It’s December in Eureka. Well, it’s December everywhere, but I’m in Eureka. It’s been colder than usual and the locals are complaining about the hard winter. Nobody here owns a winter coat, so even when the mercury dipped down into the 30’s we still saw people in short and flip-flops, shivering as they walked down the street.
We’re getting settled in, forming a “Eureka” routine. Learning where stuff is in the local grocery store, discovering that we don’t necessarily have to plan our errand route in a specific order because if we miss one, even if it’s back across town? That’s only about 2 miles at the very most. Distances confuse us, used as we are to dealing with that as the measure of how long it takes to get from one place to another. (In VA, it was the only way to know how much time to allot. And if you missed a stop on your list, it could mean backtracking 15-20 miles.)
I can sit at my desk and look out the window…and see water. We have a lively crowd of birds who come to eat the seed spread by my neighbor in the middle of the road. No, he’s not hunting fowl for dinner…it really is that small a podunk town (about 1/4 square miles total area, with less than 300 residents). No traffic to speak of. We know when someone is walking by because all the dogs sound an alarm. Or are asking to be pet, depending on your point of view.
I’m still having stress anxiety issues. I don’t mind being outside, or going places–as long as I am not having to actually interact with more than about 3 people. So that means going into the grocery store can be hard on me. I manage it most of the time by keeping my head down and staying “inside a bubble”, looking only at the shelves and floor. If I have to look at people, watch out for other carts and keep adjusting my motion through the store to accommodate the other shoppers…it eventually freaks me out.
I got an “emergency” appointment with my new psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago. (Side note: we are in CA, land of the hippies. I address my social worker and psychiatrist by their first names. VERY informal, even at the VA.) I am on a new anti-anxiety med (Hydroxyzine Pamoate). It began life as an antihistamine, but is used a lot for the Vets who have PTSD. Seems to be working for me, although as an antihistamine, it comes with the warning about the sleepies (and it does affect me that way) and it also can caused blurred vision. Yup, got that too. But I do feel like it actually does something, which I never could prove with the clonazepam.
I get to meet my PCP the day after Christmas. I am already making a list of things we need to talk about: pain management, a scooter for me, an assessment of the meds I”m on. My psychiatrist told me that the VA (here) takes pain management very seriously–and is willing to use non-traditional methods to get it. They will cover chiropractors, accupuncture and massage therapy. WOW! She also told me that I should use ANY herbal supplements I find helpful (code word for medical marijuana, or MMJ as I’ve seen it mentioned) as long as I keep her in the loop so that she can make sure there’s no bad interactions with my pharmaceuticals.
I need a scooter because walking, while not particularly making my legs hurt, does cause back spasms and sciatica. I can feel exactly where the degenerative arthritis is, in my spine. And since most of the retail stores here are not national chains, they don’t have handicap access carts. The grocery store has one, which means I can’t do the Beloved and Me show for shopping that is usually our habit. (He can’t walk the store, either.)
On the plus side of things, we like our apartment. We like the town itself. (Both our little baby town and Eureka!) We like the people–they are kind, polite and very friendly. We are eating better, and our health is improving (I think) because of it. The cost of living is much cheaper so there is less stress about money…let’s talk a little more about that.
There is less long term stress about money. We know that we can make it on Beloved’s SSDI and my LTD. However…I am up for review by the insurance’s “Any Occupation” board, in which they try to tell me that I can go back to work and I tell them, no I cannot if only because I’m on narcotics for pain relief. I shouldn’t drive. I don’t do much of it as Beloved handles the transportation. I cannot walk or stand for longer than about 15 minutes. I still nap frequently. I freak out around groups of people (more than 4-6 other people–big group, eh?). Tell me which job you think I can handle, that fits my skills, experience and training and who would hire me. Hopefully, they will see my point of view and agree with me, granting me “real” LTD (good until 2028, when I become eligible for Social Security, based on age not disability).
If I am rejected (and told to go back to work), we become immediately eligible for a lot of Social Services. Which would cover the difference in income, and we can manage to live here comfortably with that assistance. We are both signed up for the ACA and need to find out, on Jan 1, with the rest of the nation, just exactly what we are eligible for in healthcare. Between that and the VA, I am seriously COVERED. But Beloved will finally have health insurance again, so we can begin to deal with some of his medical needs.
The cost of an extra week in the hotel and 2 extra weeks of renting a car have really come back to hit us hard. It burned up money we needed for deposits and down payments, some of which we ended up having to borrow to be able to get things like the car. So we have reached a point where we have month left at the end of our money–never a good thing, since the idea is to have money left at the end of the month. Sigh.
We have food to eat, no problems there. But bills are due and will have to paid the minute any checks come in. (Mine, his or the returned deposit from our last apartment, which hasn’t shown up yet and is more than overdue according to the complex’s manager and her own timeline. Le Sigh.) And there is no extra money at all, for presents to each other in this holiday season or even getting some of the household items we need. Things that you don’t truly realize that you need to have, until you need to use them. Kitchen towels. Potholders. A Scotchpad to scrub recalcitrant food off of dishes. A toilet brush. Soap dish. Colander. (I’m using a scoop sieve to deal with noodles, but something I can just pour the food and water into and let it handle the draining water would be nice.) Just little stuff. That doesn’t include the inevitable restocking of the spices and nonperishable pantry (stock) items.
On the other hand, when I do get to purchase these things, I get to choose what I want. For the past 32 years, all of my kitchen towels were given to me, I didn’t pick out a single one. Now I can go get whatever my little heart desires. I left the potholders I had made 30 years prior behind in VA. I will get new ones. Or make new ones. So there! And I don’t have to get them at Bed Bath and Beyond. I’m totally okay with the dollar store. As long as the towels dry my stuff and the potholders keep me from burning myself, that’s fine.
So it’s the holidays. Beloved and I got some early presents from his folks. They sent us our new convection oven (http://www.brevilleusa.com/the-smart-oven-r.html) and it is the bomb. We also got a variable temperature kettle (important because every kind of tea requires a different degree of heat to brew to its perfect state. And coffee should never be boiled; it is made at 200 degrees. Those 12 degrees make a huge difference in its taste.) that we use almost daily ( http://www.brevilleusa.com/variable-temperature-kettle.html). His parents got us every accessory for the oven and even bought us the “Brownies with all edges” AND “Lasagna with all edges” pans. (http://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Edge-Nonstick-Brownie-Pan/dp/B000MMK448)
We plan on getting the Breville breadmaker as well. The local, organic and non-GMO loaves of bread are wonderful, tasty…and expensive. It’s about $5 a loaf. We can make the same thing for less than a dollar a loaf (for ingredients). And we eat enough bread to make that breadmaker a worthwhile investment. We’re also talking about getting a Belgian waffle maker; the prices have come down considerably since Beloved bought one for his parents ($90 then, about $25 now…) and it’s a quick and easy way to have a carb for a meal. And once I get a good recipe for the mix, I can make either sweet waffles or savory. Chicken and gravy on waffles is GOOD!
Like I said, we’re good for food. And we have a roof over our head. So life is pretty good. Yes, having less than a dollar in our accounts is stressful, but once the checks hit, we’re fine. We continue to learn how to live a life without all the mad, stupid amounts of stress we had in VA, to slow down to a pace of life that is easier to deal with. And it’s not just us imposing this slow down–the general pace of things out here is slower, gentler. And no one seems to be rushing anywhere (except the HSU students and they are not locals).
We have our computers, as old and beat as they are; we have our phones (new and awesome, but not really usable in the apartment due to old wiring interference). We have a place to live, food to eat and a reliable source of transportation. We have each other.
Is it everything we hoped for? No. Is it even half of what we thought it would be? No. BECAUSE there were things we have that we didn’t even know to ask for. Because there are things which have turned out to be important to us that we had not considered. Is it a better life than we had in VA? A resounding YES. Do we regret moving out here? No way. Besides, I still have to learn how to surf.