Thursday, October 30, 2014

A penny tax saved

At our house, we rarely talk politics because one of us is Republican and the other is wrong-headed, one of the few Democrats in the state.
We tend to stick to safer topics.
And, since we have both been journalists for most of our married life, we don't usually get very involved in the local politics either.
But we care about parks and the library and theater arts and recreation programs.
So when a flyer came around advertising a meeting about the proposed PARC tax for American Fork, we wanted to know more.
Marc got on his bike and rode on over.
I was at a library board meeting so I left him to gather the information.
When we got home, he told me we needed to go to a local park in the next couple of days to pick up a yard sign promoting the tax.
This tax would be a penny out of every $10 spent on goods, materials and services which is 1/10 of 1 percent. It would raise $600,000 from shoppers who live here and those who just come through.
It would go toward cultural and recreational programs, programs that seriously need the additional funding if they're going to thrive.
Salt Lake City has the ZAP tax.
Orem has the CARE tax.
They're basically the same thing as this proposed tax.
We're in favor of it.
It would cost us so little and do so much.
But the minute we put up our signs supporting the tax, our neighbors put up a sign opposing it.
And around town, the signs asking for passage of the tax starting disappearing.
One lady came to our door to ask if she could take one of our two signs, leaving the one on the main road and moving the other to a place with higher visibility.
We had no problem with that.
We DO have a problem with people taking the signs supporting the PARC tax.
Why do that?
Why not believe in and promote fair play?
Cheap shots and unfair practice just makes us more determined to prevail.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A balance of zero

It's never a good thing when you check your bank account balance and find it's at zero.
But some times are better than others.
Like today, for instance, I knew there had to be a mistake.
I was doing my routine Monday morning chores and looking at my credit union statement.
(I do that almost every day since the Home Depot and Target hackings.)
I wasn't expecting any trouble. I've not been shopping with my daughter recently.
Marc and I have been homebodies for a while.
So I was shocked to see my balance at exactly zero dollars.
And there was a little overdraft thingy of about $300.
I looked at the list of charges.
I went into "fix it" and "call about it" mode.
There was a charge of almost $2,000 for things bought and used and done in Europe in August.
I had paid that charge once already and set up automatic payments so I wouldn't forget about this card.
Now here it was back again.
I called up the Mastercard people.
After a number of lengthy explanations and security questions and a lot of listening to bland music while I waited on hold, I was connected to a nice woman.
She heard me out and confirmed my suspicions.
"Looks like you've been double-charged," she said.
"That's what I think," I replied.
"We'll give you a credit on your account," she offered.
I didn't want a credit.
I wanted my nearly $2,000 back in my checking account.
I wanted my good name restored.
I wanted the credit card company to pay any overdraft fees this might has created.
I wanted reassurance that this wouldn't happen again.
I wanted my former calm and peace of mind back.
To their credit (pun intended), they promised to send me my money...within 2-5 business days and they said it probably wouldn't happen again.
Just so they know, I will be on guard on the 24th of every month for some time now!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Up in the air

Don't look down

My grandson is courageous.
He loves to walk the ropes at the new Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point.
So when my son offered to pay the way for two granddaughters and him, we naturally planned on Hayden playing in the sky.
He loves a challenge and isn't afraid of heights.
He also enjoys watching his grandma worry!
So we were dismayed when we got to the front of the line and the lady at the counter wouldn't sell us a ticket for the ropes.
"Are you his legal guardian?" she asked.
"Uh, no, but I'm his grandma," I said, hoping that would be enough.
"We need a legal guardian to sign for him," she said. "Is there one here?"
I looked around. Just me and the kids.
"What can we do? Can I call his dad and let him vouch for me?" I asked.
"You could email him and get a waiver," she said.
I wondered how I could do that without a computer, a printer and a scanner.
I looked at Hayden who shrugged at me.
"What do you suggest?" I asked the lady, trying to look sure of myself and ignoring the growing line of people behind us waiting to buy tickets.
The lady sighed, looked at me and went over to the wall.
She brought back a piece of paper with a list of instructions.
"Here," she said. "Do this."
I looked at the paper. It told me call the proposed guardian and then go online to the event website.
Then the lucky guardian was to print off  the waiver, fill it out, sign it, scan it and send it back to the website after which my grandson would be granted permission to go aloft.
I called my son who didn't really have time for this. (That's why I had the grandkids. My son needed to focus on his business.)
He agreed to follow the instructions.
Hayden and I waited. His sisters waited. Time went by.
After about 10 minutes we had scanned documents, one on my phone, one at the events counter.
"Wait," said the counter lady. "Hmmm." She frowned. "He signed on the wrong line."
Really? Did it matter? All the other lines looked fine to me.
"Yeah. It has to be right," the lady said. "Have him resend it."
I called my son again and he did everything again, this time signing on the bottom-most line.
As a result, in another 20 minutes, Hayden was in the air, having fun, trying to stay balanced and grinning down at me.
I think it was worth it,
I'm just not sure there isn't an easier way to do this.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Off the rails

We noticed a "Ticket to Ride" game in the room of one of the residents in one of the Beehive Homes we visit on a weekly basis.
The lady who lives in the room is fun and lively so we offered to come play a game with her when we had a free night.
Yesterday we dropped in on her.
"We're here to play you a game!" we announced cheerfully.
(I think she was a little taken aback. This meant she had to take a deep breath, get the game down out of the closet and turn down an invitation to a movie with her daughter.)
But she was game.
We were soon seated at the dining room table in the commons area and getting out all the little plastic train pieces which were strangely heavy.
"My sister glued magnets to all of the trains," she explained. "And we added some tracks where there weren't enough lines."
We examined the board more closely.
In her game, sure enough, there were magnets glued solidly to the board everywhere the tracks were supposed to be.
Some were painted with nail polish and others marked with an "X."
Some were carefully cut in two so the board could still be folded up and put away.
There were way more options than we were used to having.
There was obviously a lot of work that had gone into making the board a one-of-a-kind version.
But, other than the magnets covered up a couple of the city names, it was fine.
We began to play.
Our friend took a locomotive and a train car card.
Neither Marc nor I had the heart to tell her you can't do both.
She put out her trains, counted her points and drew again.
"No," Marc said gently. "You can do one or the other. Not both."
She shot him a look.
Next a fellow in the TV area noticed us sitting at the table.
"Is it time for supper?" he asked, climbing out of his chair and shuffling over. "What are we having?"
We told him dinner was a while ago. We weren't eating just now.
He was clearly disappointed but headed back to his seat.
Next, the door opened and people came in. The commotion put us back another 20 minutes.
Then "we" needed water and "we" needed to check on another resident.
The TV was on full blast. Residents came in and out needing help with this and that.
We carried merrily on.
After two hours, we were down to four trains and the end. We'd had a good time, provided some diversion for some lonely souls and I won. That's the important thing.
Not bad when you're playing a 90-year-old lady in a retirement home, right?

Friday, October 10, 2014

When in London

The outside of Ripley's
You never know when you might end up in London looking for things to do with kids.
We had been to London several times before we ended up with a 7-year-old who wanted more from life than riding in a black cab or looking at Buckingham Palace from afar.
This time around we were specifically searching for adventures that would appeal to Jack the grandson.
We started with the London Zoo which is a far cry from the San Diego Zoo experience or even the Hogle Zoo.
This is a low-key, smaller-scale zoo with lots of monkeys and a butterfly exhibit.
It's a charity endeavor so the price is a little steep unless you shop in England at their version of Costco.
It's also very English so there are quite a few things for children to do. The English are big on entertaining the youngsters with little games and puzzles all about.
Ripley's Believe It or Not is another option, again, fairly expensive but the young boy's idea of sheer fun.
creepy cow
Jack without legs
There are lots of creepy and odd things to look at, a mirrored maze to work through, magic tables, a Hogwart's Castle made of 600,000 matchsticks, the elephant with two trunks, a knitted Ferrari, an all-wooden Ferrari, shrunken heads, torture devices, whatever trips your trigger.
Go there if you have kids between about 8-14.
It's their kind of deal.
Another choice would be to climb on board the Cutty Sark and see what a tea importing sailing ship looked like.
Children can play the games that are set up here and there, figuring out how to load the ship without tipping it over, guiding the ship through the harbor.
They can try out the bunks designed for crew members who were short.
Jack and a very tall guy
They can man the wheel.
If you like you can talk with the captain for a bit.
And, if you have cash in your pocket, you can spend an afternoon in the Hamley's toy store: six stories of all kinds of gadgets and gizmos.
The marketing folks have set up demonstrators about every five feet so you can see how the latest toy works and salivate after it.
It takes a good while to see everything and even longer to make a decision about what to buy.
It took Jack a couple of hours to choose.
creepy head
If we'd had more kids with us, we'd probably still be there.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Prizefighter gramma

I was all ready to go when I thought my eyelid surgery was set for 9:30 a.m. I wouldn't have to fast all day and it would be over by noon.
Or so I thought.
I hadn't had time to really freak out about this little basel cell carcinoma that popped up on my right eyelid.
I hadn't had a great deal of time to do Internet research about it.
All I knew was my doctor on Monday took one look and said he was putting me in touch with a plastic surgeon who specializes in eyelid reconstruction.
His office told me to come in on Wednesday. They'd work me in.
They scheduled me for the procedure on Thursday.
I had time to wrap up a couple of stories and deadline projects.
My husband took work off in the morning.
I cleared my calendar but I really thought I could get to a family meeting at 8 in the evening.
That was before the phone started ringing.
Chalise from UVRMC was calling to postpone my 9:30 apt. to 11:00 so Marc and I went shopping.
While we were in Costco, she called again to move the surgery to 11:30.
While we were getting onto the freeway, she called again. "How does 12:30 work?" she asked. "We've had an emergency."
By now, we were getting aggravated.
I was way hungry having dutifully started fasting from food and water at 11 p.m. the night before.
Marc was in limbo feeling like he couldn't go to work, start mowing the lawn or go bike riding.
I fed him lunch just before noon and we gingerly headed out again, stressing every time the phone rang.
Is this the right shade for me?
We were late checking in but — guess what — that was fine since the doctor was running behind.
"Take a seat. We'll call you when they're ready for you!" said a nice nurse.
At 2 p.m. they said I was next. At 2:34, they said, "Almost!"
At 3:05 p.m. they handed me a magazine to read in the prep room.
Then I started to panic. Wait? Did I really want to do this? Maybe I could live with just a small, annoying little, itchy bump on my eye?
Too late. By 5 p.m. it was gone and now I have a bunch of tiny stitches and really pretty semi-permanent purple eye shadow on my eye.
Looks great, don't you think?