A few months ago, my rice cooker began burning rice. Scorching it, really. And I was really annoyed. I made rice and vegetables for lunch in an attempt to eat less meat. And fewer microwave burritos. But something went wrong with the heating element, and the cooker starting searing the bottom of the rice. Now I like the texture of rice when the bottom gets a little bit crispy. But this wasn’t crispy. It was dark brown, almost charred, and a bear to clean.

I tried adding additional water hoping the rice wouldn’t burn. In protest, the cooker spewed boiling rice water, which pooled on the counter in a sticky mess. I had my very own Old Faithful! This would’ve been fine if the rice stopped burning. But it didn’t.

My mom lives in a different timezone, and I mentioned my rice cooker woes when we chatted on the phone. I hesitated to use the cooker because I didn’t want to break out the steel wool to clean the damn thing. A boy just wanted rice and vegetables during his lunch break. Was that too much to ask?

A few days later, a new rice cooker showed up on my doorstep along with a note from my mom. I felt surprised and grateful.

But I wasn’t really grateful until I used it for the first time today. No scorching. No geysering. Best of all, no upper body workout from scrubbing! I was incredibly grateful for the small but thoughtful gift.

I also kicked myself for not buying one. I’m no longer a poor college student subsisting on ramen blocks, discount hotdogs, and yellow death (aka macaroni and cheese). I even buy Wrangler jeans at fancy places like Walmart instead of thrift stores like DI (Deseret Industries). But some habits never quite leave you.

This year, I’m building a new habit of gratitude. I’m trying to pay attention to all the good things in my life. Now, there’s an old saying, “You don’t know how good you have it until it’s gone.” But today reinforced the opposite: “You don’t know how bad something is until you have something better.”

My new rice cooker is so much better than the old one. And I feel incredibly grateful.