Love Thy Neighbor…

Over the last several months since a single father and his teenage daughter moved into the other half of my duplex, I have done everything I can to be a good neighbor and a good person to them. 

The daughter, Samantha, smokes weed. I told her when they moved in that I don’t have a problem with her smoking weed, but it makes me violently ill and I asked her not to smoke inside the house because we share a ventilation system. 

Even when I realized that her father was dealing drugs, I still didn’t call the landlord or the police. I should have, but Samantha is an intelligent girl who was accepted into college at only 16 years old and I didn’t want to screw that up for her. She has a full scholarship. She also been abused her whole life and seriously deserves a break. She’s not perfect. She is quite an angry and sometimes violent person, as well as a bit of a brat. But she has been through hell in her life and this was her chance to build a better life for herself. 

Repeatedly, she has continued to smoke weed in the house and I have had to talk to her and explain over and over that I’m allergic and it makes me very sick. I usually talk to her and she agrees to smoke outside and that’s the end of it for a while. 

Then on Thursday I came home to find my house filled with weed. I immediately got sick, but I was also absolutely livid. I try not to talk to people when I’m angry, especially that angry. I waited until I’d calmed down a little and then I approached Samantha alone. I calmly stated that I have asked her multiple times very nicely not to smoke inside because it me makes me very sick. She replied and said she didn’t care and this was her house, too, and she would smoke inside if she wanted to. I told her that the landlady doesn’t even want cigarette smoke in the house, let alone weed. I made it clear that if she couldn’t respect my one request for my own health, I would be forced to call the landlady. 

She continued to smoke weed inside all night. I shut my air vents and turned off the AC, but it barely helped. She was smoking so much! I locked my cats in one room that smelled the least like weed. I was so sick that I was shaking, dry heaving and crying. I had to call the landlady. I was up all night sick. 

I was just starting to stop shaking at 10:00 the next morning when Samantha decided to smoke in the house again! In addition to being sick, I then started to panic. My reactions to marijuana is extreme, which is why I say I’m allergic. I’ve never been tested for an allergy to it. I don’t see how I could go to a doctor and request a weed allergy test. I have been hospitalized for it before, though, but I was too out of it to be able to tell the hospital that it was weed that was making me that way. 

The landlady called the police and I talked to them. I explained how it makes me sick and that I really didn’t want this girl’s future ruined over weed, but that I cannot physically tolerate it in my house. The cops arrived at 2:00 in the afternoon and the neighbors had still not stopped smoking it. In fact, despite the cops knocking on their door, they refused to answer the door and smoked their weed from 10:00am to 3:00pm. The cop could smell the weed at the door. He asked if he could come into my side of the duplex and I allowed him. He smelled the weed coming from the vents when I opened them. He stuck around for over an hour, but no one answered the door or came outside.

Samantha had left around noon, but her friend stayed in the house and continued smoking. Even her mother had been smoking in the house. The cop told me to call the police every time they smoke inside and hopefully if there are police at their house every day, they will stop smoking inside. 

Samantha’s father doesn’t want to get evicted, so he is angry at Samantha and angry at me. He hasn’t spoken to me since the police came. They called him when they were here. He has been at home since then, though, and hasn’t allowed anyone to smoke to inside. 

Last night, Samantha stood outside my bedroom window at midnight and screamed for 20 minutes about not being allowed to smoke inside. I considered calling the police again because I know this girl can be violent, and her father is a drug dealer, and they all hate me right now. I didn’t call, though. I still don’t want to get her arrested. 

I got no sleep again last night, but at least it wasn’t because of weed making me violently ill. 

Since all of this started, I have been afraid to live here alone. My friend, Sophie agreed to stay with me for a little while, and this guy I’ve been talking to about renting my spare room said that he can move in next month. The landlady is concerned for my safety, too, and even offered to let me move into her house until this is over. She is trying to evict them. I’m scared to leave my cats here, too, though. Sophie staying here is helping me a lot. I know my cats and my house are safe while I’m at work. 

I think I have been more than reasonable with my neighbors, considering all of their illegal activity. I think if you can’t smoke weed respectfully, to the point that you will endanger someone’s health, you are acting illegally. Similarly to someone who drives drunk and endangers people’s safety. I would never have called anyone about her smoking weed if she could respect my one and only boundary that is for my health and well-being. 

 

So that’s where I’m at right now. It’s not over yet. 

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FEMA

Tropical storm Debby hit my area of Florida on June 26, 2012. My mother’s friend (sort of my friend, too, just an older lady) was flooded out of her place in the storm. She used to be a cat breeder, so she had nearly 20 cats in her place when it flooded. Luckily she was renting from someone who lived on the same property and she and the animals were able to move into her landlord’s house temporarily. She had also already been planning to move before the storm hit, so it wasn’t completely unexpected for her to find a new place. My mother was able to help her friend find a home, sort through her damaged belongings and get moved in. The hardest part was finding homes for the cats on such short notice. They were living in pet taxis and cages since the flood.

FEMA and other various disaster relief organizations have stepped up quickly and efficiently to help my mother’s friend, the animals, and every victim in the area. Even when FEMA can’t directly help someone with certain things, they have directed people to other people and places who can help.

All of my mother’s friend’s cats now have homes because of my mother, FEMA and other organizations.

The only thing I have needed from disaster relief is safe drinking water. My water comes out clear (many people have brown water since the storm), but I got sick after a little while from drinking it, so I had to get bottled water.

My mother, her friend and I went to FEMA recently to get help for our friend and water for us. While there I took some notes because I wanted to post about the disaster relief.

The following are mainly just my personal observations as I studied everyone in the building:

Upon entering the building, we were immediately greeting by FEMA’s security guard. He was a tall man in uniform with a large dark moustache, glasses and a gun holstered on his right hip. He maintained a serious demeanor, while still being friendly and helpful. He stood very straight and he walked the room with his hands clasped behind him.

The whole place was exceptionally organized and prepared. I imagined what it must have looked like when they first arrived and set up. I imagined the time it must have taken to get everything in such immaculate order. Lining the walls were separate stations with one to two people to each station. Every person had a dark grey Dell laptop computer, except one man who had a white Apple laptop. At each table there was a box of tissues, a roll of paper towels and a bottle of hand sanitizer. There were uncountable blue electrical cords all neatly taped together and to the floor. In the middle of the room there were stacks of boxes filled with packaged and canned foods, as well as necessities such as deodorant and nail clippers. Next to the boxes was a table with crayons and paper for the children. Then there were two lines of chairs with numbers by each one for the people who were waiting to be seen. The whole place was exceptionally clean, too. Even with all the people going in and out, the only spot of dirt on the floor was where someone had just tracked it in and it hadn’t yet been swept up.

Some of the stations included:

The sign-in station where they get everyone’s information and specific needs so that they can direct each person to the appropriate station. A counseling station where people can grieve their losses and have someone to talk to, and a mitigation station. There was a tele-register station, a housing assistance station and a Salvation Army station.

Every FEMA worker was very attentive to each person who came in. No one went unnoticed and everyone was given a chair to sit in. Even the workers who were clearly tired and not in the best mood were polite and attentive. I could tell that some of them were struggling. Every worker was busy and they didn’t exactly get breaks to step away and eat lunch, smoke a cigarette, or just relax for a bit. A blonde female FEMA worker slipped away discreetly to quickly eat some yogurt outside by the restrooms. I’d seen her inside before and she smiled at everyone and called out to anyone who wasn’t being tended to (including me, even though I didn’t need any help). I think the workers either weren’t allowed or didn’t want to eat inside in front of the storm victims since some of them didn’t have food. I felt bad for the blonde woman. Her eyes showed exhaustion and frustration, but she smiled at everyone she saw. These FEMA workers have obviously been working very hard to help people and to make everyone feel comfortable and safe.

Just an interesting observation- Nearly every single FEMA worker wore glasses.

It’s very hot and humid here in Florida. The FEMA building was very well air conditioned. The cool air was a huge relief for everyone. I bet they have quite the electric bill, though.

Disaster victims:

There was a middle-age gentleman in a crisp, clean, white and beige striped polo shirt. He gave his chair to my mother’s friend. A FEMA worker brought him another one and he thanked her, but then he gave that one to my mother. The FEMA worker brought him a chair once more. He then tried to give it to me. I thanked him and declined, so the FEMA worker brought me a chair. It was a little humorous that they almost couldn’t keep that kind man seated. I enjoyed observing him. He was very polite and considerate. When it was his turn to see someone for help, the first thing he did was ask the FEMA worker how she was and how her day was going. He didn’t just give the usual polite “Hey, how are you?” He leaned in closer, looked her in the eye, shook her hand, thanked her, and asked her how she was. He waited for her answer with a genuine expression of interest and care. I don’t know exactly what he lost in the storm, but I overheard him say something about needing a job. I think where he was previously employed was probably one of the many businesses flooded out here. I hope he finds work soon.

I watched a grandmother with her two grandchildren for a while. She was there with her daughter (the children’s mother) who was trying to get assistance. Both children were adorable little girls with dark brown hair. The older one was probably about five or six years old and the other one was just a baby. The older girl was full of energy, bouncing around with bright eyes. She was wearing a vibrant pink shirt, a colorful beaded necklace, and a cute little pale yellow plastic bow-shaped clip in her hair. Poor little thing was really struggling to stay close to her family and not touch things she wasn’t supposed to. The baby was happy in her pink, toy-like stroller. She was chewing on and playing with a plastic water bottle. When her mother returned, she took her out of the stroller and played with her. The baby squirmed happily giggling in her mother’s lap. I thought about myself as a child while I watched the family. I wondered if the older girl had any idea what they were doing there, what had happened, what she and her family had lost. She was young enough that she probably couldn’t really understand. I remember at that age I was aware of things, but I also sort of just went through the motions with some things. Most children seem to have the unique ability to forget the bad and just live in the present moment. It’s something to be admired, really. Something bad can happen to them and they can be happy and playing the next day. It doesn’t mean they’ve fully forgotten the bad thing that happened, but rather they’ve just put it out of their mind for a bit so they can enjoy the present moment completely. I love children.

I was a bit taken aback by all of the storm victims. Every single one of them had clearly tried to go to FEMA clean and well-dressed. I don’t often see people dress up and make an effort when they’ve lost so much and are asking for help. Even a sweaty young man who appeared to have a cold or the flu was nicely dressed in a bright green and blue polo shirt, khaki shorts and sandals.

At one point an elderly woman with a cane sat next to me. As she approached she was telling a FEMA worker that she didn’t want much help because she didn’t want to take away from people who have lost more. I thought maybe she just needed some water like me or had only suffered a little home-damage. The FEMA worker said “Well you’ve clearly been affected by the storm.” I only got a minute to talk to her, but I found out that her entire home had been underwater. How can someone lose more than everything?

FEMA is helping everyone with absolutely everything they need. They are providing food, clothing and necessities through the Salvation Army, as well as directing people to churches and charities which are helping with everyone’s needs. FEMA is providing free clean up services for people, as well as damage assessments and financial assistance to those who have lost their homes and/or belongings. They also don’t delay in anything. They move as quickly as they can and get things done.

I was very impressed by FEMA and each person individually who is helping in my area. The organization as well as the individual people deserve so much more recognition and appreciation than I can give them. I’d like people to know what they’re doing here, though, and how great they’ve been. I wish I could thank them all personally for everything they’re doing to help the people in my town. Each one of them is sacrificing something in their own lives to be here to help everyone in need. They are getting our town and community back on its feet, safely and as comfortably as possible.

I deeply appreciate and respect anyone who helps others in any way. People who do for others should be greatly revered.

If anyone would like to comment and share some personal experiences either in giving help or in receiving help, I would love to hear your stories.

Abuse and Change

Abuse:

Can anyone tell me why people stay in abusive relationships? Or why they take their abusers back after they’ve gotten out of the situation?

I know very little about this subject, but I know a couple things from my experience with people in these situations:

  • The victim doesn’t recognize his/her own worth.
  • The victim doesn’t want to give up on or abandon their abuser.
  • The victim doesn’t want to be alone.
  • The victim cares about /loves their abuser.
  • The victim thinks the abuser will change or has changed.
  • The victim fears for his/her safety or life.
  • The victim has children with the abuser.
  • The victim financially depends on the abuser.
  • The victim thinks he/she is to blame for the abuse.
  • The victim has no one else who will support them emotionally.
  • The victim thinks that he/she is a bad person and/or believes that he/she deserves what he/she gets.

Knowing these things does not mean that I understand them. I don’t understand it at all. I have zero comprehension as to why someone would stay in an abusive relationship, or worse… take back an abuser once they’re out of the relationship.

I’m really not the nicest person. I care about all of humanity, but I refuse to exert much of  my energy on anyone but a select few who have made their way into my heart. I cut people out of my life quickly if they are toxic to me in any way, and I do not feel bad about it at all. I will only try for so long with someone. If they refuse to change bad/unhealthy behaviors or situations, I will refuse to have them in my life. I will not tolerate complaints with no effort to fix the problems. I am not the person who will coddle someone day after day while they make no changes to better their life.

This brings me to…

Change: 

Change frightens a lot of people. We don’t generally like to be removed from our comfort zones. However, change is a necessary part of life. The world is in a constant state of change. We cannot always stop change, but we can control the direction of the changes in our lives.

Change always presents an opportunity to improve upon our current circumstances. Instead of asking “why,” we should ask “how.”

“Why is this happening to me?” = “How can I turn this into something great?”

Sometimes when it’s necessary to make changes in your life, those changes will begin on their own. The whole universe must remain balanced, hence its constant state of change stabilizing imbalances that occur. If we resist the changes that occur in our lives, we become unbalanced.

If we pay attention to the changes that occur in our lives, we will often find that there has been something blocking us from our full potential and the changes that are occurring present an opportunity to unblock it, improve our lives and reach our potentials.

It is up to each of us to accept and direct changes, or to resist and attempt to live in a state of stasis. Truth is, though, nothing remains in stasis; everything changes. Those changes can be good or bad, but life will change one way or the other. Choose to direct that change in a positive way rather than resisting it.

Changing your life begins with changing yourself. These are just some of the steps you can take in changing yourself and your life:

  1. Learn to love yourself, first and foremost- No one can give you more than you can give yourself. You are your greatest advocate in life. Love, value and respect yourself. No one can properly love, respect, value or appreciate you if you don’t do it for yourself first.
  2. Realize your strengths and weaknesses- Acknowledge, accept and utilize your strengths and take steps to lessen your weaknesses.
  3. Establish a healthy routine in your life- Reduce, and eventually eliminate, your bad habits and coping mechanisms and replace them with healthy ones.
  4. Set goals for yourself- We need to have something to strive for and aspire to. Set your personal and life goals and remind yourself daily of what you want and how you can get it.
  5. Cut toxic people out of your life- If you want to be happy, healthy and fulfilled, remove those from your life who seek to damage, demean or destroy you. In order to be loved and supported, you must keep loving and supportive company.
  6. Take control of your own destiny- Settle for nothing less than you deserve in life and love. Accept only that which lifts you up and pushes you toward your full potential. You have the power to steer the course of your own life. Choose only the paths which will fulfill you and bring you happiness.
  7. Be positive- Attitude is everything. You are what you believe. If you believe that you are a failure, you will fail. If you believe that you are weak, you will be weak. Believe that you are strong, independent, happy, and successful, and you will be strong, independent, happy and successful.