50 Below

As I’m writing this, it’s 43 degree outside. That’s more than 60 degrees warmer than it was three days ago, and that’s not counting the wind chill that took us below -50.

Chicago essentially shut down for two days because it was too cold to go outside. Taking Abigail out was an ordeal involving putting her in two sweaters, a jacket, and booties, and then making sure she didn’t stay out for more than five minutes. They ignited the system that keeps the train switches from freezing, which is an old but effective method of basically lighting the tracks on fire. By the time it was over, the entire city was showing serious signs of cabin fever (dogs included).

Abigail got a care package from her grandpawrents with toys for inside distraction!

It was so cold that upon stepping outside, my breath fogged my glasses and immediately turned to ice. We left our faucets on a trickle to make sure they didn’t burst (since Kyle gets all of the Chicago emergency dispatch alerts on his work phone, we heard about burst pipes roughly every 30 seconds. Also, my drought-sensitive California brain constantly battled the instinct to turn them off.) It was so cold that the salt we’d scattered stopped working, so ice would build up around our door and we’d have to kick it open before carefully navigating the stairs. I felt incredibly reaffirmed in our decision to replace the HVAC system, though I am a bit terrified to receive our gas bill.

Our only emergency, which happened yesterday, turned out to be a false alarm – the valve on one of our pipes that goes out to a garden hose came off somehow, resulting in a temporary waterfall just outside the basement wall. I climbed under our stairs and reattached it, dollar signs flashing before my eyes. This is the same crawlspace where we’ve clearly had something burrowing, so I’m happy to report that I wasn’t mauled by a pack of raccoons or sprayed by a skunk. Yay homeownership!

All that being said, there’s nothing that highlights the privileges you have like bitter, brutal cold. Kyle’s job with the Red Cross gives us a peak into how lucky we are to have a home, reliable heat, warm winter clothes, and enough money for a back-up plan if we have to leave our home for some reason. We live on a block with good neighbors who shovel each others’ sidewalks. Our jobs allow us to work from home instead of risking travel when the weather is flat out dangerous. I’m thankful for all of this year-round, but especially in the winter.

I’m also thankful that we’ll be leaving winter behind for a while. On Thursday we leave for our vacation to Guatemala and Belize, and I am SO EXCITED I can barely stand it. I’ve never been to Central America, and our plan is to have a blend of adventure and drinking rum punch on the beach. It’s going to be magical.

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