Tuesday, September 1, 2015

IRS Scam

He got home before I did, so he answered the phone.  I was not sure why he picked up an unknown-to-us number.  His explanation was simple - by the time he got to the phone, the message machine was recording An URGENT message from the IRS.

He doesn't like urgent messages from governmental agencies, so he picked up the receiver and the berating began.

Was he trying to defraud the government?  Was he purposely misrepresenting his income?  He had broken several laws and violated the code.  A law suit has been filed.  His accounts were to be frozen. A lien was being placed on his car. The sheriff and an IRS agent were on their way to our front door, with the intention of taking my husband to jail.

Apparently, he owed $3,946.

Our taxes are done by the accountant we've known and loved since 1980.  He's scrupulous.  He's honest.  He's thoughtful.  He doesn't make mistakes.  When we were audited in the late 1980's he was furious; he fought the audit for years. His response to their questioning was that he had not deducted enough.  He was not in the wrong.  The IRS was.

We ended up with the IRS writing us a check for $7000.

This is not the kind of man to make an account freezing, car lien imposing, lawsuit engendering mistake.  But the woman on the other end of the line was persistent and insistent and, by the time I finished my errands and found him on the phone, TBG was irate.

"Why didn't I receive anything in writing?"  "What do you mean you don't have the time to resend all the paperwork?"  "What parts of the law have I broken?"

The answers were garbled; his interlocutor did not have a fluent command of the English language.  However, she was able to threaten effectively, which seemed to be her default mode when his questions hit close to home.  She kept reminding him that the sheriff and the agent were on their way to our home.

I began mouthing SCAM... he started breathing more normally.  He went back and forth with her a few more times, demanding a physical representation of the error of his ways.  She was truculent and obstinate - my husband was on his way to jail unless he paid up.

It's an interesting scam - just enough money to hurt, but not too much to pay to keep yourself out of the pokey.  He was "willing to pay whatever I must in order to resolve this, but I need some documentation first."

She couldn't provide it.  He hung up the phone.

I took the phone number and googled it.  NumberInvestigator was very clear:

Complaints Complaints about 509-492-3558

Caller Type: Scammer/Fraudster (2 Reports)
Reported Name: Just Said Pasco (1 Reports)
Number of Complaints: 4
One of those complaints is ours.  I didn't give them my name; I called us Anonymous Tucsonan.  I described the scam and submitted it.  Then I went to the Department of the Treasury and the IRS websites and did the same thing, while TBG called the accountant who recognized the scam before half the story was told.

"Forget about it," he said.  So, we did.  But I am posting the story so that you are not frightened the way we were.

As they remind you on the IRS website, the IRS will never call or email you if there is a problem.  You will never be asked to return a call immediately.  All communication is by snail mail.

Keep that in mind if your phone rings and someone tries to tell you that arrest is imminent unless you give them a credit card number right this minute.

Monday, August 31, 2015

RIP, Puzzle Man

Merl Reagle died last week. I am bereft. There will be no more of his crossword puzzles to make me groan. 

He felt ill, went to the hospital, sent his wife home for his laptop and snacks, and was gone before she returned. They'd been together for years. She traveled with him and had breakfast with him and helped at his Tucson Festival of Books presentations and all the other presentations he made around the country and now he is no longer.

She was a lovely presence, gifting me with $25 to a local bookstore when I won 4th place at the last TFOB.  She was solicitous and thoughtful and now, in the space of an errand, she is alone.

I am so sorry for her loss.

Her husband has been with me every night for a long time. TBG and I retire to the bedroom, put on our jammies, and while he turns on the television I open my current collection of Merl Reagle's puzzles. 

The clues are challenging but manageable. The puns are smart and funny and awful.... just the way puns are meant to be.

Reagle was the youngest person to have a crossword accepted by the New York Times; he was 10. He was friends with all the puzzle people. He was funny and approachable and brilliant. He was, apparently, a talented musician as well.

He told a great story, and made a large audience feel cozy and comfortable.


The world is a lesser place now that he is no longer in it.

*****
I've written about him before here and here and here and here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

And Now, Alison and Adam and Vicki

Again and again and again, I tell myself that I won't let it affect me. Over and over and over, I remind myself that I am safe. The words are futile; I'm terrified and angered and sad. Like a scummy film on the surface of a pond, gun violence blunts the shining sun, diffusing it and muddying it and making the world a scary place.

Leaving the house wasn't easy this morning. Then, again, watching the television wasn't any easier. One of their own was shot down on a sunny morning and suddenly all those stories the anchors had been reporting over the years were no longer about the other – the victims were one of them.

I watched the CNN correspondent try to hold back his tears as Alison Parker's father said that his soul was crushed. I listened as Ashleigh Banfield tried to make sense of the senseless, describing how Adam Ward's fiancee watched him die from the production studio... in real time. Just saying the words made them facts that smacked her in her face; she had trouble physically forming the words.

And, again and again, I reassure myself that I haven't pissed off anyone in the recent past. I remind myself that I'm going to an out of the way place for lunch, that the salon for my haircut is off the beaten path, that Amster's kids and I will stay safe and secure in her house this afternoon. There will be no adventuring today; their Suzi is too terrified to deal with strangers right now.

This morning, at Starbucks, Mr. 10 and Amster saw the story in USA Today. “Mom! Just like Suzi!”

What do you say to a kind, thoughtful, loving 10 year old that will make it be okay? That I was like Mrs. Gardner, shot but surviving? That random things happen but not to 10 year old boys? That life is a crap shoot and we all take our chances just getting up and out of bed every morning? How can she reassure her little boy that he'll make it to adulthood?

I have no idea, and I'm kid-sitting for him and Mr. 12 this afternoon.

They came to the hospital and saw me, tubes running from every orifice, blood pooling in catchment bags, black and blue and weakened. They know that they are now older than Christina-Taylor ever will be. They watch me limp where I used to run.

They know first hand the consequences of guns in the hands of the mentally ill. What can I tell them that will reassure, will comfort, will explain? They don't need to be outraged; they are little boys.

Yet outrage is all I can muster right now. My Survivors' Group is peppered with messages about PTSD being triggered, filled with tales of sorrow and frustration and fury. Mostly, there is a weariness, a desire to find the lives we once knew, before guns robbed us of loved ones, of our abilities, of our sense of the world as a safe place.

Christina-Taylor and I were at a grocery store. Alison and Adam and Vicki were at a water park. None of us were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were doing what we do, in places we assumed would be violence free. I wanted to shake my congresswoman's hand. They wanted to report on improvements to a local river. These should have been non-events, ones in a series of every day activities. We all, each and every one of us, should have been able to call our fathers afterwards, as Alison did every day, sharing the experience, asking for advice and compliments.

Instead, they are dead and I am wounded and guns are everywhere.

Alison's father was right when he called our politicians cowards. He's the newest warrior in the crusade to make gun ownership a matter of public safety as well as a Constitutional guarantee. He vows that he will not give up until changes are made.

Well, let's see..... Donald J Trump (when did he add the J?) says it's not guns but the people wielding them. Marco Rubio wonders about the quality of mental health care. Hillary says that background checks are important and that laws should be strengthened but her emails and server problems have made her more of an after thought than a viable candidate and the reporting gave her exactly that amount of coverage.

And then they went on to Donald J Trump inviting an audience member on to the stage to prove that his hair is not a toupee.

I had to leave the room.

This cannot be allowed. This cannot become ordinary.

Perhaps the fact that a reporter and a camera man were the victims this time will change the trajectory of the reportage. When I call Senators and Representatives, I speak to their aides. I always ask how they feel about the fact that Gabe Zimmerman was doing their job when he was killed by a gun. “How does voting against sensible gun legislation make you feel safer about going to work? He was killed because he was a Congressional Aide.... just like you are....and that could have been you and your employer on the sidewalk outside the Safeway that morning, instead of Gabby and Gabe. What does your Senator say about that?”

They pause. Often they gasp. One began to cry.

That was the effect I was going for, because only when it becomes real to those in a position to make a difference can there be any hope for change.


Again and again. Over and over. I am so very very tired of it all.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Our New Sleep Number Bed

We got a mattress in a box today.
It required unpacking and unwrapping and unfolding.
There were instructions to be read.
We've never had to read the instructions for a mattress before.
We'd never watched the creation of a mattress before, either.
Today was the day.
The Sleep Number guys were right on time, in their Penske rental truck.  
They lugged our old and well worn mattress out and toted their much lighter boxes in.
Unwrapping the bladders
and filling them with air 
was the first, and longest, step. 
I admit that I giggled.
A lot. 
When they were full, they were set aside to rest. 
The tubes stay attached.
They connect to this control box
which sits underneath the platform.

The soft bottom layer was smoothed onto that platform,
and another, softer, gooshier layer went on top of that.

The edges were built, side by individual side slipping into the pre-cut curves.

A piece similar to the edges was inserted between the individual bladders, 
to keep his air from bumping into mine,

and then the whole thing was zipped together.

An egg-crate topping was added
and a decorative  covering was zippered over the whoe thing.
We were warned: "Don't take it off and wash it, it will shrink and you'll never get it back on."
I put our newly washed and perfectly fine mattress cover on top of it, 
remade it with fresh sheets,
and followed the instructions to find my perfect Sleep Number.

I seem to be a 30.
I'll keep you posted.
*****
Shameless plug:  
This was amazingly comfortable in the store, and should prove to be the same, here at home.
If you are thinking about buying one, be sure to tell them that Suzi Hileman referred you.
For every 10 referrals, we get a free queen size bed.
I'm sure The Cuters will enjoy that we're-not-buying-it-but-heck-if-it's-free-we'll-take-it addition to their visits.

No one asked me to write this.
No one is paying me to write this.

Isn't that a shame?



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sorry....

I was prepared to respond to Rain's comment on yesterday's post, but Skype and FlapJilly and Little Cuter derailed my plans.  I'm too filled with smiles to rain on my own parade.

Besides, the clouds in the sky are doing a fine job of that right now, as we roar into monsoon, our fifth season.  The cacti are puffed up, filled with water, and the crepe myrtle refuses to stop blooming. All of that is wonderful, but it pales in comparison to the joy I take in watching my girls toss bags of oatmeal onto the kitchen floor.

Her iPad was on the table, angled down to their play space on the floor, and I laughed along with them as the baby took the packets out of the box and flung them behind herself.  She has my daughter trained well; the bring-it-here-wench was right there when she was needed.  FlapJilly was never without more ammunition.

They substituted for maracas, too.  One handed, two handed, then tossed on the floor.  Cue the giggles.

She took a step and a half towards the couch, but the yes-she-is-just-about-walking video I received after our call confirms that she's capable of much more than that.  It's the whole separation thing; she pushes her elephant-on-wheels away from mommy, cruises to the rump end and pushes it back across the floor, stopping decisively and abruptly at her maternal unit's lap, into which she dumps herself, rather unceremoniously.
I can go away by myself, it's true.  Just be here when I get back.
We've all had moments like that, haven't we?

Watching her grow and learn is an awe inspiring activity.  She's figuring out that she has control over inanimate objects.  The sliding glass door is a percussion instrument, one she plays loudly and passionately and with both hands off and then on again, but not leaning for support.

She is so ready to walk on her own.  

Thomas the Wonder Dog didn't respond to her requests that he rejoin her in the living room, so we toured the coffee table in the family room, instead.  Little Cuter was a trooper, kneeling her way around and around the rectangle, pushing the computer so that FlapJilly and I could continue to look into one another's eyes.  We were having a great time; she was having trouble navigating small spaces not designed for anyone larger than 27 pounds.

By that time, we'd talked and laughed and tossed foodstuffs for nearly an hour.  My plans for a well reasoned screed (is that an oxymoron?) were foiled by those 27 pounds.  Those plans will be revisited tomorrow.  For now, I'm going to look at pictures and dream of those arms around my neck.

Yummmy.  Yummmy.  Yummmy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Unprepared - Not What I'm Looking For in a President

Donald Trump bloviated for an hour or so, and the talking heads agreed it was good political theater. There was nothing of substance, but there was a lot of us against them

Politicians are bad.  Everyone in the stadium is good.  There are so many of us here and we are so happy to be here.  The world is going to hell in a hand basket, because I was not there to save it. Once I have the power, though, things will be different.  

I'm going to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.  I'll name it after ME.

When he lost his train of thought, he turned to those seated behind him and took pleasure in their applause.  Turning around, the bigger crowd not to be undone, cheered even louder.  Then he started over again.

It was stream of consciousness.  It was not prepared.  That worries me.

I want a President who thinks that the words she shares are valuable. I want a thoughtful communicator.  

I watched a rabble rouser, an Elmer Gantry, in Alabama last week.  He took the measure of the crowd, and played it like a fiddle.  He's preaching to the choir, and that's fine if that's all it is.  But the rest of the clown car can't seem to gain traction; I've heard Jeff Flake, Arizona's Republican junior Senator, more this week than I've heard Jeb Bush.  

When I'm looking at Jeff Flake as a voice of reason, you know something there's a bad moon rising.

And then there's Bernie Sanders.  

BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag these days, and it was last month when he blew an opportunity to connect with a piece of the voting public he will surely need to move forward with his campaign.  His rally on Social Security was disrupted, and he dismissed the invaders by telling them that they were off the topic.

I wish that he had been prepared to answer the issues that BlackLivesMatter raises.  I wish that someone on his staff had thought - or been tasked to think - about the marginalization of people of color, of the divergence in police tactics when race is considered, about the disconnect felt by those kids in Ferguson whose high school is unaccredited and whose school board doesn't seem to care.  

Instead, he was left stumbling and bumbling and annoyed.  He was unprepared.

The Presidency is a big job.  You have to be able to keep all those balls in the air while standing on one leg and whistling.  You can't do all that if you are unprepared.

Now, Hillary, she's prepared.  I just don't trust her..... and trust comes before prepared in what I'm looking for in a President.

It's going to be a long time til November, 2016.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Us


45 years.
44 cars... I think.
10 homes.... I'm pretty sure.

Your friends.... my friends.... our friends.
2 kids.... 1 grandkid.... more friends.

Losses and finding our way back and Hilepower and love.

The hardest work I've ever been glad I've done.

Is that hard to parse?
Really?
After listening to me for almost half a century?

Happy 40th Anniversary of the day we said We Would.
I'm in for 40 more, if you are.



Friday, August 21, 2015

Maybe It's Time to Stop Laughing

Donald Trump thinks it's passion.

Keep that in mind as I tell you a story.

Two skinny white guys, not in hoodies this time but one in a wife-beater..... a descriptive term I forbid Big Cuter from using in my presence or the presence of anyone whose respect he wanted to earn.... a term that fits just perfectly right here.....

Two white guys coming up from 'neath the streets of Boston, find a 58 year old Hispanic man asleep against the station wall...... and believing that it was OK to assault the man because he was Hispanic and homeless, they broke his nose, beat and kicked his head and body, and, before walking away laughing, they urinated on him.

State Troopers followed concerned citizens' prompts and arrested the brothers, who defended their actions by invoking the man who is ahead of every other Republican and Hillary Clinton in polls in Florida:
Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.
Trump seemed genuinely concerned when told the news; his face lost that creepy smile and his brows moved slightly together. He admitted it would be a shame   

But that only lasted a beat or two. 

Unable to contain himself, unable to resist the spotlight, unable to let go of the adulation heaped upon him by those too ignorant to know better, unable to make this about anyone but himself, he fanned the flames.  

Preaching to the choir, he commingled drunken mayhem with public policy.  Ignoring an opportunity to call for debate devoid of blood and urine he recovered quickly and excused the fools thusly:
I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.
No, Mr. Trump, they are criminals.  They are naughty.  They are cruel.  They are many, many things, but passionate is not one of them.  Roget's Thesaurus passion entry lists emotion, excitability, pain, desire, and love before getting to angry at entry 900 .... and entry 900 brings me to Resentment.

Yes, resentment and displeasure, animosity, anger, wrath, vexation.... they all are wound up in two grown men using your name to hurt another human being, Mr. Trump.

You may call it passionate.  I call it embarrassing.
*****

This story is all over the interwebs.  The quotes and facts are directly from here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Guns on College Campuses? I Think NOT!

Colin Goddard was shot 4 times at Virginia Tech, by a student with an undiagnosed mental illness. Colin is now the Senior Policy Advocate at Everytown for Gun Safety.

I love it when a tragedy turns into an employment opportunity.  I just wish this one didn't involve weaponry.  I really wish it didn't involve weaponry and education.

Somehow, the NRA has a different perspective.  They have offered bills in 15 states - and were defeated 15 times.  Yet, they continue to insist that a well armed community can police itself and defend itself from terrorism.

This, despite the fact that, as reported by the Sun Sentinel, that
Florida A&M police chief Terence Calloway.... cited a 2009 poll of campus police chiefs that found just 5 percent supported the idea. And a 2014 study produced by Ball State University found similar opposition among college presidents, while polls of campuses throughout the country have regularly turned up student opposition in the 70 to 80 percent range.
I was at a shooting.  It was chaos. A passerby was armed.  He chose to throw a plastic lawn chair rather than fire his weapon.

That's right.  The only armed man besides the shooter selected lawn furniture as his weapon of choice.  He worried about hitting an innocent in the cross-fire.  He worried about being identified as the assailant by the police.  He took the least lethal course of action because he was well-trained and thoughtful.

Our shooter was angry.  He was passionate.  He was self-absorbed.  He knew he was right.  He was a man on a mission, a person poised on the edge who toppled off into the abyss.

I knew a lot of people just like that when I was in college.  We were protesting the draft, the war, racism and inequality.  We were angry and passionate and we knew we were right.

We didn't have weaponry to prove our point.

I remember the outrage when the National Guard opened fire on the students at Kent State.  Guns on campus seemed an outrageous overreaching.  College is a place to learn, not to dodge bullets.  There was an emotional disconnect between the rifles and the kids.... a disconnect which was appropriate but which seems to have disappeared over the passing years.

We teach our youngest students to use your words when conflict arises.  How effective can that mantra be when teachers and support staff are armed?

Perhaps we are desensitized to the enormity of the awfulness; these mass shootings happen so often that Tucson is a long-forgotten memory.  But it is very real to me, to my family, to my friends, to the survivors' community, to those who have lost a loved one or been damaged ourselves.

A good guy with a gun threw lawn furniture at the shooter.

That's a dispositive answer to an awful question.

More weapons are not the answer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Purple and White and Orange Surprises


I gasped aloud this morning, driving past my yard.

I always enjoy the plantings,
but this morning was different.

The little leaf cordia was in bloom
and a previously dull corner of my front yard,
back there behind the orange Mexican Bird of Paradise,
was covered in these bright white blossoms.

The memory kept me smiling all day long, even though I didn't win a single game at mah jongg.  I could hardly wait to get home and take proper photos.

The whole yard is blooming.  
It's mostly orange.
The Mexican Bird of Paradise competes with the barrel cacti 
and wins for softness, if nothing else. 

The flowers are at all stages on this one, from last year's empty stems to the closed dull orange buds, to the brighter ones opening (bottom left) to the dead brown remains of their siblings (at the top).
I tried to photograph the ants 
which were swarming over every inch of this beauty
but my camera phone failed us. 
I gave up,  stood back, and admired the glow. 
There's some yellow, too.

The older cacti sprout babies and settle in to nourish them.
There are several more on the other side.
Lest you think my entire yard is prickly and poky, 
rest assured that there is lushness, too.
The Texas Rangers have given us a bonus bloom, 
and the purple is a gorgeous way to start the day, 
The Ironwood tree is kelly green, 
and eminently huggable,
were it not for the long sharp thorns. 
Volunteers take up residence in the drainage swales
and under random rocks.
Vinca is an invasive plant,  and frowned upon by the gardening community and HOA's everywhere.
As long as it only invades my courtyard I think I'm safe from the flower police.
I can't have you thinking that everything I touch turns out well.
SIR dug me a lovely hole, and we planted this fellow to the correct depth.
It's properly fertilized.
It may be overwatered.
It may be too sunny.
It is definitely unhappy. 
Fortunately, I have many prospective locales awaiting its arrival.
I have high hopes; once, these succulents were similarly distressed.
Thanks MOTG for the butterfly feeder.

Are you wondering about the little leaf cordia?
Remember, the white ball of gorgeousness I saw as I left home this morning?
It's there, in the picture of the empty space.
Here's a close up:
Yes, denizens, the blooms were gone.
Those white flowers and these two were the only ones left.
Life is harsh, here in the desert.




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