Hitting the Jackpot

Fool proof, right?

Fool proof, right?

I’ve figured out a sure-fire way to improve my financial position. I’ve joined a team of 18 others who purchase lottery tickets on a weekly basis. Using the power of group purchasing over an extended period of six months, we’re practically guaranteed of winning Mega Millions, Super Lotto and/or Powerball. Don’t understand the differences or the odds of winning these games? Me neither. Since greed is good, all I care about is winning.

My lottery tickets to date have been limited to one-time group purchases with book clubs and colleagues from work when the payouts reached astronomical amounts. I’ve also entered the Ronald McDonald Dream House contest a couple of times. Year

My Rancho Santa Fe (SoCal) Dream House

My Rancho Santa Fe (SoCal) Dream House

One, the winning name – my name surely – was to be picked on a Sunday afternoon. In preparation for my winning, I sent out an email at work Friday afternoon explaining I would be late arriving on Monday because I’d need to pose for pictures holding the key to my new home. On “winning” Sunday, I happened to be at Cousin #2’s house in Topanga Canyon, which has lousy cell phone reception. Around the time of the drawing, I made sure to sit in the one area outside where my cell phone worked. When the call failed to come, I figured it was because the cell phone tower wasn’t working. Unfortunately, when I finally received cell phone reception, there were no messages. When I arrived at work on time on Monday, I was greeted not with derision but with sympathy. My colleagues apparently agreed that I had deserved to win.

The only other time I was absolutely convinced of winning was the lottery my colleagues and I entered in Spring 2011. Our circumstances would provide a heartwarming story of revenge, plus the visuals would be terrific.

Here’s why:

Following the economic meltdown in 2008, our company had been reduced from a staff of 24 to only 8. The workload, of course, remained the same. Perhaps we received more compensation for the tripled amount of work we were handling? Nope. Salaries remained where they were when we were first hired three of five or seven years previous. In fact, my compensation was reduced when the CEO, who we referred to as That Son of a Bitch, took away my monthly $50 cell phone reimbursement. Ask me whether I needed to use my cell phone for business. You already know the answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

Cedar Rapids flood of 2008

Cedar Rapids flood of 2008

In return for our increased work load, the company rewarded us by closing the office, which was in North Coastal County San Diego (think La Jolla and Carlsbad, California) and moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The office would remain open for another 10 months and a select few of us would be allowed to move to Iowa – at Cedar Rapids salaries.

I actually was prepared to accept this offer. I’m from the Midwest, having been born and raised in Chicago. Ergo, know the true meaning of “winter” and “humidity.” Since I was two-to-three years from retirement age, I figured I could handle living through two Midwest winters and summers. The timeframe was finite. It wasn’t as if I was young, might fall in love with a local farmer or insurance executive, marry, have kids and then call Iowa my home. The days and months and years could be crossed off a calendar to mark the passage of time.  When the two years were up, I figured I could easily talk myself into surviving just one more year.

The only problem was that I wasn’t invited to Iowa. That’s another story, one that involves a typical corporate scenario in which the advice of a highly paid male consultant in his 60s full of BS trumps the years of experience and knowledge of an underpaid, overworked woman in the same age group. In case you’re not paying attention, that woman was me.  Oh heck – here’s a summary of the rest of the story: I didn’t do a good job of hiding my utter disdain for the consultant, who was hand-picked by the new, Cedar Rapids CEO (who we quickly dubbed SOB 2). When CEO/SOB2 asked me if I could support the Consultant, I heard a voice say, “No.” Unfortunately, that voice was mine. I was given a month to get my work organized for a replacement and then leave.

In the meantime, our adjoining office, which was 2,000 square feet and needed when there were 24 of us, was closed and all the remaining desks, book shelves, telephones, file cabinets, computers, printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners and other equipment were jammed into the remaining office, which was half the size, and occupied by those of us who remained. Empty cubicles and offices of those who had already been laid off were filled to overflowing with junk from the second office. Files cabinets were lined up again the walls, leaving us no more than a foot to pass through; desks were piled upon on each other; and electronics, stationery, staplers, tapes, pencil sharpeners, dividers, fasteners, file folders and packages of pens, pencils and post-it notes were placed precariously on top of the desks. The “break room” (hah – who ever took a break, plus now it was impossible to even get into it) ended up with two coffee machines. Neither one worked.

This, then, was the heartwarming back story of the 8 of us who would win the lottery. Plus the photo op would be absolutely terrific. The media could interview us on site among the OSHA-violating visuals. Oh, did I mention we were going to quit en masse? Being a conscientious bunch, we fully intended to leave “out-of-office” voice mails and automatic email responses explaining the reason for our sudden departure.

I spent the weekend knowing we would win. I passed the time looking at ads for a London pied-a-terre and found a mews that would be perfect for me. My main concern was that it might be purchased before I had time to cash my lottery check and make my offer.

I was stunned when our numbers weren’t chosen.

But now that I’m investing on a regular basis with an established group, I’m quite sure it’s only a matter of time.

My photo here!

My photo here!

Call Me Missy

As told to Karel Kramer of Crazy Quill Writing/Driven Crazy Blog

My full name is “Just what do you think YOU’RE doing, Missy” or “Just where do you think YOU’RE going, Missy” but my owner has shortened it to just “Missy.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that not only is my owner poor at math (I’m actually 6 months old), but I have a better sense of direction than she does. If it wasn’t for me understanding what she meant when I was asked to take us “home” we might still be wandering the RV park in the dark (although daylight doesn’t seem to make much difference, either).

I was already housebroken when my owner purchased me. I’ve had only two accidents – and I defy YOU not to pee when a stranger picks you up from the only home you’ve known and drives you away in a rental car to who knows where. That and have you seen the size of the RV she drives? I bet more than one passenger nearly did what I did when I was in the front seat for the first time. I mean the RV was moving!

My owner is training me to obey her commands. She is determined to be the alpha female. (She said something about “learning her lesson with Michael.”). To date I’ve learned how to “sit” and “keep up” on our frequent walks. I also understand what’s expected when she puts a certain collar on me and says “Do your business, Missy.” She’s reading some illustrated book about training (imagine needing a big picture book at her age!) and taking advice from someone called Cousin #1, a real strict disciplinarian. Up until now I’ve won the stopping-to-sniff-everything battle but after my owner spoke with this particular person I was physically dragged by the collar to “keep up.” I finally gave in. Thanks a lot Cousin #1.

I understand that some of my owner’s friends thought she was out of her mind to consider buying a puppy, but I’m not just any puppy, I’m a pure-bred Toy Poodle. I’m worth every cent she paid for me because I’m smart and adorable. I’m also the more outgoing of the two of us and take the initiative in meeting our neighbors.

The picture I posted was taken by my first owners after I was separated from my mother. I was given as payment for the stud services of my father. Since the owners of my mother dropped me off when I was 6 weeks old, I don’t know if I was the pick of the litter or the runt.

In any event, I’m perfect. Or at least I was.

I had to use the old photo because you wouldn’t recognize me now. I’m dirty and bedraggled and my owner gets the burrs out of my fur using a scissors. Because she is determined to keep my hair short like hers, the old adage that dogs begin to look like their owners will soon be true. Alas.

Good News: Car Totaled

smiley faceJust received a phone call from the car repair place informing me that my insurance company intends to declare my car totaled. Although it might seem odd to declare this as “good” news, it is absolutely good news to me.

I plan to buy another used Smartcar ASAP because it is one of the very few models that (1) can be towed four wheels down and (2) is light enough for my small RV to pull.

Also plan to see a poodle puppy this evening. The first one I saw would not come to me and when the owner put him in my lap he immediately jumped off. I left without him for the same reason I don’t like online dating or applying for staff positions: I don’t need to pay for rejection when I’m accustomed to being rebuffed for free.



Where am I?
In Sacramento parked outside the home of a friend (Linda Paoli, Joe’s widow).

How long will I be here?
Only a few more days. A neighbor has already had me cited for parking my RV on the street.

Where am I going next?
I plan to remain in the Sacramento area while I figure out what’s going on with my Smartcar.

What’s going on with my Smartcar?
The car is still in the repair shop in Davis. State Farm came out, looked at the exterior, and came up with an estimate. Then the repair shop took the car apart and has called State Farm back to look again and come up with a new estimate. I’m still waiting for State Farm to show up for the 2nd time (not that the repair shop, which charges a $50/day storage fee, has been any too prompt in calling State Farm).

Will I replace the Smartcar if it’s totaled?
Yes. I’m figuring it will take at least a week to buy a used car and get it hooked up properly.

Will I repair the Smartcar if it’s not totaled?
Yes. I’m figuring it will take at least a month to have it repaired and get it hooked up properly.

What will I do in the meantime?
Camp in the Greater Sacramento area from now until late October. Then get together with NOR-LOW (Northern California chapter of Loners on Wheels) in late October in the Gold Country (Plymouth, CA). Next up will be a return trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to have the RV transmission repairs double-checked. Then on to the LA area to pick up my winter clothes. Then continue south to arrive in San Diego mid-November to have a few modifications to the RV done; keep some doctors’ appointments; and celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents and son.

What if my car isn’t repaired by the time I head south?
I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

What am I doing After Thanksgiving?
Taking my 88-year-old Mom on a quick road trip to Palm Springs.

And then?
Heading west (Nevada & Arizona) with – I hope – Cousin #2.

Call State Farm. Now.

Call State Farm. Now.

How am I coping with the setback(s)?
I keep repeating: “I just have to get through this. I don’t have to like it.” That, plus watching DVDs of Season 3 of The Walking Dead. I’m finding it strangely satisfying to see zombies shot and bludgeoned and stabbed and in general having their heads bashed in. And oh yes, I’m also drinking, although most days I do wait until 5 p.m.

Do you regret your decision to take to the road?
Not at all. I’ve just been experiencing some temporary setbacks, which is part of the Big Adventure.  

“My food bowl is only half-full. This might be my last entry.”

(Quote from the Sad Cat Diary on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKffm2uI4dk)


Snow is forecast for later today. This morning my heater would not start. $1 foot-heater from Cousin #2 bought at a garage sale may be all that keeps me from freezing. Food supplies getting low. Down to peanut butter & jelly and canned tuna. No bread and out of mayo. May be impossible to eat food on hand. Books in Lodge primarily Dan Brown and Danielle Steele. May emerge cold and brain dead. 

Danielle Steele

Disaster Du Jour

Yesterday’s disaster defeated me. It took hours for me, the Princess of Perspective, to fully appreciate just how lucky I was: I’m OK and no one was injured or killed.

I’ll take what could be a short story, and tell it in full.

I’ve been really enjoying my Smartcar, learning to appreciate how much fun it is to drive. Last week I was zipping up Hwy 1 north of Bodega Bay, past beautiful Sonoma Coast State Park Beaches.

Typical beach along Hwy. 1 north of Bodega Bay

Typical beach along Hwy. 1 north of Bodega Bay

Fast forward to yesterday (Friday), when circumstances found me driving the RV and towing the Smartcar along County Road 131 from Winters to Davis. When I’m driving the RV, I use the side-view mirrors (not the camera mounted on the rear of my RV) to look behind me. The wind along 131 on Friday was fierce. I understand it was exceptionally windy in the San Francisco Bay Area as well.

As I approached Davis, I came to a four-way stop at County Road 98, crossed the road and then pulled over to let the car behind me pass. I looked up at my rear camera. The car was not there.

My cerebral cortex cordoned off my visual cortex. In other words, I could not believe my eyes. I got out of the RV and looked around the back, honest-to-goodness expecting to see the car. But it still wasn’t there. The tow bar, sans car, had been dragging along the highway for how long I couldn’t be sure.

I fought the tow bar in the wind to secure it in the usual bolt. Something was blocking the tow bar from reaching the bolt. I looked again and realized that the entire hitching bar, which had been attached to the front of the car, was now attached to my tow bar, preventing me from using the bolt. I ran inside my RV and grabbed some spare bungee cords I keep in a plastic bag. Then outside again in the wind, lifting the heavy tow bar (now made even heavier with its added and unwanted hitch feature), trying to secure the combo tow bar/hitchbitch with bungee cords that are, of course, catching and tangling each other. When the bar was hooked up sufficiently for my purposes, I drove back in the direction of Winters. Looking carefully – shit, how hard can it be to spot a driverless blue Smartcar anyway – I arrived back in Winters without seeing a single vehicle out of place.

In Winters I went into the post office and asked if anyone knew the phone number for the local police. The Mayor of Winters identified herself and placed the call for me on her cell phone. I advised her, in all seriousness, to describe me to the cops as distraught.

Site of car found in ditch.

Site of car found in ditch.

Once the young officer of the law understood what had happened (the city girl lost the car she was towing; how is this even possible?), he retraced my steps, looking along roadside ditches. He found my car about a mile before where I had stopped and turned around.

Quel dommage!

Quel dommage!

Happy as I was to see the car, it was an awful sight, revealing more damage from every new angle. I asked the officer to reconstruct from the evidence at the scene what had likely happened to cause the car to come to rest at the bottom of the ditch facing west when I had been driving east. Pointing out the tire marks and flattened weeds, he said the car appeared to have rolled down one side of the ditch, gone up the other side of the ditch and then hit a telephone poll, spinning it around.

Following the AAA tow car to its home repair shop in Davis, I gave up. The naysayers had been right. This had been a terrible idea. I couldn’t handle this on my own and at my age. What had I been thinking?

It took me hours to fully appreciate how lucky I had been. The guy at the repair place told me, repeatedly, “This wasn’t your fault,” and placed the blame squarely on the improper tow hitch poorly mounted on the car. The hitch was attached to the car when I bought it. The seller had towed the Smartcar behind his 2006 Winnebago View (the same year and model I drive). The repair guy showed me where the screws worked their way lose and noted it had been only a matter of time.

The perspective, when it came, allowed me to understand how fortunate I was that I was driving on a lonely stretch of a county road when the toad detached. What if I had been on a freeway with traffic behind me? One innocent car hitting the Smartcar, spinning it into another innocent car. Someone could have been seriously injured. Someone could have been killed. What would it matter to me under those circumstances if the car coming lose was my fault or not?

I’m now at Snowflower, a very nice Thousand Trails RV camp near Emigrant Gap (off I-80 on the way to Truckee/Lake Tahoe). The car is in Davis. My insurance agent in SoCal has been notified. Most likely scenario is that the car is totaled. In addition to damage to the body, there’s damage to the frame.

Give me a few more days and I’m likely to decide to buy another Smartcar, replace the tow bar (that mile of being dragged along the road couldn’t have been good for it), and attach a proper hitch properly.

And the winner is . . .

Remember the contest from the Buyer Beware post? Well, here are the winning answers, submitted by none other than one of my exceptionally bright cousins, Cousin A

TT playground

Q1. Can you identify this structure?
A ” jungle gym” with slide imported from the San Diego Zoo chimp enclosure. Guaranteed to delight all wildlife in the area.


TT active adults shownQ2. Is this couple staying here?
Certainly. They are enjoying the aerobics program before their spa massage.


Q3 Is this man staying here?
Of course. He’s the security guard, and doubles as groundskeeper.


TT RR familyQ4. Is this family staying here.
No, they are fleeing to the nearest Hyatt.


TT RR picnic tableQ5. Explain how you would sit at this picnic table.
It’s deliberately positions that way for anyone dining on “sliders.”