Friday, January 23, 2015

Taking Advantage

I choose to focus on making this world a better place, but that never occurs when someone or some thing takes advantage of another. Unfortunately today, I experienced that situation.

The Bible is very clear about taking advantage of your fellow man. Leviticus 25:17 states: "Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God." And there are other admonishments warning about taking advantage of widows or hired workers who are poor and needy, etc. Perhaps, just like individuals, some companies would do well to heed that admonishment.

Since the '90s I have used Turbo Tax software and even participated in their inner circle with beta research. Today my sister forwarded an email that she received, but I did not. It stated that the company had messed up - "We made a change this year to TurboTax desktop software and we didn't do enough to communicate this change to you as proactively and broadly as we could or should have." I can't recall sticking my head in the sand, so I don't how they "communicated" this at all. 

Having been a corporate director of the department that served as customer service for a national childcare company, I don't for one moment believe that this was a simple error in not communicating enough. It reeks of "wait until they buy it" (Turbo Tax Deluxe) and can't do anything about it.

In order to continue to use Turbo Tax to submit my Income Tax for 2014, I now have to upgrade from a retail cost of $59.99 to $99.99. I can still file my federal for free, but I must pay $19.99 (or maybe more this year, I haven't checked) to file my state on-line. I am also offered $25 this year toward the upgrade to assist with their omission, but that really isn't the most important issue.

What they removed that affected me was a stock sale which involved 200 shares of a stock I and my son purchased a few years ago at 99 cents per share. We made a whopping $500 profit.

I also have business income which results in less than $1000 net. No more Schedule C either to list my business expenses and deductions.

Why am I angry? Because I know this affects many others just like me. While I have abundant blessings, they aren't necessarily financial and I'm guessing there are plenty of others who feel taken advantage of, too, regardless of their income. Can I afford the extra $40, yes, but maybe there are those who can't. You don't have to be destitute to be affected by unexpected and deceptive increases.

Most people who know me realize I am extremely patient except for incompetence and people who are not nice to others. The latter is the most significant of the two. Turbo Tax should be called on this, and I did by way of email reply.

I think it's important, if not crucial to live life by focusing on the positives and giving praise where due. We are all called to share our blessings. But I also believe that it's my and everyone's responsibility to make sure that no one, including big companies and corporations, take advantage.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Unintentional Giving

Luke 3:11 states: "In reply he said to them, 'Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”" You might say I almost obeyed unintentionally, but with a special pair of gloves.

Yesterday I braved the 23 degree temperature to make a trip to Hy-Vee. When I entered the store, I removed my gloves and placed them on my lap while I mailed a letter before shopping. Of course, it never occurred to me to put them back in my coat pocket, so I didn't realize until checking out that they had fallen off my lap. Searching every aisle and checking with lost and found, they were still missing so I left my name and phone number, and returned home.

What concerned me was these were not only really nice gloves, but they were a gift from one of my sons 23 years ago. Yes, some things do last. But it was the thought that someone might have taken them without regard for the person who then had no gloves in the extreme cold. My only prayer was that someone needed them more than I. After all, I do own a second pair of nice gloves, but they are safely stored in my other coat.

The funny thing is that if someone needed gloves, I would gladly have bought them a pair and kept mine because of the sentimental value. Normally, this is something I usually do anyway since my church requests these donations. It was very disappointing not to have that option, but that is my choosing when to give, and maybe not God's will to help the needy.

As it turned out, I called Hy-Vee today and they do have my gloves. Someone was kind enough to take them to lost and found. I can't tell you how happy that makes me! While I didn't want to make an unintentional gift of them, a lesson was learned because I could only pray that if someone took them, they supplied a need rather than a want.

In any case, I can now retrieve them. But that can't be the end of the lesson. I'm going to purchase some more gloves to donate in addition to what I normally do. I'm fortunate to have two nice pairs to keep me warm, and I know there are others who have none.

Thanks for the lesson and reminder, God.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What Will the Future Bring?

The Bible cautions us not to worry about the future as stated in: Matthew 6:34: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (NSRV) But there are more comforting versus that precede this quote where we are told not to worry about what we will eat, drink or wear. We’re also reminded that worry doesn’t extend even an hour of our lives (Matthew 6:27).

Unfortunately, human nature is to worry so we must learn to place our faith in God that He knows what we need and will provide it. Having said this, I think worry isn’t the same as planning. Planning  tries to negate worry.

When the inevitable happens to us, or we have an unforeseen illness or accident, we need to plan for what happens. Someone else will need to handle our affairs, and as stated above, this may even be due to a temporary circumstance.

This blog carries a gift for you. After experiencing the after-effects of what happens when someone close passes on, I know there are many questions to be answered. While my late husband did a great job of ensuring my financial savvy, I saw a need to put some things in writing for my sons, hence the Important Information to Know document.

This document lists the important aspects of one’s personal affairs – anything from ACH deposits and withdrawls from your bank account, to your final wishes (including who gets what heirlooms). It does NOT replace the need for a will, and it is not a legal document -it’s just to help others navigate your finances and wishes should you no longer be able to do so.

You can the find the document,”Important Information to Know,” through the following link to my website. Just click on the top button that bears the same name. Share this link with everyone you know – it’s the best and smartest gift you or they can give to those who must handle your (or their) personal affairs for whatever happens.

Go to: and download the form. You can cut and paste or simply print it. If you need a 2015 New Year’s resolution, this is a good place to start.

Wishing you a happy, worry-free (or less) New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

I’m thinking of my sister and her family who will face the first Christmas without my brother-in-law. Like many people who experience a deep loss, they find it hard to truly celebrate the season. It becomes more of a ritual of going through the motions, but still trying to hold on to the goodness of generosity, compassion and caring. Grief just has a way of eroding joy.

The first year after losing my husband eight years ago was extremely difficult, not that it’s a piece cake now, so to speak. But since his passing was in late September, I was still somewhat in shock of the loss when Christmas rolled around. The one thing I discovered to be most helpful was to continue some of the traditions and some of the good things we did together. It was a way to honor him, and it made him feel a little closer, too.

I also realized that, while the void was something I couldn’t fill, I needed to still celebrate Christ’s birth. After all, it was the beginning of the greatest gift I would and could ever receive, mostly because it gave me hope that I would see Steve again. I also found that doing things for others and making their life a little better let me focus on something besides myself and my devastation.

When such losses occur, it’s important to give oneself permission to begin some new traditions, or just change how things are done for that year. For me, at my sons’ urging, it meant still hosting our family’s Christmas Eve open house to include other family and friends, but also an annual trip following Christmas Day.

My oldest son was unmarried at the time and always had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, so it became a new tradition for us to get away for about four days. We did that for five years until he married. And now after eight years, I no longer need to have the after-Christmas trip to look forward to and distract me from my loss.

If you know someone who is experiencing a great loss this year, please try to understand how they choose to handle celebrations. In time, they will acclimate to the difference, even though it might never be the same for them. Sometimes grief takes time, and there is a learning curve to accept what one cannot change. But to everyone in that transition and to everyone else, I still wish you a Merry Christmas with peace and blessings, and a much Happier New Year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Love Christmas!

I love Christmas! I think what I enjoy most is that it's the one time of the year when the majority of humanity  (Christians and many non-Christians alike) seem to behave like we should.  We show generosity, forgiveness, atone, and display a happier attitude toward one another regardless of our differences. Maybe it's even a little glimpse of Heaven, too.

This year, I made a little atypical gesture of self-indulgence. My late husband's company gives away a coveted annual award in his name to the person who demonstrates his level of compassion and caring toward both clients and co-workers.

Last year, I ordered Harry London chocolates from QVC during their Christmas in July sale, which arrived in late November, so that I could take it to the luncheon where the award was presented. It was my thanks to this wonderful group of people who remember and honor my special husband, and continue to include me as part of their family. And yes, the gourmet chocolates were a big hit.

This year, I again placed an advanced order to bring to the event. In the meantime, another shopping channel offered Waggoner chocolates which had a little different assortment. Since this was the grandson of Harry London, I thought it might be good to choose that option this year to see what they liked best.

For months, I stewed about whether to cancel the Harry London chocolates, and then finally decided to let them ship to me and I would keep them - all 6 pounds of them! 

Even though I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic, I have shared them with friends and family. Surprisingly, there have been days when I haven't even eaten one piece. So, in reality, it isn't all self-indulgence.

I'll continue to share the remaining 4-5 pounds of goodies as a gesture of kinship with something special. So, I'm  really doing what I love most to do - sharing my blessings with others, even if it's only chocolate at the time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanks(and)Giving is a Blessing!

I feel really good! It's not just because I've already finished most of my Christmas shopping, but because I've been blessed to share what I've been given. When God allows you to be an emissary of his benevolence, it's a gift. It especially makes me thrilled when I can do more because of the availability of a good bargain.

I want to share my experience, not because it exalts me in any way, but because I want to share how I was blessed. And I think when we can share how easy it is to make a difference, it encourages others to do the same. As most people know, I take Hebrews 10:24 very seriously: "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds." Example is often the best method.

Recently, a Kohl's cash and Yes2You reward certificate allowed me to add another toy to the stash I will donate to a women's shelter again this year. (I chose this charity because I know there will be women with children who arrive at the last moment with nothing for them. 

This past week, I also ordered on line to receive some great "Frozen" toys. Add that to some terrific "As Seen on TV" buys at my church's annual holiday bazaar on Saturday, and I'm ectastic! The latter buys are also due to a member of our church, who represents sales for those items, and then donates many of them for the sale.

Today, I also picked up another special 2 pound box of Russell Stover chocolates for $10 from Hy-Vee. I'll give that to my mail carrier again this year to take to the post office. It's for postal workers who never receive any appreciation such as the gift certificates I give in thanks to him and other service people who make my life easier.  

And then add to all of this, I found a great deal online for the gift item desired by the senior citizen I adopted this season - more proof God always finds a way to help us be generous with whatever we're given.

So this Thanksgiving I'll be particularly thankful that God has again allowed me to be generous with my family as well as to be part of His demonstration of love for us all.

Have a wonderful holiday and may you be blessed to find similar opportunities to mine, or to give by serving at community dinners or inviting those without families to share in your feast. Whatever you do, please comment on this blog and tell me and others how you've been blessed to give to others.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Different Kind of Spoiler

There are many things that can spoil our innocence, but there's nothing like knowledge to do it. But sometimes, it's good to have the right information.

As I may have mentioned previously, our interim pastor is a Biblical scholar. He has directly read the  gospels from the Greek words written. I've also joined a Bible study class that's called the New Testament challenge, and I make every effort to attend because I don't know what I'll miss.

Most recently, our pastor confided that he watches only about half of the Biblical movies before turning them off because of their inaccuracy. And now I find myself viewing those movies in a different light, too, because of some subtle differences between the gospels and being enlightened to some of the political aspects of Jesus' actions. 

Recently, I viewed the controversial "Noah" starring Russell Crowe. I should have listened to my neighbor who said the movie was awful. From a Biblical perspective, he said it "had a guy named Noah and an ark." That was pretty accurate. Even from a non-Biblical aspect, in my opinion, the movie still deserved his earlier rating.

To add dimension, it included a group of fallen angels whom Noah solicits to help him. The fact that they look like burned Transformer toys is another issue. It was pretty bad all around. I wasn't expecting much after hearing reviews from others, but in this case, they were unfortunately right. But still, just like seeking God, we must discover some things for ourselves.

So, this is what I've learned. Don't expect accuracy in cinema that is directed toward entertainment instead of portraying what the Bible says. But I must admit that "Passion of the Christ" was probably pretty close.

In any case, it is good to know the truth, even if that includes differences in the gospels. And sometimes, I think it's good to have our innocence spoiled if it makes us think and seek God's presence in our lives.