That lesson being: "Never try to help someone who doesn't want to help themselves."
(Please note, there isn't one thing that's been exaggerated for effect and not one lie in this entire blog)
I mean, sure, in the beginning these types of people act grateful, say 'thank you' and tell you how much they appreciate everything you've done for them. They show signs of hope. It spurs us on.
It was after those first few twinges in my gut when I started doubting stuff- that I'd like to kick myself in the ass for NOT paying closer attention to the red flags.
I have a circle of 13 solid friends, plus my entire family who all pitched in to give a young girl a chance just about 2 years ago. Money, food, clothes, advice, tips, help, rides, holidays, trips, and finally an actual roof over her head and a huge break on renting on my place, for her taking care of it and my cats. After all, it was doing me a huge favor having her there. It allowed me to be able to move to England and be with my wife. We felt blessed to have someone there, that we knew, trusted, and now knew the ropes and was on a seemingly good track.
For 9 months, before I moved to England, I taught her the basic routine of caring for the cats, cleaning the place, checking the a/c unit, what to do with mail, how to work the washer & dryer, where the fuse box was, who to call in case of repairs, what to do for any given situation, pretty much. She saw how I worked 8-9 hours a day, came home, handled my household responsibilites, cared for the cats, paid my bills, and still had time for family & friends. She needed to find a job, make a budget, and get her life started. She seemed anxious about it. Ready. Willing. My wife and friends' helped her with her resume, gave her interview tips, helped her with clothes and rides to be sure she didn't miss a job opportunity at any point- even helped financially when she had to attend an out of state wedding of a friend with plane tickets & trips to clothing stores for her outfit. So many dinners, nights out, groceries, lending her the car, passing along info on possible employment opportunities, and even one of my super generous friends actually bought her transportation, (not once but TWICE) helping her with a budget and paying off a loan that was hindering her credit during backgroud checks for work. She finally did find a job, a month before I left. So, a new job, a great 2 bedroom 1 & 1/2 bath condo in sunny Florida, completely furnished and stocked for half the rent she'd pay anywhere else, a built in circle of friends & family surrounding her if she needed anything- and all she had to do was maintain the place, take care of the two quiet, comfortable cats (13 and 10 year old) and pay her bills. I was off to start a new chapter in my life, with my wife, in another country.
Well, here we are, 18 or so months later and 2-3 visits back to the States (May, September, January and last month, October) with disasterous results. In no particular order, here's what I went through.
I had left her in March with 3-4 super large manilla envelopes and money for postage so every few months she could send me my mail. Not once did I ever get my mail from her. She communicated less and less. After about 6 months, she sent a nasty email telling me how sick she was of hearing about my great life in England, my travels, fancy dinners & food, concerts and events every week on the radio show. I was stunned. She explained she was upset because she and the people around her were struggling with the ecomony in the States, finding work, family problems, illnesses, etc. I explained that I was well aware of what MY friends were going through, but didn't think it would be a good idea to discuss that on an entertainment based internet radio show. I reminder her that I was 20 years older than her, had paid my dues with crap relationships, had my own struggles, including losing my 43 year old father to cancer at the age of 20, working in failed family business, seeing my mother struggle, re-financing my condo up to my ears to make ends meet, and being behind a desk for the last 18 years before finding any sort of happiness and any friend would be instinctively happy for me, regardless of what they were going through. I also reminded her of the things we had done and were continuing to do for her and her pissy, shitty attitude so it wasn't like I was being selfish, for shit sake, I was basically sharing it with her! From that moment, things were very different between us. We kept the communications short, basically only in regards to rent, cat care and condo maintenance. This probably is the point where you're thinking we should have cut our losses, kicked her out, found care for the cats and just rented the place out to someone decent. But nooooo. We kept on thinking it would all work out.
Every time I visited, the place looked worse and worse. We spent more & more time cleaning and renovating while there on vacation because she couldn't be bothered to vaccum, spot clean the carpet, wipe a kitchen counter, organize a pile of mail or anything else. After a particular visit, when I did a pretty major purge of my things, my pictures of family, my knicknacks, my art work- stripping the place basically of anything of mine (even though I was still paying half the rent!) so she could start to make it more reflective of her taste- even moved the entire recording studio to my co-hosts place, so the extra bedroom would be empty if she found a roomie. This seemed to please her. To not have my face or my family photos around. In fact, she couldn't wait to move furniture around and get things the way SHE wanted. She thought perhaps her friend from another state would move to Florida and they would be roommates. I was pleased. I even gave her a $50 a month BREAK on her rent since she was still taking care of the cats and she was indicating that she was putting out a lot of money in cat litter. I figured if a roommate was moving in, everything would be fine. Suffice to say, after visiting, the chick never ended up moving in. Can't imagine why.
In October, I found out after telling her that my ex husband owned a Benjamin Moore Paint Store near by and would hook her up when she was ready to paint- she ignored the advice, and went to a home store in July, where she bought CRIMSON AND GRAY SATIN ENAMEL PAINT, which showed every child-like brush stroke- and began a painting project which, not only did she NOT finish, she never even threw away the supplies, which laid all over the wall unit & floor- paint cans, trays, brushes from JULY. Roll Tide. Alabama college colors on half the condo walls. Yeay me.
This last visit back was the worst: the cats were shabby, unattended, sad, mopey, her share of rent was getting slower and slower coming in, excuses always being made ("my co worker stole my money", "I left work early and didn't have a chance to deposit it") and my wife and I were sucking it up because, well.."she was taking care of the cats". After this last trip back to Florida, it was evident she wasn't taking care of the cats at all, especially the diabetic one. They're litter box wasn't scooped regularly, so they started going outside of it, on the newly tiled floor we had installed in January. Their water dish was scummy, the place was dark all day, light bulbs burned out, not replaced, furniture moved so they couldn't get to the window sills, cat vomit on the rugs, that had been there for weeks and months, even a poop nugget or 2 rolling around on the floor in the living room. It was obvious she wasn't spending much time there. The instructions given by the Vet weren't being followed at all. The place was dark, dirty and stunk. My sofa & furniture, carpets were ruined. Her clothes laid in piles all over the dirty bedroom, the closets were stuffed with her crap, there was food, glasses, jugs of old iced tea, bottles of cheap wine, box of Cheez Its, fast food wrappers all over the bedroom, the blankets covered in cat fur, vomit, and piles of her mail, even MY mail for the last 7 months all over the place, pieces of covered furniture, boxes of the unused tiles from JANUARY, paint supplies stacked in the living room covered in dust and grime, the brand new tile & grout a mess, the funk of a 15 year old boy & cat piss hanging in the air. It was fucking disgusting. Enough to make me cry. Right in front of her. "Sorry," she said.
She knew for 3 months the exact date I was getting to Florida and didn't make ONE effort to clean the place up. She knew that we were carrying the entire mortgage, she knew that the last time we were there, we left her with cleaning supplies that WE purchased, because we had to CLEAN the place for her AGAIN. Yet, she did nothing at all. After having a talk with her, and listening to more excuses, I warned her that my wife was getting in to town in 2 days and for her sake, I had hoped she would try and clean the place up a bit. Again....not ONE effort made. My wife got in, nothing was any different- and insead of getting angry, she came to 2 conclusions- we had to find proper care for the cats FAST and we had to get the place looking presentable because we now had to find another room renter to split expenses with this fucking nutter, since she had only made half a month's rent payment since Sept 27th, and that had to be "requested".
Springing into action, my family & friends came together and painted the fucked up walls & cleaned the living room, kitchen and dining room, base boards, mopped the floors, cleaned the litter box, replaced the bulbs, and all that was asked was that she clean the 2 bedrooms & bathroom so that we could show the place if we found an interested person to rent to. She promised that she had a 3 day weekend coming up for Veteran's Day and she would handle it. She was left the cleaning supplies, a carpet shampoo'er, extra paint, and was told anything that was in the way could be thrown out. She also promised to make a payment after every pay week because "it was 3 paycheck week in November and she could get caught up." She cried, she said "sorry", she said "thank you", she explained that she was in somewhat of a depression, and lonely and didn't like living alone. She was always out because she didn't like being by herself. She had made some bad financial moves. I explained that the cat situation had me worried and I was looking for alternate care for them. She was working farther away and had a bit of a commute, and it was taking it's toll on her, she explained. She was thrilled we would handle finding her a roommate, we went over what would make us happy in a new tennant, and even bought her a brand new bed to be delivered the week after we left so both rooms would be ready for a new potential roommate.
So, basically - a 23 year old girl with a full time job, who had to drive 45 minutes to work & back every day was having a hard time keeping an apartment clean, paying bills and caring for two cats. I mean, seriously, I understand at 23 years old EVERYTHING is a big deal- every new friendship, every new adventure, every potential date, relationship, family thing, issue, and expense is a major fucking deal. But I can't wrap my head around someone who can live like a pig, not lift a finger, and ignore two cats because she's "depressed"- all the while Facebooking about drinking with friends, buying Starbucks, Jamba Juice, posting pictures of her with her idiot new friends out drinking, pretty much publicly shitting on the people who were paying half her rent and gave her the opportunity to thrive.
I also want to add that my wife is only about 2-3 years older than non-paying renter. She worked her way through college with 3 jobs, got her degree, commuted to school and work over 2 hours a day, never missed a rent payment, had a good circle of friends, lived on a careful budget, went through relationship ringers from time to time, took no hand outs, worked as a teacher and now has a great job in her late twenties.
Here we are now, 2 weeks since we've left Florida and got back to England only to find out AGAIN- nothing was done. Every request ignored. Never did a thing in the bedrooms. Didnt clean, didnt do the carpets, didn't move a piece of furniture, NOTHING. She had every excuse in the book- "I didn't know what to do with things, I was all by myself, no one was around to help me move stuff.." (Really? You didn't need help when you re-organized the furniture LAST TIME!) We had the bed returned to the store, and realized, no one would ever want to live with this pig. The roommate thing was now in the crapper. After the talks & discussions, the plans and the promises. We were battered and fried by this kid. Down we go in a ball of flames, yet again.
The kicker came when my mother stopped by with my step dad last week who was picking up stuff that needed to go to the city dump. My mother went in with her key, so my stepdad could get some chairs that needed to go and she wanted to see the kitties. Upon arrival, she noticed the smell, then saw the overflowing litter box and that there was 3 bits of food in the dish. Within 15 minutes of her phone call to me, I was on the phone, discussing it with someone who had offered before to take them a while ago. I was hesitant then, knowing this person had another cat, and I was worried about integrating mine, and the age difference between hers and mine, and so on. My wife actually convinced me by saying it was the best thing. I took the evening to think it over and made my call the next day. I knew that taking my cats out of the home they've known for 12 years, was going to be stressful for them, but I also know that the place they were in wasn't even their home anymore. Nothing was the same for them. They were getting no attention, they were living in filth, they were being ignored and they weren't even a thought to anyone. They hadn't been brushed, or tended to, they're behavior was different, and they're little sparks were gone. They needed to be with someone who would take the time to treat them right, get them on a medicine and feeding schedule, keep their litter box and food & water dishes clean, brush 'em and pet them every day and I was lucky enough to have the plan work out perfectly, even though it was fast. I'm not even going to tell you what the pharmacist said when the new cat care person took the bottle of insulin in to have it looked at, asking "Should this bottle be this full if the cats been on 3-4 units twice a day since September?" So, do the math. Was the cat getting 2 shots a day...? It makes me sick to even think about it, so we aren't going there. Needless to say, the cat care taker had to start from scratch getting her meds adjusted, and getting her on the feeding schedule that was advised. What is so damn difficult about a 7am and 7pm feeding & shot schedule and scooping a little box before work, when you get home and before bed? Apparently, it was TOOOOOO overwhelming for her. Being out on the town was more important. Being out with friends, was more important than taking care of something with a heart beat. This - from the girl who someday aspires to be a paramedic or EMT?! Oh god help us if that happens. That's all I can say.
Wait. It gets better. I got a pissy email from the non-paying "renter" stating "Thanks for making a bad day worse. I found out my Aunt has cancer, and then come home to an empty house, cats gone. Thanks for letting me know." So, she was bothered by the fact that I didn't tell her the cats, who she didn't give a shit about, were being moved? Needless to say, at that point, she knew her days were numbered. So, she emailed me less than 48 hours later to tell me that she knew she was only there to "take care of the cats" and now they're gone, so she moved out. She was sure to say "Thanks for everything and every opportunity" and "Good luck". Good luck?... to me? Really? No, no thank YOU for not for not making my place any filthier. Thanks for keeping your priorities straight and taking all the booze, but not the cable box that's in your name or the last of your clothes, mail and personal pictures. Most of all, thanks for the parting lie about dropping the keys off to the neighbor. Couldn't just do what she arranged, had to wait until she was ready, a day later. The locks were changed anyways, and MY mail has been forwarded. Arrangements will be made for the last of her things to be picked up. So happy she took the 7 year old booze stash, though, because that's really the main concern when you move out in the middle of the night with no notice. I can see it now, her ass planted on some new unsuspecting moochable person's sofa, smoking Tipparillos, happily toasting "Here's to getting some pussy!" while feverishly deleting every mutual friend of ours from her Facebook because now they know the real deal. Again, priorities.
Her parents must be so proud of how she handled this situation. What a winner they raised. Is there an award for that? And that poor Aunt? She gets to worry about a niece who can't take care of herself in addition to everything she's going through.
To add insult to injury, the non-paying renter emailed that she feels she only owes a WEEK of rent, and anything else she easily paid out in "cat care." $550 in cat care? I did remind her in my reply that anytime she ever paid anything out for the cats, like a vet visit or pet medicine, she would just NOT pay rent in exchange. So, she never paid anything out of pocket for them but litter and food, which in return, I was paying for the electric bill all along and had continued to give her the $50 a month break. Regarding any other cat care, she would phone us and I would give a credit card number to the vet office. Furthermore, my step dad was dropping off litter to her in recent months, when she stated to me she couldn't afford it. Mind you, all this after she had spent a WEEK in Orlando on vacation, where she drove to with gas prices at 3.49 a gallon, to be with her family trampling all over ever-so-affordable Disney World, posting pics all along the way.
Every Facebook post I would see showing a new stupid way she was out spending money she didn't have and that she owed us began to infuriate me. Still doing check-in's on Facebook from bars, cafes, and coffee shops. It was like constantly being slapped in the face, because she had NO basic regard or respect whatsoever for the problems she was constantly causing us while she was out having an "amazing time with friends."
It all comes to an ugly end. But my circle of true friends have been there for me and listened to the venting, and they've seen the place with their own eyes, causing some of them to even cry, being overwhelmed with disappointment. They've been a part of it all, and feel humiliated, duped, lied to, used and they feel awful for me and my wife, knowing what we've been through, monetarily and emotionally. They're stepping up, helping and they've been so supportive in the aftermath.
So, that's my story of how I learned a lesson about helping someone who doesn't want to help themselves. She not only let me, my wife, my circle of friends and my family down, she's lost them all as a part of her life. These people that did nothing but care about her and help her and genuinely wanted to see her succeed - she stole things from them, (as minor as a banner is it's still theft), she lied to us, she cut us off, she endangered pets, she cost people money, people that gave it to her when they didn't have it to give, she never made arrangements or an attempt to pay it back, even in small increments, or payment plans. She took and took and couldn't live up to the smallest of expectations- work, pay your bills, clean the place and take care of the cats. REALLY Sad. ..Sooo, yeh. This:
I hope non-paying renter looks at that great, big kitty tattoo every day that she has on her back from years past and remembers that everyone associated with that logo dug deep and pulled her out of an unhappy situation in Virginia, moved her to South FL, set her up with everything she needed, and gave her a fresh start. And she blew it. I'm not saying we're a bunch of heroes. In fact, we are a rag tag bunch of women with tons of health problems, job stresses, family ups & downs, business jugglings, gossip-driven arguments, and big mouths, but when you see past it all, and you understand that no matter what the issues are among the group, one thing is for certain- they come together in anyone's time of need and they figure out a way to rise above it, whether it's with laughter, or food, or music or games, advice, or shoulders to cry on- underneath all of it, they will always be there with open arms and big hearts. And that's the thing I'm most pleased about- we did nothing wrong, and she did everything wrong. She blew an opportunity most people would have been grateful for, regardless of what was going on to cause her to become so de-railed, she chose not to come to us- she chose to make a new circle of friends, probably her own age, and listen to the things she wanted to hear, and be influenced into poor decisions, and threw her own good sense and judgment out the window in typical young adult fashion- not looking back.
So long to you, Kid. Hope THAT tattoo marks the spot where you made your biggest mistakes and you learn from them someday.
Even at 40 something years old, in order to get myself moved and settled in England, I had to have help- financially, and the support of my closest friends & family- so I understand that part-it's difficult and uncomfortable and it actually overwhelms you when you realize how generous and warm people can be in your time of need. But here's the thing- I give back every day in every way I can, sometimes in little ways, sometimes as big as I can. I now work 3 different part time jobs to support myself, to contribute, and to pull my own weight. I didn't waste an opportunity, and for that I'm proud of myself and I love the people who helped along the way.
I know this blog will effect a lot of you, and you have comments- and you are more than welcome to email me, or post them on my Facebook wall, but please do NOT waste your time contacting or badgering the person who's been called out here- she'll make excuses and lie to you, too. This is MY account, from my point of view, and what I saw and what I felt. I have no sympathy for her, and could care less what her side of it is. It went on far too long and it is OVER now. I wrote this so perhaps if she saw it ALL in writing, she would understand exactly how I felt about what she's done to me and my family, because face to face conversations, then emails, and phones calls didn't get any response. Also, to let it serve as a warning to those thinking about taking someone in. Most of all to get it off my chest so I can breathe again.
Some heartfelt and sincere thank you's to the people that truly deserve it..
For my stepdad & my Mom who took care of every appliance from the electric to the a/c to the garbage disposal and anything else, in record time always and who even had the little punk over for holidays so she wouldn't be lonely- I thank you.
For my special cat care takers- I don't even have the words. Thank you seems so small.
For my upstairs neighbor Lisa and my Aunt across the way- Thank you for always keeping me updated and helping in any way I needed.
To my very patient wife, and to my friends Donna & Deb, Julie, Hazel, Vic and EVERYONE else in my circle who ever cooked a meal, gave a ride, picked up a job application, gave advice, lent an ear, covered a bounced check, helped with school, let her spend the night, picked up a tab, be sure she got to see her family, gave her clothes, took her shopping, took her to events, paid for hotels, tickets, gas, meals, or who just generally gave a shit and asked for nothing in return- I thank you guys for having good, huge hearts & intentions, as did I -and more importantly, for sticking by me while this situation unfolded and helping with the mess afterwards. You guys provide the balance that shows human kindness, when the focus was getting really tilted towards not having faith at all anymore.