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Present Tense: Coming clean about appliance dependency
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Twenty-two days.

That's how long my household went without a dishwasher.

Three weeks, plus an extra day for good measure. It seemed more like three years.

The dishwasher's death was sudden: It was fine in the morning and not-so-fine when we returned home that afternoon. I peered inside, wondering why it would suddenly - and literally - fall apart. I called for my husband to peer inside and diagnose the problem.

He gave the aged machine a quick glance and skipping the diagnosis completely, jumped straight to the solution. "Go buy another one," he said.

Cue "Taps."

It could be worse, I told my oldest daughter. Out of all of the major appliances that could go out in the home, the dishwasher is the easiest to live without.

The worst, bar none, is the water heater. If that goes, you drop everything and get yourself a new one.

The refrigerator is a close second. Back in the early days of our marriage, our refrigerator - a horrific gold side-by-side that came with the house - gave out one day. My husband and I went to the Sears store and bought a basic top-freezer model - it was about all we could afford. My husband wanted an ice maker, even though that model had to be ordered, and I was OK just making ice in an old-fashioned tray if it meant taking the floor model home and having a refrigerator that day. But my husband insisted.

It was September, I remember. I kept a Coleman cooler for condiments on the deck and went to the store daily for fresh protein and ice, waiting for our new ice maker, I mean refrigerator, to arrive.

Two weeks later it did, and it was a perfectly serviceable refrigerator. I cannot comment on the ice maker: My husband never got around to hooking it up.

Through the years, we were fortunate to have relatively few appliance emergencies. Until a very unfortunate and expensive 6-week span starting the day after Thanksgiving 2014 in which we had to replace our washing machine, stove and built-in microwave, and I learned just how dependent we really are.

Losing your stove is pretty bad. Sure, it actually sounds like the perfect excuse to get out of cooking, but after a couple of days of fast food and pancakes in the electric skillet, you realize how attached to your range you really are.

Having your washing machine give out? Yeah, that's bad, too. Especially with three kids. I'm way too accustomed (spoiled) to doing laundry at midnight, in my pajamas, to use a laundromat again, even in pinch.

And I was surprised at how much I missed the microwave. At first I though it was merely used for the occasional bag of popcorn and reheating leftover pizza; I forgot it's my primary method for cooking vegetables.

Having survived Appliance Armageddon, I figured there was no great rush when the dishwasher died. I had other things on my mind and other priorities greater than picking out a dishwasher. Besides, I had a super-size bottle of Dawn, three able-bodied children and a working water heater: Doing dishes by hand would be no problem.

By the second day, I barely saw the children. The sink was filled with dirty dishes, but the children scattered like cockroaches under a fluorescent lightbulb as I stood at the kitchen sink.

By the seventh day, I broke down and bought more paper plates. "Use these," I said, filled with immense guilt as I envisioned the landfill overflowing with my family's used paper plates.

At two weeks, my husband asked if I had picked out a new dishwasher yet. (Since the ice maker, I mean refrigerator incident, he is only allowed to pick out water heaters.)

It was time. I couldn't put the inevitable off any longer.

On Day 22, it arrived: A stainless steel testament to the fact that we are far too reliant on modern conveniences (spoiled) to actually do all our own dishes for more than three weeks.

Let's just hope the hot water heater doesn't give out.

- Mary Jane Grenzow is editor of the Monroe Times. She can be reached at Her column appears on Saturdays.