Christina Gretz is determined to make this Christmas merry for her husband and three children, even as their landslide-ravaged home cracks and creaks around them.

They have endured snakes slithering into their house, popping noises awakening the children at night and huge cracks materializing in floors, ceilings and walls, all because of the earth movement destroying their home.

Anxiety has become a way of life, with emergency escapes planned in case a bathtub crashes through a floor into a basement bedroom or a ceiling suddenly gives way.

"I am determined to give these kids a normal Christmas and give them good memories. These kids deserve to be happy and not have this stress," Gretz says.

Across the hill that separates them lives Linda Carroll, who will enjoy time with her daughter this Christmas. But Carroll's not indulging in her usual Yuletide activities.

"Most years, I make 100 batches of caramel corn and give those away. I lost that spark," she says. "I can't even function normally. My kids will get cash.

"I've spent the last year downsizing. More than anything, I realize it's just stuff. I've completely changed my views on stuff."

This likely will be both women's last Christmas in their homes, which are on a buyout list of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with 25 other local houses hit by landslides.

"In some ways, I'm glad this is going to be my last Christmas here after watching everything fall apart for 18 months," Carroll says.

But Gretz says, "To have to move out of this house after three years is sad and stressful."

The landslides began wreaking havoc two months after the record rains of May 2015, hitting Broadmoor Bluffs and Lower Skyway hard.

A separate landslide is upending Gretz's house on a Stardust Drive hilltop, but it's much like the one destroying 11 houses on Zodiac Drive below.

At first glance, Gretz and Carroll's situations seem different.

The Gretzes moved here three years ago from San Francisco and chose their house for its expansive views and excellent schools.

When the foundation started to crack, they called in geologists to devise a remedy only to learn that they were on a landslide.

The family loves the location - the deer and bears that wander by, the stunning views of Garden of the Gods, the friendly neighbors. So landing on the FEMA buyout list was a shock.

Nonetheless, Gretz says, "If anything, it's strengthened my marriage because we're talking through things more."

Carroll, by contrast, has been in her house 30 years. It's the first and only house she's owned, the place where she raised both children. Then her husband left, and her adult children fled the nest.

"It's a lonely feeling of being here watching things fall apart," she says. "It's my home. It's my safe place. It's my comfort place. When you've had it this long, it's yours.

"Not only raising the kids, but we've had ministries here, had a lot of people live here over the years to help them out."

The commonalities between Carroll and Gretz far surpass their differences, though.

Drop by to visit Gretz and she'll ask, "How's Linda doing?" Stop to see Carroll and she asks, "How is Christina?"

They and the other Skyway victims have bonded to the point that the financial and emotional losses they face are compounded by the fact they'll lose one another as neighbors.

"A lot of people on the FEMA list have become kind of a community," Gretz notes.

And like all landslide victims interviewed by The Gazette, the two women have remarkable empathy and a knack for seeing the bright side.

Gretz and Carroll both are concerned about the elderly single or widowed women on Zodiac Drive who bought 1950s-era houses on flat land that now is at the toe of the landslide.

"My heart goes out to them that they have to go through this in their golden years," Gretz says.

Carroll is working to find more money for the victims.

FEMA is expected to reimburse them 75 percent of each "project cost," including the May 2015 appraised home value, cost of demolition, appraisals, title searches and the like. That missing 25 percent constitutes a huge loss for them all.

"You think your house is your investment. And sadly, it's not," Carroll says.

She takes elected officials on landslide tours, explaining the neighborhood's dilemma, and holds meetings in her living room with politicians and neighbors. At this point she's hoping an act of Congress will appropriate more money to the disaster victims.

Both women are starting to explore other houses and neighborhoods.

"I'm not going to live on a hill, that's for sure," Gretz says. "Unless I can get documentation it's safe."

Asked whether she's devastated to lose her long-time home, Carroll says: "Cancer is devastating. Losing a child is devastating. This isn't devastating.

"It's really made me not care about material possessions as much. I'm becoming a minimalist in every sense of the word.

"I come from a view that everything I own is God's. So it's not really mine to lose anyway."

Nonetheless, she says, "It's going to be super hard to walk out of here."

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