Trading Jewelry for Flea Meds

I had spent all afternoon washing and wringing our clothes, and when our freshly cleaned laundry was hanging on the clothesline outside, I noticed the smell. The old, banged-up washer that had been given to us, wasn’t doing the job, and trying to do our laundry by hand wasn’t an ideal solution either. We needed to get a washer and dryer fast!

Craigslist had become my go-to place to find bargains, and that night I went online and put out another ad, hoping to find an affordable washer and dryer set. Brianna, a young woman answered my ad and called me the following day. After separating from her partner, she had decided to move back in with her parents.

“I have a little one, I am going through a divorce and I am moving back in with my parents,” she explained. “My mom offered to babysit when I am at work.” She had an older washer and dryer set she didn’t need anymore. “You can have it for free.” I started sobbing, which took her by surprise. I shared a bit of our story with her, she shared parts of her life with me -we talked for a while. Two strangers connecting over an ad. Why is it often so much easier to communicate with people we don’t know?

“Where is the GPS system?” my husband asked the next morning. It had always been on the kitchen counter, or on my new sewing station when he didn’t use it. You would think it’s hard to misplace something in a house with almost no furniture, but somehow we had managed to lose it. Neither one of us could find it and we didn’t have time to continue our search.

We were in a hurry, so I went online and looked up the directions to Brianna’s place. I wrote down the streets we had to take, and a short while later we were on our way to pick up our new used washer and dryer. One day I would have a printer again -until then I wrote down the information I found online, which felt a bit odd at first, but quickly I got used to it.

Brianna was very nice. Her little girl showed us her room, and we met her parents, who were excited about them moving back in. We helped them to take a large shelf apart, then we unhooked the washer and dryer. An older white GE dryer and a white Whirlpool washer. They didn’t match and we didn’t care. They worked. That was all that mattered. There was a time in my life when I could afford to be picky, but that time was long gone.

I couldn’t believe she gave us the set for free. The happiness I felt must have shown, it made everybody smile around me. I couldn’t help it, I felt like I had just won the lottery. My excitement was intense and genuine. Our homeless times had brought me back to normal. I didn’t need the expensive, modern, and overpriced washer and dryer set I had sold just a few months ago when we lost our home, I needed something that did the job. May I always remember!

The washer gave up a few years ago, but the dryer, the old banged-up GE appliance, is still with us. Given to us in May 2010, it’s still working today in 2022. It was already older when it was given to us, so I would guess by now it must be about twenty years old. Four years ago it looked like it was going to give up too, but it only needed a new heating element. For a short moment I was tempted to let it go and get a new one instead but then I just couldn’t. We ordered the heating element, and with the help of a stranger who had posted a helpful YouTube video, our old dryer worked again. It’s more than a just a dryer, it’s a memorabilia if that makes any sense. It’s a symbol of our love and our strength, but also reminds us of the kindness and the generosity of a stranger. It reminds me that only twelve years ago we were homeless.

“Could you guys help me take my bed apart, please?” Brianna asked and my husband was more than happy to help and disassembled the bed quickly.

“Do you need a bed by any chance?” Was she kidding? My husband slept in the full-size bed that Susan and her husband had bought for us, and I slept in the next room on the futon, they had given us. My dizziness and panic attacks often kept me up, and I was restless during the night. For the first time in our marriage, we slept in separate beds, in different rooms. I was grateful for the futon but secretly I had been hoping to find a real bed for myself as well.

We drove home with the washer and dryer and picked up the queen mattress and the foundation for the bed the next day. All of it was given to us by a very nice sweet young woman, who surely could have used the money. When I offered some, she declined. I have learned not to question people’s motives, we all have our reasons why we feel the need to help. The most unselfish and honest actions come from those who once received kindness and generosity themselves.

If you are touched by kindness, you will never forget. If you were helped, you will always remember. If you hit rock bottom, you will never forget that either. It’s a simple principle. What we live through, changes us. Sadly, sometimes it makes people hard and bitter, but more often it makes people strong and kind.

On our way home, we stopped at the dollar store and bought a good detergent and dryer sheets. I did laundry all day long the next day. I still hung some of it outside, nothing beats the smell of air-dried bed sheets or clothes.

That night I slept in my new bed. I didn’t have a headboard or a footboard, just the foundation, and a mattress but it felt so good to sleep in a bed again. Now we had two mattresses, one bed frame, one futon, one recliner, one old round dining table, a washer and dryer, an overstuffed chair with an ottoman, an ancient cheap shelf-desk unit, a very expensive-looking workroom with work surfaces and custom cabinets, a very large sewing station, and of course our unicorn tapestry -our garage sales splurge.

We had accomplished a lot in not even two months and our old life, before we had become houseless, seemed now light years away.

I searched for the GPS system everywhere for days. The small closet in the living room, the outside storage in the driveway. I opened every cabinet and every drawer in the kitchen. It was gone. My husband must have taken it with him in the morning and had probably left it in one of the work trucks.

Sadly, this soon would become a reality

But that was not the case either, he came home that night and told me that he himself had looked everywhere as well. “I remember, I had put it on your workstation, as always.”

The only other person in our home had been the TV guy from Comcast.

I had been with him all the time, had only left for a minute after I had offered him some water. Could it be that in that short amount of time he had the nerve to steal our GPS system when I turned my back on him?

We still had the original box, the serial number, the manual and finally, after debating back and forth, I decided to call Comcast. Our GPS system had been registered and while we had lost the email account when we couldn’t pay our bills anymore, surely Garmin would be able to locate us in their system.

I spent hours on the phone with Comcast, got transferred back and forth until I finally had a person on the line at the corporate office in Memphis, where we lived. I explained my concern, gave them the name of the technician, the time and the date of the service, as well as the brand, model, and serial number of our GPS system.

The man was a contractor, that much I found out that day. Nevertheless, he drove around with a Comcast car, worked in their name, and signed their paperwork, surely Comcast would feel responsible.

Surprisingly, they weren’t interested in investigating at first, only after I promised that I would involve the local news station if they wouldn’t look into it, they reacted. A couple of minutes later, I got a case number and Comcast assured me they would investigate the situation.

This was the third time in my life something had been stolen from me. I remember the first time, the surprise I felt, the anger and the disbelief when I wanted to turn on the radio in my old car and instead of the so familiar buttons, I held cables in my hands. Someone had broken into my car that night and had stolen my old stereo. I was outraged and wanted the thief to be found. I drove to the next police station. When I told the officer what had happened, he didn’t even bother writing it down. He went with me back to my car, looked at the piece of rust I was driving, and showed me how they had opened the door without breaking any glass. “By now your stereo probably been sold,” he told me.

The realization that my radio was not important enough, or valuable enough for even a report left me speechless. I was a poor student and couldn’t afford to buy a new stereo for my old car. I felt violated. Life was unfair to me that day and there was nothing I could do.

A couple of years later, we were packing the car for a ski trip and left the car unattended for just a couple of minutes to get the rest of the language. When we came back, both of our skies were missing. The ski rack on top of our vehicle was empty.

We didn’t even bother to report the theft. What good would it do?

The helplessness you feel when something that you own is taken from you against your will is something you cannot imagine until it happens to you. It leaves you with the overwhelming desire to do something, yet there is nothing you can do. Of course, everything can be replaced, it’s just material stuff, but that’s not the point.

How could the Comcast technician steal from us? Did he not see that we didn’t have much?

A couple of days later Comcast called. Turns out the technician had the same GPS brand, the same model as our missing one. He just recently got it. When I asked about the serial number, she told me he didn’t give it to her. “When we asked about a receipt, he said he had paid in cash. There is nothing we can do,” the Comcast employee told me. “I am sorry,” and with that, I was released. Another happy Comcast customer.

I couldn’t believe it. I always believe in the good of people and had hoped his GPS system would have been a different one, not the expensive model I had bought my husband for Christmas. I was angry with Comcast. How quickly they dismissed me like I had been making it all up. I didn’t understand. So many years later, I still don’t understand. “Hey Comcast, newsflash, if your employees and your contractors steal from your customers, what do you think they do with your equipment?”

I felt so stupid. I had let it happen in our own home. I had offered the guy a glass of water to be kind and that’s how he repaid me. We had just moved to Memphis and didn’t know our way around. My husband needed to drive to customers in a work truck once or twice a week, without the GPS navigating him through the unknown city, it would take so much longer.

We just had signed up for their service and we were in no position to cancel, but in my heart I did. I don’t want to do business with a company that has no integrity.

That night, when my husband reassured me for the hundredth time that none of this was my fault, I noticed our dogs scratching and licking themselves a bit more than usual. The next morning, with bright daylight, I checked them all out, and sure enough, they all were flea invested.

That was the last thing we needed. For three big dogs, with different weights, the flea medication was too expensive. A six-month pack for the two who were close in height and weight for the summer, another three-month pack for our heavy Weimeraner girl. I had run out on their heartworm medication a while back and wanted them back on as well. The list of needs was long, and our incoming money didn’t cover it all.

I had made great progress, had a few projects in my workroom. Still offering my service for very cheap, I kept myself busy. Everything helped, yet it often felt like a cold drop of water on a hot stone. As quickly as it showed up, it was gone!

That afternoon, we went to a local cheap hardware store, and against my better knowledge, I convinced myself to buy the cheap no-brand flea medication which promised to help. Of course, it didn’t help at all, and neither did the shampoo I had mixed, according to the internet an old home remedy. I groomed our shepherd mix, who enjoyed the summer cut, and they all got another bath, this time with Dawn, the dish detergent. It helped for about one day, but the first time they went outside, they came back with another flea family on their backs.

A couple of days later I took pictures of my pearl-diamond set and put it on eBay. Our old eBay username was still working, we had good ratings and I had high hopes. I asked for $1,000 and made it a 3-day listing, which ended way too soon. Nobody bought it, not even a watcher.

More Dawn baths for the dogs, who started to enjoy it. It was only May, but Memphis was already too warm for my taste and sticky. The famous humidity of the south weighs people -and animals- down.

I listed the set pearl-diamond set again for $499, also with a 3-day listing. I was desperate. Quickly I had one watcher, who stayed with my auction to the very end. Fifteen minutes before the listing would expire, there was one bid. Oh my gosh, I had sold the pearls. The dogs would get the supplements they needed and flea medication.

Then, just a few minutes before the auction ended a message from the bidder, asking me to retract her bid. I had no idea that was even allowed and didn’t know how to do it. She wrote she had been in the bedroom, had asked her daughter to make a bid for her on an item she had been interested in -sadly it wasn’t my pearl set.

I searched in the help section for a while, got some answers, and then the auction was over. She owed me $499 plus shipping.

She paid right away. Said it was her fault and not to worry, she would just resell my jewelry. I always thought the set was particularly beautiful, but then perhaps I was a bit biased, it had been a present from my husband, how could it not be?

At the moment I got the money on PayPal I went shopping. Two six-month supplies of Heartguard and two six-month supplies of flea meds for the dogs, plus engraved new name tags for all of them, and a gently used GPS system for my husband. It left us with $100 that we could use as needed.

We both were not happy with the new development, and we both hated to part with something so valuable for so cheap, but in the end, we both agreed. The dogs needed to be taken care of, they came first.

The same day the flea medicine arrived, I got an eBay message from the lady who had bought my jewelry by accident. I didn’t want to open it, I was scared. What if she wanted her money back or to return the jewelry. I shouldn’t have spent so much of the money, I knew it.

I opened the message, prepared for the worst. She thanked me. “I am so glad my daughter made the bid. I love the set, it’s so beautiful.”

It’s easier to let something go if you know it will be taken care of.

The dogs stopped itching 24-hrs. later.


I have taken my time writing the next chapter, too much had been going on at the end of June and the beginning of July. There is still so much to write about the time back then when we recovered from losing it all.

The next two or three installments will ‘only’ cover three weeks before we legally couldn’t drive our truck anymore. So much happened during that time that deserves to be mentioned, so many people came into our lives, and so many spontaneous gestures and heartfelt moments. It helped us to grow into the people we are today.

21 thoughts on “Trading Jewelry for Flea Meds

  1. There is so much that happened here. I think it is awful that comcast did not pursue the matter further. It is sad there are so many dishonest people in the world. Glad your jewelry went to someone who appreciated it, and a good thing they were sold so you could take care of your dogs.

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  2. Your gratitude as a recipient of kindness is really strong, and I wish you could “bottle it” and sell it to others. I so often hear griping and complaining and a sense of entitlement from people. I think perhaps it is true that you have to go through a period of real loss to be filled with gratitude when others share and come from a generous place in their hearts. I’m so glad your beautiful jewelry went t someone who appreciated it. I was glad to read another installment in your series. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. What a story. You encapsulated the good and bad in people so well in this one post. It reminded me somehow of a couple of weeks ago, when I left a 20 euro bill in my office desk. In plain sight. I then didn’t go to my office much for nearly two weeks. I was certain that it would be taken by one of the large crew of cleaning staff (and I wouldn’t blame them). Two weeks later it was still there in exactly the same spot. My office was clearly cleaned. Nothing happened, but it made me feel good that I could leave belongings without worry. Clearly this is not the case everywhere…

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  4. I am pleased that you have continued with your life story and am happy to wait for however long before you are ready for the next one. Your experiences are well expressed and hold lessons for all who read them.

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  5. Wow that was so kind of the young lady to help you out like that. Thank you, once again, for sharing your story with you. ๐Ÿ˜Š
    And I’m very glad you were able to also care for the dogs. I know how it feels when they need treatment and you’re unable to give it. So I’m very happy that, in the end, they were cared for and you could feel better about that as well.
    Looking forward to the next installment. Have a lovely day ๐ŸŒธ

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    • I am a farm girl, I got raised by the “animals first” rule, meaning we had to feed them first before we could sit down for supper. I still go by this rule, they can’t help themselves, as a dog owner, it’s my job to take care of them. If that means I have to tighten my belt a little bit, so be it.

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      • I really get that, for me it’s also my dog before me. I’m responsible for her care so she always goes first. ๐Ÿ˜Š Still it always feels good knowing I’ve been able to provide her with the best care. It makes the rest more worthwhile, at least to me. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  6. Thanks for yet another engaging chapter, Bridget. I especially liked the part about accepting Brianna’s kindness and generosity without question. I’m still paying back for all the kindness I received from lots of people, many of them strangers, during the years I raised my sons alone in Brazil.

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  7. This is a wonderful memoir. Raw sadness tinged with the generosity of giving people. It restores faith in humanity because some people are scum (as in the GPS thief who one suspects was a low life taking advantage of others). We all are on a journey and some are still yet to heed the lessons the universe ditches out. I am glad that the necklace story turned out so well and that the dog stopped itching. You’ve been through a lot from the sounds of it, Bridget?

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    • In 2008 we had it all. My husband was his own boss and he took care of 10-15 employees and their families. We had a big house, big cars, and a good income. We could afford what we wanted and had credit cards to our name. I still worked in my job as a translator as well. We had a very good life. Then, when the last recession hit, my husband lost his company, the result of a snowball effect. By the end of 2009, we left our house like thieves in the night. We couldn’t pay our bills anymore and couldn’t afford to move. We were houseless for half a year. Perhaps the most interesting time in our long time together. It makes you or breaks you.

      I assume we will soon find ourselves in the next recession, that’s why I decided to share my story. You started reading at installment #40. If you are ever bored you can find them all under the category “Losing it all.” I am always looking for beta readers because I will try to make it into a book. So many will have to walk in my shoes! And while I can’t change that, I might be able to give them hope.

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      • I am sorry to hear, Bridget but I am glad that you are writing about this. Hopefully it can be a way to deal with and heal the difficulties and challenges you faced. Instalment #40 you say? – there is lots more to read then. Happy to be another beta reader!

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