I was born to be born in sunny Southern California, but man oh man, it has been really cold lately. Not just cold for me and my abnormally warm blood, but so cold it’s the main topic of conversation, or at least a close second to Jodie Foster’s Golden Globes speech. The weather anchors call it a cold snap, which seems to be the phrase they’re all using instead of cold spell. Cold snap certainly sounds more frozen, as if all of Los Angeles was a block of dry ice that could snap. If it could spell, the letters would be “F-R-E-A-K-I-N’ C-O-L-D!!!”
I’m writing this blog just before midnight, and according to NBC Weather it’s currently 39° and expected to drop to a low of 33°. I admit that I’m a cold weather wimp, but for even you East Coast and Midwest transplants, you’ve got to agree that unless you’re a Navy Seal or one of those hearty Little House on the Prairie women who couldn’t be broken by 24’s Jack Bauer, this transformed tundra has become truly uninhabitable.
It doesn’t help that our house has virtually no insulation. It was built in 1930 with lath and plaster construction, which means that there’s none of that fancy, fluffy padding protecting my delicate body from the harsh elements. Fortunately we installed new energy efficient windows a few years ago, but the heating unit is a joke. Apparently some penny-wise pound-foolish previous owner decided to install a central air and heating system that was meant for a home that was 70% smaller. They justified it by not installing vents in the kitchen or the bathrooms. Needless to say, in the summer butter liquefies in seconds in our blazing kitchen, and in the winter the bathroom is so cold you might consider wearing a Depends rather than venture onto that cold throne in the middle of the night.
My husband Tom has been up coughing the last two evenings, and because he’s a true prince, he has been considerate enough to toss and turn and cough and hack up a lung on the living room sofa rather than in bed with me. He probably knows that in two day’s time, I’d just end up writing a nasty blog about how he Typhoid Maryed me with his pneumonia and all our mutual friends will give him crap about it. It’s better to be known as a prince than the contagion carrier. He just grabs a few blankets and cowboys up. Plus, he prefers the temperature a little nippy. Frankly, I think he’s got a little Navy Seal blood in him. Or perhaps some of that hearty Little House on the Prairie just-suck-it-up-or-I’ll-really give-you-something-to cry-about blood.
The thermostat is in the living room, which is the farthest point from the furnace and therefore the coldest room in the house in the winter - that is, the coldest room that is lucky enough to have a vent. But the living room is a good 10-20° colder than the bedrooms. If Tom turns up the heat in the living room, the bedrooms are sweltering – especially for Mary who sleeps on the top bunk in direct line with the vent.
I’ve mostly closed off the vents in the bedrooms while Tom’s having his little bout of germ spewing. A swivel tower air conditioner is strung horizontally up on the wall above Mary’s bed so she can cool herself if it gets too hot. My little Mary is like a delicate flower that is wilting at night. This is a nice way of saying she’s a wimpy girl without the Navy Seal or hearty Little House on the Prairie blood.
So now we have our slipshod heater trying to force itself through mostly-closed vents in the bedrooms as it chugs its way to the living room trying to warm my ailing husband. We’re paying a hefty price for gas, electricity, and power for Mary’s makeshift air conditioning unit. And still, it’s probably 65° in the living room and 95° in Mary’s room.
My 2007 Honda Odyssey has a nifty feature – a thermostat that reads the outside temperature. I’m not brave enough to go out this second to see if it’s really 39° right now. But I wish I could use the feature to accurately measure the temperature indoors. I’d like to squeeze my minivan in through the front door to see if there really is a 10, 20 or even 30° difference between Tom’s sofa and Mary’s top bunk.
Despite the frigid temperature outside and the vast array of climates inside, this cold snap has left me with a tremendous sense of gratitude – gratitude that our family is not homeless, gratitude that I will most likely be able to pay both the electric and gas bill this month, and gratitude that we have cozy blankets and heaters to keep us warm. But at this moment I’m mostly grateful that my prince of a husband is coughing on the couch instead of into my immune system.
Baby, it’s a cold. Outside! (I don’t want to catch it!).