Making the Best of the Heat of the Moment

making the best of the heat of the moment - www.alliepottswrites.comDo you ever have those moments … the ones that make you realize everything you’ve done over the past several weeks if not months was preparing you for this one specific day or hour?

I had one of those moments recently.

To properly tell you about it though, I need to go back to this summer. We’d invited another family over and decided after the sun began to set, we’d send the kids upstairs where they could watch a movie while the adults continued to chat downstairs.

I escorted the kids to the top of the stairs where I walked into an invisible wall of sauna-like heat. It quickly became apparent that our heater had taken it upon itself to rise up and rebel against the shackles of its thermostatic-overlord’s imposed peace treaty and instead do battle against its arch-nemesis the air conditioning unit. When I’d walked into the fray, both climatic titans had been doing battle for some time, however, the AC was now in a state of retreat.

We shut the unit off and opened all the windows, hoping beyond hope that the artificially heated air could find its way to the greater outside. It was too much to hope for. The ninety-degree temperatures lasted much of the night, and well into the following morning.

We called an HVAC repairman who let us know that a wire had gone bad. A few moments later the AC was once again running as it should. I thought peace had returned. I was wrong.

Fall decided to cut its time with us short this year, hopping over to winter before the leaves could even finish changing their colors. My husband grumbled and moaned about it but after listening to the children and I complain about the chill he begrudgingly went to turn on the heat. Only the heat didn’t come on.

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How is it already November?

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A day passed. Warmer than the last. Then another day. The chill returned. After a few more days of the atmospheric roller coaster, I asked my husband when he’d scheduled the follow-up appointment with the repair service. I learned he hadn’t. Then it grew colder.

My doorbell rang, sending Her Royal Highness into a frenzy. It was the same technician as the one who’d serviced the unit in the summer (who was deathly afraid of dogs – which of course meant HRH wouldn’t leave him alone). He told me it had to be the thermostat. I questioned that as I’d noted the thermostat wasn’t getting power so thought there had to be another problem.

Then he told me it could be the control board on the furnace or maybe still the wiring. He could fix it, he said, but it would be a two-man job and so he’d have to come back another day – which could be a while as they were rather backed up at the moment with other job orders.

I reluctantly agreed and found a sweater. What other choice did I have?

The downside of working from home is the fact that you don’t have the benefit of escaping to another location when things like this happen. While my kids got to thaw at school during the day and my husband was able to work up a sweat running his business, I, on the other hand, spent the next several days trying to write while I huddled next to an ancient space heater.

The weekend arrived. We’d agreed to go camping with the kids’ scout troop back when we thought we’d still be experiencing a Fall this year. It was in the sixties when we arrived at the site and set up our tent. The sun began to set as the troop built up a fire. The temperature dropped. And dropped. And dropped some more.

It was cold enough to allow me to see my breath inside my tent as I burrowed deeper and deeper into my sleeping bag and still the night grew colder. The temperature inside my home, unpleasant as it was, was nothing compared to this. What had we been thinking, agreeing to go camping in mid-November?

But we survived the night and returned home with memories of s’mores, camp songs, and a new pack of dental floss (an award from a campout game), so it wasn’t all bad.

The house was still chilly when we returned home – but it was far better in comparison to what we’d just “slept” through. The technician came back – this time with help. Unfortunately, even with help, the overall the system was still broken. I soldiered on. After all, I’d been through worse.

That is not to say I gave up and accepted my lot. Instead, we called another service who actually managed to correct the problem, though it cost a little of the extra money I would have rather spent on Christmas gifts. However, ten minutes later, I heard the magical whirl of a fan coming back online as heat descended from the ceiling vent. It was glorious.

When I stood around the campfire that night, I’d joked with the other campers that our heat situation had helped acclimate my body to the cold – as if all the days of shivering by my computer were leading up to this moment. However, the hours that followed, proved me wrong. This story doesn’t end with me being able to grit my teeth and deal with larger adversity thanks to a series of trials leading up to this grand event.

No, instead, what I’ve realized is it’s not enough to deal with and work through unpleasant surprises. You also have to be able to keep yourself from settling for less, when it truly matters, even if that sometimes means starting over. I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again, and each time it has gotten a little less scary. And that’s a thought that may just keep me warm for many more days to come. (Though finally having a working HVAC system sure helps too.)

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Just an average evening in the life of budding geniuses

“How long were you under there?”

It was cat herding time once again at the Potts household also known as the half hour before bedtime. I was attempted to get a few last-minute chores in while simultaneously getting the boys ready for nighttime. I ignored Kiddo’s question, focusing instead on the task at hand.

“How long were you under there?” Kiddo repeated.

Kiddo’s voice broke through my concentration. What an odd question, I thought. I hadn’t been under anything that I could recall that evening unless you take into consideration pending deadlines, a cycle of never-ending dish washing, and self-imposed writing goals. But Kiddo has rarely, if ever, asked me how my work is going, so that couldn’t be it. “Under where?” I asked.

“You said underwear!” Kiddo threw back his head in laughter.

I sat there, stunned as the punch line sunk in. Kiddo had gotten me. I marveled at his maturing sense of humor, at the genius of the joke’s simplicity as well as Kiddo’s execution. It was a long way from his very first joke, “Once upon a time, there was a joke named joke and he was a joke!” (*da dum dum da* he’ll be here all week folks) I joined his laughter. “Very clever,” I said as I returned to my chores. “I made you said underwear!” Kiddo repeated, delighted with himself. “I got Daddy to say it too!” (word of caution to Kiddo’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and assorted other caregivers – he’s really proud of this one, expect to hear it, over and over and over again)

Tears of laughter were welling up in Kiddo’s eyes as he turned to his brother and asked once again, “LT, how long were you under there.”

Without missing a beat, LT answers, “three minutes,” effectively beating his brother at his own game. I don’t know what exactly LT was supposedly under for three minutes (I mean I thought he was in my line of sight all this time, but with LT you never really know for sure) or how he knew the precise time, because he didn’t elaborate. Instead, LT immediately returned to plotting whatever nefarious plan to rule the world he is attempting next. This is also why I think he might just succeed.

So clearly I recognize that I am living with a budding evil genius, but maybe you don’t yet recognize the signs. If you are afraid you too may be raising the next crop of megalomaniacs intent on world domination, you may want to be on the lookout for a few of the following:

  1. Do they frequently use your best of intentions for their own gain?
    • You said the first day of summer is the longest day of the year. It was supposed to be a fun little fact to amuse and educate your offspring with. Instead you get, “If Mr. Sun isn’t going to bed, why do I have to?”
  2. Have you picked up an alarming “minion” vibe from their closest friends?
    • monkey toys

      exhibit A: The usual suspects

  3. Do you find yourself struggling to maintain your game face when they turn up the charm?
    • Because it is bedtime.
    • But why?
    • Because it is a school night and you have to go to bed now.
    • I no wanna go to school anyyyyyy mo.
    • You like school. All your friends will be at school. Don’t you want to play with your friends?
    • But I love you, momma. I wan to stay with you. Five mo minutes? (cue quivering lip)
    • (As little arms encircle your neck in best snuggle hug ever, feel your will break… Again.) Okay honey, five more minutes, but then it is bedtime. I mean it.
  4. Do they have an unusually intense obsession with potential lairs
    • volcano

      Exhibit B : Depiction of an erupting volcano. Note the artist’s use of broad strokes and bold colors to convey violence – one of many examples lining our walls

  5. Are they entirely too smart for their own good?
    • Reference story above

On the plus side, the children have decided to grace me with more than a couple of nights in a row of sleep. Obviously, they are up to something, but I’ve been taking advantage of it while I can. I’ve made significant gains in my manuscript (even though this current draft is pretty terrible, even by first draft standards) and have been taking a stab at some shorter fiction (I may even try to find homes for some of them). I’d better take advantage. Who knows when this opportunity might come again.