Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Then, there's the mud.

Like I mentioned, the cabin we've moved into wasn't inhabited for a quite a few years. Runoff from the rain runs right past our little house, and our driveway, which then becomes some serious mud. Past tenants have filled the driveway, there's evidence of a few types of rocks and gravel, concrete and pottery pieces, but without maintenance and regular refills, all the bits and pieces that were put there to increase traction simply washed away.

So, we moved in. Immediately, it rained. The driveway became a huge bog, and we got stuck more than once. This would have been merely frustrating and annoying, but for the hill we live on. The incline makes mud absolutely terrifying, and more than a little dangerous.

The rain runoff path? Well, it's carved a little ravine just to the side of our driveway. When we got stuck in the mud the first time and were spinning our wheels to get out, we started not-so-subtly sliding towards the ravine.

Let me interrupt with a little background in the inner workings of steph. When I was very young, I had a memory of hiking some huge rocks with my parents. We were edging along on a narrow cliff, when I slipped. I started to slide down the rock and my parents grabbed my hands. I was so scared, I couldn't find purchase for my feet. My parents' hands were losing their hold, and I was sliding down the rock face. And then... nothing. When I asked my mom about this memory, starting it off with, "Remember when...?", I was wondering what happened next. She looked at me like she wasn't sure if I was normal and called it a dream. I was no more than seven, but I'd seen Shirley MacLaine on TV, and decided it was my past life.

Now, I don't know that I believe in past lives nowadays, I don't believe in much besides what's in front of me, but I also don't know that that memory was a dream. My very-young self was certain: It Happened.

Regardless of the source of the memory, I can trace that "experience" as the source of my horrible fear of sliding. I'm also not a fan of heights and falling, but sliding is a special kind of terror, for me. (Also, spiders.)

So, that day, sliding in the mud (thankfully, sans spiders), I was in the passenger seat with the dog buckled onto my lap and I was holding onto her for dear life and trying not to scream, because that's certainly not going to help my boyfriend get us out any sooner. I put my hands over my face and felt my panic coming out of every pore. Sliding, sliding, spinning wheels and sliding. Finally, we found purchase and made it out, back to the relative safety of the cracked and pitted asphalt road. But I refused to sit in the car on the driveway for a week, until I'd witnessed several slide-free arrivals and departures.

And unfortunately, with the trees blocking out the sun, it takes a long time for a good mud bog to dry out. It's been two weeks since the rain, and I still have to watch where I walk. We need to get some fill here, pronto.


But, speaking of being stuck, lately I'm feeling absolutely UNstuck. School is making me feel like a real person again, one who can accomplish things and finish assignments on time, one who has interesting thoughts and observations and can share them with a class without feeling (too) afraid of being misread or saying something dumb.

And then, our first trip to the laundromat in years didn't kill me. I guess I have to rejoin society now.

My house is still a work in progress. Most of the boxes are gone, but it's still rather... undone. Most of our furniture is still awaiting a truck, so we've got clothes and electronics and bathroom stuff all co-mingling on some unfinished, swedish-made shelves that have made it through five moves with us. They come in handy, but they aren't terribly pretty. However, I'm practicing my patience, because I know we'll eventually get there, one step at a time.

My head still seems to dislike me, the sun, noise, and smells (no miraculous recovery upon leaving the city, the boyfriend is disappointed). But I'm happier here, despite the natural disasters that seem determined to take me down. (I forgot to mention the earthquakes last week. Those are scarier in a house on stilts.)

The best part of having moved out of the city is that it's monumentally easier to be active, without the constant triggers. I've been taking regular walks up our very steep hill, and some little jaunts into the woods to explore. My legs and butt ache from the exercise, and it's fantastic.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Move and The Fire

So, this is how the move went down, as well as I can recall it:

Our landlord's been raising the rent on us as often as he can, as much as he can. We were in this weird place financially where we couldn't afford to move out, but we certainly couldn't afford to stay. We've been trying to find a suitable place to live, but that's harder than it sounds when you've got a chronic migraineur in the mix.

Enter Grampa. In conversation one day, it came up that he has a cabin in the woods. I listened with interest, but it was my boyfriend who really pushed forward with it. The place needed some serious help. It was rented in the past, but not for quite a while and has been neglected for several years. In that time, all sorts of critters made the place a home, so there's been holes to repair, insulation and cabinets to replace, poop to clean up and more. We started the work before we moved, but ran out of time and had to move in before basic repairs were complete. We got our stove two days after we moved in and our fridge two days after that. It was very much like camping.

We've moved a lot, the boyfriend and I. We've been together for 11 years, and we've changed residences 11 times. We're good at it, usually. I can be a real workhorse when I have a short-term goal in mind, and my boyfriend has an ever-energetic superpower that keeps him, and by association me, going, no matter how long and exhausting the move gets. But this time was trickier, with me being all migrainy and us having very little money to work with, getting ourselves and our "necessities" up here was definitely an adventure.

We've acquired a spanking-new '91 Chevy Caprice that was pinky-promised to make it up our mountain. It has, several times now. Up and down and up and down and up and down. Thank goodness my motion sickness just gave up after a few days. I was running out of ginger.

We didn't have the time or money to get all of our belongings up the hill, such is moving without a truck, but we were incredibly lucky to have our now ex-neighbor offer to house some of our less immediate stuff. Then my wonderful bestie helped us one day, packed and loaded his car full of what we couldn't live without and hauled it up our twisty roads. And even my mom, who wasn't feeling well enough to physically help us move, brought us some basic food staples to help us get over this hump of having zero dollars. We are so grateful that we're surrounded by such generous people.

With the kitchen now almost fully-functional, it feels a bit more like home, despite the boxes that still crowd every corner. The bathroom is still unfinished, but that should be remedied shortly, and most of the floors need to be replaced, but that's a little further down the list. Also, I have no laundry facilities, and that's a source of anxiety for me. Though, the rumor is that the local laundromat is much nicer than the ones I've been to in the past. Fancy mountain people like a fancy laundromat, I guess.

I have plans to do some planting around the house, but we're pretty limited since the canopy filters out most of the sunlight. I'm thinking I need to set up a plant light for a few of my potted guys, the basil is already legging-out and my romaine looks sad. Really, really sad.


So, the fire story.

A few nights ago my boyfriend was working on the bathroom and I was taking a break from homeworking when we heard a sudden crashing noise and everything went black. For just a second I thought, "Earthquake?" But that thought was a habit, and the real source was immediately apparent. A tree had fallen close by and taken down our power lines. This was alarming in itself, but the fear really set in when the dark only lasted a moment before the trees outside our windows started flashing bright and dark.

The power lines are supposed to be hooked up to a breaker, which would cut electricity to the line in this exact scenario. But the breaker didn't break and we had a live wire spitting and crackling into the otherwise pitch-black forest.

My boyfriend ran for his dry extinguishers and put out one small fire, but he couldn't get close enough to the live wire to douse it properly. He called 911 and I leaned on the car horn to let the neighbors know we needed help.

I haven't been that scared since I don't know when, maybe never. My whole body was shaking, and I kept doing this painful dry sobbing.

I watched the sparks fly off into the forest, willed them with all my might not to catch. They didn't. One neighbor arrived, parked in front of our house and left his hazards on. The blinking and flashing and fear made for a surreal scene. The trees were strobing, the smell of fire was in the air, and disembodied voices were calling to each other from the gloom beyond the reach of the bright flashes.

The lights and noise and everything were starting to affect my head, despite the adrenaline, and panic was starting to set in. My boyfriend walked by, saw my face and gently suggested I take a valium. I did, though fumbling around in an alternately black and brightly-blinking house for my pill bottle was a challenge and a half, but I think that valium is the only reason I slept that night.

It took more than half an hour to get the power turned off, and an hour after that for the forest to go back to its normal quiet.

The next morning, the power company was on top of it, and we were back on around noon. A tree guy came out and advised us of a nasty fungus taking up residence in the douglas firs, which is what caused our little friend to fall in the first place, and that a serious survey and take-down of rotting tree corpses needed to be scheduled.

For the first time in my life, I look forward to the sound of chainsaws.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

School Stories

I was a little worried that once we got up here, into the quiet and calm redwood forest, that I wouldn't have as much to write about. I wouldn't be trapped in the house nearly as much, so I might not feel the need to write out my every waking thought. Well, surprise, surprise! Because it's been nothing but action around here.

Let's start with the school stuff.

Last week, I had to call my disabilities coordinator to go over an accommodation form, but we have no reception up here. We found a payphone in town (read: on the one street with stores), some change, and I made the call. And then it started to rain. I tried to understand what she was telling me. Come to the office and have her sign this paper, and then my teacher. Or maybe just give it to the former and she'd have my teacher sign it? My brain couldn't make sense of it. Then the rain really started dumping buckets on me and my textbook and oh, I was trying not to laugh at the situation, I had to keep a straight face so we could get to all the pertinent points before I ran out of change, so I did the silent laugh/cry while trying so hard to focus on what she was saying but also trying to save my book from the serious downpour I was suddenly in the middle of and finally the call was over, but I still don't have much clue what was said, and let me tell you, I was wet. And my poor book is rather wrinkly now, despite my best efforts.

But it worked out in the end because my total lack of retention of the phone call has only solidified my need to communicate via email. Which is what I've been saying since the beginning, but no one seems to believe me until they've properly wasted their time trying to make me understand anything on the phone. I say ok, and uh-huh and yeah a lot, but I have no idea what y'all are talking about. Seriously, just email me.

So, we made sure to connect the internet before we actually moved up here, since my class is online and I can't do homework without it. But when we got ourselves in and I tried to log on, we had no connection. Panic! But then a lucky break: the teacher couldn't upload the quiz, and I'd have another two days to square away our situation and get it done. Which I did.

And then I had to submit a rather intimidating project, my very first in 13 years. I worked hard on it, went over it so many times to make sure there weren't any typos and that I'd answered everything thoroughly. I got my feedback on it yesterday and, I quote:

Grade: 20.00 / 20.00

Clear, well written and descriptive analysis. Great descriptions and excellent analysis. Well done.


So, school is going well. It's not easy, the reading is difficult for my migraine brain, I have to go over everything at least twice to make sure it's soaked in, and the videos we have to watch aren't captioned, for the most part. I'm working on remedying that situation with my disabilities coordinator, she should be able to get me some transcripts, but in the mean time, I'm fighting to understand the content through a wall of background music and overlapping chatter.

Despite the challenges, it's extremely rewarding to know I'm doing well.

Next time: Mud, fire, and other natural disasters.


Thursday, October 13, 2011


We're surrounded by coastal redwoods, trees that tower over our little house and filter the sunlight so efficiently that I can usually go outside without a hat or sunglasses. I haven't done that in years.

The country is so quiet. There are a few neighbors above us, who use the road that runs right past our place a few times a day, but otherwise, there's not a soul around.

We've still got a lot of work to do up here. Construction, cleaning, unpacking, and organizing are going to keep us busy for a while. I'm doing my best, but it's slow-going.

Besides all this, I'm keeping up on my schoolwork pretty well.

I'll be back soon with some stories. I'm pushing myself hard, and I'm constantly exhausted right now. I've been near a breaking point several times a day over the past week, but since we've gotten up here, into the quiet, I've moved away from the edge quite a bit. These big old trees put things into perspective.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Moving to the Mountains

My head is being pushed to the absolute limit right now.

School has started. I'm keeping up so far, and I'm really liking the teacher and the class, so that's been pretty great.

We're moving to the mountains, which is going to be a big change for this lifetime city girl. Before moving into the the new place, we're remodeling quite a bit. My boyfriend's doing the bulk of the demolition and rebuilding, with some help from friends. And I'm in charge of things like painting and layout planning. Those are much more head friendly.

So, I don't have much time to write at the moment. My head and packing and trying to focus on my schoolwork when I can sit down to do it are eating up all my attention, so I'll be back in a week or so, and hopefully I'll have something more substantial to say.