Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hot, Hot...


We're back on the west coast, and IT IS HOT.

(Hot, hot, damhot, in Southernese.)

I am spoiled.

I’ve forgotten what it feels like to live in a house with no air conditioning.

It’s in the high 80’s, low 90’s here in West L.A.  (100’s further inland.) Lower humidity than home, but that doesn’t seem to matter around 4:00 p.m. or so.  If you try to take a nap to escape for a while, a trickle of sweat will wake you up. Then you’re even grouchier.

I was born in a hospital with no air conditioning. On a day in June when the temperature was 102. My mother has fond memories of the experience. (Or she did until recently.) I went to schools with no air conditioning. My home didn’t have central air until I was 10 years old.

In those days, Back-to-School jitters were intensified by the knowledge that you’d soon be trading the cool waters of an all-day pool adventure (complete with ice cream), for the torture of sticking to a hot wooden seat with sweat pooling under your pretty little cotton dress and starchy petticoat. (*BF, could you please send me that pic of us on the first day of First Grade? Pretty please?)

Anyway, I should be accustomed to scorching, unairconditioned afternoons. It shouldn’t be such a shock. But I feel like I’m in a time warp. The Depression South of literature.

Does anyone remember Harper Lee’s description of the heat in To Kill A Mockingbird?

Maybe I’m in a scene from Streetcar Named Desire. I think I hear Stanley Kowalski screaming on the sidewalk beside my open window. (But this one has a different accent.)

Too much heat can change your personality. Make you into someone petty and mean and lazy and crazy.

I feel like my brain is baking.

Tensions soar as the thermometer rises. Fuses are short. Tempers are as hot as the burning air.

Yesterday, an older woman stood on the corner across from the house and screamed profanity. But I didn’t see anyone else around. Maybe she was just cussing out the air.

When I’m perpetually hot like this, all I want to do is escape.

Instead, I walk around the house as scantily clad as possible. On extreme days, I leave the tub full of tepid water and take frequent dippings throughout the long afternoons. We keep the blinds shut, the lights off. Anything to take it down a notch or two.

Why have I become such a baby… a wimp?

I bet Katie in Uganda doesn’t live in an air-conditioned house. I wonder what percent of the world’s population even has the ability to “control climate.” I tried to Google the question, and ran across some interesting articles.

Many environmentalists are concerned that our obsession with keeping cool is actually contributing to global warming. Yikes. What will it feel like in 10 or 15 years? 70,000 people died from heat-related causes in the European Heat Wave of 2003. Less than 10 years ago.

This sentence from an article in Salon made me contemplate:

“…we get into a downward spiral with air conditioning, because science shows that our biological tolerance for the heat is eroded if we spend almost all of our time in climate-controlled bubbles.” (Losing Our Cool,” Ryan Brown, Salon.

I want to live in a bubble.

A bubble whose luminescent borders keep out discomfort, pain, inconvenience, and ugliness. I want an anesthetized life.

But that not’s a real life.

The quote above revealed what’s wrong with me:

…years of ease have eroded my tolerance for discomfort.


I’ve been desultorily writing this over a period of days. Five minutes here, five there. I’m not going to lie. This has been an extremely hard and stressful time. Katherine is still in active pain and having terrible side effects from the meds. Situations have been complicated. Even a bath is a complicated and exhausting procedure. The unusual heat has exacerbated the suffering. We’re all feeling frayed around the edges.

Yesterday morning, I read this in my quiet time:

“…it is important not to be surprised or alarmed by the many trials that enter your life. Until you reach your ultimate home in heaven, you will be at war. When you have a wartime mentality, it’s easier to handle difficulties as they arise: You don’t waste time and energy bemoaning your circumstances; you avoid the trap of feeling singled out for hardship.
     I do indeed equip you fully to handle your difficulties. But you have to have to make the effort to use what I provide: My Presence, My Word, and My Spirit. Come to me when you are heavy-laden and you will find rest for your soul.” (Dear Jesus, Sarah Young, page 102.)

And I remember:

The tolerance we manage to develop in dealing with the small battles in life equips us with the stamina to fight the big ones.

We’ve got plenty of big ones to fight around here.

Help me put my big girl panties on…  and deal.


Okay, you know that I’m prone to hyperbole. It’s cooled down a few degrees in the meantime. My body is learning to tolerate. My son-in-law has promised to find me a window unit. And James and I have found a great way to escape. (Not to mention the weekend trip the whole family made to a wonderful resort.) So don’t feel too sorry for whiny old me.

Is anyone else old enough to remember when schools weren't air conditioned?

Is anyone else affected by the heat like this, or is it just me?


Best way to escape a sweltering day in L.A.????

Best dime I ever spent.

"...the cool waters of an all-day pool adventure (complete with ice cream...)"


Mary Walsh said...

Oh Kim,

I so know what you mean. I have a love/hate relationship with the AC. I love to be cool but hate being shut up inside. I too grew up with no AC in flatroofed schools. I do remember the teacher reading to us with the lights off and fan on to try to get us cooled off. My farmhouse in SC had no AC but had huge screened in porches, high ceilings and huge oak trees all of which helped. I do remember going to bed at night with a piece of ice wrapped in paper towel to take an edge off the heat. In fact, I did not have central AC and heat or a garage until we moved into a suburban house when Sarah was one. Growing up I walked through the grass/pasture to get to my car parked in the back of the barn. Though driving as fast as I could over the grass/pasture to park it was fun. And did I mention that I could get my drivers' license at age 13 in SC? I drove to school from the middle of 7th grade on.

Laurel said...

The worst I had it during school years was the year the AC went out in one of the high school buildings. No AC for the first week of Alabama. I had my first two classes in that building so I was a sticky, frizzy haired mess for that whole first week.

College apartments and post-college years with no AC.

The upside is that I learned the trick of wearing slightly damp clothes around the house.

But you're right. It doesn't take long to get soft when things are comfortable. That being said, Katherine is probably made of rebar by now! Hope she feels better soon.

becky weber said...

Read Sarah YOung's Jesus Calling last week on a blessed lake retreat with my hubby. I don't think you're supposed to read a daily devotional from January - December in two days but I did. Practicing the presence of God - a thankful heart and a trusting heart. Feels like a secret I needed to know and I needed its messages so much. Harder when the swirling vortex' of life seem to overwhelm me, or when without AC! Praying Katherine's pain and these trying times will diminish soon for all of you. She remains in my prayers always. Becky

Anonymous said...

No, you're absolutely not alone in this. The weather has an...interesting... effect on me, too. You're not the only one who's...somewhat extreme heat.

Katherine is angelic in her wedding photos-- ethereal, graceful, so lovely-- but she is showing us an even greater beauty now. Every single day of this is a testament to her courage. My heart breaks for her, yet at the same time, she makes me want to be a better person.

-- Em

Anonymous said...

Just returning to let you know you remain in my thoughts. I looked up the weather in your neck of the woods, and was very sorry to see today was another scorcher. I sure hope it cools off soon. Please take good care of yourselves.


Anonymous said...

I taught elementary school for 12 years...NEVER in air-conditioned ceiling fans either. I did provide a couple of for me and an oscillating one for the class. Can you imagine all the kids returning from P.E. (outdoors)?? No AC in my car back then either. My discomfort tolerance is most definitely eroded! I'm an AC addict!
Katherine, and all of you, remain in my prayers. Blessings.


Candy said...

So sorry you are having this heat wave. I am praying for cooler weather.a little late in my reply...This on top of all you need to do.
How well I remember the days in Coral Gables High as our hormonally -charged bodies were first subjected to outside exercise just after lunch, then a 2-3 minute shower before heading to Chemistry Class in an un-airconditioned sweatbox of a room. Not only that, we wore asbestos aprons to keep us safe from experiments gone awry.
Peeling off those aprons only exposed the dripping sweaty dresses or skirts and blouses we wore back then, many made out of the "new" non-breatheable fabrics like polyester. Mom's with five children and help only twice a week didn't iron much, so cotton wasn't their first choice for purchases. We didn't have A/C. until I was in Jr. High, except for one year in Tucson AZ. At least the lack of humidity and a backyard pool made the heat far more tolerable there. Thank goodness we retreated to our family compound on a lake in Wisconsin for the summer months. sleeping porches so we wouldn't get Polio...
hen I was a small child, through elementary school.
Then summer camp in Blowing Rock, NC, with our Miami riding instructor on the side of Grandfather Mountain. I don't know how she and her husband managed it, but they had 60 acres surrounded by National Forrest. We sang in the choir at the Baptist Church, did laundry in Boone, NC, once a week, ate at The Farmhouse Restaurant- all 13 of us. Took rides to caves and had hot dogs and roasted marshmallows one night a week- nice and cool.. all of us lived in the concrete basement- with ONE bathroom. We had to take care of the horses we rode, daily Bible Study (with tests!), made our own food. It was really idyllic. Some of God's most beautiful landscaping. My horse would stand still and let me pick cherries from the taller trees, while I stood on his back.
I don't like to sweat- period. Once I'm doing an activity that causes it, say, gardening, I don't mind it as much. I know it's cleansing, but it still feels so unladylike and brings back such awful memories of days in so. FL with no A/C. We didn't even have AC at Emory; at least for the first two years!
So sorry for this to have been added to Katherine's bound leg. If you get a chance, everyone should like, "The Adventures of Timothy Green." Movie theaters are air conditioned! My first movie in Atlanta since college,on my birthday last week- my friend picked it out for us, and we both cried. One of the most heartwarming films I've seen. Probably need to see it twice to really appreciate everything (with my memory problems). Jennifer Garner's costume designer bought many of Jennifer's clothing at my favorite consignment boutique in Buckhead. I think it was filmed at The Biltmore Estates. Such glorious color. The boy reminded me of James- in looks, as I don't know James' personality except through you.
How dd this story end up so great while beginning with the topic of SWEAT? I Love You All, Candy

Anonymous said...

I loved the story of the father-son outing on the other blog. The weather coming up this week in your area doesn't look too bad. Remember that many people, those you know, and those you will never meet, are praying for you, and beautiful Katherine. May God bless you.