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Sometimes You Need an Adventure….

Wow!  As I look back at my last blog post, it was 2013!  Time flies and how life changes.  Bob and I are still video gaming…Destiny is our latest game of choice.  In the time between 2013 and today though, we “arted” on walls, furniture and more, retired and found retirement to be boring so we bought a laser to art some more.  Bob expressed his artsy side with funky fish and bugs made of wood and copper.  We adventured through the Steampunk theme dressing the part and doing art/craft shows at the Steampunk Industrial Show with  Renninger’s Flea Market in Mt. Dora, Florida and the Shark’s Tooth Festival in Venice, Florida.

DSCN2622Well, the weather got hotter, the traffic totally maddening, the hurricanes too close for comfort and being a farm girl at heart, the last straw was when they built condos on the last grassy pasture at the edge of Venice. That made me very, very sad.

Last year we attended DragonCon in Atlanta with our wonderful friend, Susan Klaus and experienced cool evening breezes in September.  What a welcome relief from those every day mid 90 degree Florida temperatures with humidity so thick sweat ran down your spine and soaked your clothes just walking outside. Driving back from Atlanta we were welcomed by Hurricane Irma that left us without electricity for a week, luckily with no damage to our home.  Bob and I decided it was time to move. We weren’t getting any younger and in 22 years in paradise twice we have had close calls with the hurricanes.  I felt the urging presence that third time’s the charm.

Together we decided it was time to move. We wanted to stay just below the Snowbelt and  with less Florida humidity  Considering what we experienced during our Atlanta visit, we began searching the internet for the perfect spot to move.  Georgia prices were unbelievably affordable compared to Florida.  We could actually afford acreage and not break the bank.  The week before Thanksgiving, we traveled to Georgia, looked at houses, bought a house and by the end of the year packed up our belongings and moved to the foothills of Jefferson, Georgia.

“Georgia?” people, including family, would ask…”why would you move to Georgia.”  Well, let me tell you it was an awesome move. We have seasons once again with little to no snowfall.  We laugh when there is a threat of snow and everything, I do mean EVERY-THING, in the state closes down…and then it doesn’t snow.  Halloween pumpkins don’t rot in one day.  We have lightning bugs in the summer and deer in the front yard. Our home sits on a little over an acre of wooded land providing us with a daily dose of colorful birds.  Gold Finches, Cardinals, Bluebirds, Baltimore Orioles, Grosbeaks and our favorite couple, the Carolina Wrens make up our natural aviary!  We put up feeders and suet and then laughed until we cried at the antics of the squirrels trying to outwit the Slinkys we put on the poles, which is fodder for another post.

Unbeknownst to us upon purchase, our beautiful home was a fixer-upper.  I could list all of the things that we have done, but it could fill a book on its own. We cried over replacing the furnace and roof but we have had so much fun turning this little neglected kingdom into our personal sanctuary that the move became a God given blessing.

The most surprising thing about this move was that our life finally became about “the two of us.” We needed an adventure and this is exactly what it became. We love our family and all of our dear, dear friends we left behind in Florida.  We miss them.  But working through all of the trials, creating our personal space and making this home what it was intended to be has brought Bob and I closer together than ever before.  It is a gift from God that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

BEWARE OF Refresh-Interiors, Inc., Gene Mc Donald. A tale of a scam artist.

This blog is being written to share our story of being conned out of $6500.00 by Gene McDonald-Refresh-Interiors, Inc. My husband and I are retired from the same type of industry.  We operated our business with integrity and honesty always making people happy.   Naive as we were because of this, we fully trusted Gene McDonald of Refresh-Interiors, Inc. to do the job we paid him in full to do.  We should have noted all of the red flags, but having never been scammed, we threw our cautions to the wind with thoughts of beautiful custom countertops that would be uniquely ours.  The following story is what has happened to us through today, February 20, 2019.

On May 2, 2017, my husband and I contracted Refresh Interiors, Inc., Gene McDonald, of St. Petersburg, Florida, to make custom countertops for our kitchen.  He was late meeting us at his place of business which had a rental sign in front of it.  We were about to leave when we got a phone call from him saying he had truck problems but would be there in  a few minutes.  He finally got there and was apologetic for being late.  Inside his place there were all kinds of counter samples and trophies, etc. The workshop was a mess, but we know what that is like.  He kept trying to sell us pieces that were already done in the back, but nothing fit our space.  He showed us samples of countertops and then a sample he had poured in a bucket.  It was swirled with metallics and looked beautiful.  Next came the dickering on the price.  He said the counters would be $7155.00 and asked for a $5000.00 deposit…but if we paid cash he would discount the price to $6500.00.  Having worked in a similar business the price sounded fair….and it was going to be a deal! In good faith, we gave him a check for $6500.00.  He made an appointment with us to be at our home the following Monday to take measurements and make templates.  We shook hands and parted company.

After leaving Refresh-Interiors, Inc., we went to a local restaurant to celebrate the thought of having such a beautiful kitchen.  While we had our drinks,  my husband got a phone call from Mr. McDonald on our cell phone saying that we might get a call from a check cashing place because he was so excited to get started that he wanted to buy the supplies right away and could not wait on the three day hold at the bank. Our scam alert antennae tingled a little bit, but still the excitement of having one of a kind artsy counters outweighed our common sense.

Monday came and Mr. Gene McDonald of Refresh Interiors, Inc., did not show up or call to let us know he wasn’t coming.  Now we were starting to get worried. Bob called him and received the disheartening information that the business number had been disconnected.  We e-mailed and texted him on a phone number he had given my son with no answer.  After a couple of days, he finally did call, apologized and gave us a new phone number saying he had to replace his broken phone.  He scheduled to come to our home on Thursday of that week.

Wednesday he called to say he could not make it on Thursday but he could be there on Friday.  Friday morning he called apologizing up and down once again and promised to be there on Saturday.  Saturday early morning he called and said his aunt had had an accident.  Could he come on Sunday.  Sunday was Mother’s Day, but we were sitting here with our counters looking as they do below.CounterMother’s Day he and his wife, Joellen came.  He busied himself with making the templates and she chatted with us.  They both seemed nice which falsely put us at ease.  Before he left, he promised he would make an actual sample of the countertop material and we could come up on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 to see the sample and the base layer of the countertops.  Monday came.  He called to cancel the appointment.  By this time we were getting fed up.  My husband told him we needed to have these countertops ASAP or we wanted our money back.  Gene promised to e-mail pictures of the started countertops that Sunday then would install the finished countertops the next Friday.  For two weeks after that conversation, we had no further contact from him.  He would not answer our phone calls, texts or e-mails and his in box was full most of the time.

In the interim we dug deep investigating him.  Along with a long arrest record of other unrelated infractions, we found complaints for counter jobs that were never completed.  These for some odd reason had not shown in our previous searches. One resolved complaint was for taking $22,000.00 for a job then deciding he couldn’t do that job.  After several months of bugging him the client finally did get his money back.  As the history of Refresh-Interiors unfolded we found a second person he owed $8100.00 for a job he promised eight months previously and never completed.  He made all kinds of excuses to them (like he has us) one of which was his tools were “stolen”.

After we posted our story on YELP and at the Better Business Bureau a lady posted a comment at the Better Business Bureau on May 17,  saying he had not completed her job for a bar and had not returned her money.

Bob and I decided right then that this scammer had to be stopped.  He was taking money for jobs with no intention of doing the work and then paying minimal amounts to others that were on his back for their money.  This man gives contractors a bad name, so Bob and I decided to pull down the tents of his side show.

First we hit all of his social media making posts as to where our counters were and when was he going to give us back our money.  We posted our story on YELP, the BBB and Rip Off Report.  We reported him to Seniors vs Crime, Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi and the Pinellas County Consumer Protection. We were beginning to lose heart that there was no one who cared to help us.  ABC news had done a promotion feature on him that was posted on his website.  We contacted them with our story and the post was taken down soon after. Finally we were contacted by Pinellas County Consumer Protection who have done an awesome job in stopping this thief even if it’s only for his jail term.  It has taken months of investigation on their part.  It went to pretrial several times.  Finally, yesterday, February 19, 2019, we received a check from the Florida Department of Corrections Court Ordered Payment Fund.  We assume he is in jail.  We may never get the full amount, but at least there is satisfaction that something was done.

I just felt that I needed to share this with the hopes that when he gets out others will be forewarned.  By the time his name is googled, though, it is probably too late.  If you get scammed by anyone, don’t expect to get any money back.

 

 

 

Adventures of a Closet Video Gamer

Yes, I have to admit it.  For the last four or five years I have been and am a closet video gamer.  After a day of creative creating, these games relieve my mind.   I’ve gone to exotic lands with Nathan Drake of “Drake’s Fortune”…traveled the planets and fought battles with Star Killer in the “Star Wars: Force Unleashed” games, wreaked havoc in the Infamous games and taken

Trionna of Defiance

Trionna of Defiance

care of the Joker in “Batman: Arkham City.”  If my real work day has been a little hectic, I can take it out on the monsters who try to kill me. It is a whole lot of fun being a warrior especially one with super powers.  My newest character can do back flips, land on her feet and still put the bad guys in their place.  I’ve always wanted to be able to do back flips!

Up until this summer, Bob has gamed with me a little.  He Motor Stormed with me for a few months racing around Australian Badlands in wild and crazy racing cars.  We also raced fancy cars in the ProLogue game and Paradise City.  But as all video games go…they lost their luster.  So, this year,  Bob would go to his “Man Cave” and watch Syfy while I played video games.

This past year a new type of video game was launched along with a television show on the Syfy channel.  Being a Syfy junkie, Bob loves “Defiance” and was interested in the game and encouraged me to buy into it.  I was apprehensive about playing an MMO (which means Massive Multiplayer Online game).  The name itself is intimidating to me.  I had been playing single player games all this time and the thought of being the player that occasionally shoots her own foot and ending  up the laughing-stock, I wasn’t so sure playing with strangers was a good idea. But, in the middle of summer,  we found the game at GameStop for $18.95 (down from $59.95).  Bob convinced me to give it a try, so we bought it.

I set up my character and played for a few days.  It was such fun….. and I was a really, really good shooter, thanks to Drake’s Fortune’s point and shoot practice.  The other players were so nice and I was invited to join a clan and a group.  Other players healed me when I got shot and it turned out to be a great community.

In the meantime, Bob loved watching the action and figuring out how to increase your weapons, your health, how to get a vehicle and all of the intricacies of the game.  I convinced him that he should join in the fun.  Back to the store for another game and gaming system and we were in business together

Dartaan of Defiance

Dartaan of Defiance

Since then, what fun we’ve had.  We’ve laughed at each other’s antics until we cried.  I turned my character around one time and Bob’s character was ablaze.  He had accidentally blown himself up with his own pyro grenade.  Together we feel elation when we team up to defeat some of the biggest, baddest characters of the game.  It would be so cool if we could actually high-five each other!  We fight alongside and interact with other warrior friends and everyone is having a great time. It’s not real life, but it is a very rewarding experience.  A lot of people bash video games but if they are very well written and executed, they inspire you to do and be a better person.  Our kudos go to “Defiance!”

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Spending a Saturday Morning at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday Morning at the Market

Organic produce

A really cool place to find unique photo opportunities as well as organic produce is to spend a Saturday morning in Sarasota, Florida at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.  Individual booths line the streets of Lemon Avenue and State Street filled with colorful locally grown produce, plants, trees and orchids, tantalizing foods for immediate consumption, intriguing books by local authors and delightful treasures from local artists and craftsmen.  Friendly dogs of all shapes and sizes stroll the streets with their masters. Market hours are from 7 a.m. until noon.

The mission of this not-for-profit organization is to educate consumers and share knowledge about the products and services of our local farmers, local businesses and local creatives.  This venue encourages foot traffic to downtown Sarasota sustaining the economic viability of  the entire downtown.  It’s a really fun way to start your day as well as supporting the community.

 

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Our American Way of Life

Last Wednesday on my way to work on Longboat Key I was listening to a DJ  interview one of our armed force heroes asking him questions about military life.  The young man shared that he was God Bless Our Troopspreparing to deploy to Afghanistan.  The DJ asked him, “How do you prepare to deploy?”  He answered, ” I get my will and papers in order to take care of my wife and family…..”  He went on with other details but his first words deafened me to anything else he had to say.  Here I was driving along through paradise, heading to a high rise condo on the beach to paint furniture, one of my favorite things to do.  This young man was headed to a war torn country with the thought that he quite possibly would lose his life leaving his wife and children all alone.  I felt ashamed of how much I take for granted.

Unless you have been in the military or are the family of someone in the military, most of us go along with our daily lives never giving a second thought about those putting their lives on the line every day. This Fourth of July we all need to take a moment from our joyful Fourth of July  celebrations and give thanks to God for the brave men and women who fight and have fought to assure our freedom and our American way of life.  God bless our troops!

 

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Shrinking Violet Art Marketing

I’ve never been one to shout from the rooftops about my art and tell everyone how wonderful I am. Shrinking VioletsI am somewhat shy and stumble around when someone asks me about what I do.  I get bashful when someone else talks to strangers in front of me about my work and how much they like it.  That is who I am…a shrinking violet who loves to create art yet shares it with the world.

For the past year I have been reading a lot of blogs, taking all kinds of business webinars and am currently in the first quarter of an marketing bootcamp…and you know what?  All of these things have made me realize that I’ve been doing it right all along.  If I follow someone else’s rootin’- tootin’ promotion formula, I will not be the artist I was born to be.  So if there are others out there who feel like me, take heart.  You can be successful by being yourself.  The following is some of the insights I have discovered along the way.

  • Let your art speak for itself.  Create lots and lots of art.  The more you do the better you get.  You develop a style and a voice that automatically tells the world who you are.  Without your art there is nothing for anyone to talk about and nothing for anyone to buy.  The ART comes FIRST.
  • GET IT OUT THERE!  As artists we live in a wonderful time.  Our culture craves art. It is everywhere you look. People have to see your art in order to buy your art.  If art shows make your eyes roll back into your head, use the internet as your showcase. If setting up a website scrambles your brain, ask a computer savvy family member or friend to help you set up your web presence. I have a Facebook fan page posting all of my latest projects as I finish them.  It is relatively easy to manage and provides a colorful and interesting timeline that my fans love.  If you’d rather not manage a website yourself, then there are numerous art showcase websites out there to show and sell your work.  The bigger your internet presence, the greater the demand will be for your artwork.
  • Let your friends and clients toot your horn.  For the past ten years I have been blessed with a wonderful client friend who believes in me and loves my work.  She has been instrumental in getting me thousands of dollars worth of work and has shared her Jane Crick excitement with her entire community.  If you have someone like this in your life, appreciate them.  Send them thank you cards or take them to lunch.  Send them flowers or remember them with a Christmas gift preferably something you’ve painted or made.  Make sure you arm these promotion angels with business cards and any promotional materials you have as well. They are allies to your success.
  • Be open to opportunities.  In 1989 I created and painted numerous samples using a craft product to be displayed at a painting convention.  This show board of samples caught the eye of a book publisher who contracted me for six instructional books.  Painting those samples opened up a whole new chapter of my life.  Watch for unusual opportunities to get your art in front of people.
  • Think BIG. Study your art. Canvas and watercolor paper are only one tiny way your art can be shared. The more ways your art can be used or reproduced on products, magazine covers and more, the more money you will make.

As artists we simply need to be proactive.  Seek and investigate ways to share your love of creation using the positive ways that are natural to you. We artists don’t need to starve.

 

 

 

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It’s All About Fun at Tampa Bay Comicon!!!

Princes LeiaPrincess Leia and Boba Fett were just a couple of the numerous comic book fans wandering the showroom floor of the Doubletree Hotel last weekend in Tampa, Florida. It was as much fun watching the costumed attendees as it was being photographed with Darth Vadar and the storm troopers.Illustrator

Once inside the convention rooms, we found booth after booth loaded with new comic books, collectible comic books and memorabilia, t-shirts, costumes and more. Attendees  got the chance to get up close and personal with some of the illustrious comic book illustrators who worked on projects as people watched.  A couple other illustrators would sketch you in comic book style for a fee.

Boba Fett

Needless to say it was a fabulous weekend filled with fun and artistic inspiration….and maybe, just maybe, the Crick family will be dressing up and going to the next Tampa Bay Comicon being held at the Tampa Convention Center, August 24-25, 2013!