Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Won A Real Prize

The phone rang. "Congratulations, this is the Toronto Star calling. You've won tickets to......."

Of course, since I've been receiving phone scam calls, I responded with "No I haven't. I didn't enter any contest."

Fortunately, I didn't slam down the receiver. The woman sounded excited for me and somehow had an air of legitimacy about her. It didn't take long before I tracked down the perpetrator. It was the alien life form that lives in my house aka child #1. She had entered a contest and wanted to increase her chances of winning by entering me as well.

Now, there are two problems. I will need to go to the Toronto Star building to pick up the winning tickets this week, and I will have Toronto Star suite seats at a concert which I'm not that interested in. I rarely even stay awake late enough to attend live shows and I've never heard of Darius Rucker. Do I look like a country and western fan?

"Darius used to be in Hootie and the Blowfish." my daughter announced.

Ah yes. It was all becoming clear to me now. Hootie and the Blowfish seem to be one of those recurring themes that I've had and we all have throughout our lives. In fact, they just came up in conversation the other day. I even knew the Hootie and the Blowfish answer on Jeopardy recently. But that's another story.

Sometimes, I'd swear they mixed up the children at birth, but I know for a fact that this is impossible. Besides being the spitting image of her Amish grandma Rose, child #1 was the only fair complexioned blonde baby in Toronto East General Hospital during the week I gave birth.

Apparently, I now have to pick up the tickets in person and provide evidence that I am in fact me prior to solving a complex, mathematical skill testing question. So there's trip one to Toronto next week. Fortunately, I get senior rates on the GO train now, and that's as good as free. Skill testing question??? Prodigy child #1 has offered to coach me all weekend. Sure, I have nothing else to do. Alternate suggestion and new plan was that she accompany me and solve the question herself. Is that likely to be allowed? Anyhow, a mother daughter day out. Sounds like fun.

Once we investigate said tickets, I'll know better whether I can give her both of them or whether I'll need to accompany her to the Molson Amphitheatre on Saturday night for this wonderful Star suite opportunity. Did I mention they also provide free food and drinks to the winners?

If I schedule my time carefully, take naps between all my errands next Saturday, sleep on the GO train on the way to the concert, I might be able to stay awake for the opening acts. On the other hand, I should think of this as an experience. It's an opportunity to do something new and potentially enjoyable. It's never too late to try something new. Besides...the Star suite? I'll report back.

As Darius would say......

I'm up for just about anything as long as it's almost legal
I can fit in with any old crowd, long as there's a part, they're my kind of people
If you're down with painting the town, I'll be around all night
You know I'm always good for a good time
When it comes to a good time, you know what they say
I'ts never too early, it's never too late.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Come Sail Away !

This month was hubby's birthday. Every year, I've been at a loss. I've struggled. I've surveyed friends and family. I'd have no idea what to get him because he buys everything for himself. It used to be fun and easy for me to get gifts for people. Not so any longer, particularly when it comes to my spouse.

This year, we were planning to be away for his birthday. Should I have wine sent to our ship stateroom? Should I have balloons plastered on the door? Nope, I had a better idea. I was thrilled when an idea came to me out of the blue.

Knowing that his friend who lives in our town would be moving away later in the year, and knowing that he was also an artist whose work hubby had previously admired, I had a plan.

I phoned and asked, "David, do you by any chance have some paintings for sale?" He did.

He invited me to visit and have a look at his collection. It was magnificent. What a talent. I heard that he had no formal training but always liked to paint and experiment. I knew that he had sold pieces at exhibits before and could see why. I heard stories about some of the paintings which were displayed on his wall. I was also told that many were not for sale.

One piece that struck me as I walked into the house was a very large painting of a sailboat in a storm. "That's my boat," he said.

I recognized it as one on which hubby had been invited to sail from time to time. I also remembered hearing about the huge waves on their last multi day journey together. I decided that this was the perfect gift. Not only would it remind him of sailing, but it would be special since it was created by his friend David. I made the original acrylic, three feet by four feet, quite large.

I had to somehow get this to hubby or him to it, prior to our planned cruise, so I dreamed up another scheme.  David suggested that we come to the house for a drink and pick up the painting. Good idea, I thought. Hubby was busy and didn't want to go but I insisted. While there, his friend asked for hubby's help removing the art from the wall. At that point, we said, "Happy early birthday."

Not only did I get him a gift that we both like, he received something with memories...something with connections to the past and to his friend. I was pleased and so was he.

This photo does not do the piece justice. It's terrific with lovely colours and movement. Sometime, I'll take a photo of it next to something else for perspective.

We never did go on the cruise. We were home and hubby baked his own birthday cake, but that's another story.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Charity Begins With Saving The Environment

Today, I got frustrated to the point of acting. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I remember that my dad complained about this same problem. It was an issue I didn't seem to have until recent years. The problem? Charities requesting money.

I don't care if a charity has an annual campaign for money...once a year as the word annual would suggest. I don't even mind if they send out a request in the spring and then perhaps the fall as a reminder before tax deadlines. They can go ahead and have walks, sell flower, row boats, have telethons, and do whatever else it takes to raise money. I am fed up though, with groups sending monthly or even more frequent mailings. It's too much. It's a waste. If I wanted to make monthly donations, I would do so with the first letter suggesting that people could have monthly amounts deducted from their credit card.

Furthermore, I don't need a certificate at the end of the year thanking me for donating. It's yet another way to waste paper, trees and money.

I remember the year my dad saved all his fund raising mail. I believe he ended up with over 300 letters...ridiculous. I tried to do the same last year, but got too annoyed as they piled up early in the year.
Not only that, it's always necessary to shred these requests because they usually contain personal information.

Today, I am sending out my annual donations. With each one, I'll include the following letter.

To whom it may concern,
     Please be advised that I am enclosing my donation for the year 2015. Please do not waste any further paper, postage, or manpower to send me more requests for funds. There will be nothing else coming your way in 2015.

      Should my wishes not be honoured, I will refuse to donate to your organization next year. The mountains of mailings which I receive are a waste of time and resources. I have just spent an entire Saturday, shredding requests for money.

     Thank you in advance for your understanding.

I am wondering whether this will work. Let's hope someone reads what I wrote and that my junk mail will decrease. If it doesn't, their donations definitely will.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What They Didn't Print - Phone Scam

I have no idea what happened. I thought I submitted this to the newspaper but I might have been mistaken or used the wrong email address for the new editor.  Perhaps they deemed it irrelevant even though I thought it might help others in our community.

Life has been chaotic lately to say the least. Gradually, things are getting back to semi normal. Anyhow, here's what I wrote that wasn't published.

A Warning to All

It happened during a lunch hour. I received a terrifying call on my landline. My body stiffened as I listened to a frightened and quivering voice. “I’m so sorry mom. I had an accident. I’m sorry”.

The next thing I heard was, “Hello ma’am, this is officer Patrick Albright badge #3147.  We have your son here at the police station. He’s been involved in a collision. He was texting and blew a red light, colliding with a rental vehicle containing some tourists.”

I was shaking as I inquired as to whether anyone was hurt.  I was told that my son had some cuts and bruises but generally, all were ok. He had been contrite and was honest about what he had done and this would help his case. I was in shock and feeling nauseated.

Then, something unusual happened. The “officer” used a different name when referring to my son. He told me that new laws about texting and driving were serious, that they were working on getting the charges reduced, and that someone would call me back shortly.

The next call came. A man introduced himself as public defender Paul Davis. I noted that he described the accident differently, discouraged me from coming to the Oshawa station, and claimed that the tourists in the rental car had paid the $3900 in repair costs after receiving a quick estimate. They didn’t want to be delayed as they were on their way to the airport for an evening flight home. This was all sounding too strange to me. I asked to talk to my son and was told he already had his one phone call. One phone call for a traffic accident? Why would there even be a public defender? I kept the individual on the line and continued to take notes as I was now becoming increasingly angry. I texted my son from my cell.

“Where R U?”

 Fortunately, the response was almost instantaneous. “I’m at work. Why?”

Next, I was told that I would only have to send half the damages for the rental vehicle, $1889.68. These people were obviously better at scamming than they were at math. I stayed on the line long enough to be directed to a convenience store in a small town near here. I was to send a money gram in the aforementioned amount to reimburse the tourists. I would receive my money back from the insurance company in a few days.

I had heard of these money scams where people pose as relatives, phone, and ask for cash to be forwarded. How could anyone actually fall for such a thing, I often wondered. Well, I don’t mind saying that when it happens, you’re caught off guard. The con artists work on your emotions, your fears, your pride, and your eagerness to rescue the relative who is in trouble. They are terrible, evil people who not only attempt to defraud but also cause emotional and potential physical harm to their victims.

Based on my experience, and hindsight, I would suggest that should such a call occur, immediately ask for the relative’s full name, birthdate, vehicle that they were driving or any other personal information that could help determine the validity of the call. Ask for a phone number and offer to call back. Above all, don’t give any information about yourself.

I am sharing this story as a warning to others. The predators are currently telephoning in our area. They are even going so far as to suggest a local money gram location to forward funds and make our relative’s problem go away. My wish is that we could make the problem of these telephone scammers go away. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What If?

I know I haven't posted for a long time. Things have happened...deaths, broken computer, cancelled vacation. More on all that another time.

Today, is Mother's Day. I am now officially an orphan since my second mom, my stepmom, passed away this week. She went on her own terms, was organized, and was ready.

Being enveloped in final plans and thoughts of death, got me thinking. I wondered, "What if"?  I tried to come up with some "what ifs" that could be associated with final days before I realized, I was focusing on the negative. Let me elaborate.

Here are some thoughts I had...

     What if the last book I ever read was the a bad one?
     What if the last words I ever said, were harsh or angry words?
     What if the last thoughts I had, were mean or hurtful thoughts?
     What if the last song I heard was one I didn't like?
     What if the last trip I took was to a place I didn't necessarily want to go?
     What if the last thing I saw was something frightening or ugly?
     What if the last smell I smelled was noxious?
     What if the last face I saw, was the face of an enemy?
     What if the last dance I danced, was my last dance?

Of course, the list could go on and on. It's really unfortunate that as we age, we begin to have more frequent negative thoughts. I was imagining how I could have the same ideas, but put them into a happier, more positive light.

Here are my revised thoughts...same what ifs, but stated somewhat differently.

      What if the last book I ever read was the current one?
      What if the last words I ever said were kind and loving?
      What if the last thoughts I had were considerate and caring thoughts?
      What if the last song I heard was one of the many wonderful pieces of music out there?
      What if I made the most of the last trip I ever took, whether I wanted to go there or not?
      What if the last thing I saw was nature, flowers, birds, streams and butterflies?
      What if the last thing I smelled was the ocean, flowers, or black currant vanilla bubble bath?
      What if the last face I saw, was a friendly face?
      What if the last dance I danced was my last dance?

How would you like to leave this world? Would you go with "what if" negativity or would you want to leave joyous and happy having established for yourself a list of "what if" positive possibilities?