’m hoping it’s evidence that the Bible Study lesson of letting anxiety be the cue for gratitude really did permeate.

Because I couldn’t stop finding all these things to be thankful for, even as I slowly wrung the water out of a pair of funky socks and eyed the permanent water stains on our Alex Colville Horse and Train print.


  • For running water. The fact we have a leaking pipe means we have access to running water. Billions of people don’t have this luxury.
  • That I was in the closet (which I sometimes go weeks without opening up) which led me to discover the leak after an hour instead of hours (or days) when the damage would have been far more extensive.
  • That we have gifts. What a priviledge to have the resources to give and receive items (many of them for sheer fun) this time of year.
  • For the recent electrical upgrade that required us to cut holes in the closet drywall. This gave the water an exit point so, instead of flooding the ceiling, it dripped right down through the hole (onto the wrapped gifts and stored artwork).
  • We caught it early enough that most of the gifts were 100% okay (especially the calendars I worked so hard to prepare), if a bit waterlogged around the edges.
  • The fact we discovered the issue at 4:30 pm when contractors were still onsite and that they were able to correct the issue so we had access to running water over the weekend!
  • That our contractors were willing to stay late (on a dark, wet Friday evening) to do a temporary, but safe, fix so we didn’t have to put in an emergency plumbing call which would have left more time for more water damage (and cost a small fortune).
  • This happened – the pipe was compromised and if the break hadn’t happened now, it probably would have at some point in the future when it almost certainly would have caused significantly more damage.
  • For a husband that was so calm and helpful and joined me as we listed all the many things to be thankful for while he cleaned up muddy boot prints, removed wet insulation, and vacuumed up drywall.

When I woke up early this morning (I cannot shake the early wakeups since DST) I knew what to do. I headed downstairs, cued up a podcast and rewrapped the mostly salvageable gifts. And I was grateful.

The gifts are all wrapped and safely stowed on a high shelf inside plastic bags inside plastic totes. Because, as grateful as I am to have managed to recover most of the gifts to be able to re-wrap them a second time, I’ve no desire to make a hattrick out of this event.

Good morning to me. Time to start re-wrapping.
Oh, goodbye nicely scrubbed floors!

And I am still really, really, really grateful for that new front door.

16 thoughts on “Still Grateful for Water (Or, Why I Re-Wrapped Christmas Presents at 4 AM)”

  1. Gosh–I’m so sorry that happened. Your supportive partner is such a blessing and I loved the way you counted out all the things to be grateful for.

    1. Sometimes this feels easier than others? This time it all just seemed SO obvious, but hopefully I can channel the same gratitude when the next quasi-disaster strikes!

  2. Oh, that really is terrible! I’m so sorry. It was so LUCKY you checked that day and the closet didn’t go unlooked at for a long period of time. It’s amazing how protracted plumbing woes can really impact your quality of life – I think you sound very level-headed about all of it!

    1. This time at least; when we moved in and had plumbing issues I cried constantly and lost 10 pounds in a month from the stress. I have a feeling my swell of gratitude has a lot to do with the fact I know things could have been SO much worse.

      But still, it wasn’t that fun to re-wrap present and try to salvage damp books!

      I’m soooo glad I went in that closet when I did and it certainly left me with a story to tell!

  3. WHAT A STORY. Having water flood into your house, onto the wrapped Christmas presents, seems like a tragedy on the face of it (wrapping gifts is a huge job, to start with.) But all your reasons to be grateful are on point- you have running water, you have gifts, you discovered it before more damage was done. Any water stains that are permanent will remind you of this story, which will seem funny in retrospect.
    And by the way- you are really ahead of the game. I need to get moving on my gift buying! Yikes!

    1. I feel good about the gifts right now – I started later than usual, but just got it done quickly (and tend to buy less and less each year) which helps.

      But I’m feeling very uninspired for some other things – like holiday baking, for example. Ugh. Usually I start getting excited to make treats to share with neighbours etc, but wow I just don’t have any bandwidth or desire to plan this one right now. And I’m telling myself that’s okay…!

  4. What a mess! Good for you for having a positive perspective and finding a list of things to be thankful for. But it sounds like it could have been so much worse. I dealt with flooding when I was in high school and it was THE WORST mess to clean up. I woke up to find the carpet in my bedroom floating – there was that much water because of a failed sump pump! I had some flooding in an apartment, too, and that was a less awful mess but created a lot of chaos during the time it took to get it fixed/get the flooring replaced. I’m glad it was in a limited area of the house and that the gifts weren’t ruined! Phew!

    1. It could have been SO much work. Everyone seems to have at least one horrific flood story and I’ll admit I assume eventually our luck will run out and we’ll have a major water issue. But, for now, I’m so happy to be past this issue with relatively minimal damage!

  5. Elisabeth, yesterday my car wouldn’t start and I was stranded in the parking lot of a grocery store for three hours while I waited for emergency assistance to arrive (arrrrrrg!). I thought about this post, and made a list of all the things I was grateful for: I have a car, roadside assistance was on their way, I was in a parking lot and not on the side of an expressway, it wasn’t too hot or too cold… etc. etc. Thanks for the perspective shift- it really works!

    1. Ugh! Three hours is a long time, but way to change perspective around and realize how much there was to be grateful for. I don’t always manage to do this (who am I kidding, I OFTEN don’t manage to do this), but when I do, it really does feel like a game-changer.

  6. When I was six months pregnant with our first child, a pipe burst and flooded our newly-finished basement – the basement that my husband and I had finished ourselves over the previous several months, complete with his custom woodwork paneling on the walls. He punched a wall. I cried.

    And then later that same day, we got a call from a good friend who had been having weird stomach pain, and he told us that it was stage 4 cancer. (He died 7 months later, at age 37)

    Your observation that things could – and have! – been so much worse is spot on. That night, after we spoke with him, I said to my husband, “it’s just a basement,” and we created a similar gratitude list. It’s not that the basement flooding didn’t suck – it most certainly did. But we also found things to be grateful for, and that certainly softened the blow. I hope this is the end of your house-repairs saga but even if not, it sounds like you have the best attitude moving forward!

    1. Thanks for adding even more perspective to this conversation. Somehow basement flooding feels like the absolute end of the world…but in perspective, it is just a basement.

      It’s so easy to take things like health for granted and the older we get the more experience we all have with how quickly tragedy can strike.

      I definitely don’t always respond this way, so I’m grateful that the gratitude came quickly this time. When we had our first round of (much bigger) issues with the house I ended up losing weight literally felt nauseous all the time for months (insurance and renos and all the layers of complexity can become all-consuming), but I do think I’m learning more from each experience. Not hoping for any more flooding or other reno challenges, but at the end of the day, it is just a house and as cliche as it sounds, a house isn’t a home without the people and memories in it and I need to keep that perspective front of mind!

  7. Way to turn around an unfortunate event and focus on the silver-linings! Damn, if we could just all remember that when things don’t go our way.

  8. So much to be grateful for, but oh, so much work. Your perspective is wonderful and I so appreciate you sharing this right before the holidays. If it had stayed in the ceiling? Oh, my. I can only imagine the deluge when it eventually broke through…

    I had a very small ‘event’ happen a few weeks ago – in which I dropped a [full] [glass] jar of PB. you can imagine what happened. Sigh. PB everywhere. Keeping it – and the cleanup! – in perspective helped tremendously. I think this type of approach is so helpful to just, well, navigating life in general. 🙂

    1. I love PB…but definitely wouldn’t want to clean up a whole bottle. Ugh! I once dropped a bottle of balsamic vinegar. Sigh. If we’re trying to be grateful here, as I recall, it was only 1/4 full though!

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