The barn: What a Christmas sleepover taught me about keeping your fires stoked

Each December 26th, my mom’s side of the family gathers in Port Albert, Ontario for some post-Christmas partying. Invariably, the raucous event draws out-of-towners like myself who need a place to crash once we’ve exhausted the boxes of wine.

That’s where the Van Osch barn comes in handy. Now, before you start picturing me sleeping in manure with a bunch of pigs, let me explain. Years ago, my aunt and uncle cleaned out the building’s hay loft and converted the upper level into a finished, insulated guest suite, complete with its own washroom.

However, one Boxing Day, I hesitated to use it because my cousin and her boyfriend were already up there by the time I returned from the holiday revelry. The last thing I wanted was to walk in on them playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Instead, I decided to sleep on a dirty couch on the ground floor of the barn — the un-insulated, unfinished and frigidly cold ground floor of the barn. Though questioning my judgement, Uncle Bernie nonetheless helped me out by loading up the wood stove that sat next to my makeshift bed.

We popped inside the main house to let the space warm up, and after a couple more drinks, I bundled up and trudged out to the barn.

Suffice to say, Uncle Bernie knew how to make a fire. Stepping in from the howling, Huron County snowstorm, a heat fist punched me in the face and I was instantly drenched in sweat. I’ve dug wells under the noonday sun in Ghana. I’ve hiked in sweltering jungles along the Equator. I’ve played badminton in Taiwanese humidity.

The barn was hotter by far.

I immediately stripped everything off except my newly acquired Christmas gotchies, tossed the blankets to the floor, flopped down on the ratty couch and fell asleep in a pool of my own sweat.

Several hours later I woke up convinced I had been transported to a wampa’s cave on the ice planet Hoth. I would have killed for the warm guts of a tauntaun. The fire had gone out while I slept, and any residual heat had long since been sucked out through the gaps in the barn boards.

I lay there in my underwear and wanted to cry. Impossible of course, since I’m pretty sure my tear ducts had frozen. My entire body was racked with chills so powerful my back ached.

With numb fingers, I put all my clothes back on, including my winter coat, toque and mittens. Adding more wood to the stove, I pulled the thin blankets over my head and spent the rest of the night convulsing from the cold.

Staying fired up

Projects we take on in life can often turn out to be like my Boxing Day in the barn: all fired up in the beginning but then quickly sputtering out. Whether it’s a new workout regimen, a book you’ve been picking away at or a home renovation, it’s important to find ways to stay motivated and ensure a sustained burn over the long haul.

Creating a “workback schedule” that breaks a project down step by step can help keep you organized and energized. Posting motivational quotes around your home or office can remind you why you’re working toward something. And investing in the right tools will make following through on your plans easier — like a decent pair of running shoes for your marathon training or a new ladder to help you repaint the bedroom.

Meanwhile, enlist the support of collaborators, whether it’s a workout buddy, business partner, mentor or coach. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people and other passionate go-getters can help you keep the spark alive.

Bottom line? If you want a project to succeed, you need to find ways to keep your fires stoked.