Happy New Knee: The Prelude

It’s now been about nine weeks since I had my knee surgery. My life is returning to normal. And, by, “normal,” I mean I’m reawakening my usual fiery spirit.

I knew for about eight years I would need to replace my left knee before too long but, with periods of no insurance and no savings due to my own stupidity and vanishing investments that led to my near-homelessness in 2007, the thought of taking the needed time off for such a big medical issue was scary as hell. It is difficult to be an over-educated barista/bookseller/cashier/perpetual student of the social sciences and arts who has principles too high to justify majoring in business so, she can land a, “good job.” That’s a sellout I will never do. Thus, like most artistic people I struggle to form a patchwork of income from free lancing, selling stuff online and to coin shops and working soul sucking meaningless but necessary jobs. I know it seems as though I’ve veered off the subject (kind of a metaphor for my life) but, this is the foundation for my current situation.

My financial instability led me to moving in with a roommate who turned out to be a real whack job. We met on Craigslist, which is the cesspool of the cesspool known as the World Wide Web, commonly mistakenly called, “the Internet.” I moved into her house in 2015 and by August of 2016, I was very aware of the need to get away from this chick. That month I literally saved her from getting raped and killed by this loser she had been dating and then not dating but, sharing a home with then both, then just sharing a home with who was trying to choke her. I hit him in the head while he was on top of her. I don’t even remember what I hit him with. I think it was a book. Luckily, he didn’t aim his anger on me. I was on the phone with 911 when Loser took off into the neighborhood and the Winter Springs police showed up and took everyone’s stories. I had to write down everything I witnessed and did. The cops caught and arrested him in under a half hour. One of the cops and I had to talk Crazy Lady into pressing charges.

Yeah, I know I should have moved out but, I hated having to impose on friends and I had a bunch of money invested in getting into sleep studies to get an official sleep apnea diagnosis and sprucing up my Beetle with repairs that I put on hold until I landed a good paying job with Boar’s Head. I spent $800 on a new timing belt before it could break and murder the engine. I got new tires and a glow plug harness and a few glow plugs. My car was a diesel. They have glow plugs instead of spark plugs. Again, I was lucky. I had a great mechanic who could fix anything and was nice enough to let customers finance.

There I was living with Crazy Lady, making plans to get my car and my health fixed, move into a more stable home and return to school, finish my second BA and move back out West–at least for a year to see how permanent I wanted to make it.  At this point my knee issue was not horrible. I wore a knee brace on it when I did my Boar’s Head demos in the seventeen Publixes I was assigned. I needed to baby my car. My stores covered the area from Titusville (51 miles from my home) to Lake Nona, in South Orlando (35 miles away) so, I really needed my car.

Of course Crazy Lady would put a monkey wrench into my plan. After her near death experience with Loser she announced she was going to sell her house. Ok , fine, it’s a fixer-upper this might take awhile, I thought. Also, around this time my job moved to Volusia County about 50 miles away. I lived in Daytona Beach for about four years; it’s where my marriage broke up. I had no desire to move back. I got an emergency job at Walmart within a week and it really turned out to not be horrible and, yet, I knew I couldn’t work at any other Walmart. I’m going on four years there. I have to admit it is a very nice store. People tell me during every shift, “Oh, my God, this store is so nice, It’s clean, the staff is great. It’s nicer than a few Publixes I’ve been in.” For those unfamiliar with Publix: it’s a Florida staple. A regional company that began in Lakeland, and has recently moved into some more Southeastern states. Every year in customer satisfaction surveys countrywide it kicks almost every other grocery chain in the groin. It’s been voted number one or two for like twenty years. Likewise with employee satisfaction ratings. It is so well respected, it’s business model is taught in business schools. So, when customers compliment my Walmart, I tend to listen and tell my bosses.

Crazy Lady moved forward with her promise to sell the house and soon signed a contract with Re/Max. She thought she was going to get about $200,000 for it. That was hilarious and she soon found out that was the case. So, when a house flipper popped by and offered her $140,000 and to pay all closing costs she jumped on it. That was the domino that knocked all the other ones down.  This was happening around October 2016. I was working at Walmart, not Boar’s Head. I’d taken about a $400 a month pay cut. I had zero money to move. I was going to be living in my Beetle with my cat. Crazy Lady and her ten year old son were in the same situation.  I sucked in my pride and breath and offered to stay with them (hopefully, no more than a year) by getting an apartment with them. She was relieved by my offer. I’m a very optimistic person and always maintained the mantra, “It’s gonna get better. It’s gonna get better. Some small miracle will happen.” I am very lucky and have received many small miracles in my life so I tried to not slip completely into depression. God bless the Patron Saint of Psychotropic Drugs.

Crazy Lady had a connection to someone who lived in these dumpy apartments that were less than a mile from her house. The price was right. We went to have a look. There were no bugs or rodents and it seemed tolerable for the (hopefully) year we would live there. We paid the $75 application fee. The real fun was about to begin. Crazy Lady’s house sale to the flipper was underway. Re/Max was not happy with the arrangement and wanted a piece of the house sale. She signed a contract. They had the right to drag this out and they did, to the point that the place we were holding was given to other new tenants. But, we didn’t know that yet.

This was November and we did know we would have to be out of the house within a month. When we found out we had no apartment to move into, I went into the mode of throwing my hands up and saying, “God, you have to help me out here and help me keep my sanity.”

Then came the day that I was at work and received her ridiculous text message. I’d been scheduled for five shifts that week, all of them 11-8. At around 1pm on December 28th, 2016 my phone dinged indicating I had a text message. I surreptitiously pulled my phone out of my vest pocket and peeked. Text from Crazy Lady. I knew it was going to be bad so, I turned off my light and walked over to Danielle, my boss, and asked if I could read it. She was aware of the basics with my surreal domestic situation so, she let me read the text. It said something to this effect, “House sale is being decided. We have to be out by 10 am tomorrow.” I was livid; I was scheduled to work the next day. I forget what string of nastiness I responded with. There really was nothing I could do. I ended up getting out of bed at around 7 am on the 29th and calling out from work. It was my first call out and my first point or, in Walmart-speak, “occurrence.” When I finally left my room I discovered that it was absolutely impossible that the deadline was going to be met. My packing was way ahead of hers. Her stuff didn’t even look like it was nudged, let alone packed. We still had no place to live. But, Crazy Lady offered to pay for an extended stay hotel room for all of us. She did admit we probably didn’t need to have everything out of the house that day but, we wouldn’t be sleeping there that night. I was to the eye rolling stage by this time.

I managed to eat some breakfast and continue packing. A couple of hours later I happened to be walking through my bedroom to my bathroom when I heard my phone ring and saw it was the property manager to the apartment we lost. “Hello?” His raspy voice said, “Hey, did you guys get a place yet?” “Nope,” I replied. “Well, the other people backed out and if you can come up with the $1600, you have the apartment.” It was a miracle.  I told him to hold on while I got CL to the phone. I yelled out to her (my friend, Pat, would later dub her, “Princess Clueless”), “Hey, Carl (not his real name) is on the phone. He says we have the apartment if we have the money.  You need to talk to him.” I handed her my phone and she made the financial arrangements.

We agreed on a plan that until May she would pay the rent and I would pay the utilities. I was desperate so I agreed. I drove to Winter Springs City Hall and paid the deposit on the new water service account. We had a “spare” roommate move with us. We put the electric service in his name but, I still paid it. He later disappeared from our lives in around February 2017. Maybe that was his birthday gift to me.

We met Carl at his house, which was a couple of blocks from the apartment, to sign the lease. At the time, I was so stressed that I didn’t even realize Carl had only put my name on the lease (we used only my financial info on the application) and made CL a witness only. Later on this would work to my advantage.  We got the key, yes, only one. On New Years Eve 2016 I paid for three extra ones at work.

As soon as we got our key we began moving our stuff. CL said that  Houser Flipper was getting a U-Haul for us. I spent the next 37 hours (luckily, I had the 30th off) moving all my stuff into our new place. No sleep. Just 37 straight hours of moving household belongings into our new townhouse going up and down stairs–not using a knee brace. I was under so much duress that I ignored the signals coming from my knee and just plowed forward. I was eager to get out of the old place and into the new one, pretty sure I would only be in this horrible townhouse for a year at the most. Once I had my stuff out of CL’s house (she had tons of furniture and other crap still left there), I took a shower and went for my annual mammogram. It was December 30th and it was the last medical procedure I had under my Humana Insurance. I started with Florida Blue in January.

Not everything about Crazy Lady was awful. She seemed to have a good heart and she had just found out she had lupus so I kind of cut her some slack. She paid for our huge breakfast at Cracker Barrel in Altamonte Springs. Then I went home and crashed. I had to work a long shift on New Years Eve. I had switched shifts with one of the twenty-somethings at work and took his shift that ended at 11pm so that he and his girlfriend could go party. I’m not really into New Years parties. I think it is supremely stupid to start the new year with a hangover. I figured that out in my 20’s.

The 37 hours of constant ascending and descending our 14-step staircase really badly affected my knee. It was the beginning of the end of that knee. For the next three years I went up and down not bending it. My right butt cheek got really firm.

The next five months living with CL was another ordeal. I guess that started when I brought the three extra keys home on  New Years and it took the ten year old less than 45 minutes to lose one. I told him, “Well, the replacement is on your mom. I’m not paying for another one.” I don’t think they ever found it because for the next five months I would constantly arrive home to find the apartment unlocked and no one home. Or I would wake up and find the same thing. A couple of times the front door was completely open and it was just me there. Sleeping.

My feeling of being stuck continued. Two-thousand-seventeen was sucking too.

Sometime in March or April she purchased a prefabricated house in another county–thank you, Merciful God. She and her son moved out for good by May 31st. They dumped their goldfish (which they didn’t think was a goldfish) on me. I had to give myself a crash course on keeping fish because I had no clue. My most intimate connection with fish was to fry, bake or blacken it.

There was so much drama associated with this woman. I felt like I was living in an episode of, “The Jerry Springer Show.” I owed her for five months of my half of the rent while she owed me for half the utilities. My amount turned out to be about $1500. During the time we shared the apartment she caused $1400 worth of damage to my Beetle and pretty much let her son throw a dart at the interior kitchen window. She didn’t even help put up the cardboard I procured to keep the air conditioning from escaping into the laundry area/storage space. She paid some guy to do a shitty job of cleaning up the glass and one night in June I was enjoying the peace of not having them live with me when I arose from my kitchen seat and my slipper slid off and my left foot landed on a piece of glass. Three weeks later when I finally got to a podiatrist, the x-ray showed the glass. That’s how we knew it came from the safety glass of the window the kid broke. Safety glass is leaded so that it will show up in x-rays. This why it’s used in cars.

Thus, by leaving me with the broken window the landlord wouldn’t pay for, the time I missed work (I only called out twice) because I couldn’t stand on my foot, the repairs on my car and the medical expense of having the glass pulled out, she easily now owed me about $300. I didn’t want it. I wanted this skank out of my life forever.

That didn’t happen right away. I finally got a new roommate in July (she’s still here), which was a major miracle because my apartment is honestly a dump. If my parents were alive to see it they would be throwing money at me so I could move. My buddy next door (she helps make this place tolerable), Debbie, describes it as, “the good side of slum.” I often ask myself, “How did, I, the daughter of two college educated people: my mom being an artist, seamstress and bookkeeper and my dad being a controller who worked for an electronics company that designed and built the potentiometers that landed and blasted the lunar module off the moon, end up this way?” I grew up in a neighborhood that was home to attorneys, dentists, accountants, Air Force officers, doctors, business owners and engineers. I was totally unprepared for the drama this woman caused. In the two years I was associated with her I had more interaction with the police than many people have in a lifetime. Her drama didn’t end with her residency at my apartment. She left a another ton of her junk here that I had to get rid of it or die waiting for her to do it. I had to send her two certified letters, consult two attorneys, change my phone number twice so that I wouldn’t receive her threats of legal action against me or of, “pressing charges” (she didn’t understand the difference between criminal and civil law) because of the money she claimed I still owed her. I had to document everything. I even still have the piece of glass the podiatrist pulled  out of my foot. I saved and put on a disc the nasty text messages we exchanged and I saved the dart her idiot son threw through the window. It was a horrible, depressing, degrading, angering, frustrating, low class ordeal. It finally came to an end when she showed up in November of 2017, three months beyond the deadline, to pick up her stuff.  I ended up calling the Winter Springs Police Department–again. They sent the Sargent so, in his words, “We could finally put an end to this mess.” “Thank you, I want her gone for good,” I responded. He ended up explaining to her that she had no right to be at my apartment and that if she showed up again she was to be trespassed. I haven’t seen or heard from her and God help me control myself if she ever does appear at my front door.

I actually left a lot of the details out. I could write a whole book on the events that occurred between when she moved out and when she was escorted away by the cops. This is the background against which  I finally experienced something so positive in my life that it cracked the depression. I finally, finally feel as though positive energy is flowing through my life and I have the energy to make the changes. I am so grateful for so many people and entities.

I am thankful for Obamacare that got me health insurance which got me to my primary, Deborah Lauridsen MD, who sent me to my dermatologist, Jeffery Moskowitz MD, who cut out a basal cell carcinoma and a squamous cell carcinoma a year ago. And, I’m thankful Dr. Lauridsen sent me to my orthopedic surgeon, Ron Hudanich DO, who put in my new knee. I am very grateful to him and his staff and the great hospital where I had the surgery, AdventHealth in Altamonte Springs. I am also grateful to have such dedicated physical therapists at Ability Rehabilitation. I can’t explain how much having a functional knee has helped me begin to close the book on the difficulties I described above.

I am also grateful to all my friends and coworker friends and donors to my Go Fund Me page who have helped me financially, psychologically and spiritually. Thank you to Kim (and Sean, too), for helping me and especially helping me via your YouTube channel. I am extremely grateful to you and all your followers.

I am eager to create events in my life that completely contrast those I’ve lived through since my happiness began circling the drain in 2007. Improvement is on the way.

20191230_135253

My stunning hospital jewelry. December 30th, 2019. AdventHealth  Altamonte Springs, FL

 

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