“Thermal Shock and Die”

I have a brother who is three years younger than me. When we were growing up, say oh, he was in middle school and I was in the beginning of high school, he and my dad would go off to Boy Scout camp. The trips ran Friday afternoon through Sunday mid-day. Overnights, tents, farting – you know the drill. I don’t; I wasn’t there.

While the boys were away the girls would play. And when I say “play” I mean my mom and I would camp out on the couch watching whole seasons of Gilmore Girls and eat entire pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The boys would be building snow forts, and chopping wood and starting fires and the girls would be snuggling under blankets and drinking hot chocolate and sleeping in.  These activities were never fully disclosed to the other parties upon return to family dinner on Monday nights. My mom and I would communicate with a smile about how sluggish we were and the boys would laugh and laugh about their adventures, keeping their inside jokes to one-liners, never letting us in to each others secrets.

However, there must have been one spectacular Boy Scout lesson that my brother had to share that is really coming to mind tonight. Before I get there, though, I feel I’ve got to give you some background info. For those of you who know my brother, it’s pretty obvious that we are polar opposites. He is loud and really funny and personable – hates being at home on any evening of the week. I, on the other hand, love me some quiet time, a cup of soup, a mug of tea, and hanging with my mom (nothing new here – did you read what I just wrote above?)

One weekend, in the winter, my brother came running through our house after tearing open the front door, leaving the freezing air to seep into our front room, clomping ever so loudly down the stairs to our basement abode. He had to share his Boy Scout preparedness lesson – all that one could do too prevent thermal shock. Skills, I imagine, that are incredibly necessary for winter survival. Something my fourteen year old self was NOT concerned about, as I did not plan on ever going camping in any weather below 55 degrees at night. Too be honest, I still do not.

I don’t remember the story, exactly, all I remember is the punch line of his story – that weekend, he was SO concerned, that he was going to “Get Thermal Shock and Die.” If you know my brother, ask him to say those five words because his tone is wonderfully threatening, wise and sarcastic. I can not get a recording here, but I do know that one-liner became my mom’s go to for reminding us to get gloves, wear coats, and bring a hat as the weather got colder. You MUST prepare for any weather, because you do not want to “Get Thermal Shock and Die.” It’s a family line now, a lesson imparted, and a reminder that my brother and I handle things ever so differently.

Tonight, I sit in my apartment and am full of gratitude as the weather drops below zero. November morphed into freezing weather and snow in 4 hours, as it often does in Colorado, and I seem to have forgotten what snow actually feels like. Yesterday, as the temperature dropped so did our thermostat. The little machine stopped working and before bed it was 59 degrees. It was a night of flannel sheets, and two comforters, and hoodies. I am so thankful for a responsive landlord who drove up quickly to fix it. Mostly, though, I was struck by the simple beauty of a bed, and extra blankets, and responsive problem solvers who care to take care of us.

I was channeling my mom as I got dressed to leave this morning. Gloves, check. Hat, check. Coat, check. No thermal shock here, not yet. I went about my day, warm at work, and nestled into routine. I got home, made soup, and could take a warm shower. Our thermostat was running. However, as I sat down to write, our pilot light went out on our fireplace right before I turned on the computer. There goes the idyllic writing in front of the fire place experience. Maybe I should stop shooting for idyllic writing sessions? Instead, I’m focusing on the beauty of a bountiful box of  hats and gloves to choose from. Not everyone is so lucky. Not to get morbid here, but I am thankful that I can just joke about “Thermal Shock” in jest, because I know, all too much, that not everyone can laugh that concern off.

I’m cleaning out my closet and donating my extra coats to Homeless Gear, because they need it. People, my friends, are cold and freezing and trying to stay warm, and I am so fortunate, that I can just turn that one-liner into a funny voice in my head. So, here is my PSA, donate your unused coats and warm clothes to those that need it. Do some research, find a place, help a person, warm some hands. I’ve got a big heart, I think about these things and want you to think about them too.

This week I’m settling into the beauty of bundling up, snow flakes and the cold, quiet that snow creates. I’m loving the twinkle lights that got lit for the holiday season downtown. They make my slow drive home much more enjoyable.


I’m setting into the beauty of gratitude this season and asking myself how can I give back what I have been given. And how can I stay warm? Do you have any family one-liners that you can laugh about? What about things you take for granted? How do you like to give back during this time of the year?

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