This week…we were burglarized, twice!

by Janelle Hanchett

So I’m sitting here at 10:30pm on the Sunday of one of the longest, strangest weeks of my life. On Monday we came home to find the door to our garage kicked in and all my jewelry stolen, along with the laptop that housed a lot of writing (some unpublished) and a year’s worth of family photos.

I remember the feeling of looking at that open, emptied jewelry box, where my necklaces and rings and earrings used to be. I threw my hand to my mouth and sucked in air as if somebody had punched me in the gut.

They took almost every piece of jewelry I’ve ever received from Mac: thirteen years’ worth of anniversaries, birthdays, Christmases and Valentine’s.

Once, when we had only been together about 3 months (he was 19 and I was 21), we were driving along this country road on the way into town, and I started bitching and moaning about how he never bought me flowers. Yes, I know. Impressive. I kept on and on and he was silent, probably wondering how he got hooked up with such a nutjob. He let me really get pissed, elaborating for him all the ways he sucked as a boyfriend (well at this point we had been living with each other for 2 months and 29 days so I felt like we were an old married couple), until all the sudden he pulled the car over in the middle of the country. He was angry. He said “Really? I don’t buy you flowers? I never buy you flowers?!”

He got out of the car, went to the trunk and came back with a flat rectangular box, wrapped in flowered paper.

Inside was a beautiful pearl and white gold chain necklace.

We both cried when we recalled that story.

The bastards don’t know that story, but they have the necklace he handed me that day, when I felt my heart explode and realized I should never, ever accuse this man of lack of romance and generosity, lest I have my ass handed to me again.

And you know I’ll tell you the feeling of violation, to know these rat bastard fuckers stepped on my boy’s bed and pillow on our floor where he sleeps. To know they walked beside our kids’ rooms. And to realize after a bit of time passed that clearly the person knew our house…that it was not done by a stranger, and we have ideas but no way to prove it…and the fuckers wore gloves and we used to have an alarm system but never used it (so it was disconnected)…and I used to keep my jewelry in places other than the box but I didn’t that time…and I knew we lived in a shit neighborhood and should leave…God the regret and rage and hatred and terrifying sense of violation. We’re already broke. I’m already feeling lost and tired with little clue where to go with my life.

And then this? Damn I got wrapped around the axle, folks.

I got so desperate I texted a friend of mine who has an uncanny ability to tell me the most painful truth imaginable. His words pierce, because they’re true, and they hurt like you wouldn’t believe, but they never fail to help me see things in a new light, and be set free.

He said “Yeah, that’s happened to me a couple times. I figured they needed the stuff more than I did.”

Fuck you and your compassion, dude.

And then the killer: “Things happen as they happen, Janelle, the pain is from us fighting what is.”

And I knew then the way to freedom: Get in the moment. Fully accept what’s happening. Let go of the story, the story I’ve attached. Events have no inherent meaning. They are just EVENTS. They are just life happening. I place the value on them. I decide if they’re “good” or “bad.”

The next day I read this post by the glorious Meg Worden and I almost puked it was so right on.

What’s the truth? They took stuff. They TOOK STUFF. In other words, nothing. They took nothing. That stuff has no meaning. I give it meaning. Someday I’m going to be dust in the earth. What the hell does jewelry matter?

The man who handed me that necklace is by my side. The family we built together is by my side. We’re all here, alive, to whine about shit that doesn’t matter.

The last time I checked, the brain that created that writing is still attached to my neck.

And then I told you people about it and an outpouring of love came my way. People offered me money and to send me laptops. My friends called and rallied and invented Mission Impossible style investigation crews.

And we realized we’ve been sitting on our asses not making changes we’ve needed to make for a LONG TIME. We hate this house. We hate this neighborhood. We need to get the hell out. This was the kick in the ass we needed.

I got to watch myself get ALL BENT OUTTA SHAPE about stuff, expensive stuff, and I saw the insanity of my attachment to those items. Who cares? No really. WHO CARES?

This is life. I am a living breathing being with a gorgeous healthy life. Take it all, motherfuckers! Take every last shred of what you want. You must need it more than I do.

We woke up Saturday morning and realized they had broken into my husband’s work truck. They stole his tools and a generator that was chained to the bed of the truck. Bolt cutters.

So we were burglarized twice in 7 days.

Take it all.

Take every last bit.

(Of course now you’ll have to get around a sick-ass alarm system my brother bought me, and sent my way, because I’ve got people that love me in a way that takes my breath away. And you’ll have to FIND something of value since literally I have $100 worth of jewelry left other than the rings on my fingers, and we have no television or electronics. We have no material items of value in this house. It’s actually rather freeing.)

But here’s the craziest shit you’ve ever heard: A few months (um, two?) after we met, Mac proposed to me with a very simple white gold band with 5 or 6 small diamonds spaced around the circle. I thought it was the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen. On our one-year anniversary, Mac sat across from me at a restaurant and presented me with a big ass diamond ring (well, big to me). He had saved his money all year long to buy me that ring. When he gave it to me he said “I know you always say you don’t care about big rings, but I thought you might like a shiny diamond on your hand.”

I almost fell over.

For a long time I wore them together, but at some point I removed the small band and I never found it again. I haven’t seen that ring in at least 7 years. So often I’ve thought about that simple band and felt sadness that it was gone. I mean talk about sentimental. That’s as meaningful as jewelry gets. But I dismissed it as another casualty of my drinking. One more thing I lost. Or gave away, depending on how you look at it.

Well, last Monday as I walked up to the empty jewelry box, my heart pounding in fear and sadness, I saw something shiny in the space where the stolen drawer had been. Grabbing it, I knew immediately what it was. I gazed in awe at the simple diamond band my husband gave me thirteen years ago, the companion to the ring still on my finger. It must have been jammed in the jewelry box somewhere, and when the burglars yanked the drawer out it was dislodged, and it laid there untouched, waiting for me.

So they gave me back the most precious piece of jewelry I owned, and they lit a fire under my ass, and they showed me how much love I’ve got pouring my way from friends and family and people I’ve never met, and they reminded me of the insanity of attachment to things, of the idea that stuff matters at all.

I’ve got a life to live.

I’ve got everything I need.

And those bitch douchebag degenerate fuckers reminded me of that.

Maybe I should be thanking them. Or maybe, I should do as Meg says, and just stay neutral. Let life happen as it does.

No, I hope they burn in hell. Not really. But sort of.

Whatever. On Saturday, after we found out they stole from us again, we called Mac’s work and the police, and hit the fucking road. We were headed to Santa Cruz to celebrate Rocket’s 8th birthday, which is tomorrow.

I ain’t got time for that shit. You want it? You can have it. I’m neutral enough to realize that.

I’ll be busy living a real life.

You know one of the best parts about being a failure in a former life is a profound awareness of how infinitely good this life is, now, with all the shit that may come. Because I went to the beach to celebrate the boy who was out of my life for two years. AND NOW HE’S BACK and SO AM I.

Alcoholism stole from me more than some weak-ass burglar ever could.

And that will never be lost on me.

And it will never be stolen.

So bring it, bitches.

I’ve got nothin’ but love for ya.


Happy birthday, little buddy.

Happy birthday, little buddy.


On an eerily related note (sometimes timing is uncanny), I’ll be talking about my story of alcoholism on Tuesday night at 6pm PST in a live-streaming event (Google+ hangout) sponsored by LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER and The Partnership at This blog tour is a part of The Partnership’s work to  #EndMedicineAbuse, Please join me on Google+ (you can RSVP here if you want) or view live on this YouTube channel. Hear new/original work by me and 11 other bloggers on the topic of personal connections to addiction, substance use, and/or what we want children to know about the medicine abuse epidemic. I really hope you check it out, and maybe invite your teenagers to listen. I’m speaking directly to them.




28 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | September 8, 2013
  • Lisa

    Hmm, you take what has sent me into a total tailspin a number of times . . . . .

    (we were burglarized, as you said by somebody who was clearly watching and knew our patterns) over two years ago. They didn’t take all my jewelry (I make most of my own and keep it really well hidden). But they DID ransack my office, take my hard drive, pull out my underwear, go through my closet. They ended up finding an old traveling case that belonged to my Grandma with my coin collection in it. Not just MY coin collection but the one my Dad had worked on for years, the one we built together at flea markets, a few old coin shops, etc. The newer coins and untouched ones I had pulled out of circulation since then. The fools pulled the case out and scattered it and took what they wanted. Bonus that my Grandpa’s war medals were in there. Dad passed on years ago. I shoot myself foot not being more careful with these things (why in the world would I leave that “out” in my own house?) but. . .

    You take all of this and you process it, find the hard truths. . . .

    I am years in and only so far along the path. So, rock on! if those idiots really needed my grandpa’s war medals or my memories or the last two years of my (un-backed-up) family pics more than I did. . . well shit maybe I had better move on already.

  • Amy

    Y’know, I just had my bike stolen from work a few weeks ago. And I know just what you mean: the bike is just a thing. But what the people don’t know who took my bike is that it was the first expensive thing I bought for myself since I was turning 30. That it rode rides with me for 12 years. That I always (and still do) smiled when I said to myself “red Trek bike” in a clipped funny little way. So fuck those fucking fuckers for taking our shit. And thank the divine that our memories are all still there.

    And your smart friend is making me compassionate so there’s thanks for that lesson too.

    “Alcoholism stole from me more than some weak-ass burglar ever could.” I second that emotion! Self burglary has stolen much more from me than any other stealer could. More gratitude since that part is over.

    No one can steal your awesome sister. It is forever. And you are awesome. 🙂

  • TJ

    I’m glad you can move on & see it for what it is – stuff.

    But there’s still a bunch of motherfuckers.

  • Sara

    Talk about a change of perspective!!! Wow, I wish I could be as awesome as you… I still wish you get your laptop back… Or maybe it’ll make you “rewrite” things so that the message is transmitted in an even more kick-ass way! 😀

  • Momtothree

    Hi honey, sorry for what happened to you. Sounds like you have found a philosophical take on it. But shit, I know it still hurts. We were ‘visited’ when my son was in Intensive Care, and someone knew just which house to burgle. F**ker went through our drawers and children’s rooms, then tried to hide when the alarm company sent the police to the house. The guy jumped out of a second storey window, and landed on my husband’s car (he’d taken a cab to work that day), dented the roof and side of the car. Then got up (!) and ran down the drive and smashed the wooden gate trying to run through it like in a cartoon. But they got the asshole – who’d come equipped with a crowbar. Nothing was taken in the end, though plenty was smashed and broken, but it felt like the place was unclean, and yeah, violated for the longest time. All I wanted was to get my little boy back from hospital and get on with my life. I didn’t need all the BS with insurance, gate-fitter, garage, etc. I’m definitely with you on this one … and I did try to feel compassion for the guy. Shit happens.

  • Kateri Von Steal

    This post puts it into perspective… exactly what I am going through.. although not for the same reasons…

    You’re an amazing writer Janelle.

  • Thekitchwitch

    What an incredible post! You went from fear to fury to acceptance to gratitude. An amazing and insightful read!

  • Stephanie

    So sorry that happened. I went to FL with my aunt and uncle in my early 20’s and when we got home, her house had been ransacked. I know that feeling. Hopefully, they will get caught. My husband tries to teach me Buddhism pretty frequently. I think we could all use it. If you need anything, you know where to find me.

  • Melissa

    I am sorry this happened to you but you have made me realize that it was only stuff. Our house was broken into when we were stationed in Hawaii. We were back in our home state celebrating a baby shower with friends and family for our upcoming little one when it happened. They left the electronics but took all our jewelry (the sentimental stuff like Grandmother’s rings, mother’s rings and my husband’s military academy class ring) and my couple of designer handbags. It stinks that I won’t be able to pass those things down to our kids but the WORST part was that they took my husband’s handgun. We are responsible gun owners. It was unloaded with a trigger lock in a locked safe. The police said that because of the military tags on our cars the thieves target military families because we usually have weapons. With everything taken that handgun had to be the hardest because now it is out there and what if it is used in a crime. That will haunt us forever.

  • Roxanna Smith

    Beautiful post. Right on the money. You’re a millionaire of family/love/sobriety. Way to make lemonade J!!! thank you for sharing

  • sara

    holy goddamn girl. you still amaze me.

  • Heather

    Just when I think there is no way I could love you more, you make me fall madly and deeply in love with you again!! You are amazing. Everything that you have been through has brought you right to this very moment. And because you choose to open your heart and share with others, the amount of people that have been and will be helped through your story is astounding! I have looked back many times at my story, and only now am I starting to realize that possibly the shit that has taken place in my life is bigger than me. It happened….and it sucked….but I survived, and now I can help someone else survive through it to. You inspire me Janelle!! So So much! <3

  • Renee'

    You are so strong Janelle and wise way beyond your years. I would never be able to handle what you have been through with the “saneness” you have. You DO NO have to forgive those fuckers!! They violated you and your family when they came uninvited to your home. However, getting on with life is the best thing you can do. Just another bump in the road of life. Maybe a big one, ok huge, but just a bump! Hang in there lady! Life will be better for you very soon…….

  • Stephanie

    I’m so sorry that happened to you. People are such assholes. My husband’s car was broken into twice in less than two weeks… the first time I guess they didn’t take everything they wanted, so the second time they took EVERYTHING… carpets, shift knob, steering wheel cover, everything. pretty freaking lame.
    I’m very glad no one was home or injured during your ordeal…

  • Diana Ann Bisares

    Goodness gracious, those bastards! Hope they really need those stuff they stole from you more than you do, Janelle, so it would all be worth it not to give a fuck anymore about all those things. Sighs. It’s still a puzzle to me where do these burglars get the guts to steal. Oh well, you are loved, Janelle. That is something no one can ever steal from you. Life gets better. ♥

  • GG

    Amazing story, amazing post! Thank you for sharing, I have tears in my eyes. This one’s a keeper.

  • Laurel

    When you first posted about this on facebook, I replied with some banal platitude like, “I can’t imagine.” And then I started imagining, because that’s what I do. I have way too much stuff. There’s a little part of me that wishes someone or something would relieve me of (most of) my stuff, so I don’t have to get rid of all the crap I’ve been dragging around through countless moves. It would be super easy for a burglar–most everything is still in boxes, unpacked from the last move, and I don’t know what’s in them. I certainly wouldn’t miss (most of) my stuff. Photos? Absolutely, but I should look at them more often. My writing? Now THAT I can’t imagine. I’m still sorry you have to deal with losing things that were precious to you, but I laud your “Bring it, bitches” attitude. xo

  • bernie

    your writing never fails to move me…sometimes to tears…i left my husband of 14 years 4 years ago and i left everything…i just wanted my freedom…it’s stuff – stuff can be replaced…your memories are forever…and here i am, happier than i’ve ever been in my life…thank you for you…you are truly quite special!

  • Mel

    Well, getting burgled twice in one week sucks HARD, but you’re so right about the fuckers not being able to steal what’s really important. Rocket is divine!! Good timing on the Listen to Your Mother event too (for me!). 17 hours ahead here in Sydney which makes it 11am on Wednesday … and it’s my one day with no toddler and no (paid) work on. Hurrah! Tear it up Janelle!

  • Meg

    Thanks for the mention, woman. But the credit for this clarity is ALL YOU. The beauty of this broke my heart in half. Way to rally through one of the hardes things. And come out with such gorgeous words and the guts to share them. So much love. In fact, all the love.

  • Melissa Burton

    I’m sorry that someone who clearly knows you violated you and your family. However, it seems although they took stuff, they gave you something too!

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read your writing Janelle and I’m sorry I’ve been away. You are one powerful writer and woman!

  • lisaeggs

    Janelle, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I’m so glad that you are able to walk away with this perspective. I sometimes read a blog called Circlein; the gal moved her whole family into a yurt so they could save up money for a while and build their own house. They put all their stuff into storage and a few months later the storage place burned down! Nothing left! She came to the same conclusion as you are coming to: amazing. When people leave you shitty, hateful comments, I just think: these people are not getting you. You’re always coming from a place of love, even at your angriest and grittiest. You have such a big heart and you are just so wise. I know that all sounds corny, but it’s true, I don’t know how else to say it. xoxoxo

  • mama kate

    this post gave my heart wings!! thank you so much for walking us through your emotional & mental journey with such brutal honesty. that’s what i love most about your posts… your honesty. none of that “i’ve got it all together & immediately think the most wise & compassionate things first” b.s. thanks for leading us to the light at the other end of the tunnel all while making us laugh & evaluate what’s really important. keep it up!

  • erika

    i am so sorry. ((((hugs)))) i was in a fire when i was younger and lost everything i owned. it was terrifying (i almost died) – but in the end, so freeing. because it is just stuff.

    years later i was pregnant with my identical twin daughters and they died just before birth.

    i recognized then the difference between a loss you can overcome and one that stays with you forever.

    last week, my toddler threw my phone in the bathtub – a year’s worth of photos and texts and memories down the drain (literally) – but yes, it’s just stuff.

    here is the blog post i wrote about it:

    i worry more about you feeling violated and feeing safe in your home. that is the part that gets me the most – that someone could come in and take that from you. glad you got an alarm. next up? a german shepherd! 😉

  • Tina

    I’m so sorry your family had to deal with this, Janelle. And it’s a good reminder for me to back up all those precious photographs I’ve got on our hard drive, because that would probably bother me the most. But the material stuff? You’re spot on there. It is just stuff. You’ve got a great husband and brilliant kids by your side, everybody is healthy and maybe this was just what you needed to start afresh in a place you actually like. Sometimes bad things happen that lead to good things. And I hope that will happen for you.
    All the best from Austria, and happy birthday to Rocket! xxx

  • Amanda Farough

    Those dicks. Those complete and utter dickbags. Gah.

    But, on the upside, you’re a fuckuva writer and you break my heart open every damn time I read your shiz. I think I have something in both my eyes… again.

  • Karen

    Way to turn it around. Love the part about finding the band. Hope you enjoyed Santa Cruz!

  • Billy

    Thanks for sharing your story! I am sorry you had to go through that experience, but it sounds like it brought some perspective. Thank goodness you weren’t home!