When Life Gives You Furnace Failure in the Dead of Winter…

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Eating breakfast by the fire to keep warm.

This summer I wrote a post titled “When Life Gives You Water Damage”, a harrowing tale of how our hot water tank blew up a few months after we spent our entire savings buying a new house. The resulting water damage led to us completely tearing out one whole level of our house, discovering asbestos in our home, completing an extensive abatement, and subsequently not putting back together a single thing. Exciting stuff around here, folks.

That post was such a huge hit that I’ve just been dying to write an encore post. Well, life is funny and–lo and behold–I now get to write part two of the “When life gives you…” saga! So, without further ado, I now present “When Life Gives You Furnace Failure in the Dead of Winter”…

Last Wednesday we went to bed later than we should have because we are parents of young children and that’s exactly what all sleep-deprived parents of young children do. Of course we know better than to stay up past our bedtime, but the hours between 8:30 PM and midnight are so quiet and so calm and so lacking in the responsibility department that we can’t help but to stay up to savor them a bit longer that we should. So, per usual, we went to bed late and were banking on getting a few solid hours of sleep before the kids (and by kids, I mean Jacob) would come bounding into our room at 5 AM (per usual).

At about 3:00 in the morning, however, Jon and I were rattled awake by a…rattling. A very LOUD rattling coming from our heating vents.  Knowing that loud rattles are never a good thing we said a silent prayer that the rattles wouldn’t wake the baby and we tried as best we could to fall back asleep between the every-20-minute-cacophony that was shaking our house. Needless to say, the baby managed to sleep but we did not. Furnace: 1, Parents: 0. Adulting is so hard.

The next morning, Thursday, the rattles were still occurring every time our heat turned on so I decided to call an HVAC expert to come out to our house and examine the mystery. The first five places I called said sure, they’d send someone out. Next week. NEXT WEEK?!?! This sound is so loud that we can’t sleep in our own house…and goodness knows what happens if the rattles turn into an explosion or a furnace fire or something (Hey, these things can happen).

Sixth time was a charm and they had someone that could actually come out to do a same-day examination of the problem: Huzzah!

A few hours later Roy showed up at our house (Ironically, he arrived at the exact moment that our new generator was being delivered. The generator that we bought because when our power went out a few weeks ago I swore that I would never spend another night in a cold house without heat. More on that soon.)

Roy spent a few minutes fiddling with this and that and then he gave us the verdict: Our 50+ year-old furnace was dying, and we needed to say our final goodbyes. The death could take minutes or days, but the inevitable was just around the corner (Oh, and by the way, he said–If the furnace makes a loud boom and then smoke fills our house and sets off all the fire alarms, don’t be too concerned. This too shall pass.)

So, with the knowledge that this would be our furnace’s final day(s), Roy set off to locate the necessary replacement parts and place an order. I was left wondering what to do–I mean, what does a furnace want to do in it’s final hours–was there any unfinished business we needed to attend to? Did our furnace lead a fulfilling life or did he have regrets? Should we lead a vigil? Prepare the memorial? In the end, we just decided to let Mr. Furnace live out his final hours in peace doing what he was created to do: heat my house.

At 6:00 AM on Saturday, December 2 our furnace sputtered it’s last breath. The loud rattle became a high-pitched whine, which became an unbearable screech, and I pulled the plug (shut down our heating system). RIP Mr. Furnace, you will be missed.

Now I don’t know if I mentioned this yet, but it is December. In Washington. Which means it is cold. It is literally freezing outside. We’re talking ice-on-the-ground and the-dog’s-water-dish-is-frozen-over cold. So, when your furnace dies in the dead of winter you kind of want the heat restored ASAP.

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Our frozen deck railing this morning. Baby, it’s cold outside!

Unfortunately the HVAC company was closed on the weekend so I couldn’t call to ask them if our needed parts had, in fact, been ordered or when they might arrive. I was getting impatient knowing that we’d have to go at least the weekend with no heat, and by 3:00 in the afternoon I decided to be that person and call our HVAC repair man on the weekend (He had given me his cell phone number, so I can only assume he wanted me to bother him on his day off).

When I got a hold of poor ‘ol Roy he was, according to him, sitting on the recliner in his living room so he didn’t exactly have all of the information I was requesting (Strange that he didn’t think to have my work order information with him on the couch). He told me to plug in some space heaters and call the office on Monday morning. Fine.

We went about gathering all of our space heaters (we even borrowed an extra space heater from our neighbor who recently went through a similar ordeal…we’re calling it the Furnace Curse of 2017) and turned on our gas fireplace. Unfortunately, we learned that plugging in more than one or two space heaters at the same time in the same region of the house would blow the breaker and all electricity on that circuit would turn off.

So now we got to play this fun game of musical space heaters where I’d rotate space heaters from room to room throughout the day to try and evenly disperse the heat. At night we’d bundle up in our fuzzy pajamas and layer on as many blankets as would fit on our beds. It was all so cozy! But still, I wanted my heat.

So, first thing Monday morning I called the HVAC office to see where my dang furnace parts were. The receptionist told me that they found the necessary parts in Oregon and they were being shipped here presently. They would arrive that afternoon and then they’d schedule the install. Phew! Just one more day. I can do this!

Well, Monday afternoon came and went, but no parts arrived. The HVAC office called me back and let me know that the parts were now scheduled to arrive on Tuesday afternoon, and they could possibly install it on Wednesday morning. Then finally, after all of the drama, the parts arrived! I am happy to say that as of 8:42 AM Wednesday morning, we officially have a fully-functioning furnace again.

And, even though we had to spend nearly a week with no heat in the dead of winter, there was some good that came of it.

We got to spend extra time together as a family, huddled around the only space heater and the fireplace.

We gained a renewed appreciation for the simple things that we take for granted.

The parts we needed to have replaced are covered by a warranty and, now that they’ve been replaced, will probably last us for years to come so we will (hopefully) never have to do this again.

Jacob (who is always awake by 6:00) was so smothered in blankets that he didn’t stir until 7:00 or later every morning. SLEEPING IN FOR THE WIN!!!

We got to try out all of our new winter snow gear…indoors (It works!).

And, of course, we made memories of the caliber that I’m sure we’ll be talking about for years to come. Life doesn’t always go according to plan rarely goes according to plan, but that’s all part of the adventure. These twists and turns along the way are what keep life interesting.

Now, my friends, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to crank up the HEAT on my brand new FUNCTIONING FURNACE. And as I enjoy this particular warmth and comfort, I wish you exactly the same: that you would experience the warmth and comfort of this season.

Happy holidays, and may your furnace be ever-functioning!

 

 

The White Flag

SurrenderThis weekend we finally said goodbye to January. Goodbye, and good riddance. Never in my life have I been so glad to see a month end. January 2015 was, hands-down, the most challenging 31 days I’ve ever been dealt. The entire month was just an endless string of one let down after another, one loss after another, one upheaval after another, one tearing apart of my perfect little organized, well-planned, predictable life.

The month started with us saying goodbye (again) to our loved ones as we left our Christmas holidays in Washington and returned to our “normal” life in California. Saying goodbye was rough.

A few days after arriving home we visited the doctor to confirm our recently-discovered pregnancy. What was supposed to be an exciting time of preparing for our new baby quickly turned into unsettling discussions followed by even more disturbing test results as we learned that our baby would never be born. My miscarriage (discussed further here) was, and continues to be, a physical and emotional roller coaster that I was in no way prepared for. The whole thing is R-O-U-G-H, ROUGH. I would have been fine with the life-change stopping right there for the moment, but as they say: when it rains, it pours.

A few days after we found out that we’d lost the baby, we went for a family hike to try and clear our minds a bit. David had brought along Mimi, his stuffed monkey lovey, on the hike. In the moment we didn’t think too much of this because, as David’s lovey, Mimi has gone with our family everywhere we’ve gone for the last 4.5 years (which, by the way, is the same total time that David has gone with us everywhere we’ve gone).

Mimi was at the hospital the day David was born. Mimi snuggled David to sleep when he was a baby. Mimi played endless hours of basketball with David when he was 2 years old. Mimi moved to Ireland with us when David was 3. Mimi traveled the world with us: she went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, rode in the London Tube, and sunbathed on beaches in Spain. Mimi comforted David when he was moved to a new home, new school and new community for the 4th time in his short life. David loved Mimi more than anything, she was his WORLD.

So, here we were, out on our hike with the whole family +Mimi and life was grand. I even got a picture of David and Mimi at the top of our hike so we could remember what good little hikers they were. But, somehow between the top of our hike and bed time, Mimi went missing. She was not in the house. She was not in the car. Mimi. Was. Gone. David was inconsolable at bedtime, so I did what any rational parent would do. I called the restaurant that we stopped at for lunch after the hike–and all of the other restaurants and businesses within a 2-block radius of there. No Mimi. I left voicemails for the security that I knew checked the area where we were hiking. No Mimi. I enlisted my running friends to retrace our steps on the trail (a huge thank you, by the way, to the dozen or so of you who did that!). No Mimi. I put ads on the lost and found section of Craigslist. No Mimi. NO. MIMI.

I don’t know if it was because we were already experiencing another type of loss or just because I really loved Mimi (because, really, she has loved my boy very well), but losing that silly monkey just wrecked me. I lost sleep over it. I’m crying right now just thinking about it.  Losing Mimi was rough. For all of us.

Two days after the Mimi fiasco, I lost something else. The Bible study that I’ve been involved with for the past 10 years, the Bible study that I love and look forward to every week, the Bible study that has been my constant through all of the moves and changes and upheavals, decided they were done with my family. They asked us not to come back…for awhile…but I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea any more. I was shocked and I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing–and I still really do love the group and what they stand for–so we’ll just leave it at that. Another loss, another change, another rough patch.

And then, just to add a little madness to the mayhem, we got word that our landlord here in California had died a week before Christmas. Well, not so much died, as he was murdered in his new home a few miles away from where we now live. Nobody really had a plan for this, so now our agent and the landlord’s brother and some attorneys are scrambling to figure out what to do. I don’t know if we’re going to be kicked out of our house (worst case scenario) or if they’ll decide to *sell us* the house for dirt cheap just to get it off their hands (best case scenario), but it’s just another thing. Another change, another challenge, another confusing and rough experience.

In summary, my January SUCKED. There were moments when I just wanted to push stop or rewind or erase so I could make it all go away. But if I’d done that, I would have missed a lot. Because, despite the pouring down of rough sucky-ness, there were lots of bright spots in my days.

There were bright spots like eating late-night brownie sundaes with my “comfy” friends (you know, the dear friends who you are so comfy around that you make a pact to wear sweats and messy hair when you hang out). Bright spots like handwritten notes. Bright spots like the neighbor that brought us dinner and a box of doughnuts. Bright spots like David’s teacher telling me how proud she was of his effort in school. Bright spots like the gift of a day out and some pampering (shout out to Val because, seriously, I have the best friends.). Bright spots like Jacob holding my face in his tiny hands and saying in his most earnest toddler voice, “Mommy, I LOVE you. You’re pretty.” Bright spots like Jon doing all the dishes WITHOUT ME EVEN SAYING A WORD ABOUT HELPING WITH THE DISHES.

Through all this, I’ve come to realize that no matter how ridiculous life might get, there are always bright spots. In order to find the bright spots, though, sometimes you have to do more than just look for them. Sometimes, you have to surrender first in order to find them. When you’re at that place of raw vulnerability, that place that I’m at now, you have to acknowledge that you simply can not depend on your plans, your dreams, your expectations. In the now-infamous words of Elsa of Arendelle, you have to “Let It Go” (OK, I may have watched Frozen with my kids a few (dozen) times this month when I couldn’t find the will to move off the couch).

But, seriously, sometimes you just have to throw in the towel and say I can’t do this. Because, really, you can’t. I can’t. We can’t. And we’re not supposed to. We were not created to handle, on our own, all that life throws at us–because, if we were, then there would be no need for God or a Savior. We were not created to carry the burdens of the world on our shoulders, because nobody’s shoulders are sturdy enough to carry that burden. No, we were created to surrender. We were created to need the God who created us, to surrender to the Savior He sent us, and to move confidently forward knowing that He has freed us. You have to acknowledge that there are times when life is tricky and confusing and maddening and rough. And you have to lay it all down at the foot of the cross and LEAVE IT THERE. You have to give it all up and let God take the reigns on your life. It’s not easy to do, but it’s worth it.

I’m at the breaking point, and I have a choice: I can rely on my own strength–and ultimately crumble–or I can surrender to God who will strengthen me. Hiding behind my own comforts and well-thought out plans isn’t going to work right now, because all of that has already been stripped away. I am left with one option: surrender.

Surrendering to God’s will is the only way to truly move forward, so that’s what I’m choosing. I’m surrendering January (praise the Lord!) and letting it all go. I’m surrendering the trauma of the miscarriage and the loss of our beloved Mimi and the questions that remain about my future. Because it’s not worth holding on to all that rough-stuff alone, and I know that I can’t live in the “now”, let alone move forward, if I’m carrying that burden alone. It’s too much. And, since I know the solution to this particular set of problems, I’m going to take it. I’m waving the proverbial white flag like a madwoman. I’m surrendering my life, my circumstances, my very heart to God–and sitting back to watch Him work.

Proverbs 23:26: “Give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.”

Done and done.

Goodbye January, and hello, February. Out with the old, in with the new. It’s time for a fresh start. Moving forward, now!

Change and “The 3-Month Rule”

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“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” – Hugh Prather

I’ve had more than my share of “life changes” over the last few years. In less than a decade I have: graduated from college, gotten married, bought a house, raised a puppy (which is a lot more work than I ever gave it credit for!), started a career, ended a career, supported my husband through graduate school, birthed two babies, and moved six times to three unique corners of the globe. With so many changes, it seems at times that the only constant in my life is change itself.  Moving to Ireland has no doubt been one of the biggest adjustments I’ve ever had to make. Living in a place that I’d never been to before, with people I’d never met, in a culture that is wonderful but different in so many ways has taken some getting used to. It’s taken some time.

And that’s where the 3-month rule comes in. In my varied experience playing the “change game”, I have discovered that it takes exactly 3 months for the pieces to come together after Big Change. The first week is always chaos, the first month is exciting yet draining, the second month is a mix of “what did I get myself into?” and discovery, and by the third month you start to figure things out. At the three month mark you finally feel comfortable in the new scenario, like you can actually handle this New Thing. And that’s where I find myself now.

Today marks 3 months since we arrived in Ireland. I finally feel at home, like I fit in here. I know how to drive places without GPS (and I don’t even have to think twice about which side of the road to drive on any more!). Our house feels like the place where our family lives. I remember to turn on the hot water boiler exactly 42 minutes before my kids need to take a bath. My son goes to school. I know where to find everything at the grocery store and I know my favorite vendors by name at our farmer’s market. I have a favorite park. I am serving at our church. I know our neighbors. I have friends. I am at peace with my Big Change.

But that still doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. There are times where I miss my friends and my family and I just want to talk to them and I go to call them and then realize that it’s 3 AM in Seattle so I hang up the phone. Or when I crave something from home that I just can’t have (where are the pumpkins, Ireland?!). Or when I start a conversation and realize that nothing I’ve said actually makes sense to the person I’m talking to. So, yes, there will still be adjustments and some things that I just have to get over. But that’s all part of the beauty of living through a Big Change: it changes you.

And that really is the best part of this whole experience: I know that I will walk away from this a different person, a better person. My life is being enriched by the people I am meeting, the places I am seeing, the new ways I am learning to think and to live. I am learning to trust God in new ways and to call on Him (no crazy time zones to worry about there!). Nobody ever said that change was easy, but I think that it is necessary. And now, after 3 months, I can honestly say that I appreciate this change.

Here’s to 3 months down, and many more to come. The learning curve is over–let the fun begin!