You just can't make this shit up - Twisted Luck
Life can be surreal - surreal, in a rather twisted way, at least my life tends to do that. I always told my boys the reason for it all is God's way of preparing us for something grand. You need to know the struggle to fully appreciate the rewards. Life is an adventure! Well, lately that adventure has me exhausted, and this week is the exclamation point.
Since Sunday I've had about 13 hours of sleep, and tomorrow is Friday, plus I work this weekend. Work has been draining. If I had to keep track of my hours, thus far this week I am nearing 70 of them and I am a salary worker - no overtime for me.
It may seem like a charmed life working in media, but what most people do not understand is how the hours get sucked away from you when you're working on a story. There are the phone calls, the research, tracking down leads and gathering your back-up..aka facts. Yes, even for a small community paper that is the reality-especially if you're in a competitive market.
Readers only see the summary of the work needed to get that article to print. Heck, even covering a school board meeting or city council meeting sucks hours away. Some of our districts have 3 hour long meetings. Then you have to write it all out - which, again takes time. If you're a small media outlet like ours you then need to sell the ads so that you can have the pages you need to place that article and/or get it up on a website and shared on social media before your competition. All of which is a must to keep your brand on top and maintain readership so that anyone working for/with you can afford to put food on the table and keep the lights on. A 2-minute read may be the result of 10 hours or more of work.
This week I had one of those stories, however, this wasn't about a meeting, it was about a tragedy involving a public servant and his family. It was one I knew would be controversial and to dig out those facts I had to utilize my grassroots organizing skills more than my writing skills. It meant pushing buttons and stepping on some toes. Not an easy task for someone who lives in the small community they write about, at least unless you don't mind hibernating at home when not working. It is the best way to avoid dirty looks, chatter, and questions while shopping or filling up your tank -keep that in mind for later in this piece.
Anyway, yes -I stepped on toes and pushed some buttons this week. I'm pretty sure our sheriff is not singing my praises right now. Also, I know there are some people out there just waiting for the day something happens to me, and they would call it karma. What they do not realize is I'd probably be taking my own picture as it happens and writing the story..news is news.
Through all of this I've been desperately missing my boys, after all, it is the holiday season and they are in Memphis. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can be there in January to see Kyle, my youngest son, at age 19, represent Memphis in the International Blues Challenge as their youth performer. The calculator in my head is juggling all the bills I have to meet and what the cost would be to get down there. I know I can't count on my car so I am planning on taking the train but even so- right now I am in a mess, even before today's situation (wait for it, I will reveal it all.) The last 10 years took a toll and a mountain has been built before me- that is what happens after so many days and months of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Single moms know what I am talking about. I may be over the poverty line now, but there were too many years in the last decade raising the boys where it was a crap shoot if I could put food on the table or if I would be able to keep the lights on. It has all added up.
Through those years my cars have been complete nightmares. I've driven a van with a faulty electrical system, no driver's window and through some nasty snow storms. I had one car that leaked oil like no tomorrow and was constantly breaking down on me. Then there was another car I had that I swear was haunted. It had been owned and well maintained by an elderly woman before I purchased it from her son after she passed away. I think she was pissed off someone else was driving her car. Within the first month problems started arising and from there it was every other month a new issue would have me broken down on the highway somewhere. It came time to just let it go so she could rest in peace.
The car I am driving now is among one of the better-looking cars I've had in the last decade but it also has had a multitude of issues in the 9 months I've had it - It came my way through Kyle's best friend, who also went down to Memphis with my sons. He better count his blessings he didn't drive it down there when the left here in January of this year...they'd probably be stuck in Arkansas still trying to get it to their destination in Memphis. I'm pretty sure that's where they would have broken down after leaving their home in Wisconsin.
I kinda hate cars.
Which brings me to today. After spending more time in the office than I had planned on, I packed up the car with bags and boxes of winter outerwear that had been donated to a warm clothing drive our paper had taken part in -I was heading home but first I needed to deliver those items, stop at the store to get food for my animals and myself as we had nothing in the house ...I've been too busy working to ensure that wouldn't happen. I was looking forward to relaxing, perhaps cleaning and just zoning out curled up with a quilt and the laptop - both of which are needed to help stay warm....warm because my furnace is out of commission and has been for a long while.
I haven't had the finances to get it fixed, plus I am needing to downsize. The house is too much for just me, especially since I have Rheumatoid. I've been wanting to sell it and it is a 100-year-old plus fixer-upper. I've learned a lot about living a greener life since it and the water heater flaked out on me. Google living off the grid, you will find a lot of safe and valuable information on how to survive through such situations without going into more debt running out and spending money you don't have.
Our society is spoiled, that is something else I've learned- we consume and waste far too much energy. So, don't worry, I am fine and even working on building some home-made solar projects. They're kinda cool, plus I do have electricity...and new skills is always a plus. No, I am serious and not looking for sympathy. Seriously, Google off-grid living - you can do a lot..and like I said, safely-I'm not stupid. I managed just fine last winter.
Ok, back to today....
I leave for work this morning and as I get into my car I see that cat. An orange tabby that hangs around outside my house and pretty much thinks he owns this neighborhood. In the winter he takes up residence in my crawl space...and sometimes in the neighbors' crawl spaces. I've watched him strut through this neighborhood for about 4 years now. He is healthy and plump. He was sitting on the bbq grill and I swear that animal was giving me the evil eye. It was freezing cold outside but the bright sun, evidently, was keeping him warm - cats know how to utilize and harness the power of the sun. As I pulled away a grey tiger stripe walked into the driveway, it also looked at me in an odd way. I think they are a couple. I've seen the products of their union earlier this spring. Anyway, I think they want to get rid of me and my dogs and take over this place.
When I left home I was pleased to see I still had enough gas in the car to get me through my day. That's always a plus. The office was quiet today so I was able to knock out quite a bit of work - I was pleased with myself and looking forward to taking the day off tomorrow and catching up on life and sleep before a weekend of activities to get covered.
The road between my home and the office is about a 10 mile drive through the country and over a hill. There I was, singing along to the song on the radio. I can handle my own voice, others would pass out. I was scanning the area for deer, I've yet to hit one and would be devastated if I ever did. I was just getting to the top of the hill when all of a sudden the car felt weird. The radio was going, the lights were on but the RPM thingy all of a sudden started nose-diving to zero. I knew that wasn't good. I thought maybe I accidentally shifted into neutral but soon realized something else must be happening. There was nowhere to pull over unless I wanted to roll over and down an embankment. I was in no mood for that as I don't have health insurance. I can't afford a $300 premium and a $10k deductible, especially when I avoid doctors like the plague. Like mechanics, they always find more wrong with you than for what you originally went in to see them about. Sarcasm keeps me going.
The Little Engine That Could kept playing over and over in my mind..I knew if I could just get to the top of the hill I would coast down to where I could safely pull over. "I think I can, I think I can" - perhaps should be my new motto in life. It works and it did, I coasted down that hill at 50 mph. But, to that jerk riding my tail-end, that 50 mph wasn't fast enough- too bad he didn't hear my swearing and see the bird I was flipping him. I did manage to make up a batch of new swear words.
Midway through my downward coast I remembered a conversation I had with Steve, my best friend who lives in Oregon. It was Tuesday evening and he asked me how the car was doing. "Don't ever fucking ask me that again because EVERY FLIPPING TIME YOU DO, THE CAR BREAKS DOWN." is what I told him when he asked... And yes...STEVE...history repeated itself, AGAIN!
*Sorry for the foul language - I am a Chicagoan at heart- Oh, and German.
Anyway, towards the bottom of the hill, I knew there was a side road I could pull off of safely and be off the county highway. It was the road to one of my favorite and kinda hidden cemeteries. I like cemeteries -so many life stories are buried there and no one is asking anything of you -peace and quiet.
My car finally stopped. Lights were still on and the radio was blaring but everything else stopped, including the heat. Did I mention I live in Wisconsin and it is winter? Oh, and I have Rheumatoid Arthritis? There was a cornfield to the right of me and to the left. It was pitch black out. Now all I could think about was the movie "Children of the Corn" - and how I really didn't want to leave this Earth that way.
I have 80 bucks in the bank, about 15 bucks on my child support card, not enough for a tow and life over the next 7 days. Yes, my ex is still paying off what he owes me in arrears for when he went to prison for domestic violence and sexual assault against me. He's out now, living with his mother and working and paying only $100 bucks a month. He bitches about that (poor baby) - yeah, there was a time I was a stupid young girl, but at least he did give me my beautiful boys. If he paid all that he owed, I wouldn't be in the situation that I am.
So, there I was - the Dead Zone. I remembered those cats this morning, "assholes."
I managed to get a call and a few private messages out on my phone that was also almost dead. Patsy, who has come to my rescue in the past, mentioned something about a pizza and to call her or she would call me back...I can't remember, I was scanning those corn fields.
I was freezing and my joints were stiffening, I knew the Tin Man phase of Rheumatoid was settling in, thankfully, I had all those winter outwear clothing in the car. I managed to find a pair of socks, which came in handy as mittens. Blue fuzzy mittens. Yes, I know it is winter in Wisconsin and I should have dressed properly but what can I say most of us out here don't zip up until January or February.
Patsy called back and I described where I was -I am not good with directions and names of roads. So she heard at the end of the hill, turn left. The woman found me. She had a lot to say, she always does and did, especially about those socks on my hands.
For a split second, while I was warming in her car, I started crying - I don't cry in front of other people- I save that for my dogs, they're happy narcissists, they look at me just wanting a treat, I don't like sympathy. I snapped myself out of the flow of tears rather quickly and decided to give my oldest brother a call. He lives about 13 miles from me in the other direction. We rarely talk or see one another. It is not that we don't get along or anything like that, it is more that he is a loner type of person, the Great White Hunter is what I've often called him. He doesn't communicate well, he grunts. He likes his own space and no one to intrude. Every so often (once or twice a year), when I am in the mood to be a pain in the ass, I will drop by his place, unannounced, and make him carry on a conversation. I find joy in that. Jerry doesn't.
Jerry was the first in our family to move up here from Illinois. He is 8 or 9 years older than me. I've lost track. When he was younger he lied about his age so much that I don't even know how old he is. My brother Larry moved up here next. We used to be close but there's a rather long story behind it all. Don't forget we grew up in a dysfunctional family, there's a reason I once married an alcoholic. Anyway, I digress. Jerry said he could make it out in the morning and we'd figure something out with the car.
"Well, you're going to need to call the sheriff and tell him about the car so they don't tow it, " said Patsy.
"I am not going to call the sheriff, Patsy - do you not remember what happened earlier this week, our front page, and the buttons I pushed? YOU call the sheriff!" I replied. Patsy works part-time at the paper, she handles our billing.
"I am not calling Brent, YOU call him," she retorted.
"Patsy, I am not calling him, are you crazy?"
That debate went on for quite a while.
Patsy made the call, on speaker. The sheriff didn't sound that enthused when he realized who was calling and why.
He did say to get the car off of the blacktop and he would send a deputy out to make sure it would be okay, or else it would need to be towed.
Patsy and I pushed the car - that was fun. Her yelling at me to push, my joints saying "eff you," and then me worried there wasn't enough room for the car to get it off the road, I envisioned it would go over the edge of the side and into the cornfield. "Just push," she barked. Patsy barks a lot, that is how she communicates, but she's all bark and no bite. I love Patsy.
We waited for the deputy but ended heading into to town...and, that's when it dawned on, "You know, that car was on 1/4 of a tank for a long time, I think."
"What do you mean, you think?" said Patsy.
I explained remembering seeing that more than once over the last couple of days, but couldn't remember if I had put any gas in it during that time. It has been a long week.
"I think maybe the gas gauge broke -that would make sense," I said.
I cannot describe the weird look she gave me. Just imagine it for yourself.
She was taking me to the store anyway so that I could get cat food and something for myself to eat as there was no food at home. I told her I would also pick up a gas can and we should try to put gas in it. She didn't look thrilled. "You mean now, tonight?" she asked. "Of course now," I said.
When we made it back to the car, the deputy was just pulling up. He helped me put the gas in. I went to start the car and it turned over but soon stopped. I couldn't get it to turn over again. The deputy said sometimes when a car runs out it would do that, for some reason, I now cannot remember.
"See, I think my gas gauge broke!"
We needed to leave the car where it was, and hopefully, Jerry can get it going in the morning. Deputy Hosclaw was very nice. He chuckled when I asked him if the sheriff used any expletives when he called him. Patsy told me to shut up. I could have reminded her about the time in the sheriff's office earlier this year with her comments about something ...and how he reminded her he had handcuffs....but...nevermind.
So, there you have it. My twisted luck.
I can say there was a positive tonight. When I got home and settled in, Kyle FINALLY posted something to his musician's Facebook page. It is something I've been on him about and he hates doing. I think I have the only kid in the world who hates social media and marketing himself.
So I leave you this time with this....