Did we kill our furnace?

I wish I could blame it on the Polar Vortex, but we’re not a part of the latest big weather phenom. I’m upstairs waiting for the repair guy to call up and confirm that we’ve killed our furnace.


I’m home with one kid on sick day # 3 watching Toy Story 2 for the second time. I’ve made grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch and monitored its intake while noting doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen given according to the tiny lettering on the bottles. He prefers cherry to orange. Teaspoons of straight up honey for the cough are well received. Interestingly, the sick kid’s big brother called home from the principal’s office claiming that he had a stomach ache mid-morning. He didn’t have a fever, though, so he was sent back to class and I haven’t received another call.

My fingers are crossed for both capital-H Health and capital-H Heat.

Our boys are healthy kids. The eldest in particular rarely goes down for the count, and he hasn’t missed a single day of school this year. I honestly can’t remember the last time he felt ill. The youngest, hit hard this time, is actually easier to handle sick than well. He’s noticeably subdued physically and emotionally. Last night, he fell asleep at 6:00 pm on the sofa. After brief wake up calls for water at 6 am, he’s slept until 9 am for the past two days, and I wonder if this is what it’s like to have a teenager (the sleeping in, I mean).

During the morning he gave pretend shots to Angry Birds on the floor because they were sick, too. When his fever finally dropped to 99 a few hours ago, he sang a quiet song.

99, 99, 99….I am 99…

Then it spiked again, and he grudgingly took some more Tylenol before settling down with Buzz and Woody.

The repair guy had been here for over two hours when I peeked in the furnace room. I’m way out of my element here. I don’t understand the language of forced air and breakers and venting and duct work and atomizing burners.  More than lack of understanding, I don’t even like it. I resent not understanding HVAC terminology, and it’s even more humbling given my husband’s cold sober expertise in energy efficiency.

I nodded solemnly as the guys explained to me what’s wrong with our furnace. He used words like Sludge, Old, and Dirty. I felt guilty. Why did we buy this old house anyway? The guy shook his head as he bent beneath the industrial light and stopped talking.

The whole situation made me mad. He was clearly frustrated with my limited filter inspection and cleaning skills, but hello? This is his job. We are paying him to do this. A lot. I don’t know how much of our check he takes home, but it’s not like I wanted our furnace to overwork itself into nonfunction. Some of us are too busy unintentionally doing that to ourselves.

A few years ago I facilitated a small group talk on overwork, overuse and burnout. We were speaking metaphorically, and within an office environment. But I understand now that overwork and burnout are possible in every area of our lives if we’re not careful.

Careful = full of care. I frequently tell my boys to be careful as they spring and sprint in circles around the playground. They call out yes, Mom! and then proceed to throw themselves down a hill. I instruct my husband to be careful as he leaves to go run errands in the car or on his bike. He always says, I will, and I feel better.

Today I am less worried about crashing and collision than I was several years ago. I know that jumping and running sometimes causes falling and tumbling. I’ve seen my boys bruise and bleed, mend and heal, and tended them with Band-Aids and kisses. But I do try to prevent their burning out on me, melting down in tears in that final hour before bed. If they do so, I understand they’ve done too much, absorbed too much, and need a long quiet break before they do it all over again the next day.

God knows I tend to my kids better than I’ve tended to (very important) things like a furnace. I felt just the teeniest bit irresponsible as I ensured the repair guy that we will schedule annual maintenance from now on (we just missed one year, for heaven’s sake), and he didn’t charge me for overtime. But the visit ended on a positive note when our dog scrambled downstairs to meet him on the way out. Turns out that the repair guy has two large dogs – a Lab-Rottweiler mix and a German Shepard – that collectively weigh over 200 lbs. Our Lab made friends, turned the repair guy’s mood right around, and we all parted amicably.

Sigh. This repair visit went WAY better than the one that resulted in a two thousand dollar toilet. But that’s another story.

Now to tend to my little one, who’s fighting that fever again.



One thought on “Did we kill our furnace?

  1. What a timely reminder for self care. Thank you for your wise and lovely words.

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