The Best Advice So Far - dwelling - dilapidated bedroom in what appears to have been an old, wealthy home

The phone rang at 9:52 this morning. Unknown number. I didn’t pick up.

At 9:53, a voice message appeared. I listened.

It was “Fabiola from the District Court victim advocacy office,” informing me that the case against the woman who stole my wallet and fraudulently used my debit card last summer was being heard today. It was a short message, which ended by asking me to return the call if there was anything I wanted to add to the case before it went before the judge.

At 9:55, I called back. No answer. I left a message explaining that the local police detective in charge of the case had assured me I’d receive an invitation to appear in court when the woman was tried, but that I’d received no such letter or call. I requested that the case be continued until such an invitation were issued, to allow me to be there, and asked that Fabiola call me back.

I continued to call back every 5 or 10 minutes. Answering machine. Answering machine. I left a couple of other messages with details pertinent to the case:

  • I’d learned that this woman had 19 prior counts of theft and fraud before mine, and yet had never received jail time.
  • I’d lost not only days of my life trying to rectify the stolen funds with my bank and piece back together the contents of the stolen wallet, but actual money by way of lost work hours and having to order a replacement license.
  • The woman had committed these thefts with a child of under four years of age in tow, using the boy as part of the con, involving the child in the crimes and modeling to this child that theft was an acceptable way of life.

Do you think me heartless? Did you imagine that I’d have more compassion, given my lifelong role as a mentor to youth, many of them having made poor choices along the way?

Please know that my first response was compassion. Had I learned that the woman had used my bank card to buy formula, diapers of food staples, I would have shown up to court and advocated for leniency, even offering her my own help where possible.

But it quickly became clear the day of the incident that she was not stealing out of indigence or need. No, she was rushing down my own street (a mark of a seasoned criminal, knowing that purchases near the residence of the victim are less likely to be flagged immediately as fraud), buying cartons of cigarettes here, magazines there, donut gift cards at the next place.

At close to 11:00, Fabiola called back. The case had gone to trial at 10:00 she told me. She was upstairs at the hearing when I’d called back.

I could feel my blood pressure going up.

“Fabiola,” I said, “so what you’re telling me is that you called me eight minutes before the hearing and immediately hung up the phone and went upstairs … meaning you had no intention of hearing my feedback before the case was tried.”

Awkward silence on the phone.

Then the excuses began.

“Well, we sent a letter to you in February.”

“I didn’t receive any letter. What address do you have?”

“8 Meadow Lane …”

“No, I haven’t lived there in over six years. And it’s not the address I listed on the police report.”

“Oh, well, I’m sorry you didn’t receive the letter, but we did send it.”

“Yes, you sent it to the wrong address … which wasn’t the one I provided on my victim statement. Are you telling me that the police didn’t give you my victim statement? It’s not in your case file? Because if that’s the case, I need to hang up with you and go right down to the police department to file a complaint against the detective in charge. Gee, and he seemed so competent …”

“Well,” Fabiola hemmed and hawed, “I didn’t say we didn’t get the report. I just know that we sent a letter to 8 Meadow Lane and didn’t hear from you.”

“And that is because … I don’t live there. Are you telling me you didn’t receive it back from the post office then? Because after I get done at the police station, it sounds like you’re telling me that I need to stop in at the post office and ask why they also screwed up. But what I’m sure of is that you had my phone number, because you called me this morning … eight minutes before the trial.”

More awkward silence.

“I was only just able to find your phone number this morning, sir. But good news. The defendant plead guilty and received probation.”

I drew in a long, slow breath and let it out.

“Fabiola … so, you didn’t use the address on the police report … which also had my phone number printed clearly on it … and you just happened to find my number minutes before trial … after which you left me exactly zero time to even call you back to voice my concerns and requests for reimbursement? And after nineteen priors and involving a young child in her con, the woman received … probation. What can I do at this point to have a say in the matter?”

“Well, sir, I’m sorry you didn’t respond to the letter, but …”

I cut her off. “Fabiola, I’m not going to accept that. I didn’t respond to a letter which may or may not have been sent to an address I haven’t lived at in six years and that did not match the address written on my police report or currently listed for me with the DMV.”

“Yes, well … no, there really isn’t anything that can be done now, because we didn’t hear back from you …”

I cut in again. “… because you didn’t send the letter to the correct address, and then called at a time you knew would not allow me to respond.”

“Again, sir, the case has been heard.”

“Can it be re-opened, so that I, the victim, can be heard?”

“No, it can’t. The judge doesn’t like to keep cases like this sitting around. He wants to just move them through. So once judgment is passed, there’s nothing you can do. But if she breaks her probation, she’ll be in a lot of trouble and maybe get jail time.”

“She hasn’t been ‘in a lot of trouble’ after twenty priors,” I said. “And were separate charges filed for involving a young child in the crimes? This is not in debate. She was caught on camera at three places with the child.”

“I don’t really know, sir. That’s not our field. That would be family court. Maybe one of the employees at one of the merchant locations filed a 51A.”


I was over it. As politely as I could muster, I ended the call with Fabiola.


In my first post of 2018, I told you that my theme for the year would be further exploration of the advice contained in my book The Best Advice So Far, whether by way of different stories, new perspectives or additional thoughts. Here are a few ideas I was planning to revisit in this post:

Misery is a choice.

Worry serves no purpose but to ruin the present.

The sooner you accept that life is not fair, the happier you will be.

And I had originally intended to use a conversation I’d had with a friend a few weeks back as the central anecdote for this post. Little did I know that before it was all over, I’d wind up being my own object lesson for this particular “deep dive.”

I write quite a bit about topics like how to navigate regret, banish worry, and let go of anger before it turns into bitterness. But there’s some related ground that doesn’t get much air time.

I call it…

[click the link below to continue reading this post at the official site]

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About Erik

I'm an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, listener, noticer and lover of life. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

8 responses to “dwelling

  • roughwighting

    Well, I began to DWELL on the inadequacy of the justice system with your story. I began to make up stories in my mind about the woman-thief, about her child, about the victim. I began to dwell on a scenario that has the three characters together in a store, recognizing each other, and bumping heads/philosophies/fears all into one big reality play. But then I thought, “Oh, I guess I’m a dweller too!” Dwelling is difficult to decrease, as you explain so well. Meditation has helped teach me to dwell less. On the other hand, as a writer of fiction, I find that dwelling leads me to some interesting stories. It’s a balancing act.
    But I’m still not going to be able to let go of this chronic thief – and her child. Sigh. Who will probably end up “in the system” sooner rather than later….
    (I’m placing my comment here, because it is called an “invalid security code” in your official site”) Hmmm, I’m going to try and not dwell on that!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      I definitely see a huge difference between dwelling and finding fodder for inspiration, Pam. I mean, even in writing that post, I had to bring back the details of what had happened. But it didn’t have the bite. (I just had to write it like it did, to engage the reader.) I think that turning difficult situations into stories and the like is actually an excellent way to stop dwelling, to get it out of our heads and onto the page.

      Now … with this “invalid Security Token” error … I’ve seen it myself before on one other person’s site. Could you tell me more about what happens? Is my main site requiring a Captcha right now? As I recall, I think it had something to do with a weird WP quirk where, if you have a WP account, it requires you to be logged in before you can comment. But I may be wrong. I’d sure appreciate any help you can give on figuring out the issue!

      [addendum:] In doing an internet search, I see that there are some bugs when people are logged into Twitter and try to comment on a WP site that uses JetPack. Is it possible you were logged into Twitter when you got the “Invalid Security Token” error, Pam?

      Liked by 1 person

      • roughwighting

        Not to dwell on it, but it does drive me crazy. And it’s happened on one other blog that I comment on. There is no Captcha, and when I comment on your main site, my Roughwighting photo and address comes on automatically, so why oh why does it tell me I’m invalid when I hit POST? Perhaps only the WP gods know. But I’m glad I was able to comment on your first site that I go on. 🙂
        And I think you’re right – writing about something that bothers us helps tremendously, even (and maybe even more) when we fictionalize the things that bother us. The mean people become monsters in our stories, and then the hero comes and slays them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Erik

          Next time, Pam, if you think of it, try logging out of Twitter and then commenting on the main site. I’m reading that JetPack may have an issue when it senses someone is logged into Twitter AND that person’s text Twitter name contains numbers or punctuation (yours contains a period). Weird glitch they should fix, but let’s not hold our breath.

          As for writing things out, often in my life, the “monster” in my fiction stories has been me—the things I think about doing or saying or wishing, but would never do in real life. Those stories have been the scariest by far (more so when I was younger).

          Liked by 1 person

          • roughwighting

            Oh, I forgot to mention that I did not get into your post via Twitter, but via your link in my post. ;-0 I love reading your blog and will never let glitches stop me from doing so! xo

            Here’s to our monsters – may they always just be in our fiction.

            Liked by 1 person

  • pjlazos

    Wow, there are so many things wrong with our society, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Hi, PJ. Thanks for stopping by. Please know that my main point in sharing the court story wasn’t to cause people to feel down about the state of society. There are broken parts, for sure, and all the more of late. But there are also many wonderful parts to society, many of which we can foster or create around us. You might be interested in THIS POST.

      But really, my central message was a personal one: a challenge to each of us, to look inward and see how we may be wrecking our own lives by focusing too much on the negative things that happen sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

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