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Same Song, Second Verse Same As The First…Other Side

I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry

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Trashed House~My Payment For Trying To Do A Good Deed

I wonder, is it my payment for doing a good deed or is it just that somewhere along the line, maybe when I was a kid, (I was a really bratty kid and lied a lot to my parents) I earned up some really bad karma. Or maybe, it is that bad things, sometimes really bad things, happen to good people. I don’t know. My right wing fundamentalist evangelical Christian friends might say it is because I’m being punished by God for not attending church every week, tithing, and being a faithful servant. Well, as for not attending church, tithing and being faithful they’d be completely accurate. I’m just not sure that’s how God rolls though. I mean, think about it, when Jesus walked the earth he hung with some of the lowest of the low according to society and the religious elite of the day. Rahab, a harlot, was used to save some godly peeps and, well, I kinda think God tends to look past the mess in our lives right into our very inner being and that is where he deals with us on an individual basis. I think the outer stuff, the yuck that I am dealing with now, is just life. It is also the result of me being a naive person, when I should not have been. It is also the result of me simply making some very foolish choices. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But about the next bad thing that has happened in my life. The thing that makes me wonder what kind of evil karma I built up throughout my life only to have it be dumped out on me this year has to do with the rental. I’ve only alluded to it. Here’s most of the story.

Last year, I made the decision to go through bankruptcy (actually a smart decision given all the details which I will not disclose here). In the process, I decided to surrender my home. This was also a smart financial decision when you run the numbers, again, something I won’t bore you with here. This was not a case of me being angry at the bank for whatever reason. I just wanted to make a fresh start financially and the home was more financial and physical burden than I was going to be able to deal with. However, the entire process has ended up taking far longer than expected (over a year and counting). I knew it would take some time and I was not able to stay in the house and risk a move during the middle of the school year. I have three school age kids and my own career would not have been able to accommodate such a transition at such a time. I was getting legal heat from the Evil Ex and needed to make sure my daughter was enrolled in a good school and that she was doing well and liked it. I decided to move to a nearby town and in September we found a place to rent and settled it. And that, was going to be that…or so I thought.

I was approached by a friend….(you can see this coming, can’t you?)…who mentioned that her son and two friends were looking for a place to rent temporarily and would I be interested. Well, no, not really. I mean, I really had no desire to be a landlord or make the place a rental; I just wanted out. But this was a friend I have known and worked with for 14 years. Her kids and my kids grew up together, went to school together and our kids are now graduating together. This woman has impeccable character and is a top notch quality person. Her son is also. The friends came highly recommended. So, I did a bit of research, wrote up a rental agreement, we all signed it, they paid their move in money and I moved out. I left the place in pretty decent shape. It wasn’t perfect. I had some stuff in the garage still to move out, but the place was, for all intents and purposes, a clean and homey dwelling. The friends of the friend’s son turned out to be disastrous.

Things started being a problem almost right away. I’d drive by the place and see that it wasn’t being maintained, then the rent began to come in partial payments. Two months in and I was working on evicting them. Fortunately, they ended up getting out within the 30 days after being served the rental termination notice. Then I got another renter in, who was actually, at first, responsible and timely in her payments. She got some roommates to help share the rent and utility expenses and all was golden. That lasted about two months and things began falling apart. There were violations of the rental agreement, which I followed up and she attempted (though not satisfactorily) to remedy and I gave her a 30-day notice of termination of the rental agreement (we have a month-to-month). Rent was not paid completely last month and rent didn’t appear at all on the first. I went by to collect on the first, no response. I went by the next day. The house looks deserted, but the door is wide open. No answer when I ring the bell. I try contacting my tenant with no response. I drive by the house the next day, the door is closed, otherwise there is still no sign of life. The dog does not bark when I go to the door. This goes on for a week and I’m beginning to think they’ve abandoned the house. Finally, I get in touch with the tenant, over a week after the missed payment and the termination notice. She confirms that she received the notice. She also confirms that they have indeed abandoned the place, with the intent to come back for her stuff by the end of the month; the others have already gotten all their things out. In a phone conversation, I express my concern about the security of the home if no one is living there. She agrees that she will get her stuff moved out within the week and move the rest of her stuff to the garage. I gave her till the end of the month to get her stuff out of the garage. In exchange I get the possession of my home and I won’t go after her for the late rent. Her week to move her stuff ended yesterday. Today, after my radiation treatment, I went over to the house to check things out.

This is the scene that greeted me when I drove up to the home:

I just had a really bad feeling about this. I immediately texted my tenant asking about all the stuff and she actually texted back saying she’d had a garage sale and this was the leftovers. On the mattress, there is a sign that reads, “Free. Please take.”

This is what the living room looked like when I entered:

Those are the window blinds that were in great condition when I moved out…now all broken and scattered on the floor. The big black stain in the middle of the carpet was not there when I moved out. You can’t see it well from here, but there is also smoke damage on the fireplace brick. Nice. Here’s the other side of the living room:

It gets better, before we head back to the bedrooms, let’s check out the kitchen.

The back slider was left open. Check out the grass in the back yard. We left them a lawn mower. It sure looks like they made good use of it. Here are views of each side of the kitchen:

2They left the kitchen sink.

And some food for any guests that might stop by:

I just can’t fathom how people can operate like this. They were in violation of their rental agreement for trash being left around. I gave her the appropriate amount of time according to state law to correct the problem. An attempt was made, but it was nowhere near satisfactory. Look what they left behind in terms of trash:


The thing that really irks me about this is that for the entire time I was renting this house to both sets of tenants, I paid for the garbage service which included a recycling bin and a yard debris container. What kind of mentality is it that thinks that it is okay to live in squalor like this let alone leave it for someone else to pick up? But let’s just do a quick tour of the rest of the home. My skin is beginning to crawl and I’m glancing around for the rubber gloves and sanitizer.

Part of the rental agreement stipulated no smoking in the house or garage. Apparently, the rules don’t apply to these folks.

Those aren’t just carpet stains you see in that picture with the pillow in the corner. That is dog poop on the carpet.

Of course, no rental trashing by tenants is complete without some damage to the walls. This hole is about a foot long from top to bottom.

That wasn’t the only hole either, but it was definitely the largest one. In all there were three holes in walls, and a wall had been repainted a hideous purple-blue color. The wall was previously white. Other damage to the home included damage to lighting fixtures:

Broken glass on the floor:

The toilet looked a lot like the kitchen sink:
I guess they had a crappy experience living in my home. Here’s the genius work in the master bathroom:
I’m not sure you can make them out. The writing reads, “I am beautiful. I am a leader. I am an amazing mother and friend.” I’m thinking that explains a lot. She must have run out of Prozac.
Last but not least, the garage is the coup de grace:
These mattresses are as high as I am tall.
Yes, folks, this was the disaster that I walked into today after getting my tenants out. When I moved out all the lighting fixtures had just been replaced. Now they are all damaged and missing light bulbs. I had just had someone put new screens on every window a couple of years earlier, and only one window has a screen left. There are stains on every carpet, holes in walls and the yard alone will take weeks to clean up. There is damage to doors, the air vent grate has been kicked in and there is rotting food everywhere.
Upon returning home, and while uploading the photos, I did a quick Google search on landlord’s rights when tenants trash a house. Turns out, in most states, this is not a police matter, it is considered the risk one takes when renting. It becomes a civil matter. In my case, I know these people are unemployed and even if I did go to court and win (which I would), I wouldn’t see any of that money ever. I’d spend more than I’d be awarded just to get it back. Here’s another kicker: I have to do this clean out myself as I have absolutely no financial resources to pay someone to clean it up. The Hesitant Boyfriend’s long stretch of unemployment and even longer stretch till he gets paid for the work he started last month is straining my monthly budget beyond belief and it was already strained before I picked up the tab on his car payment and insurance this month. (Which he promptly decided to increase the cost of by getting into a fender bender with a Cadillac.) Add to this the fact that the 18 y.o., just got her license and her cost to be insured inflated my insurance bill to over $400 a month.
Yes, I am the poster child for the club “Smart Women Who Basically Make Idiot Choices In Every Aspect Of Their Lives”. Or maybe Some Divine Being mistook me for the Morton Salt Girl who is comfortable with the idea that when it rains it pours.
Which leads me back to the thought about karma vs. punishment vs. it’s just life. This all happens to be just great timing. The tenants are out of the house, but the house is completely trashed. Just making the house secure and sanitary so it isn’t a public health hazard is going to take some doing. I’m halfway through my radiation treatments and my energy is in limited supply as it is. Just as all this crap is hitting the proverbial fan of my life, The Hesitant Boyfriend and I ran headlong into a deal-breaker, that I just can’t get past. I’ve told him he needs to move out and get his Hesitant Stuff sorted out, because sorting it out in anger on me or my children is just not how I roll. All of this is just very, very, very unfortunate.
This afternoon as I looked upon the devastation that is my life right now, I turned to my son and said, “I am truly at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. It is worse, even, than when I had to call in help to clean out after the Evil Ex.” And yet I had no tears to cry. I could do nothing, but make sure the doors were closed and locked, all the electrical items unplugged, and walk back to my car and get in and drive away and try not to gag in the process. My brief search on Google helped me realize that while tenants can trash houses, and unhappy people who are unhappy tenants often do trash houses, my situation could have been so much worse. While this clean out is bad and I’m going to have to figure out a way to get it done quickly and on the cheap, it is basically a matter of dumping and cleaning. At least, I hope that is how it works out.
As I am up late documenting this damage and pondering the irony of this all, I strangely aware that while none of this is fun for me, I’m not exactly in a panic about any of it. It is kind of like I’m playing a game of Monopoly and I pulled the “Go Directly To Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200” card. I’m stuck in the Monopoly Jail of life right now, not able to move forward or improve my situation because I simply keep drawing the bad cards. It’s a season. It’s not forever. (I sooo have to tell myself that right now because there is that teeny voice that sometimes squeaks, “What if this NEVER changes?” or, worse, “What if things just keep getting worse?”)
In a nutshell, it can all be summed up in the following conversation I had today with my oncology nurse:
Nurse: So…how are things going? How are you handling the treatments?
Me: Great. This is the least of my worries in life.
Yes, she looked at me like I’m crazy. Maybe I am…just a little.

My Life on The Titanic

Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.

My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer.  I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.

When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.

The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.

But I’m scared.

What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?

What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?

And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?

Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.

What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be?  Will I need to take more time off?  How will my body respond?  Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off?  My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5.  That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year?  How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?

Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school.  This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request.  If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school.  Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past.  I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.

On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate.  The move was a good one, for my youngest.  The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved.  I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal.  I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see.  It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now.  I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.

Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon.  I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable).  She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen.  This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family.  I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink.  For now, we remain afloat.

The icebergs continue to converge with no relief.  One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way.  I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship.  All I can do is survive today.  And after today, tomorrow.  And after tomorrow, the next day.  I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.

The Party Continues

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Today I met with my oncologist for the first time. This is not to be confused with my radiology oncologist, with whom I’ve met twice. My oncologist is a brilliant woman. So much so, that inside about 5 minutes I realized my eyes were glazing over. I had no understanding of about half of what she said. In spite of my difficulties tracking with her (I suspect the lack of sleep last night had something to do with this), I gleaned a few interesting tidbits of information. Not that you care, especially, but I thought they were interesting, and since tonight, after interacting with my teenagers and yet again going away from the exchange with the label of “Worst Mother Ever” verbally stamped on my soul, I’ve decided it is time to make it all about me. Hey, I figure if my teens can insist everything is all about them, then I can do the same.

First, I learned that not only can a thermometer read your temperature, it can now detect the amount of oxygen in the blood. I am pleased to report that I exceed the expected level of 95% with an impressive 99% oxygen. My blood pressure was slightly elevated today, which was weird.

Another thing I learned was something my surgeon and my radiology oncologist both told me: some experts don’t believe DCIS is really cancer. My oncologist is definitely in the “it’s just per-cancer” camp. This is not to say she minimized my situation or concerns; she did not. She just added an additional and very informed perspective. I mean, I get it. I get to keep my boobs, The decision for radiation treatment was left up to me, and chemo is not happening. Compare this with a friend of mine who, a decade ago was diagnosed, ended up having removal, radiation and 32 6-week sessions of chemo. She is alive and was declared by her doctors to be cancer free just a few months ago. I have nothing compared to that.

The third thing I learned was that there is actually a pill one can take to reduce breast cancer. The reduction percentages are small and some of the side effects, though rarely occurring, are worrisome: possible clotting or increased risk of uterine cancer for starters.

I also learned cell phones were not allowed in the waiting room. This tidbit dawned on me because I can read this:

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Finally, I learned another great way to make $100 go away really fast: have an oncology consult. My next oncology appointment is after radiation. I’m sure that will be loads of fun.

That was not such a fun party. Lots of great information, but no food or beverages. Next time, I’ll know it is BYOB.

Money, Cancer, Aging and Losing Forty Bucks

The cats are at it again. Sometimes I really wish I would have paid attention to the fact that cats are nocturnal creatures before I allowed my children to talk me into getting one. I really wish I would have realized how wild their behavior can be at night before I signed on to take in four of the homeless creatures. Tonight they are flying around the house like they’re on speed, claws fully bared, tearing the place apart and me with it. It’s not cracking up to be a peaceful night of slumber.

In addition to that, finances have me tossing and turning. My daughter needs to apply for financial aid so she can continue schooling and because my cash flow and ability to help is zero, it’s creating some stress. No, it’s creating a lot of stress. I’m filing for bankruptcy, which is a smart move, but the paperwork burden and getting the right documents to the right people in the right amount of time has me twisting up the sheets as I toss and turn.

Then this cancer thing, yes, it is cancer, gnaws at me. While it really is the least of my worries right now (early stage, non-invasive), it still has me wondering sometimes about how much time i really have left on this earth. I hate thinking about that. Then that thinking leads me to realize I have no life insurance, and that I probably couldn’t get any now anyway. Then that leads me right back to stressing out about money that I don’t have now,and the lack of it I’m likely to face after I can no longer work. If I live that long. Then, of course, that spins me into a cycle of worrying about the kids, which takes me back again to the money. And so on.

I swear this all giving me dementia. I forget things more often now. I can’t remember where I put things. I can’t remember entire conversations, sometimes. This is terrifying to me. Today, I had $40. I stuffed it in my pocket until I could get it into my wallet, which I wasn’t carrying with me at the time. Between then and an hour later, that money completely disappeared. I retraced my steps, searched everywhere. No money. Now my mind is obsessively reviewing my day trying to figure out where the money went. I didn’t spend it. This I know for sure. Where is it?

There appears to be a momentary lull in the cat craziness. Now the place feels like a tomb, and the silence is problematic. I can’t win here.

I think there are some of those pain pills left from my last surgery. I didn’t use them for pain since I didn’t really have any pain, but they were rather effective in helping me sleep. Something I can’t do when wearing a bra to bed and after breast cancer surgery, that’s exactly what one is instructed to do. In fact, I was instructed to sleep but also to wear the bra. These two instructions were really mutually exclusive orders. I blew through the pain meds using them as sedatives. I think there might be one or two left.

I think I’m going to have to go find out for sure.

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The Domino Effect of Tragedy

Isn’t it funny how sometimes in life the biggest issues, problems, crises, or challenges seem to just silently occur? My day was filled with such things. In fact, the last month has been particularly filled with such events as has been the last 5 years since leaving my second husband. I think these quiet appearances of the most dramatic aspects of life may have always occurred, but I just didn’t pay attention to them…until I was truly on my own and found myself forced by circumstances to do so.

Today was a big day. It was one of those days that will not easily nor quickly be forgotten.

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Happy New Year?

While most folks were winding down the year preparing for the annual celebrations and celebrating the usual annual celebrations, I was doing the same thing I always do about this time of the year:  annual checkups.  It seems crazy to add one more housekeeping item to an already full list of things to do at this time of year, but it somehow works for me.  I have a two week break when the kid are out of school and during one of those weeks my kids are all away at their other home.  It’s a great time for me to get caught up on all the medical check ups and doctor appointments that must occur, now that I am over a certain age.  That certain age was, for me, thirty-five instead of forty like it is for most women.  You see, my mother had a full masectomy in her late 50’s or early 60’s.  She also had an uncle who died of breast cancer.  For women in my family tree, breast cancer is not a matter of  if, it is a  matter of when.  So, this year, when my annual mammogram indicated a need for a second look, which led to the need for a biopsy, I was not really willing to dilly dally around.  The day I heard the news that they wanted a biopsy, I insisted my doctor write up the order, I walked it over to the radiology lab myself and scheduled an appointment.  This is just one area I can’t afford to stick my head in the sand and pretend it will all go away.  We all know better; it doesn’t go away.

So, biopsy scheduled and done.  Here I sit awaiting the verdict.  

 I think I’m beginning to understand the most difficult aspect of any health-related, potentially life-threatening diagnosis is waiting on the test results.

I remember as I sat in the radiology center after my second mammogram in two weeks, thinking that I really didn’t know what to think. Should I be worried?  Should I not be concerned?  I didn’t know.  I was finally released with the standard response informing me that my results would be sent to my doctor within a certain period of time and that my doctor would then contact me.  I thought, “Okay, no news will be good news.”  Ten days later I was in the doctor’s office going over the results which she had to request from the clinic and a week after that I had a biopsy.

Not exactly my idea of a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.

I’m still thinking, “If it was really serious, I’d be in serious surgery right now.”

I’m also surprised at the exhaustion I’m feeling post biopsy.  Thank God my children are all old enough that I can tell them what is going on.  Thank God modern research and technological advances in the last 20 years helps us detect  and deal with problems before they become diseases.  And, once again, I’m incredibly grateful for my health which, this time, enabled me to bounce back with no pain except fatigue.  It’s not just physically stressful, but psychologically demanding as well.

I’m not sure this is the best way to start a New Year, but it has made me even more aware that each day we have our health and life is a good day.

Today, I have my health.  I am alive.  I have children that I love and who love me.

I’m grateful.

It is a Happy New Year.

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