Since I have rather unsuccessfully been beating my head against a wall trying to generate income (don't they hide 100 dollar bills in walls?), I thought I might have a go at trying to get something published.
(I just shared this -what I thought brilliant line- with the Willow, and she said, "what, do you think you are smart?" and I repeated the lines and explained the metaphor, and she thought if you beat your head against the wall your brains would splatter out and if you are smart they would be worth money. Gross! ok... teenagers)
I suppose I was sort of inspired by a book I found in a free pile-maybe this should have been a sign-. A compilation of shorts by a woman from Vermont. Some of them were posts she had had published in local weeklys.
I pulled out my -also found in a free pile- 1993 Writer's handbook, which I had never opened, and started doing some research.
I wrote 650 words on the current ice conditions in a quaint little narrative telling about an adventure involving the Willow and myself last Sunday. I knew the deadline for the local weekly here was Tuesday, so I laborously went over and over my composition and flew to my search engine looking for the contact info to dash it off to the editors of the weekly and a local daily.
I went for the weekly first, dutifully filling out a form briefly describing my intent, then fired off a copy to the daily. By the time I got back to my inbox, I had a response from the weekly asking me to fire them off the copy. WOW. I sent it off and went about doing some errands, thinking things were looking pretty good!
When I got home, I checked my email and found a response from the weekly. Apparently there is a weekly of the same name on the other side of the country, and they don't have any ice there. HAHAHAH!
The editor was very nice, and I was grateful to find out my error, so I quickly thanked him and fired off an inquiry to the real local weekly.
While I was waiting for responses from MAINE papers, the editor of the weekly on the West coast and I exchanged a few delightful short emails. He even said my piece was "nicely written".
Then I got a polite but firm rejection from the local weekly. I wasn't even sure they had read the piece. I slept on it, then fired off the piece again as a submission pitch, citing my google publishing numbers and views, and even daring to quote the editor's on the West Coast's compliment on my submission. I was pitching for a guest column.
I was more favorably received- a guest columnist would not receive any compensation, however, and they would like me to be sort of specific to my town, and submit a few more examples of my work.
Today I went through this blog and picked a couple of posts and sent them along...if I get accepted, it will be a bit different than my anonymous gig on here, and I still won't be getting paid...but maybe I will make some connections and at least have something else to put on my writing resume in the future. Or, maybe this will turn into a paid gig.
Or the household will be going hungry.
Say your prayers for me, I think I might be heading in a good direction.
Living as I do, out in the middle of nowhereville, I find occasional employment where I may, usually with a small business owner.
I was running errands a few weeks ago, wondering where the funds to survive the month were going to come from, and happened by a help wanted sign at a Christmas greens operation.
A few years ago I worked several weeks for a big operation running a wreath machine, and while it was one of the worst jobs I have ever had, needs sometimes overcome common sense, and I pulled in to talk to the owner.
The owner was a relative of my former employer, and promptly asked me to come to work the next day and put me on making wreaths by hand.
Several things are required to make wreaths. A wreath ring- a circle of heavy crimped metal of various diameters. 8 inches, 10 inches. 12, 14 16, 20, 24, up to 72 inches.
Also needed is wreath wire, it's typically coated green and comes on a spool like thread, but the spool is long enough to fit across your palm.
Lastly are the plant material, called "brush", most commonly balsam fir. Brush is bought by the stick from "tippers". A stick is typically a straight sapling 3 inches in diameter about 6 feet long. The brush is snapped off the trees by the bough, and stacked and jammed on the stick, and when the stick is full it is then secured by rope or twine tied at each end and buried in the brush. Sticks of brush weigh about 100 pounds.
To make a wreath by hand, I put the ring on the table and secure the wire around the weld by wrapping several times. I put an armload of brush on the table, pick up a bough, and snap it several times down the stem to make a "bouquet". Holding the bouquet in my left hand with the stems against the ring, I wrap the wire several times to secure it to the ring, and then flip the ring. And repeat. This makes a "double-faced" wreath.
When starting off, the bouquet should be longer than the rest of the bouquets to help hide the finish when it comes around.
SO, "snap, snap,snap!" "wind wind wind" flip!
snap snap snap wind wind wind flip!
and on and on and on.
You'd think that would be the worst of it. No.
I was assigned space in a tiny room, about 6 feet wide and 20 feet long. At one end is the only wreath machine, claimed by a 70 year old women who has been making wreaths by machine for 20 years and worked other production type jobs for her whole life.
The table I am working at runs down the other side and I am at the other end, with the only heat source one foot from my head blowing dry air. We stand on rubber mats on an unheated cement slab.
Typically when I am asked what type of music I prefer, I say "anything but ______" (edited so as not to offend fans of that type of music) My co-worker has brought in a tiny tinny clock radio and blasts that type of music at a high enough volume that after an hour I feel like I am at the dentist having work done with no novocaine.
She is of course a very sweet hard working lady, whose opinions on topics are completely contrary to mine. Typically this is not a problem for me, I understand people have their own opinions, but on several occasions she hits a nerve and I get on my podium.
We get paid by the wreath. We do nothing but 14's and get 2.45 a wreath. WIth good brush I can make a wreath in 15-20 minutes. With bad brush, it takes me a half hour. She easily outwreaths me 2 to 1 on the machine.
She insists that making them by hand is as fast as by machine. The machine does the wrapping of the wire-you place the brush and step on a pedal-grrr, grrr,grrr done. I wrap wrap wrap, having to lift the ring each go round and set the spool down each wrap to pick up the ring.
When the brush is big, the stem bigger than a pencil, I have to pull each wrap really hard to make it tight to the ring. I have to bend that handful of sticks into shape. Sometimes I pull so hard I break the wire, and then I punch myself in the stomach when the wire lets go.
We do agree on some things. Like when the brush is crap. You would think brush is brush, but it's not. It can be flat, it can be full, it can be yellow, it can be nosey, it can be sprucey, it can look like hemlock, it can be old and dry, it can be wet. It can be frozen. It can have random yellow needles. It can look like it has mittens. It can look like green caterpillars. It can be impossible to yank off the stick. It can be impossible to snap and you find yourself having a wrestling match. If it's bad, it needs to be mixed in. That means every bouquet you have to hide the bad pieces behind a good piece-if you can find one.
The brush has been so bad the last three days, when one of the guys who helps with the rest of the work put some brush one her bench for the little old lady today, she threw it on the floor and kicked it right out the door after him.
We also agree on pain. Both our hands go numb. I start wearing my wrist brace at night because I can't sleep. She doses herself up with tylenol every morning and can't sleep.
My schedule gets turned upside down. I get up in the dark and do the outside animal chores before the sun rises. I drop the Willow off at school and drive 20 miles to get there. I make wreaths for 6 hours and drive 20 miles back to pick up WIllow. The dog does not like the new routine. One bitter cold morning he didn't do his business before I left-I know this because he left a big pile for us when we got home. Today he found a partial bag of chocolate chips I had been snacking on and ate them, and we spent an hour trying to figure out what a toxic dose of chocolate was for his size before realizing he would be ok.
I have nightmares. I dream I am talkiing on the phone to my dead grandmother and say, "I will see you soon". I dream I am at the top of a huge pile of shavings and my car falls down, and I see people dressed in suits walking along a sidewalk on the other side of the construction zone I am stranded in. I wake up with tears in my eyes to find the cat on my chest gently wiping the tears off my cheeks with her paw.
Saturday morning we finally had our first hard frost.
And hard frost it was! I let the indoor/outdoor cat out, and the dog, and then the indoor cat ran out too! So I ran out after her barefoot and the doormat was frozen solid! Ruby really likes to make a run for the woods, so it took a little while to catch her. (funny cat is in the word catch)
The foliage was a full week later than usual. I know this even though I am going senile, because color is usually at it's height for the FIrebird's birthday, and when he came down to visit four days later it wasn't close to color.
When the frost hit, the leaves that had changed dropped. Walking down the driveway to the chicken coop (this time in boots) *swish, swish scrunch* ankle deep in beautiful reds and yellows and oranges of the delicate maples that are the first to go.
The sound brings back memories of trick or treating up and down the blocks in towns through the years as the kids were growing. Inevitably, at least once per year, the leaves in the gutters would hide the curbs to the little faces glued on the next lamp post-and we would be scurrying around in the dark trying to find the loot that went flying in the stumble.
We had another hard frost Sunday morning. It was so hard that the ice skim stayed on the tops of the rain barrels for the whole day, and I had to declare the automatic chicken water retired for the season.
I was splitting wood in the cold sunshine and the wind kicked up with a dark cloud-and then it was snowing! Not the big fat flakes of the typical early squalls, but fine little balls that looked like someone had ripped open one of those bean bags chairs.
Yesterday it was drizzly and damp and dreary in the 40's. The chill was still there this morning, and then the sun came out and we hit mid sixties.
The colors are still lovely despite the rain and wind. But there's a melancholy feel to the air as the sun gets lower in the sky. I looked up late afternoon at the tall elm, now almost bare, and keenly felt the loss of my friends the trees, heading off for their long winter sleep.
So we finally got paid from the farmer. I tried calling him frequently; usually I was routed to a full mailbox. Finally I got through to him and he strung us along for a few days. That culminated last Saturday when he said he would hand us our checks Saturday -later.
Which turned into him not answering his phone and another full mailbox.
The Firebird had reorganized his Saturday evening schedule, so when the farmer didn't answer Sunday morning, I texted my neighbor, who had referred me originally, and was working the farmstand that day.
I told her to tell the farmer that if we didn't receive both overdue checks first thing Monday morning we would be out there picketing, and I would file a complaint with the labor board. (I already had the form)
Shortly afterward, translated into after coffee, I texted her again and told her to forget it and hoped she was well, because I didn't think it was right to involve her, even if she did and does work for the same fellow (who owes her something like 7 weeks pay)
Low and behold she pulled in Sunday evening waving envelopes-she said they were in the time card slot and she took the liberty to bring them to us.
Which was very strange, because a few weeks ago when farmer said he was doing payroll, we went the next morning to check the time card slot, and then called him, and when he finally returned my call he was quite snippy and said he put the paychecks for "people who worked for him" in the slots, but was to hand us our checks personally...so we had to go back after dark to pick up the one check several weeks ago.
I am fairly sure the neighbor passed on my first text. I am terrible at manipulating people because I am too honest. I wanted my pay and the Firebird his pay. I gave farmer the benefit of the doubt (that he was too busy to write checks) and tried calling him to remind him.
I don't think it was lack of money, because I was delivering huge amounts daily and seeing the invoices, plus he had bigger deliveries on his own truck. Granted, the big supermarket chain might only pay monthly, but farmer never said it was a money shortage.
Farmer did have a reputation as a spoiled bully. One person expressed the opinion that farmer just didn't want to pay. So, the phone calling wasn't working. You can't bully a bully. Neighbor told me that farmer had lots of notes on board from the labor board, and he told her, "mothers looking for their sons payckecks"
We were not an isolated incident, by any stretch of the imagination. But Firebird was heading for college and needed that money for books.
How could I bully an egotistical control freak in a non-violent manner?
The light bulb went off...picket the farm stand at the farm. Farmer's wife has removed herself pretty much from the business, his teen children are little to no help (I was so proud of how hard the Firebird worked)...and farmer obviously did not me hanging around looking for checks if he wanted us to come after dark and see him personally.
Picketing. Yep, I figured that would do it. The last thing farmer wanted at the height of farmstand season was having a couple disgruntled employees waving signs around complaining of his not paying help.
My neighbor even commented on the rain we had that day when she gave me the checks-not good picketing weather...
So that ended well...although we still haven't filled out W-4's to account for that "estimated withholding" he tacked on to every check.
My friend is dying. My friend with the colon cancer., They found another tumor near the original site, but it was big (3x7cm) and aggressive. If you are squeamish you may want to stop reading.
He was five days in the hospital. The couldn't get all of it, it was very deep. And he went home with a drain and a vaccuum pump strapped to his stomach. Which is a very clever idea, isn't it, with cancer? To forcibly suck the fluids out of the surgical site where they removed the tumor. But to read about it isn't the same as seeing your friend on a beautiful summer day, walking around his yard in a tshirt and shorts and sandals-with those comfy hospital socks still on his feet, while the machine strapped to him gurgles and farts (his rectum is sewn shut so those noises had to be coming from the drain in the enormous hole the tumor left in his bottom)
To see your friend, who had finally started to look normal again, and work again, be reduced to a cavernous smoky shadow of himself-yes, I can see the color of cancer, it is dusky black, and my friend has it bad.
Chemo again? He went through 7 rounds of chemo after his first surgery, confident the extra treatment, although they were brutal and left him weak and sick, would be the cure. And the cancer has returned. More rounds of chemo-he says, "what choice do I have?" meaning, "should I just give up?"
He was to see his doctor the next day-I was thinking, has it spread??? I walked around like a zombie for three days. I drank and smoked like a fiend. My friend is dying.
I finally looked up colon cancer online. 65% -five year survival rate.
My friend said something about getting a pool next summer, when a visitor that stopped in, kept saying he had to get back to his pool ...R said, "I'm getting a pool next summer" but he looked at me and trailed off the end of the sentence.