Day 9: When it Hit Me (part 1)

Warning: If you are sensitive do not read this one and/or know that this is what happened, not what it’s like now which is we are in a stable housing situation and on the road to recovering from the slide. Also this is kinda long — if you want to skip to the end the message is ... I’m gonna keep going! Sunday

I’d sent Ax to my mom Kiki’s house on Sunday because I was so sick and I needed help. I’d gotten over the terrible flu, mostly, but the bronchitis was rough.

Sunday night I got an alert that school was cancelled the next day so that people could prepare for the expected rain. Many school families lived in the “mandatory” evacuation zone, and lots of others, like us, lived in the “voluntary” evacuation zone. We were all kind of jaded and exhausted from the fire evac and clean up that ended the week before.

None of us knew what was coming. None of us knew that the labels Voluntary and Mandatory Evacuation Zone on sections of our community would become not very helpful in determining whether one still had a house or not Tuesday morning, or whether or not one would have power/water/gas/internet or be able to return to one’s home in the coming days, if one did in fact evacuate.

The official word now for the timeline on everything coming back seems to be “indefinite”. I don’t blame them for that, some do. If you saw what’s going on you’d know indefinite is the only honest answer about anything anyone could give right now. You’d be grateful to have clean water, grateful to be alive. I am.

Anyway, getting back to my personal chronology. And I am feeling a bit teary gearing up for this, as I sit here now in our warm furnished rental with Cleo the cat on my lap, writing with thumbs on the notes feature on my I-Phone as I have been doing all week on this Thomas mudslide evac.

When I woke up this morning I lay around for a while, then finally looked at the phone to see if it was time to get up and it was 1am. Yesterday 4, the day before 1, the day before that 3, then last Wednesday and Thursday I don’t think I slept really at all. So you get the idea. I’m apologizing for being scattered.

Anyway, last Sunday evening I see school will be closed plus it’s another evac. So I text a few mom friends something like, “Hey come over tomorrow with the kids and we’ll hang out and play here and you’re welcome to stay for the evac if you need.”

I get various responses on that Sunday evening and the next sunny, beautiful Monday morning to the effect of we’ll try to stop by, which in Santa Barbara means, “highly unlikely”. Some folks are getting moved to friends’ places or family’s places, some folks are not sure what they’re doing but gonna play it ‘by ear’ and see how it goes, hunker down.


No one’s coming over. Mom still has Ax and I realize I’m really relieved no one said yes because I’m feeling crappy, coughing phlegm day and night for the fifth or sixth week and I just need to be better better. Mike’s last words in person before heading down to San Diego, “Please go see the doctor.”

I get squeezed in to see my doctor, get a prescription for 10-days of antibiotics which I’ve taken once in seven years, since I got c-diff and wound up in the ICU just after I had Ax (another story). I don’t have pneumonia, and after 5 weeks of this I’m probably not contagious unless I lugie directly into someone’s mouth. Ok.

It’s not raining yet. It’s noon Monday. Mike stocked the fridge before he left Sunday, so I have food. In the fridge. Which is electric.

My friend Angelina who is also a contractor and scheduled to re-roof us comes over and helps me set up a pump on the side of the house to help with drainage for the rains. California house not built for weather. We move some stuff from the side of the house, the garbage cans, some folded up beach chairs, to assist in water flow, and I take the cushions off (some) of the outdoor furniture. I’m really, really tired now. I know I should probably find a flashlight.

Call mom. Mom: “It’s supposed to be raining by now.” “I know, I want to pick Ax up before it starts raining.” Mom: “Do you want me to just keep him? We’re having a good time and you sound really tired.” Really? Yes. Yes. Yes I do, mom. Thanks.

And I get into bed with a big thing of water and a bottle of kombucha because I’m too sick and too tired to make tea and I watch several episodes of The Crown while dozing and then it starts raining and then I go to sleep, early.


Wake up Tuesday morning 4am after a pretty rough night of coughing. Power’s out. Right. Not a big deal, happens all the time in these parts when it rains. Pad into the kitchen, it’s kinda cold. Find the French fucking press thank Godfrey, make coffee. Coughed all night, NyQuil hangover, gotta get it together. Gotta be done being sick.

Get the milk out of the fridge, careful to open the door only a crack because I want to keep that cold in til the power goes back on in a few hours like usual, I figure. I figured wrong.

The mom text string I started Sunday night is active. Zoe and her son Evan who live up in the hills, above school, are going to Cloud 10 trampoline jumping zone, who’s in? Ax has been at mom’s for two nights and I’m feeling ... guilty? Like he needs to see his friends? Like he needs physical exercise? Like I need to see friends? Like it’s time. Something.

I haven’t seen the news. I have no power and my phone battery is like, 7% since it didn’t charge overnight even though it was plugged in. It’s enough to text mom I’m coming to get Ax.

Shoot. I just realized I’ve already lost track of my own timeline. I’m super-tempted to fast-forward to Thursday. I’ll just speed it up.

Tuesday 11ish: Ax and I go jumping. There are a lot of kids from his school and Montecito there. The kids are having a blast. But I’m getting the sense that the rains brought what was feared, and then some. I still have no idea of the scale of the loss. That a few of the other moms on that text string were in the ER with loved ones while we were jumping and eating pizza, that they’d lost homes, that they’d been through what no one should go through. That today, on day 9, we’d all only be starting to start rebuilding.

Like someone asked me if I’d made an insurance claim yet since my house is legally uninhabitable with no utilities (plus in the new “mandatory” zone depending on who you ask or which cop you encounter). I said, “We got soap yesterday.”

The best thing anyone has said to me, anyone who doesn’t live at Montecito ground zero, is, “I have no idea what you are going through.” That was Ax’s Karate teacher, Sensei Brian from South Coast Karate. I said, “Thank you.” I said, “I am calling to see if you will be teaching after school on Tuesday when school reopens after being closed all week.”

He did not know school was reopening, or maybe he didn’t know it had been closed? I was pretty foggy. He started asking what he could do — 24/7 Karate classes for everyone! — I said he could show up, just like usual, for 2:45 Tuesday in the auditorium. Just. Like. Usual. Just. Like. Usual. Just. Like. Usual.

To be Continued .....

It’s 3am and I may go back to bed. I’m gonna keep going.

Consider taking a moment right now to pause, breathe, and feel what it’s like to be in a comfortable temperature, in a safe place. Maybe 3 breaths in and out.