Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Polly Purebread? Katie Kcheerful? Whatever.

Oh, good grief.  What a way to begin the year.

On Christmas day, my husband got sick.  Waaay sick. With a fever bouncing up to 103F. The next day, I got sick. My fever only got up to 101F.

We were at my parents' house, and my kids were there and fortunately they did not get sick.  But of course, my father did.  And my brother, who spent Christmas day with us but was driving to Iowa with his wife, came down with it too and had to turn around and go back home.

So on the 27th (I think -- I may have lost a day in there somewhere), I drove us home from Chicago to Michigan.  That was a very long four hours, I'm telling you. My husband and I stayed sick for several days, but he was far worse.  I'm terribly lucky that my kids were self-sufficient enough to find themselves meals (I had staggered to the grocery store when we got home and stocked up on frozen meals, canned soups, and other easy-to-assemble stuff).

A few days later, I started to come out from my haze, and it was New Year's Eve.  Also known as "the day before my husband's birthday."  Fortunately, somewhere in my fevered haze, I had ordered several gifts for him, taking advantage of after-Christmas sales online. I dashed out (dashed is probably an ambitious term for my speed, now that I think of it) and picked up a bunch of gourmet cupcakes, some take-out awesome tacos, and wrapping paper. My husband went to bed early because his fever popped back up to 102, and so my kids and I stayed up to watch the festivities in New York. It was pretty sweet, actually.

The next day was my husband's birthday AND the Rose Bowl.  Our school was playing in the Rose Bowl, and we know lots and lots of people who were in the marching band and teaching the band, so it was great fun to watch the parade and keep our eyes peeled for folks we know.

Eventually, we gave K his birthday presents and his cupcakes, and settled in to eat ordered-in pizza and watch the Rose Bowl game. It was a fabulous game, which our school WON!

But the bliss was not to last.  Two days later, I had to go to our local college where I teach; I was on the committee to choose a new faculty member, and we had to meet some of the candidates. I drove our adorable little 2-year-old car out there (a mere 1.5 miles away) in the cold weather, and had a nice time interviewing our candidates.  HOWEVER.
I went to go home, and naturally, my car wouldn't start.  Even when the security folks at the college came out to jump start it, nada.  I called a tow truck and waited.  Waited.  Waited.  Pretty soon (45 minutes or so) I was a shivering idiot, so I abandoned the car (and my purse, sigh) and walked to a building across the street and waited another 45 minutes. Naturally, my phone was low on charge, and I hadn't brought a charger.
The tow people were going to call me if they couldn't get to me (roads were pretty snowy), so I really needed to know if they had called.  I thought that possibly my car might charge my phone even if it wouldn't start, so I bundled up and walked back to the car.  In the process of turning the key to turn on the electricity, I accidentally went too far, and voila, the car started.
Quickly, before the damned thing decided to die on me, I drove to the dealership. Naturally, I didn't have the phone number of the tow company (I had been forwarded through my auto insurance office), so I had no way to let them know I had started my car. Guilt.

I got to the dealership, and turned off the car.  Then I face-palmed, because I tried to start it to move it further into the dealership's garage and I didn't start.
Of course.

I tossed them the keys and let them deal with it. Fortunately, my husband (who was still sick) was able to come pick me up and bring me home.

The next morning, of course, I had to go to work until about 2.  On the way home, I got a call from my husband.  Our house was full of a light grey smoke.  Naturally.  It was frigid cold out, and I had our only functioning car. I hurried home, and was appalled when I walked in.  There was a haze that smelled of burning rubber filling the house.  We had to go pick up our car, because they were going to close soon; we were lucky because it was only a totally dead battery. Do we take our dogs with us?  Is it our furnace? Is the house on fire somewhere we can't see?

I left the back sliding door open a foot in case the dogs needed to escape (a cheery thought, right?), and called a furnace repair person.  While we waited for the furnace tech to call us back, we piled the kids into the car and went to get the other car, hoping our home would be there when we got back.

By the time I got the car and returned, K was happy to say that the haze had mostly cleared out, and that the furnace was running ok again. I talked on the phone to the tech and told him our story.  He asked if we had heat, and I said that we did.  It was a very cold day, and he said he had a few homes without heat, and so he could come by if we absolutely needed him, but that he'd rather prioritize the people who were getting cold.

So we spent the evening watching the snow begin to fall, listening to the furnace, and worrying.  I slept in the living room, sniffing periodically. It was a long night. Early the next morning, my nose woke me up. There was a very light haze, but a fairly strong smell. I ran to the basement with my flashlight, only to see nothing out of the ordinary.  However, my husband noticed that the furnace was no longer turning on.  He checked and saw it had blown a fuse; when he replaced it, it promptly blew again. Ok.  This is getting serious.

By now, the neighborhood had about 16 inches of snow. Possibly up to 20, not counting drifts.  Snow plows never get to our street. The famed "polar vortex" was beginning to affect us, and the temperatures were dropping below zero.  Great.  No furnace, and no easy way to get to us.

I called the furnace guy back, and told the secretary our story.  She said that if we weren't plowed, she didn't know if he'd be able to get to us, but he'd try. She said they'd call us back soon.  OK then. Progress.  We pulled out our space heaters and an electric blanket, lit a fire, and put on robes over our clothes. We've got this.

After an hour or so, we got the call. "Jeremy, the technician, is stuck down the block from you. We're sending out another truck to try to pull him out."

Jeez.  I peeked out and saw him a half block away, shoveling out around his truck. By the time my husband and I got in our boots, coats, hats, and all the layers we could shove on, two neighbors were already out there, shoveling and pushing.
We joined in the fun, and within 10 minutes, we had him in front of our house.  Granted, he was stuck in a drift in front of our house, but he was at least here.

I invited him in while K and our neighbors (and our/their kids) grabbed shovels and started the process of digging him out again.

He diagnosed our furnace as having a bad case of "it's REALLY REALLY OLD" and also the blower motor was shot.  Sadly, he did not have an appropriate replacement motor in his truck and would have to drive (eep!) to the warehouse and get it.  Fortunately, our amazing dig-out team had cleared the way, and he was able to trundle down the snowy street to pick up the miracle part that would solve our problems.

Within an hour, he was back and working in the basement.  Of course, since it was such an old furnace, it was BACKWARDS from most he's worked on, and he had to take it all apart and reverse it after he'd gotten it all finished because he realized it was blowing the air backwards.  Sigh.

That poor guy got a nice tip, I'll tell you.

Just over $500 later, we were the proud owners of a new motor thingy, and when the sun set and the temperature dropped to 30 below zero, I realized it was a very very well-spent chunk of change.

So now, my car works.  My furnace works.  My husband is better. I am better. My father is almost better, and my brother, while still sick (he's an over-achiever), is on the road to better.  My kids are fine. My dogs are fine.

School has been cancelled (even the university) for two days, and the kids have another day off tomorrow. We've got enough food to keep us happy, and we have power.  It's amazing how well it's all going, given what could have been.

I don't quite know how to feel about all of this.  Normally, I think that I'd be angry that so much went wrong. I don't feel angry this time.  Just grateful, because it could have been SO much worse.