There’s a persistent myth that California doesn’t get real winter weather.

For the most part, it’s true.

If you head toward the northern coast or up in the mountains, you can get some good, heavy snow (we all know about the Donner party, right?). But for the most part, it’s a temperate state.

For us, a heavy winter day is hard rain and wind. Which is exactly what we had last night.

Right as I was headed to bed, the wind kicked up and the skies dumped everything they had.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if we lived on the opposite side of the street. However, our house backs up to another that is a good 6 feet higher up than ours. When it rains, all that runoff cascades into our yard.

The people on either side of us tend to sandbag their back doors in the winter to prevent flooding. We have drains buried in the ground around our back patio, instead. In the majority of storms, these drains are enough.

However, three gutter downspouts also feed into this same drain system. In a heavy rain, it’s too much for the pipes, and water backs up. It forms a muddy lake beside our house that threatens to crest the foundation, and it inches across the back patio toward our door.

Which is why last night, when I would normally have been heading to bed, I was outside with my husband, digging ditches in the dark, getting soaked and muddy, and trying not to think about all the cat poop that was likely floating through the water I was touching.

You might think this would be annoying or frustrating. For my husband, it was. In the past five years, he’s been home only one other time when our high-tech ditches needed to be redug in the middle of a storm. The other five or so times we’ve gotten one of these heavy downpours has been during normal work hours.

But I rather like being out in a storm.

My mom loves a good storm, too. Digging runoffs is a fun chore for her. It didn’t occur to me that I had inherited this trait until last night, when I spotted my neighbor out at almost 11 pm, digging a very similar ditch in his yard, and I waved cheerfully…and he looked at me like I had lost my mind.