Monday, January 14, 2008

The Quest for Comfort

There are three important things that you should know about me:

1) I am afraid of spiders.
2) I am claustrophobic.

Knowing those two pieces of information, you might wonder how I found myself in a situation like this:

That is because the third thing you should know about me is that I am always cold. In fact, I am usually so cold that you can feel the frigidness emanating from my feet, even through my socks. My work environment isn’t very conducive to helping me stay warm. I work in my attic where there is no duct work, and, therefore, no heat. I have a little space heater but it does not cut the mustard when heating a space in which I spend at least 40 hours per week.

My father-in-law, Frank, installed a Reiker Room Conditioning ceiling fan in his home office. I thought that would be just the thing I needed for my office, since it is also a heater. So I went out and bought one. A bit impulsively.

As we were installing this fan, for which the directions said would take 45 minutes and for which we are going on day 3 (through no fault of the fan, I might add), we realized the project wouldn’t be as easy as we had hoped. Are they ever? The previous ceiling fan was wired to the same circuit that supplied power to my attic lights. And the living room lights. And the dining room lights. And part of the kitchen. And the entertainment unit downstairs. We could not plug another 12.5 amps into an already overloaded circuit. The attic has old, non-usable space heaters built into the walls, so we decided we could tie the wiring for the new fan into the space heater circuit. A brilliant fix, until I saw the crawl space above the ceiling.

John was standing under the ceiling fan fixture, trying unsuccessfully to feed the wire through the ceiling and down the wall to the space heater, while I was standing on the ladder, staring into the crawl space trying to come to terms with my choices: Send John in to get stuck or worse, fall through the ceiling; crawl in there myself; or scrap the whole project. I pictured my warm, toasty office and before I had time to think about what I was doing, I yelled, “I’m going in!” I hollered a couple of “Aiyeeeeee’s” into the space and banged on the floor to try and scare away any squatters, and I was up and in the crawl space before I had time to consider that I had no protective gear on and nothing to smash a spider or shoo a mouse with should I encounter any. I was wearing house slippers and changing into real shoes would have given me time to talk myself out of going in there.

You can see from the picture above that I am not exaggerating about the size of the space. That picture is shot from a pretty unflattering angle, but I am a size 6 so you can tell how small that space must be. They should rename the “crawl” space the “slide on your belly like a snake” space. Because that’s what I had to do to reach the spot above the fan. Every once in a while I’d encounter a spider web. I’d tell myself the spider was off wintering in South Miami, use a piece of wood chunk I picked up to clear away the web, and continue slithering toward my destination.

I made it, grabbed the wire, and started feeding it down the side of the wall toward the space heater. Insulation was in the way, so I had to grab at it and move it around and smoosh it, stirring up fiberglass. This whole time, I did not look around and kept sending my mind to its happy place – a warm and toasty attic. I kept yelling down to John, “Do you see it yet?” “What?” he’d yell back. “DO YOU SEE IT YET?” I’d screech. “Not yet.” So, I pulled a little more wire into the ceiling so I could push more down to John and, oops!, here comes the other end of the wire up into the ceiling. “WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HOLDING THAT?” “Jack, did you let go of the wire?” “Dad, you said I didn’t have to hold it anymore.” “MOTHER &%#$%^!” Thank goodness for heavy insulation. And thank goodness that I couldn’t have crawled out of there quickly or I would have beat them both with my fiberglass coated slippers.

I had come too far to stop, so I continued to feed the wire down the wall. “I got it!” yelled John. Thank you, Lord. Now, all I had to do was feed the other end of the line that the slackers down below had let me pull through the ceiling back down to them. The tricky part would be crawling off of the 2x4 board that I was balanced on, as the board ended about two feet before the ceiling fan, onto the insulation to feed the wire back through. There was no turning back (literally – there wasn’t enough room) so I gingerly slid onto the insulation with my knees staying on the board and fed the wire back through.

“That’s it, come out of there,” said John. Easier said than done. The nice thing about sliding forward is that your clothes stay flat and in the position they are supposed to be in. When you slide backward, your clothes get pushed up exposing skin to all kinds of abuses.

So John began to guide me out. “That’s right, keep coming, your almost there, your feet are out, the ladder is right there.” I expected hands on my ankles at this point to guide me to the ladder. “Are you taping me?” He was.

And I’m not mad at John for taping me or embarrassed by this video, even though I look ridiculous in my slippers and socks and scrunched up sweat pants, because this video is proof that I overcame two of my worst fears, even if only for a short time (probably about 20 minutes, although it felt like 20 hours).

So, I have fiberglass in my fingers, legs, belly, and face; I’m hoarse from yelling; my throat and lungs are irritated from breathing in fiberglass; and I keep having nightmares about being trapped in a trunk full of spiders. But just telling the boys about what I did and showing them the crawl space and seeing the expression on their faces made it worth it. It’s not often I get to impress the boys. I would say that the heat from the fan made it all worth it, but I can’t. Every time I try to turn the fan on, it trips the circuit breaker.


Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Brave Heather! Next stop - Fear Factor!

Valarie said...

OMGosh! I am cracking up right now!!! That last shot on the video of your feet hanging over the edge..LOL!! and "I hollered a couple of “Aiyeeeeee’s” has to be one of the funniest lines I have ever read on a blog!! This was great! Oh, and it is awesome that you faced your fears.

Mrs. G. said...

You are a braver woman than me. That video looked like a low budget horror movie...creepy. I love that you are DOING it and your husband is filming it.

Kellan said...

Oh My - how funny! Isn't your husband so sweet - guiding you out of that "hole".

Hey - thanks for coming over and leaving the well wishes - I am fine - only need to remember about that bra thing the next time I ever have to call 911. Hope to see you tomorrow. Kellan

Damama T said...

CONGRATULATION!! And guess what!! You've inspired me to start a new thing over at my place. You are the first to receive Damama's YOU DONE GOOD! award. You can go pick it up at

I'm very proud of you!

Loth said...

Well done! I feel I know you so much better now. Or at least your slippers!

Sue Panus said...

Are you crazy? Just thinking about that small space made me want to barf(as Luke would say). But never miss a chance to impress the boys and that much torture would impress them.

Love MOM

Anonymous said...

Heather Stork is one of the bravest women I know. Her determination overcomes her fears and her actions very often save the day. This attic story reminds me of the time she rescued Nancy's dog Bud from the jowls of a hungry Husky. Bud was mistaken for lunch by Panda and ended up with several broken ribs and a pneumothorax. He was near death and we were several miles from the nearest vet. The valley was flooded. Once again Heather gave no thought to the danger and bypassed the flooded intermittent stream by barreling through the flooded woodland and on to the "safety" of the loose gravel road. She hauled ass fifteen miles into town while I clung to Bud and the car door while saying several Hail Mary's under my breath. I will never forget the fearless look on her face. Bud survived and lived another several years. I had a newfound respect for my new sister-in-law. You are braver than you know Heather!

Heather said...

My sister-in-law, Jules, who commented above, is a mentor for bravery. When I wasn't sure what we were going to do and I looked at her, she pointed at the field and said, "Whatever you do, once you start don't stop." Had she wavered at all I never would have been brave enough to four-wheel it across that flooded field. Neither of us spoke or took a breath until we made it across.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your story about installing the ceiling fan/space heater so much, I read it a second time. After reading it twice, I have come to this conclusion:

You must have a very intelligent father-in-law!

Unknown said...

Woohoo! Go, Heather!

Kathy said...

You are braver than I am! Congrats!!

Dragonstar said...

Oooh! Even if I was small enough 9which I'm not!) I don't think I could have done that.
Damama pointed me this way, and I'm so glad she did. In the famous words "I'll be back"