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.)

The sky is a hazy shade of winter

I didn’t win the lottery. The Christmas decorations are not only packed away but have been packed away long enough that dust and clutter have once again begun to accumulate in the spaces they left behind. Then it snowed and the kids got sick. In short, it is January once again. Yay. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, winter bites.

I was rather unexpectedly sent to Chicago last week on behalf of the day job. Now, most of the time I like Chicago just fine. The day I left the skies were blue and somehow my direct flight was actually on time. I thought to myself, wow, if I could travel like this all time I might not mind it quite as much.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

“But who isn’t guilty of occasionally wanting to skim a page or two every now and then?” – Me

But it is January. As we began our descent, the pilot announced that the weather had warmed to a balmy 20 degrees (-6C). Darn, and here I’d forgotten to pack my bathing suit. Upon arrival, I huddled with other passengers in a what was essentially an airlock while we waited for the airport shuttle to arrive. When the shuttle finally did arrive, I almost missed it entirely as the hotel branding was nearly hidden behind a sheet of salt and grey sludge.

After cursing the heat and wishing for cold weather all summer
After cursing the heat and wishing for cold weather in December. Image courtesy of Flickr

I checked into my hotel and made my way into my room. The air inside was only a few degrees warmer than the outside. At least there wasn’t a wind chill. I glanced at the window mounted heater box curious as to the thermostat setting. I expected that someone turned it down, what I didn’t expect was that someone turned it off all together. Chicagoans really don’t notice the cold. I immediately corrected this problem, cranking the heat up, but even so I knew would take a while for the little heater to make a difference.

I burrowed under my covers, but I couldn’t quite escape the chill. I wound up passing that night with my gloves on and my winter coat draped over my shoulders. If images of the Poor Little Matchgirl running through my head weren’t incentive enough to stay awake, the various loud noises coming from the adjacent room certainly helped.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone.” – Anthony Burgess

The following day, I told a colleague all about the accommodations from the night before. He cocked his head and asked why I didn’t complain about the room to the hotel management. I should have, in his opinion, been given an alternate room, or at least be charged less for the experience. I suppose he was right. He should know, after all, his job takes him on the road at least five to ten times more than mine.

“Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.” – Wade Ayeni

Why hadn’t I complained?

Like most people, I do tend to indulge in a bit of self-reflection at the beginning of the year, and this year has been no exception. And yet, I still haven’t completely figured out the answer. Was I silent because I feared confrontation after a long travel day? Was it because I am female, and if studies are to be believed, biologically conditioned to accept pain and discomfort, provided it is only temporary? Was it my sense of self-reliance? I had gloves and a coat in the room, why make the fix someone else’s responsibility when I can do it myself?

Or… and this thought gave me great pause… after working on improving my outlook for so long, have I managed to finally recondition my brain into truly accepting what life throws at me – the bad as well as the good?

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J. Fox

Could it be that this blog, my personal happiness project, is no longer necessary? Have I then finally achieved a zen-like state of being?



Nah. That’s most assuredly not it. After all, it’s January…

…but it won’t be for much longer.

Winter bites

When I began this blog, I decided early on that I wanted my site to be a positive one. I would feature stories on life lessons, motivation, and positive thinking in addition to the occasional piece on leadership or writing. Some weeks are easier than others.

Photo taken in walking distance from my day job in 2014 (only slightly doctored)
Photo taken a short distance from my day job in 2014 (only slightly doctored)

After a relatively mild winter, the recent wave of storms brought a layer of snow and ice to my hometown. Around here, we take the threat of winter weather extremely seriously. Almost everyone here has stories to tell about where they were stuck for six hours the time that winter precipitation fell faster than the value of a new car after it has driven off the lot.

My son was overjoyed when school was released early one day and cancelled altogether the next. “A snow day,” he shouted, punctuating his excitement by throwing every single toy he could touch on the floor as he ran about the house. His younger brother joined in with eager abandon. Soon the bridges and overpasses weren’t the only dangerous crossings I had to worry about.

I have a hard time stringing together a thought under these conditions, let alone put words to print.

The hubby turned on the news. We were both curious as to how long we might expect the snow (and this housebound ‘fun’) to last. The governor had declared a state of emergency. Record lows were forecast. Power lines were at risk of falling under the weight of the ice. This storm could be a killer. Other news stories around the world were featured; these stories featured mostly violence and hate.

The word “Warning” flashed red and yellow across the screen in big bright font. You couldn’t miss it if you tried. The text was replaced on the screen by a man in front of a fireplace surrounded by pristine white cots. He was a representative of one of our local shelters. It was a commercial, but not one selling product or asking for money. Instead the group was using the ad space to inform the public about the number of beds they had available, urging the community to send those without shelter his way.

I received an alert on my phone. It was a message from my neighborhood’s social media site. In it, a nearby resident was offering the use of his Land Rover (and its four-wheeled drive) to any in need of emergency transportation, all they had to do was call. A few people must have taken him up on his offer because the next several messages in the chain were of thanks.

There is a lot of terrible news out there. There are events outside of our control. There are stories that make you question your faith in the rest of humanity. There are hundreds of reasons to burrow deep into homes and into ourselves, but there is good worth sharing too. I would even argue these stories are even more worthy of sharing.

I am not blind, nor do I live in some happy world of denial. There is white stuff littering the ground outside (and did I mention it is cold), but I’ve chosen to keep my site a positive one. This means I bundle up and do my best to keep the fire burning. I refuse to succumb to the bite of winter no matter how very tempting it might be.

Stay warm.

If you have any similar stories you think are worth sharing, please feel free to comment below. Feel free to add a link to your own.