Saturday, July 21, 2018

Robocalls, Scams and Email Extortion − Oh, My!

I'm used to getting robo and scam calls which I don't answer − it's easy to tell when they don't leave a message. After a search for the number confirms the not wanted call, I block it or try to do so.

Recently I received a number of calls from "Out of Area" with no number displayed so I could not block it. I finally answered the call to learn it was from "IT Services." My response: "I don't want or need this call. Please (I try to be polite, even if it is a scam) take me off your list." I haven't gotten another call from them.

I'm also used to the emails from some benevolent soul from another country who wants me to share in his/her bounty. All I need to do is share my bank account information and contribute good-faith money. Yeah, I'm really going to do that, just like I'm going to give an unsolicited caller my credit card information to lower my rates!

But the most disturbing scam I've seen is the extortion email. But before I tell you about the one I received (which I think will amuse anyone who knows me), I will explain why it is disturbing. The hacker referenced a decade old password on an old email account. I don't know how they obtained it, and that part is a bit upsetting.

Now to the content of the email, it was a sexploitation extortion/blackmail attempt that claimed to have proof of me watching porn on my computer! The sender stated he would ruin my reputation with the video (showing my embarrassing acts in response which were captured via my web cam) if I didn't send $3600 in bit coin. Two problems with this scenario: I don't visit porn sites (I hope that wasn't a surprise to anyone), and my computer does not have a built in web cam. Nevertheless, I worry about others who may not be savvy to this kind of intrusion, even if they are as innocent as I.

Part of me wanted to respond and express my feelings toward the person who sent the email. (I may try to live by Christian principles, but I am human!) I know the email was foreign-generated, and after reading an article on this same extortion attempt, I'm sure they covered their tracks pretty well.

Still, I immediately contacted my Internet provider and will file a complaint with the Kansas Attorney General and FBI. Even better, I'll go to a higher authority. Matthew 5:44 states: "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,..." so I will say a prayer for the penitence of individuals who make a living by hurting their fellowman in addition to all those who have been victimized by them. Scammers certainly don't make the world a better place, but we can.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Life and Regrets

Is it possible to live life without regrets? I hear a few people say that, but it's difficult to think one might not want a do-over on at least a few things. Of course, those without regrets will often add they wouldn't change any mistakes because it's made them who they are today.

For me, two recent events brought into perspective how regrets are different. Regretting what you had no control over is futile; it's what you can do to change what might become a regret that is important.

My friend Diane recently lost her mother, someone whom I also considered a friend. They rode with me on trips to an annual writers convention so I became well acquainted with them outside of monthly meetings. Jean was a lovely lady and very independent despite her children's concern for her health and safety. Diane and I hoped to get the three of us together for lunch, but something also arose − now she is gone. This I regret because we might have gotten together before things interfered.

In talking with my sister in California, she again expressed how much she wished they had sought different medical treatment for my brother-in-law. My response to her was something I've said before: If you prayed about it and asked for healing, then you did what you could, and the direction to do something different would have prevailed. Simply put, if God's plan was to have our husbands live, then nothing we did or didn't do would have affected the outcome...period. Changing what I didn't and couldn't know, I can't regret.

My regrets stem from things I had control over, but hindsight is always 20/20. I think of the times I could have been a little nicer, been a little more generous, showed a little more caring. And I don't mean just for my late husband so I'll continue trying to live my life with as few regrets as I can by being a little kinder, a little more generous, and a little more caring toward everyone. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ouch! Maybe I Am a Material Girl

I'd like to think I've come a long way in putting less emphasis on the material world, but there are some things simply too difficult to part with or do without. I'm not talking about designer clothes, granite table tops, or a lavish estate; I thinking about sentimental items.

A few weeks ago, I had to replace a 3-seater swing with a smaller version. I would not have done so, except after 13 years, the mesh attached to the frame came unstitched and there was no way to fix it. You may wonder what's the big deal about replacing an old swing, and how could I be so attached to an object? The answer is simple − my husband.

In the last year of his life, it was time for Steve to give up his continuous list of  projects and enjoy what he had done. That included beautiful landscaping in our backyard and an added brick patio at the base of the deck he built years before. The area became a restful place where he could enjoy the outdoors, take a nap, or contemplate what was about to happen. We bought the swing for him.

Matthew 6:19-20 (NIV) states: 19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasurers in heaven..."  I understand the difference of what we should treasure, but it's so hard to give up things associated with a loved one.

Memories cannot be taken away unless something like dementia or amnesia occurs, but still I cling to objects which are associated with those memories that keep my husband close. I suppose most of us do something similar as I recall, after our mother's passing, my sister not wanting to throw away any scrap of paper on which our mother had written something. 

Granted, these sentimental items are not associated with greed or envy so I think there is some leniency in applying the aforementioned scripture. But it just shows that some materialism is impossible for most of us.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

If You Could Save a Life...

I believe that most of us have felt the ache wondering if a loved one's demise might have been prevented. Sometimes that comes right after the loss, or it might come years down the road when learning of a new treatment. Unfortunately the conclusion is the same...we'll never know.

It's Memorial Day weekend and time to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who have gone before us. It's also a good time to think about what is preventable. That does not include the "inevitable," but we still might be able to delay it.

We often hear stories about those who have been helped by a generous donation from a living or deceased organ donor. But what we miss, is putting a face to all those who have perished waiting and hoping in vain that a transplant would save them.

My friend Rosina Houle lost her sister Jessie, who was on a transplant list after her donated kidney from 17 years earlier, failed. Jessie left behind a devoted husband and young daughter. Out of this tragic loss came the creation of an organization to promote living donors − Save a Life, Inc. (SAL). You can learn more about this important mission and how it all began at: Save A Life. 

I also have friends from church who, a decade ago, lost their only son to aplastic anemia (a rare blood disorder) while he waited for a bone marrow donor. He was only 19 years old. 

For the families of Jessie and A.J., the question will always be: What if?

I encourage everyone who can to become a donor, living or upon death. Doing so means indicating this on your driver's license, carrying a donor card, or placing yourself on a donor list, and making certain your family knows your wishes. Regrettably, most if not all, states and medical facilities allow family to override a deceased individual's wishes to donate an organ. In those cases when it has happened, one has to wonder how many people might have otherwise been saved.

So, to honor and remember our loved ones and those who have served us, I hope everyone reading this blog will take action to prevent what is preventable. I have.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Half a Century Reunion

I have not yet heard, but I suspect my fellow alums and I will celebrate our 50th high school reunion sometime this summer. My first thought is, "Egad, we can't be that old!" Almost worse is realizing I've been out of college for 46 years. Where did the time go? I may be 60-something, but I'm still just a kid inside.

At our last reunion 10 years ago, I told my fellow classmates I wanted to be a published author. Been there, done that − I'm still writing and now editing with some nice credits. I also wanted to see my sons settled both professionally and in their personal lives. That too has been accomplished with Chris finding Erin and becoming a quality engineer, and Ryan finding Katie as he transitions over the next couple of years from an emergency department RN to become a Nurse Practioner. This is all especially important to me because I promised my dear, late husband that I would do all I could to encourage our sons to complete their educations and find their way to a good life.

During this last decade, I have also anxiously awaited and hoped to become a grandparent. That's no surprise to anyone who knows me, and this year Chris and Erin blessed me with the cutest little grandson I could ever have imagined. He joins my adorable grand-dog Dan, and cute new grand-puppy Bernard. More things to check off my bucket list.

There are many other little positive endeavors along with some bigger ones for which I await the outcome, but I realize none of this would have been possible without divine inspiration and faith. After losing my soulmate, best friend, and husband before the last high school reunion, I could never have guessed these things might come to pass.

Even with accomplishments since the last get-together, and so many years having come and gone since high school, I'd like to think I've become a better human being. I'd also say most of that is because of my beliefs, and with help from above to make lemonade out of lemons.

While I'm sure we will exchange updates as to what we've been up to for the last 50 years (assuming the reunion actually happens), it's really who we've become that's most important. In another 50 years, most of our names will be forgotten. But real legacies aren't made from the things a person  accomplished from a bucket list, but rather by the person who did something to make a positive difference in whatever they did. It's that legacy my classmates have been working on that I'm eager to know. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

We're Like Modern Bronte Sisters, but Not Jealous!

Sometimes, we get a little glimpse of how things should be, and maybe even what they are like in Heaven. For instance, as I've grown older, a deeper appreciation of many things has ensued − I value people and experiences far more than possessions. One such example is the way I relate to my older sister who is also a writer.

Marsha became a writer (and a successful one) many years before I picked up the trade. Among her myriad works, she wrote a humor column for our local paper for many years along with countless historical books, both genres which are not my forte.

I, on the other hand, favor inspirational writing of most any kind. Making it into the Chicken Soup for the Soul Books was my dream come true, and I've been able to repeat the dream for a soon to be fifth  time. During my decade of writing, I've encouraged Marsha to also write something for one of their numerous publications. She finally did and was successful on her first submission. (Of course, that's not unusual for Marsha. Professionals readily recognize her professional work.) 

I can honestly say we support each other 100% in our craft. I was thrilled when her story was accepted in Chicken Soup for tor Soul: My Crazy Family (and no, I wasn't the subject matter). In return, she is also excited every time my work merits acclaim or acknowledgment. We also now often give the other a first look at what we write for any type of submission, although I probably do this far more than she because I will always consider her to be my mentor. Her feedback is spot-on and she is honest. If she tells me something needs to be changed, I value her opinion. If she says something is good, then I'm thrilled.

I suspect that Heaven has the same concept for all competition, and yes, I do hope there is some competition in eternity. That is often how we improve ourselves − seeing someone else accomplish something you want to do is a prime example of "it can be done." I surmise the difference in competition between Heaven and this world is what my sister and I experience in our writing. There is no jealousy for success, only genuine and loving support. And that is Heavenly!

As a final note, this is one piece of work for which my sister didn't get a first look. Surprise and thanks, Marsha!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Happy Easter and What It Teaches

There is a lot of talk about death surrounding Easter, and the time leading up to it. It's a difficult topic because I imagine there is nothing quite so scary to humanity as the end of being. Of course, for Christians, Easter is a time of joy because it promises the ending to this existence will be followed by a new and better kind of life.

When I was in grade school, we didn't have spring break. Instead, we had Good Friday and the Monday after Easter as holidays. Now, it's difficult to even find stores closed on the actual day of Easter. With so many people afraid to die, it's interesting that little consideration is given to the event that can alleviate that fear, or at least, most of it.

As a child, I couldn't understand why it was called Good Friday because, I surmised, it certainly wasn't good for Jesus! But now I believe two things: 1) If Jesus hadn't died, He could not have risen and there would be no point to Christianity; and 2) Jesus experienced what most of us have in our darkest hours. When He said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He wasn't questioning whether there was a God, but maybe only that He could not feel God's presence and wondered why He was still here. (I don't know for sure if that is the case; I'll leave that to the Biblical scholars.) We sometimes feel that way too, and it's our plea to "do something, God!"

Our pastor gave a sermon two weeks ago that included his experience as a former hospice chaplain. Many times, people were ready to die but could not understand why there were still here. His response was provocative − to show others how to die. I'm sure they would have preferred the Charles Dickens's version, "...if they be like to die, then let them do it and decrease the surplus population." Unlike Jesus who commended his spirit to God and then died, it's usually not our choice when that happens. The difference too is that Jesus knew what he was doing and why.

Sunday, I will celebrate Easter and rejoice in its message. I know that faith has made me a better person, not perfect by any means, but better because I've been shown how to live and how to die.

Happy Easter to the World!