Tuesday, January 17, 2012


A few days ago, just when I was starting to believe that this global warming thing was finally working, winter arrived in the Berkshires. Our balmy evenings in the mid-30s (fahrenheit) plummeted toward 0.

Our house is a funky split-level built into the side of a mountain. The first floor is at ground-level on one side, a few feet below ground-level on another and underground on the final two. It houses the garage, the laundry room and my office. Although my office windows open onto the ski mountain across the street, we refer to it as "the basement".

When it gets cold out, Iris and I often take to sleeping in the basement. It has a substantially overpowered wood stove and a nice little pullout bed we got at IKEA. On cold winter nights, it's the coziest room in the house. We both love sleeping in the basement. When we have guests, we always happily oblige them to our bedroom and we sleep "in the basement."

Not a Total Panacea
There are only two downsides to sleeping in the basement. First, you can't just plop into bed; you have open the IKEA foldout. This being a downside speaks more to my predilection for efficiency than the effort required to open and close the bed. It can't take more than a minute to open the bed, lay out the sheets and blankets, and drop the pillows. However, it's more work than just plopping into the bed upstairs.

The second is a bit more significant (yes, even more significant than opening and closing a bed from IKEA). It exposes one of my more challenging flaws. Sleeping in the basement we often go to bed at the same time. However, I tend to wake up about two hours before Iris. The challenge is a disorder I've struggled with since childhood. It's one that my mom asked the doctor about during almost every visit saying things like, "Is there nothing we can do?"

Although I've tried and tried and tried, I just don't know how to be quiet. There, I've said it. I'm not ashamed of it. I am a loud person.

When we sleep upstairs (that's two floors up and on the other side of the house) waking up two hours before Iris is no problem. I close the bedroom door and go down to my office. Separated by two levels of flooring and a sturdy bedroom door, the effects of my problem are minimized. However, when we sleep in the basement, my desk is but a scant four feet from the bed.

The Time-of-Day Effect
The biggest problem is that I tend to be most loud in the morning. I get up really excited about the day. I try to be really, really quiet while stoking the wood stove. I slowly turn the latch that releases the door careful not to let it clang. I gingerly place new pieces of wood atop the glowing embers, singeing the tips of my fingers because I don't want them to drop and make noise. I carefully poke and prod the the various elements until flame erupts and then quietly close the door. It's only afterward that I realize I've been singing the whole time.

I'm not good at quiet and specially not in the morning. I just noticed that I've been whispering the words I've been typing as they appear on the screen before me.

This morning at just a bit past six, I felt the bed move. Iris had just sat up and placed her feet on the floor. I asked, "Are you getting up?"

As she stood and walked toward the bathroom, she said, "Yes. I have a lot I want to do before I go out this morning."

Before I knew it, I had bounded out of bed, raced up behind her, and apparently said, "Yippee!"

Iris turned to look at me, her eyes doing all the questioning.

Then like a phone call relayed through satellite, I heard myself say "Yippee" and thought, "Oh, she's wondering about the 'Yippee' part."

The words often form in my mouth just milliseconds before they hit my brain. I found myself saying, "Uh... I guess that since you're up, I don't have to be quiet this morning."

OK, maybe they form in my mouth seconds before they hit my brain.

Iris looked at me and smiled, saying, "Unlike the other mornings where you were 'quiet', you don't have to be quiet this morning."

"Yippee", I thought, err, said, uhh, then thought.

Happy Tuesday,

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