Wednesday, March 30, 2016

perspective

A month ago a family from my home town lost their only two boys in a fishing/boating accident. It was two weeks before they found the body of the youngest, and another week before they recovered the body of the oldest. The oldest leaves behind a young wife.

The weekend of their memorial service, a classmate of my brother-in-law died in a boating accident, leaving behind a husband and four small children.

Yesterday I spent a few hours with a dear friend whose husband is slowly dying with a brain tumor. They had to make the gut-wrenching decision of a nursing home or hospice. Not exactly how you want to celebrate Easter.

And this morning I was greeted by a Facebook message from a college friend, saying that another classmate who has fought for her only child the last year and a half (the baby was born with half a heart and more than once the doctors wanted to just let her die because of the cost), whose daughter contracted a stomach bug over the weekend and was doing remarkably better, died unexpectedly.

My cousin spent Easter weekend camping, trying to get away from the memories of her 16 yr old daughter's death this time last year, and create some better memories for her remaining children.

Meanwhile my Facebook newsfeed is blowing up with people ranting and raving because their child's school is going to be closed and consolidated into a new building and they weren't given a chance to voice their approval/disapproval of the plan. I know that things that impact your life seem monumental, but in the scheme of life, this seems like such a trivial matter. They're getting a "free education" in a new building. They could be waking up facing a true nightmare of watching a loved one die or not having their child. These people need a reality check.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

a big fat scam

Several weeks ago I had an ad on my Facebook newsfeed suggesting a company that several of my friends were suggesting. I went to the website, and actually purchased a few things. Four days later I received an e-mail confirmation, saying that shipping and tracking information would be coming soon, and I would receive my package within 25 days. That last part raised my eyebrows. So I waited the suggested 24-48 hours to receive the e-mail. It came, but the tracking information, while to a real company, was not a real tracking number. So I went back to the site, sent an e-mail to customer service, and received the same tracking number but the link to a different packaging company - same scenario. The next day I received my credit card statement...and I've already been charged...from the day I ordered, not from the day it supposedly shipped. Meanwhile, the account info on the website says the item is "in transit".

I've contacted my bank, and we're waiting and watching my card to see if any fraudulent charges pop up outside of this, and we've started the dispute process. Meanwhile, I'm still hoping this company is legit and my order will arrive exactly like I expected to. However, I've also started google searching this company, and found out that it's based out of China, has a business office in Great Britain (where the charge came from) and is using a Dutch shipping company. They also have over 2,000 internet complaints about them, ranging from "my order never arrived and customer service said someone else must have stolen my pckg" to "my order did come but it was 1 of 5 items and was the wrong size" or "customer service will not return any of my messages or calls".  I think it's safe to say I've fallen for a very big, fat scam.  I hope that while the bank is reviewing the case in the next 10 days this package will arrive and I can call and say "we're all good" but I fear that is not going to be the case.

I've notified Facebook about the issue, in hopes they can remove the company's page, ads, and notes. And since it came across my feed as a supposed suggestion from three friends, I've posted a warning on my page that this is not a legitimate company. I never thought I would be a person to be scammed. Looks like from here on out I will only purchase things from reputable, American companies, and Facebook ads will be regarded in the same light as tabloids. Live and learn.

Monday, March 28, 2016

from the mouth of babes

The classroom where I sometimes teach on Sunday mornings is a multi-purpose room. Which means more often than not, even if I set up for the next week's class after church, I'll have to do it again the next Sunday morning before church starts. Since we know how that is and I'm thankful our church actually uses it's facility, I'm okay with that. There's a small group of kids who always come into the classroom on Sunday morning during my prep time who want to help. Sometimes you can tell by the look on their faces that they really don't want to help but are just being polite. Their bodies relax and they break into a smile if I say "No, I think I got it today, but I greatly appreciate you offering." And then there's the tiniest two of that group, who a few years ago were too small to stack/move chairs, but would do their best to do so if the others were. Sometimes if I don't have a job for them, they'll stick and around chat.

Those chats are usually normal kid chats. Things that make me smile, and remind me of how big and important small details are/were when I was young. One of the questions I get asked by almost every 3-5 year old is "What do the big kids do in class?" (We teach 4th-6th graders.) They're always intrigued, and almost always dismayed (some more than others) to find out the big kids almost never have snack time.

But two weeks ago, after the normal chat about pets and classes and holidays and family, this tiny child stopped at the door and whispered something. I had to ask her to repeat it three times. Finally, I went to squat in front of her and ask her to say it one more time, as she was barely whispering.

"Mrs. Monica, what will you do this week to be a good Samaritan?"

And I was totally stumped.

I guess she thought I still didn't understand, for she repeated it again. The only thing that popped into my head was "Well, I guess if my neighbor needed me to look after her dogs, I would." (And from a minimal dog lover, that's a big offer.) It satisfied her, but not me.

That question has haunted me the last two weeks.  I thought about it two days later when a person who irritates me greatly called and talked and talked. And as I inwardly prayed, "Lord, please don't let her ask me to.....today" I could hear that soft, high-pitched voice asking her question.

As we were out running errands in the sprinkling rain and passed a young couple on foot, with an infant, I heard her voice again. And we turned around, even though a little pushed for time, and prepared to offer them a ride. (Another vehicle in front of us did the same, and they declined and said they were almost home.)

And Saturday as I was letting the chickens out, a construction worker from next door brought his daughter over to see our chickens. My chicks aren't pets, and they don't like for people to come near them. Her chickens are/were pets, so she totally didn't understand that. I was busy, but I couldn't help but think about how our time is ordained and arranged. Not acting impatient and taking time for people...isn't that what a good Samaritan would do?

My prayer this week is that I won't be the Levite who is too busy for others, but that I will be the good Samaritan who is willing to go out of the way for others. People at church sometimes introduce me and say "She teaches one of the kids' classes" but the reality is, our kids more often than not teach me.


Monday, March 7, 2016

feeling blessed

One of the things I love about working the elections is that it really does restore my love for people (and my husband would laughingly say I don't have a lot of that to begin with!).

On election day, you meet people from all walks of life. Some sign up to be poll workers because they're bored. Others sign up because they believe in the electoral process and think it's important enough to spend time and energy on it. Some actually use vacation time from work to work, though most businesses will grant it (training, set-up time, and election day) as community service days.

But early voting is a different ballgame. Because of the length of time and the hours required, it's usually retirees, housewives (with older or no children), people recently laid off, and quite a few widows/widowers. Their backgrounds are diverse, but their passion and dedication are unsurpassed. This year I was asked to train/work as a site supervisor, and I was more than a little nervous about it. Personnel issues can easily be one of the biggest hurdles, and that, so far, has not been the case with my crew. They jump in and help out, they willfully do a job, even if it's not the position they prefer, and they have great attitudes. I've also been blessed with a great mentor supervisor. She doesn't belittle my questions or yell at me when I make mistakes. Today puts us at the half-way point for early voting. While I think we'll all be exhausted and a little glad when it's over, it's been a great experience. And not every site supervisor can say that.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

the automark

Many years ago North Carolina purchased machines that will mark a ballot of voters who are unable to do so. I think they had blind voters in mind when they purchased it, but it also works for voters with limited or no finger dexterity, like my husband. It's called the automark. I love it because it gives him freedom at the polls. He's not dependent on me nor anyone else to mark his ballot for him. It's not widely promoted, but it's available in every single precinct.

Poll workers are often frustrated because people assume it's the tabulator that counts their ballots, so the place where ballots are inserted may be folded up or in the lock position to prevent that from happening over and over and over all day. As I was showing Bobby these pics from the site where I'll be working this next week, he exclaimed "Why is there a chair in front of my voting booth?" It made me laugh. North Carolina does have wheelchair voting booths, and the auto mark table is the perfect height and width for a wheelchair, but it is not the same as a voting booth. The chair is provided for non-wheelchair users who will need to use the machine to mark their ballot, as it does take a little bit of time to use. 

Another feature NC has that I absolutely love, is curbside voting. Voters who are physically unable or find it difficult to go inside and vote can stay in their car and a poll worker will come to them and assist them with paperwork, then stand in line inside in their place, then bring their ballot to the car to be marked. Once a polling place judge or supervisor has placed the ballot in the tabulator, they'll return to the car with the voter's voted sticker. It truly is a blessing for people who need it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

and so it begins

Trainers training for elections began in January. And then it was changed. And changed again. And our classes that we were supposed to teach in mid-January were pushed back into February. And even on my last day of class last week, we suddenly dropped a slide and changed some information because we finally had official word from the State Board of Elections via the courts about the elimination of May run-offs and a definitive yes to a June 7 election for congressional districts (because they had to be redrawn and are now in the approval process). So phase one of the election cycle, which I almost always enjoy (was a little more challenging this round with hospital and dr visits interspersed with class times) is officially over. Tonight beings phase two: early voting.  I'll be a supervisor-in-training this go around at "The Hut".  It's a small building in Fuquay-Varina located in Falcon Hut Park. I'm mostly excited about it, and am hoping for both good weather and a good turn out. At the moment March 16, my next day off, seems very far away, but I also know each day for the next 14 days will be a little different and unpredictable (but very busy, I hope!)
So this will be one of my three views for the next two weeks:
I know there are people who do not think NC should have early voting, but if they heard the lines of people saying "thank you", they would have to agree it's not a bad thing. From construction workers with out of town jobs, to expectant Moms who can go "at any time", to truck drivers who are often gone from home 1-2 weeks at a time, having a week and a half before the elections where they can cast an absentee ballot without the witnesses or notary is a wonderful thing. And it does eliminate some of the long lines on election day. 
Tomorrow the early-voting polls officially open. It truly is "no excuse voting"!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

cleaning

My oldest niece is getting married in May, so my family will be coming up for the wedding and staying with us. So my goal for this year was to get a lot of deep cleaning done before they come. January's project (which is still only half done) was to wash all the light fixtures in the house. I was shocked at the difference. If you can't tell, the one on the left is the clean one. The one on the right, from the same light fixture has not yet been washed. Even Bobby was amazed at the difference.

So maybe once the election is over and Bobby's heart is back in rhythm, I can get back caught up on my cleaning schedule. And if not, it won't be the first time my family has seen my house in a less than pristine condition.