Where Did April Go?

Okay, so I lied in my last blog.  We are not speaking “soon” because it’s “later”.  Quite a bit later, to tell the truth.  Sorry about that.  So let me catch you up on all the news and what’s happened in the 2 months since we last talked.

First off, we are NOT getting the car.  My appeal to SSDI has been accepted, but because of the glorious sequestration, has not even been assigned to a caseworker yet, which means…no answer for a long time, maybe a year or more.  (I hope not, but I’m not holding my breath for a rapid answer.)  Beloved’s appeal for LTD (Long Term Disability) has been accepted and they have from 45 to 90 days to make a decision.  We’ll see how that goes because with two separate government agencies assessing him as permanently disabled, the insurance company would have to be completely stupid and a prick to turn him down.  But it’s been known to happen, so again, no holding breath.  MY appeal for LTD has been awaiting medical information which the lawyer should have this week, and that will go to the company once she has it.  So we are back to playing a waiting game for almost any income that might occur.

The most major change, and a new decision on our part, is that we are moving to Eureka, CA at the end of October, when our lease expires.  Beloved asked me, “If you could live anywhere in the US, where would you go?”  So I began to reject states that are too cold, too hot, too wet, too dry; we also decided against those states whose local governments have lost their freaking minds (anti-women legislation or mandated religious affiliation for residents of that state).  Once you have cut out those things, you’re pretty much left with the West Coast.  No SoCal; I lived there before and will NOT live there again.  WA is a little on the chilly side.  So I looked at what was left and there was OR, and there was…I FOUND IT!  Eureka!  (You know that’s what “eureka” means? “I found it”.)  

Beloved was interested so I began to research it.  Everything I found just made it more and more obvious as the place for us to live.  The cost of living there is about 30-35% cheaper than living here in VA, even as far south from DC as we are (50 miles or so).  Our cost of living is about 125 of the index for median cost of living.  If 100 is the average location, than it is obviously more expensive to live here.  NYC is about 180, if that helps.  So Eureka is 94.  We currently live in a 1 bedroom apartment; I can rent a 2 bedroom house in Eureka for the same  amount.  There is no tax on food and the costs for organic are about 1/3 of what they are here at Wegman’s.  And the main local grocery store is Eureka Natural Foods–it’s ALL organic and they tell you where everything came from.  

Eureka is in Humboldt County, home of the Happy CA Cows.  So milk and milk products (even RAW, sold at the grocery stores) are local as is the beef.  Almost no carbon footprint for hamburgers or steak.  Agriculture is one of the main industries here and almost all of it is organic.  CA is working on making Monsanto label all of the GMO foods and doesn’t seem inclined to let Monsanto spread its unholy evil GMO seeds anywhere in this state.  Organic food is a cash crop here and GMOs would totally fuck that up.

Eureka has a population of about 30k, surging up to a roaring 45k during the work day.  Most people who live in the feeder towns have about a 10-15 minute commute.  That won’t matter to us, of course, but it’s nice to know that mostly everything we want is within a 10 minute drive.  There is public transportation 6 days a week.  Eureka has a surplus of water and electricity; a monthly bill for the average 1 bedroom apartment for electricity is about $10-15.  Gas is the more common utility for heat, hot water and cooking.  

Heat is a bit of a misnomer.  Every place that I’ve looked at has one central vent, set in the wall, about 30 inches by 4 feet, that heats the entire home.  The lowest temperature ever recorded in Eureka was 24 degrees; the average winter low is about 35 degrees.  The highest temperature ever recorded was 85 degrees with the average high temp in the summer running about 75 degrees.  The average temperature YEAR ROUND is 65.  There’s about 3 days each winter where you might get a freeze, maybe up to 3 inches of snow.  There are essentially 2 seasons: fall/winter, or the wet season, with up to 6 inches of rain and spring/summer, or the dry season, with lots of sunshine.  No one has an AC unit.  And the fact that the weather doesn’t change every 15 minutes like it does here will be an immeasurable relief for my poor barometric bones.

Eureka is right on the Pacific Ocean.  That alone makes it THE PLACE for me.  I love the ocean and have missed living near to it, let alone NEXT to it.  Eureka is also the only deep water harbor between San Fran and Coos Bay (WA).  This means SEAFOOD GALORE!  Salmon, oysters, Dungeness crabs, shrimp…other kinds of fish and a sushi diet for Beloved and me!

Eureka is also the #1 Small Town for Art and Creativity in the US.  They have an annual parade of floats built on bicycles, called Kinetic Sculptures.  There is an Old Town section and Victorian is the most common house style, with the Carson Mansion, an incredibly glorious example of the style, as a tourist site and hotel.  There is the Samoa Cookhouse, which preserves the food of the “good old days” with a museum of photos and cooking related objects and a restaurant that serves the olden time recipes family style.  (Side note: apparently the food ain’t that great, but it’s an awesome place to take out of town guests for a taste of the Gold Rush days.)

Something else about Eureka that makes Beloved so happy he could wet his pants: they have one of the largest, best known game stores on the West Coast: North Coast Roleplaying Game Store.  (He and I have both heard of it, mentioned in some of the science fiction we read–Larry Niven and John Ringo.)  He anticipates being able to game several nights a week, and perhaps even getting a little part time job there.  We have also located an ongoing wood working class at one of the local middle schools where for $15 a session, you get to learn how and then to actually make wooden stuff.  Beloved is already drawing up plans for our computer desks.

Going to CA would mean leaving BRUU (Bull Run Unitarian Universalist).  But I have found HUUF (Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship) and the website shows a group of people that I am eager to meet.  Between the game store, HUUF, the woodworking class, and the grocery store (where we ALWAYS end up talking to lots of people), I think we will be able to find a new social circle.  I certainly hope so, as I also hope that our health, particularly mine, will have risen back up to levels of being able to do things again.

Going to CA means leaving family and friends behind.  We have talked long and hard about this, and have had to come to the reality of our lives and the fixed income we have.  We cannot live on the edge of poverty, one car repair or serious illness from actual poverty, here in VA, waiting for friends or family to visit.  (Or feeling well enough ourselves to go visit them.)  As much as I would like to stay near all of my grandchildren, the truth is that we don’t see any of them often enough to merit staying.  And it’s not like this a new idea in my family: my mother moved far away from her mother for many years.  We were fortunate enough to live very close to my mother’s parents for my high school years so that I have many memories of them.  I moved away from my mother for many years and then when I moved back to the area she lived in, she and my father moved to TX for their retirement, with most of the same criteria as we have used for our decision to move.  

There are the Interwebs, Skype, email and Facebook for us to stay in touch–and indeed, that’s how we basically interact now.  And in time, there may even be the opportunity for my children to bring their children to Eureka to see us and visit.  Or maybe we will save up enough to fly back East.  I don’t know that these things WILL happen, but I will be open to watching for them if they occur and taking advantage of them when they do.  The same thing applies to our friends.  Beloved’s best friend actually travels to CA 4 or 5 times a year and is very likely to add Eureka to his flight plans–and his fiancee indicates that he “loves” CA, so who knows?  Maybe in a few years, he’ll “retire” out to Eureka as well…take a new job there or maybe freelance as a consultant (he’s a server engineer and in great demand).  

So by all indications, Eureka has a better climate, better food, better cost of living, better housing, better life for us.  All of these things mean that our health has finally got the chance to improve to livable, bearable levels.  Or so we believe and we are beginning the process of getting out there.  I am impressed with how much Beloved is willing to get rid of, willing to sell or throw away…all we’re taking is what will fit in a small moving container (like a PODS, only not that brand); our two 70 pound suitcases (each) and our carry-ons.  We will begin our life in CA in style–we are budgeting to fly out FIRST CLASS!  Beloved is a large man and will not fit a coach seat.  Although, truth be told, I don’t fit a coach seat well enough to be comfortable with a cross country flight.  So we’ll have luxurious seats, a real meal, drinks, priority boarding and disembarking–and the privilege of taking TWO suitcases stuffed to the gills.  (But not heavier than 70 pounds.)  

In the meantime…I was astonished to receive approval from the VA for health benefits (considering the backlog of applications).  That means I have health insurance again, thank the Maker.  I have the first available appointment, July 17th.  Just a little backed up there, are we?  And the clinic is in Fredericksburg, so we can go to the Waffle House.  Or to South Vietnam Restaurant, that our friend introduced us to–or the incredible kabob place we discovered last time we were in town there.  I am hoping that they will give me back the Lyrica, because I’ve just been going downhill…

There is HUGE news on the fibromyalgia front: UIC College of Medicine has researched and found the biomarker for fibro–and they have determined that it is an AUTOIMMUNE disease, not a neurological one as has been thought.  What does that sentence mean?  It means that there is now a BLOOD TEST FOR FIBROMYALGIA!!!!
It can be proven with a medical test and is NO LONGER a “self-diagnosed” disease.  It also costs $744–so it’s another thing I’m going to ask the VA about paying for.  I’d like to have it done so that I can use it as evidence for my various disability benefits.  When I read about it, I burst into tears…it’s not in my head, it is REAL.  Like I’ve been trying to tell you bastards, this is not laziness or lack of initiative…it’s a disease and it affects me!

I’ve been doing badly enough that Beloved insisted on taking me to our PCP, and paying full price for the visit.  The doctor is wonderful–he charged us for the cheapest visit, and the office policy is to give a 40% discount if you pay in cash, in full, at the time of the visit.  So what we had budgeted $200 for ended up costing only $96.  Which was good, because the doctor gave me a new script for Neurontin (for pain) and then UPPED the Vicodin dose to twice what I had been taking…and those two medicines cost us $120.  I have scripts for 2 other meds, but no money to get them yet and I may just wait and take them to the VA and see if they will fill them (or re-write them and dispense me the meds).

The Neurontin helps, and of course, double dosed Vicodin also manages the pain MUCH better.  I am starting to feel a little more…awake, alert…not locked in a glass box made of pain.  I am hoping to be able to do stuff around the house, which has deteriorated to the point where I just want to blow it up and be done with it.  Sigh.  Little bits, little efforts done when I have the energy…rest when I need it and things will get done.  

Beloved and I went up to Baltimore a couple of weeks ago for the Lizard’s baby shower.  She is not going to make it to the end of May and in fact, I expect the phone to ring almost any time now.  It’s a little girl (if I hadn’t told you) and so now Dad is seriously outnumbered in a house full of estrogen!  It was good to see EG–she’s getting tall and she speaks so clearly!  Nice to not have to try and figure out what she’s talking about.  And she’s excited to be the Big Sister–hope that stays true, since EG is used to being The Only Child and the center of the Universe, at least in her world!  I think it will–my son never expressed any resentment of the new baby and he and his sister have grown up to be very good friends.

We’ve been telling everyone why they should move with us…I’d love it if all my people came with me, and we were all living in this wonderful place with wonderful lives!  Minimum wage in CA is $9 per hour and Eureka has a ballot item to raise their minimum wage to $12 in January 2014, with it tied to the cost of living index, which means an automatic increase each time the cost of living goes up.  If I had to get a job, this would be an acceptable wage–since I was only making $14.48 after 6 years at my former place of employment.  Even with SSDI, we can each earn up to $1k per month, as long as we don’t go over a total income of almost $20k together, for the year.  So we can certainly do a part-time something for what Beloved refers to as “beer and skittles” money.  There is also a rumor that CA gives an additional state SSDI benefit to make up for the cost of living–about 20% of what the government is paying.  That would be a nice little addition to our lives!

So that’s about it for us.  No buying a car here because we’ll get one in CA.  Health benefits for both of us (mine is VA, his is Medicaid/Anthem), thank goodness.  Lawyer is still working on LTD benefits, so fingers are crossed for those to be approved and paid out.  The house is disgustingly dirty and messy…but I am finally starting to feel a little bit better and plan to take care of that, one little step at a time.  Most of our time now is focused on getting ready for the move by sorting and making decisions about belongings.  We’ll sell what we can, donate what is usable but not sellable, dispose of properly that which is neither usable nor sellable…and reduce our belongs to fit into a 6 x 7 x 10 foot box.  This will also help get the house into a better shape for us to live in, even if it’s only for a few more months.  

We are looking forward to the pool opening on Memorial Day weekend.  We swam a lot last year and Beloved really enjoys it.  It helps with toning muscles that couldn’t stand any other form of exercise or working out.  It is part of our plan to swim at least 3 times a week in Eureka–there is a wonderful community center that has a pool and hopefully won’t be too expensive to belong to it.  We did go to Black Bear for Beloved’s birthday lunch and then went to see “Iron Man 3” when it opened as a late present.  I’ve already asked for steamed crabs for my birthday in August–probably the last time I’ll get those BLUES…but the good part about Dungeness crabs is that you can really only eat one, maybe two–they are MUCH larger.  Slightly different taste, but I can buy them live and cook them with the Old Bay seasoning…

Life goes on, some days good, some days bad, some days terrible…and the occasional great day that makes up for the terrible ones.  Trying to get healthy (hard to do without insurance, but now we can…), not doing anything major or earth-shattering except moving!  I’ll keep you updated on the process and bitch about the horrors of moving (which I actually hate)…

Namaste!

*****UPDATE****
Had a knock on the door and the FedEx man is standing there, wanting a signature.  Small package, no idea what it is, no visible return address.  I sign for it and then take scissors to open up this unknown delivery.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear?  My LYRICA from Pfizer…a 90 day supply and I can get a refill, so for at least the next 6 months, I will have ALL of my meds.  I am looking forward to more energy and more ability to do things, since there are things that need doing!
WOOHOO!  I will take this as a sign that more good things are on their way…

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One thought on “Where Did April Go?

  1. Reading that, Love, I kept finding myself torn between “you left something out” and “egad, how long is this going to go for!”

    I think, in a way, that is probably a good way to describe everything that’s happened since the day I decided to burn the box and asked you where you’d like to live (or as it turned out, where WON’T we live?).

    Yeah, maybe this should be our new running-gag? “What, we’re not done yet? *sigh* OK, what NOW? Oh, cool! / Aw, crap…”

    I had quietly figured on NorCal “somewhere” and expected “at a beach” and was willing to give up a “local” gamestore… I can’t say how shocked I was at how perfect Eureka is looking. Even if we arrive and find ourselves 40% disappointed, speaking for myself that 60% satisfied will still be better than we have now and worth the sacrifices. And while it’s more-or-less where I’d have pointed to a map to begin with, I can’t express how thrilled I really am that you came to the same decision entirely on your own and found something so perfect to our needs… nobody can say I decided to haul you across the country, at any rate! And maybe as importantly, I don’t fell like I’ve hauled you away from friends and family in the process of just following where I lead.

    It’s been a long couple of months for us, and there have been a lot of disappointments along the way. But as you always say: “If you don’t like your life, change your choices!” So I started by burning “The Box” entirely and started with a blank slate. We’re making new choices, and we’re making sacrifices and hard choices as obstacles appear and as a result we’re already seeing some improvements and we’ve had a little good luck fall our way… so not only are we in motion (moving sounded like a pun) but we’re picking up speed slowly but surely and we’re proving (to ourselves if nobody else) that this is really what we want for ourselves and our future.

    Now we just need a little more luck to fall our way and there are a couple key obstacles yet to overcome (and more which I feel certain which will reveal themselves with a “dramatic entrance” and a “flourish” and maybe even some trumpets…). But come what may, I expect to be standing next to you on the beach (if only briefly and symbolically) in Eureka CA looking out at the Pacific Ocean (the first time for me) for the sunset on Saturday the 2nd of November 2013. Or at least that’s the “Puppeh Plan”.

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