One woman’s quest to make sense of a nonsensical world after losing her dream home and all her worldly possessions to a raging and sudden wildfire. Exploring the existence of God, our cultural discomfort with grief, what it means to be human as well as life in a 1967 Airstream trailer, Kristen Moeller shares her humanity, her spirit and her dark edge openly for herself as well as for the countless others who beg to be heard in their wild journey through this wacky world.
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Exploring dark purple, posting so I can pee, living life in gratitude, writing through fire

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I have fallen out of my writing habit and now I wish to fall back in. The mornings I went straight to writing before beginning anything else were my favorites. Now, I have found a million other distractions and one missed day leads to the next. Yesterday I wrote a piece, worked with it for a while, became satisfied with its state yet never posted it. On some level I forgot to finish. I said what I needed to say, I explored the darkness I felt over the weekend – a reemergence of old heaviness, deep sadness, the sense of loss, feeling lost to myself. It was a perfect storm of hormonal surges; a short, lovely, yet emotional trip to see my family in Wyoming; and the first return to our “new” house where I am settling but not settled. But now, the tides have shifted. I am not where I am yesterday and am not quite sure where I am today either. It’s a bit disorienting.

Orientation is the process of becoming accustomed. Accustomed is about becoming familiar. Accustomed and familiar have been out of my vocabulary for a while. To what am I becoming accustomed? What is my new routine here? What is this new life I am creating? Who am I becoming? Who am I now? What do I do? What is my path? Where am I going?

I know where I have been. I know where I don’t wish to go any longer. The path forward is less certain. All along, I have said I will allow myself this journey. I will ignore my tendency to want to figure it all out now and I will politely ignore others influence (imagined or real) that I should be somewhere else. I swore I would let it unfold and develop as I gave myself this year to reconstitute into something new.

In our new home, things are finding their place. Most of the upstairs came together quickly with the exquisite help of many of our beloved friends. Boxes were unpacked and sent to recycling with speed, old items were lovingly placed, new items filled in the blanks. Upon entering our abode, friends exclaim it seems we have been here for a long time. It’s quite remarkable how well everything looks, how it all fits together, how it all came together so beautifully. It’s our psyches that need a little catching up time.

Now down in my office, I take a deep breath. In this lovely basement bedroom we painted dark purple, I have found my spot. Womb like and cozy, most of the floor is taken up by a full-size built in bed constructed over a large boulder that served as part of the foundation in 1937 when building codes were a little less stringent. (Our structural engineer gives it an F for aesthetics but an A for stability). I can’t see the boulder on which I perch but I know it’s there.

I keep the music going to drown the traffic noise and the occasional dog barking. I ease myself back into the stack of pillow until I find the sweet spot. My trusty Mac on my lap, I am ready to begin. My mind spins with questions: What should I say today? What is true? What is false? Can I be grateful and still mourn? Will we stay here? And, how did we get here?

My eyes rest on photos that line the shelves. My aunt on her wedding day, my mom in the cockpit of a 727, me at 6 years old, my dad as a boy, David and me in front of our now scorched totem pole. Many of these photos were destined to face a fiery death until Joleen (who acted as part of my brain on a day where my brain was failing me) filled bags full of these now precious things. Others came from the Rhode Island house and now the old melds with the new. Old and new swirl around, photos meet for the first time, images blend and for a moment, and I don’t know where I am.

Tigger finds me in my new spot in my purple room. For the first time, he leaps up onto this bed and curls up at my feet. Always touching me, he gets close enough to have contact yet maintains his space. Try to snuggle him too much and he will pull away. I know what’s good for me and let him rest wherever he chooses. Now, my shin rests on his back. We are tucked together, him snoozing, me contemplating the words I write, contemplating my disorientation. I can sit here and enjoy this new space and still have a deep aching missing and longing for my old space. I can feel gratitude for the gifts I have now and miss the gift of that beloved place.

Then I stare back at the screen and it challenges me. As I fill it with barely formed thoughts or unresolved conclusions, I see the blaring red typos, incomplete sentences, and dangling ideas, and I wonder what will stay and what will go. In this journey of writing my way through fire, one of the greatest gifts has been my willingness to write regardless. Knowing the next day I might write something completely different as I view the world anew, I allowed myself to commit words to paper anyway. Being out of the habit, it’s trickier now. Yesterday’s piece is not where I am today, yet I never posted it and today I struggle for the willingness to post this. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I wonder if I am being thankful enough. Will the God of thankfulness strike me down if I am not? Will you determine gratitude is missing in my expression?

I sit here and write anyway as I have found my home in writing. I have found an outlet that works for me. I have found something I care deeply about. I write the stuff that clogs my mind, and my mind stops spinning. I risk sharing the ugly and untransformed and incomplete and if I do that, when I am finished writing, it lessens. If I edit too much of the raw truth out of my prose, it is hollow.

I look around again at this purple room with a snoring dog warming my body and see the gifts. I see the gift of my angst, the losses, the uncertainty of life, the love of my people. I hear the traffic hum in between cords of music and I see the gift in that. I feel the heaviness that remains in my heart and am willing to accept that too. I feel the lightness that exists there at the same time. I feel the curiosity of living a life full of ups and downs, gifts, and what doesn’t initially feel like a gift. I see the sun on the trees above the window shades that block my new view of neighbor’s houses. I smell the fart that seeps into the air from my sleeping companion. I feel my bladder telling me it’s time to get up yet I fear if I don’t finish today, I won’t post again.

Bladder threatening to burst, I hastily recommit to my path and know I will not please everyone. I will worry some and annoy others. And, my words will find their home in the ears and hearts of those who grapple, those who dig dark purple and dark days as well as love the light that shines always even when we can’t see it or forget it’s there. I will rest on my boulder that I may never see, knowing that the foundation exists. And now, I will post to have the breakthrough in getting my words out there. Or maybe just so I can pee.

 

The red shawl

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A candle flickering, the sun rise turning the distant hill pink, Kirtan music playing on Pandora, a fresh cup of coffee at my side, my Mac warming on my lap – ahhh, the perfect way to start a morning. I have to peak between houses and over cars to glimpse that pink mountainside, but I can see it. Nature is out there. David just returned from the pool, now 5 minutes from our house, fresh and ready to start the day. We are living our new life in our sweet Artisan’s bungalow in the middle of a small mountain town. My system is settling and I no longer startle awake and wonder where I am. Many moment of fear gripped me in the first week in this house – what had we done? Where were we? How did we get here? Panic would fill me as I questioned every step that led us here. After being in transit for almost 7 months, to suddenly stop throws the system into confusion. In the weeks leading up to our move here, I was bursting with excitement – and yet I am sure it’s “normal” to experience the drop and question everything once again.

We don’t know what we will do going forward. We are trying on a life here, beginning to enjoy the conveniences of a life in a town. Finally exhaling. Yesterday, one of our builders sent us a picture of a dream house with soaring ceilings, walls of glass, beams throughout yet small in footprint. Suddenly, my settling system began to crave something else. Returning over and over to the picture, I wondered, “here? Are we supposed to be here? Are we supposed to be there on our land now so far away from this little hamlet?” And, then I gently remind myself, we don’t need to know right now.

Yesterday I finally turned in the first three chapters of my re-write to my ever-patient publisher for review. I grappled with crafting the ever-important opening to this second take on the topic of waiting. What do I really think now, so many years down the road and a lifetime of upheaval in this year alone? What can I really say that is new about waiting? Then, I realized I miss-placed my favorite red shawl and I took a detour.

In my gradual accumulation of clothing, there are a few items I have branded as “I would carry this out of a fire”. The shawl was one of these things. Much more than a measly pashmina, I discovered it in Santa Monica on my spring trip. The brick red seemed to work with everything, its weight comforted on airplanes and drafty rooms, it served as a light jacket whenever necessary. Suddenly, I realized it was gone, and began my feeble mental search for where I might have left it. Feeble I say as I have noticed (to my dismay) a certain decline in mental faculty. Simply, I cannot remember certain things and have moments where I completely blank out. So racking my brain, I couldn’t recollect where I might have left it. Vague notions started to come and I texted all my friends with whom I had spent recent time. The responses started coming back – “no shawl here”. I watched my reaction. I watched the roller coaster begin to roll. “Noooo. I don’t want to lose something I care about. No. No. No.” Glancing at my now meager closet, thinking of my past over-stuffed closets full of years of collecting a wardrobe, I see things that already I will put in the Goodwill pile. I have no desire to accumulate as before. Having a few fine pieces is enough. And yet, those few things seem to really matter. A lot.

This morning, with still one more place to check, I mourn my shawl. Will it turn up? Will I move on? I feel its warmth as a missing, craving the comfort of its weight on my chilled shoulders.

Has its substance dissolved into nothingness, as did my home and all my possessions? Are they floating out there in space to one-day reassemble into something else? Where do the ashes go? What do they become? Once solid, now particles in the air, my mind still searches for their form. Today, I place the dog dish on our Mexican tile floor and think of where I placed it in my old house. I see the splash marks from the water on the tile in a house that no longer exists. I hear a door open in my mind, yet know that door will never open again. Going downstairs here, my fingers run across the handrail that feels nothing like my old stairway. It seems each time, something clicks in my brain, “not that” it says. Usually, I leave this between my fingers and the rail to work out, and I continue on, but occasionally it stops me. Not that.

We have created a home here. I glance at all these possessions we have been lucky enough to accumulate and see my already formed attachments. Can I be with that it all is temporary? Can I be with that anything that brings me comfort can and will vanish into the void? Can I be with the change that is the only thing that is certain in this uncertain universe?

Can I be without my red shawl? Will I miss it like a limb? Will it turn up and lull me into the belief that I might not lose again? Will I search for it forever thinking maybe one day it some strange place it will reemerge perhaps in a different form but familiar nonetheless?

 

Hacked, hook, line and sinker

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It happened to me. I didn’t think it would cause I was oh-so careful of where I clicked and where I spent my time. No oddly formatted links for me, no random sites, and certainly no strange games. No, I steered clear of the underworld as I saw it and believed that would keep me safe. Then, three days ago, it happened out of the blue and rocked my virtual world. I was hacked, and not just hacked but hacked publicly on my favorite social network which has been my play ground for years and my lifeline during these last 7 months.

It began simply with some confusing messages coming through from facebook. Then soon, the kind warnings began, “looks like you’ve been hacked better change your passwords”. Then, the more stern warnings started, “Stop sending me this crap. Why are you doing this???” I jumped into action, changed my passwords on google, facebook and even changed my username for good measure. I then disabled any apps that had permission to post, locked down even more tightly all my security settings, followed protocol and crossed my fingers. And, there was no way to find the source of this rotten email being generated from my account. I sent reports to facebook, I began posting on my wall acknowledging what was going on, I reached out for help from experts.

Leaving for the afternoon, but still monitoring the fallout, I made what felt like a true statement to Dusty. “I would have been so much more upset about this before the fire.” Chuckling at seeing my “growth” show up here, I didn’t realize I was uttering primo bullhockey.

As the night went on, more and more emails came through choking my inbox, the thoughtful ones being watered down by peoples inane insistence that is truly was me doing this and that I was seriously bad and wrong. Jessica then spoke the unspeakable, suggesting perhaps I should deactivate my account. Promising it as a temporary condition and not the complete freeze those words carry, I followed her coaching and pushed “deactivate”. Then, I put my smart phone to the side and continued to be with my friends.

Feeling virtuous about my ability to let go, on the way home, I promised Dusty I would let it go for the night and might even leave my account deactivated for the next day and just ride out the storm as it seemed that all that could be done had been done. We decided a boycott of facebook was just what the doctor ordered….

I lasted until I got home.

Justifying (like any good addict) just one more check, I was aghast to see my inbox flooded again with the mix of warnings, even with my account deactivated. How could this be still happening, I wondered with a head full of fog and fear. One warning message stuck in my craw, “How could you be sending this crap out when we are in the midst of dealing with a hurricane?? You are being so thoughtless. I demand you stop!”. Oh my. I was beginning to let it get to me. I changed my passwords again, deactivated the account again, and went to bed hoping for miracles in cyberspace.

At 3:30am, I woke up with thoughts running wild and, yes, succumb and checked my email. Even more messages, railing about my insensitivity, mixed with a few kind ones suggesting I might have a problem and might want to change a password or two. Up for an hour and a half, doing just that (again), as well as googling solutions, I finally returned to bed for a brief sleep until dawn. Now exhausted and full throttle in my obsessive drive to fix the unfixable, I worked all day barely getting up to pee, eat or drink water. Even my dogs began to roll their eyes at me. I begged for help from experts, followed all suggestions offered, downloaded McAffee even though I have a Mac (which 18 hours later is still running in the background, slowing my machine, having found nothing…). Two patient angels helped me, taking time from their busy days, with their way above average expertise, Pam Finn and Adryenn Ashley to whom I am indebted. We made some headway with more changes and lockdowns and setting modifications. Yet, later on, the emails kept coming. Were they slowing? Was it choking out its last rancid breath? It seemed so, and then another message would come through.

A few times I became willing to pull the permanent plug. For most people, this would be the obvious solution, far preferable to losing sleep, and spending a day in exaggerated stress response. Alas, not for me. As an author, platform is gold and I have painstakingly over the years built my social media presence. It’s what had a new publisher be interested in me as a writer, but more importantly, since the fire, facebook has been my way to communicate with you, my readers of this blog. Unplugging from that source felt devastating. So I continued to try to save a sinking ship. Many advised that a permanent wipe of my account was the only option, while others swore it would run its course and begged me not to jump ship to soon.

Today, on the dawn of day three of my deluge, my facebook future is still uncertain. Emails are still trickling in with whacked out links attached.  What is certain is my tender psyche is far from mended. Yes, I have always leaned toward the obsessive side of things, but my reaction yesterday was extreme. I missed a glorious sunny day. I didn’t go outside. I was a very bad doggy momma, ignoring my furry loves for most of the day. I trashed my house, felt chaotic, and did not like who I was one bit. Not one bit at all. 

Fortunately, I called uncle at about 3pm yesterday. I finally left the house and left my mood. The fog began to lift and I felt human again. Viewing my obsessive ride on the brink of cuckoo (and perhaps falling into the cuckoo puddle), I see a desperation in holding on to what I think I need. In this crazy world full of fires, random violence, horrible murders of children, and now Frankenstorms, many of us grasp at the straws. There is so much chaos in so many lives right now. Cancer diagnosis, parents dying, money issues, sick children abound. Instead of taking on the angst of the world, I take on the angst of being hacked. Add in, being hacked is a violation of some sort. It’s not personal, but it is ugly and mean. Some twisted human designed something for the sole purpose of messing with others and causing them strife. At Landmark Education where we often create our own meaning out of words or even create brand new words that sound like gobblygook, there is a term called “unmessable-with”. This means what it says, the ability to not feel messed with even when messed with. I can say with all certainty, I ain’t there. I let myself be messed with for an extended period of time. I gave away my power, my peace of mind, my sanity. I was tunnel vision and taken out. I was hacked, hook, line and sinker.

 

What you can do to protect yourself from hackers:

1) Don’t show your email address publicly on your facebook page

2) Don’t allow 3rd party apps to link to your account and post on your behalf

3) NEVER click on links that seem suspicious in any way, shape or form

4) Browse only on “https” setting for security

5) Don’t use the same passwords on all your accounts. Use a password with characters, symbols, numbers, letters that is not easy to figure out

Also, a last request, be kind to your fellow “hackees”. At some point, it will happen to the best of us if we play in the land of cyberspace.