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Illustration by Drew Shannon

Father forgive me for I have sinned. I touched the house thermostat. In my household, that is a cardinal sin. Outside, snow covers my driveway. Frost skates over the windows leaving a lace pattern and I wrap my cardigan tighter around my shivering body. In my defence, I hesitated before I pressed the up arrow. My spouse’s obsession with maintaining a 21 C room temperature makes compliance difficult. On the plus side, I have a lovely collection of sweaters courtesy of his rigid rules.

Most days I resist adjusting the heat. I instinctively know when it’s bedtime as our programmable thermostat drops three degrees. My nose is cold when I crawl under the bed linens. In a romance novel, this might be the perfect setting for an intimate rendezvous; brisk midnight air and a trembling female protagonist. Ha! Think again. I’m freezing and I know who is responsible. As I huddle for warmth, cocooning myself with pillows, I debate what penance I’ll serve for having messed with the setting.

Visitors to my home come prepared; swathed in layers and wearing woolly socks. I’ve considered learning the art of knitting so I can create colourful slippers for family and friends who drop by.

Alberta winters drag on. They stretch from October to April at the very least, and the air is dry and cracks our skin. If you look closely, you might spot the face of the Virgin Mary etched into the sole of my foot. So my spouse constantly checks the house humidity with an electronic gadget he purchased.

“See, if the little fellow’s face is smiling, that means we’ve achieved sufficient humidity,” he says. “A downward frown indicates the climate needs fixing.”

He’s even fashioned his own humidifier to combat the problem. He filled a number of plastic bowls and distributed them throughout the home beside various heating registers. This involved a wet rag half submerged in the water bowl and hung over the side. It’s his scientific understanding of osmosis. The water travels up the rag and the air evaporates the water. Voila! He blessed our home with a mini humidifier. Hold the patent filing.

“You’re destroying the house!” I cried when I discovered his makeshift solution was rusting the metal register and staining the carpet. “The walls already have watermarks from your habit of leaving the shower running endlessly.”

More than once I’ve begged him to shut the water off when he’s done as I peer at the mist-free spot that I’ve wiped in the mirror to apply my makeup. “My mascara isn’t waterproof. I’m going to look like a clown in my Zoom meeting.”

“But your clothes won’t be wrinkled,” he replied.

My objections finally prompted him to invest in three portable humidifiers. If I dare switch off the noisy humidifier during the day our house gets frosty when hubby arrives home. “It’s too loud during my Zoom meeting,” I explained.

“It takes forever to get the humidity back up,” he grumps in reply and stomps around to check the water tanks.

Recently, a brutal double-digit cold snap made our windows weep. “We have too much humidity,” I said, mopping up the condensation melting on the windowsills. He brushed my concerns aside saying, “It’s only a temporary annoyance.” But I refuse to genuflect to the humidifier.

No matter what the season, the fluctuation of temperature is a constant battle. I thought when we replaced the old windows any cold zones would disappear. Winter’s harsh breath continues chilling the bones of my home.

This past summer we clashed over the heat too but managed to compromise. I conceded to switching out our heavier down comforter for a lighter summer duvet. He programmed the air conditioner to turn on when the room temperature rose to 23 C. When I started working from home this luxury was greatly appreciated. Family dropped by to share our breezy abode, and I enjoyed the opportunity to entertain. We didn’t break a sweat throwing a barbecue during a heat wave when we could eat comfortably inside.

However, when the air conditioning emitted a deathly rattle and a bang, the gig was up. “The service repairman is overbooked,” hubby said. “Just keep the blinds closed and I’ll install a fan in the upstairs window during the night.”

Days slogged into weeks. I lived in the dark like a cloistered nun. The manual fan burred and whirred replacing the air conditioner hum. We both got crabby. I avoided using the oven. Fresh salads and berries with ice cream became our preferred meal plan. My spouse went searching for a portable AC unit. It was like hunting for the Holy Grail. He bought the first one he found and hauled the equipment upstairs. “I’m going to cool this place down,” he said. Armed with packing tape and poster board he ‘MacGyvered’ it into one window and made it work. Alleluia!

For years I was worried that menopause might prompt more climate change protest. I’ve been fortunate, though. I haven’t experienced any hot flashes, unless you count the sunburn I endured as a result of lounging outside when it was cooler outdoors compared to our stuffy home.

Everything I read tells me dealing with climate change requires awareness, education and compromise. I do my best to adapt but it’s hard inside my home. Some days, I groan my displeasure at adhering to all my husband’s hot and cold rules. I’m not a medical doctor, a scientist or an environmental expert. However, in my home an Arctic wind gusts from the Northern Hemisphere when I touch the thermostat. Father forgive me, for I have sinned.

Desiree Kendrick lives in Edmonton.