Snowmageddon Taught One Important Lesson . . .

“It Could Always Be Worse” is a Yiddish folk tale I loved to read to my kids when they were young. It was about a man who visited his rabbi to complain about how unbearable his house was, what with six kids, his wife, the animals and his mother all living together under one roof. The rabbi suggested that the man go home, but on the way, pick up some more animals to bring inside his house. Week after week, the man’s complaints grew more bitter, and each time, the rabbi’s solution was for the man to bring yet more animals to the house. Finally, when the man was about to lose his mind in frustration, the rabbi told the man to go home, and remove all the extra animals that the rabbi had told the man to cram into his house over those last weeks.

Of course, the man was elated and joyful to find that his home was perfect and peaceful, and really, he had nothing to complain about. After all, he knew it could always be worse.

Apparently, when the 2019 Snowmageddon hit us here on Shasta County’s valley floor, I totally forgot the moral of that story.

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It’s an ongoing mental practice for me to lament my home’s imperfections, starting with my yard, and my dreams for a security fence, planter boxes for my future fruit-tree food forest, a bread oven made from some of the tons of river rocks I’ve unearthed, and a porch around the back of the house that would sit above the vents. Inside, I still have two old cast-iron tubs sorely in need refinishing, and I’m not happy with the glossy finish I painted on the restored 1938 doors, or the door trim for that matter, which has never been touched. My biggest interior dream of all is the last frontier of my remodeling project: a flimsy fiberglass bathtub surround in my main bathroom, something I just didn’t have the courage to remove, because in my nightmares, to remove it would be to reveal dry rot, termites and rats.

The truth is, I may call all those ruminations dreams, but they’re really complaints and a lack of gratitude for the riches I already have. The truth is, no matter how much I improve my home, I always want more.

I’m pretty sure those home-owner dissatisfactions were still on my mind last Tuesday, when the first fat flakes started falling here in Redding,

Five days later, when my home was still without power, I longed for my house in its former state of having electricity – imperfections and all.

I tried sleeping two nights in my house without heat, when the temperatures dipped inside to a bone-chilling 47 degrees.

(Yes, Doni is aware she needs to change her filter.)

After that, I stayed at my sister’s. (I didn’t broadcast it here at the time, because I didn’t want to let on that my house was unattended at night.)

Each day I’d return to my house, hauling all my stuff with me, because SURELY the power would return that day, and SURELY I’d be spending THAT night in my house. Each night, I’d end up hauling my crap back to my sister’s, a place that had power, and didn’t, and finally, did have power for good.

Meanwhile, all my wishing and hoping and guessing failed. The power stubbornly stayed out at my house until Sunday afternoon.

Snowmageddon was an equal opportunity power-snatcher from all kinds of people. City and country people. Rich people. Poor people. Even highly public religious people, some of whom were calling in favors of intervention from thousands of their FB friends from around the world who responded with prayers and the healing blood of Jesus over them and their homes for full and immediate powerful restoration. Amen!

Not to say that those folks don’t have any extra pull with Father Nature, or that prayer doesn’t work, but I know for a fact through the word of FB that my home’s power was restored before one rather bombastic churchy guy, renowned for a particularly memorable 2018 Easter sermon.

Speaking of miracles, Snowmageddon did me a small favor, one that I feel somewhat guilty admitting: It wreaked havoc with some trees across the street that were starting to block my view of Lassen Peak.

I can see clearly now.

Thank you?

Beyond those clouds is a clear view of Lassen Peak.

A few minutes before my home regained power I had a conversation behind my house with an REU lineman who was walking the alley, checking overhead lines. I thanked him for his service. He told me he understood people’s angst, because, after all, his home – and most of his coworkers’ – had been without power, too. He said they’d been working non-stop, and, as a matter of fact, he was actually supposed to be on vacation that very minute. I couldn’t help notice that he was a model-handsome guy, which I only remembered later when I saw a friend’s FB post who said she actually blew a kiss to an REU guy as he returned her power, and that he was particularly handsome, too.

I think after multiple days without power, all lineman look extra handsome.

Once again, I was reminded of the Carr Fire, when firefighters and first responders went to work, even as their own families were in danger and under evacuation, and even some, as was the case of RPD’s police chief, showed up at jobs despite losing homes to the Carr Fire.

Once again, like the Carr Fire, I seemed to know more people who’d lost power than who had not.

Eventually, thanks to the work of utility workers from near and far, little by little lines were repaired and power was restored to most everyone except a small percentage of the unluckiest folks. To those people, I feel their pain, and I also have power remorse that I have power, and they don’t. I’m so sorry!

The First Thing You Did After You Regained Power turned into a thing, with some people telling how the first thing they did was take a long hot shower, and others telling how they started laundry, and yet others tell of sitting in a living room with the lights on, watching TV. Me? I cranked up the thermostat to 68 degrees and then turned on the oven and whipped up some coffee cakes. I was in my element.

I wandered from room to room, so elated to have electricity back, clicking lights on and off, just to be sure they all worked, because part of me didn’t fully believe it. And although I was delighted, the experience had left me feeling a bit electricity insecure. Yes, it was on – at the moment. But I kept fearing the power would abandon me at any second. Clearly, Snowmageddon has left me with some serious trust issues, in addition to some broken branches and an ice chest in the back yard still filled with melting snow.

I will recover.

In the meantime, I’m adoring my toasty house and all its amazing modern amenities and conveniences, like my electric blanket and my hot-water heater, and my microwave oven and refrigerator and freezer and range and my night-stand reading light and so many other special things … things I will never, ever take for granted.

My house is wonderfully and beautifully made just the way it is. And if I ever find myself thinking otherwise, I will remember the February 2019 snowstorm that brought Redding to its knees, and will remind myself of one very important thing:

It could always be worse.

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Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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28 Responses

  1. Avatar Carrie Dokter says:

    Had I not come from strong pioneer stock, I don’t think I would have made it through those last six days without electricity. My old bones absolutely freezing, making my morning oatmeal on the barbecue, – and Doni is right, it could always be worse, wow, could it ever!!

    • I know what you mean, Carrie. I had conversations with other people who either identified with living a pioneer life, or didn’t. I did, sort of, but I wasn’t fully equipped, aside from having things like battery-operated camping lanterns and my sub-zero sleeping bag for those first two nights. To have really survived this properly, a wood-burning fireplace insert would have been nice, and a generator … and of course, knowing how to use an generator. (I know it requires gasoline, which sounds rather messy. And I know they are loud, something I know was a source of irritation for some people, especially those without generators.) Also, I was fortunate that I have city sewer and water, which I was never without during the power failure, unlike folks who have wells and septic systems.

      If I were looking for another home, I’d keep my eyes out for one with a wood-burning stove/insert, on city water and sewer.

      Congratulations, Carrie, on surviving Snowmageddon! You did it!

  2. Avatar Candace C says:

    I love this. I also love, love, love your house. It’s beautiful and unique and welcoming and has your blood, sweat and tears in its bones. It’s a Wondeful Life comes to mind. Did I mention I love your house?

  3. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    I remember shortly after 9/11, in one of her monologues Janeane Garofalo said, “I would just like to say…. [sexy voice] Helllloooooo Mister Fireman.”

    Those people out there working at 3 AM to restore power in miserable conditions do not deserve the nasty comments I have seen online. They’re doing all they can.

  4. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Was this recent snowstorm worse for folks in the city limits of Redding than the one that hit in December 2003? I’m curious, because we live in the hills northeast of town, and for us, the 2003 snowstorm was much worse.

    • I was living in Igo during the 2003 snowstorm, and it was a far lesser hassle for me then than this one was for me living in historic Redding surrounded by huge trees unaccustomed to snow loads. But come to think of it, our power did go out for a little while, but we had a generator, and I had a husband to take care of that stuff, so yeah, for me, it was a piece of cake.

    • Avatar Bruce Ross says:

      The snow depth seemed about the same to me, Hal, but the tree damage (and so powerline damage) was much more widespread. I think this snow was wetter and heavier.

    • Avatar Larry Christopher says:

      Hal , as Bruce Ross pointed out , the damage this snow storm caused was so much more widespread spread than that of 2003 . This one caused over 30,000 customers to be without power at one point . Unprecedented to say the least .

  5. Avatar Candace C says:

    Your story is also a good reminder to me to be more cognizant of what I Facebook post during hard times. My intention was to bring some levity to the lack of power situation as I’m a big proponent of using humor as a tool to help lighten stressful situations. In hindsight there was nothing funny about it and I humbly apologize to those who had it way worse than I. I can be a dope sometimes. Lesson learned.

    • Oh, don’t be too hard on yourself. I put up funny stuff, too, like Naomi’s Little House on the Prairie homestead FB post, and the post with the smiling donkey saying to PG&E and REU, “Pick me! Pick me!”

      In the worst times humor can be a help. Of course, timing IS everything, and there’s a time for joking, and there’s a time for condolences.

  6. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    First of all, the bad-mouthing folks? Makes me think of that scripture that says, “the poor ye shall have with you always.” I don’t think “poor” is always in reference to financial status.
    Second . . . . does anyone remember Christmas off 1967? I was living in Summit City at the time (for you young timers, it’s part of Shasta Lake City now) and we had 27″ of snow on our property. We lost, I seem to remember, 14 major roofs (or is it rooves?). And by “lost” I mean they collapsed clear to the ground. The roof on Wonder World (later McMahan’s furniture on Athens) , Thrifty Drugs (now 99 cent store), Payless Hardware (now Office Depot) , Montgomery Wards. . . and so on. There was a skating rink on 273, the front of the building was okay, (it’s now a saw sharpening business) but the roof over the rink part collapsed. The enterprising owner posted a sign on the marquee that said, “Closed for minor repair!” Sure is heartening when someone keeps their humor in the face of tragedy!
    Well . . . . there’s another “remember when” from one of them thar “OLD” folks!!!

  7. Avatar Meredith Fisher says:

    I actually felt guilty when we lost power for a short time.

  8. Avatar Barbara Stone says:

    So funny…we are very much alike, Doni… whenever someone comes over and comments about what a nice house we have, I have to bite my tongue to not point out all of its “flaws”.

    After the Carr Fire, we had to have it cleaned out top to bottom, attic to garage. I understand why my house is not Homes-and-Garden picture perfect: I don’t have a staff of 10 people working on it! And I, like you, gained a whole new appreciation for it and its imperfections. I was starting to enjoy it, loving the peace and quiet through the holidays, thinking that everything was just right. And weren’t we lucky to have a house!

    And then WHAM! a Big Ass Pine Tree fell on it, just before midnite on that fateful Tuesday night. So now we have a hole in the roof, two broken trusses, and two huge machines in our bathroom drying out the drywall. The new insulation we had to put in after the fire, was now saturated with water and has to be replaced again.

    BUT we are in the house, the tree moved off the roof, the hole covered with tarp and sandbags, awaiting the rebuilding phase.

    And…we never lost power…:>)

    • Avatar Eleanor Townsend says:

      A Big Ass Pine Tree!! Thank you for that smile, Barbara.

      And for your perseverance throughout it all. Just when we think we are the other side of whatever it is. But there you are still, in your house, with power. The Big New Word.

      It is so good we stand together and share with each other during these times of ours.
      I will accept the reminder to be thankful, too.

  9. Avatar Hollyn Chase says:

    As my dearly loved and now departed mom-in-law used to say: “From the time you’re born ‘til you leave in a hearse, it’s never so bad it couldn’t be worse.”

    And, my dear, your house—like you—is unique and lovely.
    Thanks for the column, I needed the reminder to be thankful.

  10. Avatar Candace C says:

    AJ, I remember the roller rink roof collapse quite well because it directly impacted my eleven year old life, lol.

  11. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    One thing is for certain in these situations, there’s always a guy at the bar who through is powers of maximum masculinity beat the flames down or melted the snow with his flamethrower, cause he don’t depend on no one.

  12. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I love this article! Thank you Doni. I read that Yiddish tale years ago and I’ve always remembered it. The house seemed too full and chaotic and then, seems manageable after all the livestock moves out. I’ve always thought that it would be informative to, one day a year, not use one of your utilities. No water one day, no propane or gas if you have it, and no electricity. Call it a “fast”. How can you not be reminded of the ways that people made do before all of these amenities we take for granted. We cooked on the top of a wood stove and I remembered a friend who did all of her cooking on a wood fueled cook stove on a ranch in Whitmore. And about that bathtub….make it a party and bring over a crew to get it out of your life. It may be unpleasant to find out what’s underneath, but it’s all fixable. All of it. You already showed that. Thank you for a great article!

    • That “fast” is an interesting idea, Joanne. Many times during those power-less days, I found myself thinking of a time before anyone had electricity, and I marveled at how tough and resourceful they must have been.

  13. Avatar Janine Hall says:

    I thought many times during the power outage how thoroughly spoiled we are. When you get used to just flipping a switch and having light or any other thing, well it is easy to complain when it not there. One of the best things that we did at my house was to play a board game with my 93 year old Mother. We had an absolute blast. That memory will be with me forever.

    • You’re so right, Janine. There are so many things that we count on that could fail us at any time, and it’s a good reminder to appreciate every little thing that works, whether it’s our cars, electricity, cell phones, or bodies.

      I smiled to think of you playing board games with your mom. So sweet.

  14. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Joanne . . . . what a great idea to do a “comfort fast” once in a while. Okay, I’ve done the “electric fast,” maybe in the summer I’ll try the “gas fast.”
    And then I think of stories my grandmother told of living in a “soddie” , which meant cooking on a wood stove and how she would fix meals holding an umbrella so dirt and lizards wouldn’t fall in the food. ‘Twas a different sort of time, for sure!

    • I read Little House on the Prairie books to my grandkids, and we all marvel at what it took for just daily chores and survival. I think we’ve gotten weaker, more dependent and less capable over the decades.

      I hired some teens recently and had to show them how to use a shovel to dig a hole. And cooking, don’t even get me started.

      Your mom was made of tough stuff!

  15. Avatar erin friedman says:

    During the Great Snow o’ 19, I happened to be deeply immersed in a novel about the Irish Famine – when there was no food, disease was rampant and escape meant walking barefoot to a port town to board a coffin ship – so yeah, a bit of heartbreaking perspective made my burdens easier to bear. And for the very first time in 21 years of business ownership, we were “closed due to snow” and spent the day making a very lame snowman and laughing with the granddaughters. Lucky, indeed.