Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lessons in Snowblowing

Last night I went to another meeting of the local chapter of the Torch Club. This is my second meeting, and once again, they had a topic pertaining to what I want to go back to school for. These meetings are fantastic. I am learning that Torch Club people are all a bunch of wonderful, lovable literary geeks (like me!) Basically this is a group of folks getting together each month to talk about some topic or another. It can be anything from Smart Cars to church paintings. The people that I have talked to so far there are librarians, college professors, and archivists - my people! Both times I have gone have just been incredibly inspiring and have helped me focus my career goals. There was only one downside to the evening, when I left I drove into freezing rain.

I live in Michigan and it is November. Freezing rain, snow, sleet and ice are part of the package for the next few months. I have lived here all my life and I have pretty much gotten used to it, but lately I've found myself a little more stressed about it than usual. You see, this is the first time in my life I will be responsible for the removal of it.

I've always said winter would be just fine if snow never fell on asphalt. I don't mind the cold and snow, but I hate shoveling it and I hate driving in it. Fortunately I have never had to do a lot of shoveling. I'm an asthmatic with a bad back who went from her parent's house to a series of apartments to being married. For the most part, other people took responsibility for it. Well, not this year. This year, I am on my own.

It isn't that I don't think I can handle it. I mean let's face it, millions of people deal with snow yearly. If they can do it, there is no reason why I can't. I even happen to own a snow blower that was my mother's before she moved into her condo.... of course I don't know how to use it, but I do have it. But really, that is the crux of the problem. Whenever I am dealing with something I am unfamiliar with it makes me a bit nervous. I've written about this before, being divorced means that I am regularly tackling problems like this. If I don't, who is going to?

There are a couple of simple solutions to these types of problems:

  1. Look at the issue - is it really that big of a deal? I have a tendency to allow simple things that I don't know how to do weigh really heavy on my mind. Like when I was dealing with my furnace filter. Every time I went down in the basement and saw that filter propped up against the furnace I would feel this stab of guilt and anxiety. I feel the same way now when I see snowflakes on the weekly weather chart. Then this morning I kind of backed up and looked at it from a different point of view. You know, really the only snow that has to be removed is what will be on my sidewalks and the entrance to my house. Those are the areas used by other people. If I don't blow the snow in the driveway, the only one hurt by that is me, since I am the only one using it. I haaaaate parking in the street (especially in winter), but it was good to realize that the parts that have to be done really aren't all that bad.
  2. Learn about it. Don't believe that old "ignorance is bliss" adage. So, here's the thing - if I had ever done this before, I wouldn't be nervous about it. It is only because it is something "new" that I feel anxious. The solution? Simple, invite my mother over for a cup of coffee and a snow blowing tutorial. This is a little rule I need to remind myself of regularly. No matter what it is that you want to do, it usually isn't that bad - if you have the right knowledge and the right tools. Here's another example: I have a small retaining wall I want to build, but I just don't know where to start. I met someone recently at the last job I worked on who has built many walls. He suggested I take a bunch of photos, get some ideas, and when we run into each other on the next job (in February) he'll give me some tips! This is also part of the reason I love home improvement classes.
  3. Take small steps. Today on my lunch hour I am going to run out and get some salt for the entrance ways. I'll put it in buckets and the front and rear of the house. I am also going to email my tenant so she knows in case we get frozen rain again and the walk is slippery and I am not home. These are all things I know I can do and are easy enough. Problems like these feel like a huge knot of twisted yarn, but if you just start picking at a small section, the rest will fall away easily.
In the last six months I have learned how to mow lawns, repair roofs, fix toilets, install furnace filters and repair leaky freeze door seals. I am sure I can learn this!

Photo by: Maproom Systems

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