Posted by: jeanne | March 21, 2017

we’re home, or housesitter hell


i’m sitting on my porch in my bathrobe watching the birds at the feeder. the daffodils are mostly spent; the azaleas are blooming, the maple has helicopter seeds about to start whirling down, the pollen coats everything. it’s 85 (30c) and my little toesies are blinking in the sunlight. nowhere we’ve just been has seen these temperatures. i feel like i have a fever. i wrote what will remain of the following on monday, when i was just discovering the condition of the house we left in the care of a housesitter who seemed nice at the time (like all psychopaths). it’s all very harsh, and i’m deleting much of it because it’s not funny.
i have no intention of dissing our rescue housesitter, beth – she is the one who made everything okay again. but the first housesitter, pseudonym – she made the back of our minds crawl like there were snakes there. if she could have, she would have ruined our trip altogether. but that’s okay, our revenge left with her and is even now making life better for us – because we have a self-cleaning house.

sunday, we spent much of the day with mikie and his family, a very kind set of relatives who took care of everything, let me sleep as much as i could, and got us to the airport early.

the girls modeling their new look, with mom and mikie looking on

thanks mike and shan. mom came to visit, and she was great with connor, so thanks mom.

looking pretty good for 84

the airport was dulles. my dad was a reporter who covered the opening of dulles, back during eisenhower’s administration. we used to go there and run wild thru the terminal back in the days before security was such a joke. we used to hang outside under the tower and try to run up the buttressed sides. we used to park for free down by the lake and walk to the side entrance dad knew about because he was a reporter. can’t do any of that now. and now the old terminal is only the entrance to the airport, and you take a shuttle to the various other terminals, where it’s all modern and interesting, but more like tron than metropolis.

of course. both bags

we got something to eat – five guys burgers are twice the price because it’s the airport, so 2 burgers, a small fries and a milkshake was almost $30. and we couldn’t eat it all. connor only wanted the milkshake anyway and was getting a fever again. he’d been in great shape with the kids, tho i made him not run or bounce or squiggle. so he slept in the waiting area, and slept on the plane, and his fever broke as we were landing, and he was back talking to people as we waited for allen.

it was 9pm before jim’s might-as-well-be son got to the airport. there was traffic. traffic is the kind of thing we haven’t had to deal with for months. the mere mention of it makes my heart fall a little. like the normal sounds of atlanta – the hovering helicopter, the beepbeepbeep of construction vehicles, the steady roar of traffic in the background, sirens, heavy trucks bouncing over the potholes on their way to the highway. in atlanta silence, like the stars, is something referred to, not experienced.

sebastion in his full winter coat

when we got home, we spent a bunch of time greeting the dogs, who were all very excited to see us. we’d had reports that sebastion, our biggest, was on his last legs, and hardly able to go upstairs, but it comes and goes, and he was frisky as a young puppy (when we chose him at the pound, he was so excited to have allison’s attention (she was 14) that he turned flips in the corner of his cage, over and over again – maybe ten in a row). lilly was ecstatic to have her boy back, and i had to pick up sudie and tumbles and hold them one in each arm, and they wouldn’t stop licking me until i put them down and moved away. we did a dog walk first thing.

when we got back, the extent of the housesitter damage began to show itself. first in the kitchen. pseudonym (may her real name be accursed) never mentioned that there was something wrong with the lights in the kitchen, but when beth arrived she told us that they didn’t work, and that accursed had moved a floor lamp from the living room into the kitchen. so we asked mike to replace the lights, and wondered what kind of energy field accursed must have carried with her in order to blow out all four ceiling fan lights.
but that’s not what happened at all.

in the bathroom, we discovered the toilet roll holder had been wrenched off the wall, and covered up with an artful (not) arrangement of cloth. our front door doesn’t quite fit into the frame anymore, either.

turns out this is because pseudo’s husband is an active alcoholic, and very heavy handed and clumsy. he yanked on the chain to the ceiling fan and lights too hard, and almost ripped it out of the ceiling – that’s why the lights don’t work. that’s why the toilet roll holder is off the wall. that’s why the door won’t close properly. she never told us about this little problem.

lilly snuggling up to jim

and this is particularly irksome because several times in the beginning of things falling apart she accused us of lying to her. we never mentioned that we have roaches, which is true; it never occured to us that this was a big deal, just like the idea of having squirrels in the attic never seemed to us to be a deal breaker. it’s an old house. we had to go into the walls of the kitchen to replace something about a year ago, and suddenly there were 40 million roaches in our kitchen. we used various forms of boric acid and relatively non-toxic remedies, and became scrupulous cleaners, and beat them back to just a trickle, and then when we started planning our trip, we added the roach goo from home depot and they diminished even further. so i was very surprised when pseudo threw an absolute hysterical fit a week after we arrived in venice.

i mean an absolute hysterical fit. she was crying. she couldn’t do her job. she couldn’t sleep. she was moving out of our house and living in our rental apartment that i was counting on the income from to help us keep our expenses down. we had lied to her; we were faithless. HOW COULD ANYONE LIVE THIS WAY??? she called us filthy. she called us subhuman.

so i researched and gave her the name of several pest control companies in the area, and let her choose one. and then she complained about the smell of the chemicals. she was crying. she couldn’t do her job. her eyes were running. she was really suffering for our dirty, dirty ways. then she started pulling the appliances away from the walls to clean behind them. (who asked her to do this?) she was gagging. she couldn’t ever cook in our kitchen again. she had to pay her husband $50 to clean behind the stove. she overestimated the cost of the exterminator by that same $50 and i paid it before getting the receipt so that she could have the money handy to pay him (at her request). so she cheated us, and then when paypal took $9 out in fees, pseudo complained about that.

tumbles catching the rays on back of the couch

at that point, i reduced our contact with her to a minimum, because as we soon discovered, she wasn’t happy about anything. she wanted us to cut down a hand-planted dogwood tree in our yard because the squirrels could climb it and get into our attic that way (or about a dozen other trees that overhang our roof). she saw a rat out under the bird feeder one day and went ballistic. it was always our fault; it was always because we are filthy, low-class, irresponsible scum. i felt terrible every time i opened an email from her. i was internalizing it, and felt at fault, responsible, dirty.

then, when after a month i checked on her, concerned that i hadn’t had any fresh complaints and feeling bad because it made me feel so good not to hear from her, she replied that the roaches were back, and that there was certainly something i could do for her, and that would be to let her go.

omg here’s someone i have entrusted with my house and my animals, and she wanted to walk away halfway thru. oh her mom was sick and needed an operation, and she had to leave in a week. and then two weeks. and then maybe not. and then right away asap. and at this point i’m afraid i didn’t really believe her anymore. she had proven herself to be hysterical. allen, and our friends david and jane, and jim’s son mike had all checked on her and reported that she was (variously) batshit crazy, standoffish, and a bitch. i couldn’t wait to be rid of her, but allen and mike couldn’t handle the dogs by themselves every day, and we didn’t have another housesitter lined up – why would we?

and so i tried to change the dates with the trusted housesitter site i belong to. and they had software problems. i spent several days going back and forth with help desk people, all of whom were very helpful, and finally got the dates changed and a request for a replacement housesitter put out, but then there was another hookup – pseudonym had made a complaint about me, and i had to go thru the whole complaints process and give my side of it before anything could happen with the listing. and that took several days. in the meantime i contacted most of the 50 members in our area, none of whom wanted to sit, or were willing to sit for free. and once the complaint issue was resolved, there was another software issue, and the listing went out without photos. so i got no responses for about 2 weeks. during which time accursed wanted to know about my progress, and was telling me i wasn’t trying hard enough.

and then beth contacted me. she’d just joined the service; she wasn’t really ready to sit but was just lurking. and she saw my emergency listing and jumped right in. what a godsend. nobody else had answered. just this one guy with no fixed address who said he was an author but couldn’t spell very well and said up front that he’d had brain damage, and used too many religious keywords. (the elves don’t like religious nuts.) beth couldn’t stay until we got home, but she could help. so i jumped at it, and she took over from name deleted so i don’t get sued.

sudie guarding her food

and we didn’t spend any more time worrying about our house, the way it’s supposed to be. beth cared for our animals, she loved our house, she left us fresh flowers and some mints to come home to. (we love beth.) our rental apartment was suddenly fully booked after a whole month of no inquiries, no bookings, during which pseudo squatted in it, depriving us of a bunch of rent.

but now we’re back, and we find the alcoholic husband so severely pruned our 50-year-old gardenia. and they raked up all the mulch in our front yard (so no nesting critters over the winter – no snakes, no chipmunks). they set they heat way high, night and day, and then ran off downstairs leaving the door wide open all night, with all the lights on so the dogs could get some fresh air. my car’s tires got slashed as it say out front. pseudo is such a headcase that she overcleans – scrubbing the ceramic right off our cast-iron bathtub. they moved connor’s bed from his room to ours so they could both sleep in big beds (complaining that they were used to kingsize), and never moved them back again. they let our table clock run down. they didn’t fill the bird feeder. they left a disorganized, shabby apartment downstairs that i have to superclean before we have more guests. and our dryer is burned out. allen reports that she had the washer and dryer going all day and night, every day and night. i wonder why but we’ll never know. she never mentioned any of these things to us. pseudo never said goodbye, never sent an email, and quit the housesitting service just so i couldn’t blacken her name with a scathing review.

but i will get my revenge. she was so pathological about roaches that she sent me an email saying they were going to have to get all their luggage ozone treated at the cost of $150 (at that point i never bothered to offer reimbursement) so they wouldn’t take anything with them. but it’s a ridiculous idea to think she’d take roach eggs in her luggage. the real possibility is that she had taken a bunch of angry elves with her to wherever she is going next. they’ll plague her. they’ll make her bump into things. they’ll whisper bad things in her ears. they’ll disturb her sleep (she takes sleeping pills). they’ll haunt her husband. and she’ll probably blame me.

we brought back gifts for both of our housesitters; beth will get hers with smiles all around; accursed will have hers ritually smashed and discarded (she collects santas, of all things). we’ve bought a clothesline and are about to go string it on the dog pen, and until the neighbors complain we’re going to do our laundry the european way.


when i said we have a self-cleaning house, i’m referring to the spirit of the house itself, as well as all the spirits that live here. we have a full complement of elves and fairies (and just brought back some more from italy and iceland – they’re already having weddings and cooking up feasts), a nicely sleeping troll, and a few totems (an owl and a pussycat buried in the back yard). all of these spirits guard our house and watch over us. when we had housesitter relatives from hell last time we did this, they ran screaming after a month talking about demons (they were horribly derelict in their duties, and unpleasant as well, picking fights with allen and our daughter and declaring that they had no responsibilities at all here, when they were specifically invited in order to watch the dogs). this time, when we had the housesitter from hell, they rewarded her with broken things, nonfunctioning things, vandalism, missed sleep and dark thoughts. our self-cleaning house eats unpleasant people.

in the end, finding someone to watch the house while we’re away comes down to instinct. you can vet them all you want, but psychopaths are charming and agreeable and seem like the sweetest people in the world, like you could trust them with your life (look at our political situation). i realized that the people i could rely upon the most back home were the people i had personal difficulties with and had to work things out, establish ground rules, get to know, make them prove themselves. allen is the most trustworthy of them all (we brought him back a present), and jane and david would do anything for us, tho they have plenty of their own problems (present). jim’s son mike and my brother mike (presents) bend over backwards for us on a regular basis (i guess being named for an archangel isn’t a bad thing).

we’re glad to be home. i slept much of the day and need more. connor is with nana. we see our allison, along with avery this weekend. i have to do taxes. and then at the end of may, we leave again, for three months in iceland where i’ll be running an art residency. i’ll check in again as plans develop (we’re not sure if jim and avery want to come for up to a month).



  1. Jean, so sorry your wonderful adventure to Venice was somewhat spoiled by the House Sitter from Hell.
    I read that you had sent me an email on March 8 but it never got to me. Please email me at edpittmanjr with an email address and phone number so I may contact Jim. You may also text me at 404-514-9721. I live in Conyers, Ga.
    I attended the Atlanta Art Institute at the High Museum of Art in 1958-59. In 1962 Jim won the Mead Packaging Company sponsored Southeastern Art Show with a painting he titled “Country Store”. Mead had reproductions of the painting printed at Stein Printing Co. I was working for the paper company that supplied the paper for the reproductions so I was able to receive several copies for our sample department. Since that time I have proudly displayed my print framed in barn-wood along side of the November 1962 issue of the Atlanta Magazine that featured the painting on the cover.
    I really would really like to visit you and Jim so please contact me.
    Thanks, Ed


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