Ordered in December, this lovely little birdhouse called a “Bird Gargler” arrived just in time for the spring nest building. Yes, I am a nut for fun and for buying from fellow artists who create that fun! Douglas Fey is a fantastic pottery artist hand sculpting and bringing to life each of his wonderful characters. As you can see in my photo, the details are amazing. He also somehow captured the essence of who I was, via long distance, and transformed it into the face of this wonderful little fox. (My husband always said I was a fox…ROFL) Visit Doug’s website and prepare to be delighted at www.douglasfeypottery.com
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The other day on FaceBook I watched a video of a funny little herd of kids (baby goats not to be confused with human children…LOL). Delighted I watched as they bounced across the ground stiff legged, twisting and turning as they went. My heart swelled with the sudden understanding that the “kids” were filled with the joy of simply being alive on a beautiful spring day.
The master of the flock was a young man. The “kids” would pile up around him so he could reach down and pick each one up and give them a hug. Then they would run off for the day and several others would vie for his attention until each one got a hug. Isn’t that what our relationship with God should be? Every day our hearts should be filled with joy to wake up alive in the morning and receive our daily hug from God. May God bless your day!
Today I was meandering around our yard pulling weeds and picking up sticks after last night’s torrential rain. I came upon this lovely little fern growing under the Butterfly Bush surrounded by moss…lush, beautiful moss.
Bob and I have decided after spending several hundred dollars on grass seed over the last three years that grass is over rated. In the spring of our first year living here, we spent tons of money, planted grass seed and had a beautiful grassy park in our backyard. Every spring day, we marveled over the beauty of it. Then the leaves came out on the Oak and Hickory trees and by mid summer we were left with only spindly, wispy grass that simply wanted to lay down and die.
Instead of fighting nature by cutting down all of the trees, which the trees were why we moved here in the first place, we’ve done a lot of reading and searching the internet for alternatives to that high maintenance green lawn we expected to have. The only thing we have found that could possibly give us green is moss. We are encouraging its growth by keeping the yard as clean of debris as possible. Bob swept the yard with his leaf collector and to our amazement, the moss is growing. Large patches are showing up and the added delight are the little ferns that seem to go hand in hand with the moss. They grow in the most inhospitable areas absolutely loving cement and stones. One little mound of moss in my flower garden has wrapped itself around three crystals and either pushed them up from the ground or there is a bigger rock under the moss. We are not disturbing it to see as we don’t want to ruin it.The moral to my story is to trust God, have patience and live with nature instead of struggling against it. I will let you all know how things go this summer. – April 4, 2020
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.
Well, 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.
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 home decor industry. We always operated our business with integrity and honesty consistently making people happy. Because of our business ethic we were naive and 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 caution to the wind with thoughts of beautiful custom countertops that would enhance our home. The following story is what has happened to us.
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 commercial 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. I decided that was what I wanted for the kitchen. 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 an auto accident. Could he come on Sunday. Sunday was Mother’s Day, but we were sitting here with our counters looking as they do below.Mother’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 on the next Sunday then would install the finished countertops the following 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 inbox 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. For some odd reason these had not shown up 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 to 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 a jail term. It has taken months of investigation on their part. It went to pretrial several times and then finally went to court. Mentally we released it all to God. This was in his hands now. We were done, even if we never received a cent we felt justice was being served.
February 19, 2019, we received our first check from the Florida Department of Corrections Court Ordered Payment Fund. Every month after that we were doing our Florida happy dance. As time went on there were occasional lulls in payments and we would think maybe we had received the last payment. We simply thanked God for what we got and went on with life.
Final update: In June of 2021, we did our final Florida happy dance. We received the last payment of the $6500 deposit we had made to Mr. McDonald. It took four years to get our money back, but through God’s grace and the Pinellas County Consumer Protection Agency we got it all.
And what happened to the counters that never got done by Mr. McDonald? Bob and I did them ourselves, which is what we should have done in the first place. It cost us around $300 and looked like beautiful custom counters. We have since sold the house and moved to Georgia leaving those counters in the hands of new owners.
I am leaving this blog up just in case Mr. McDonald ever tries scamming someone again. The sad thing is if you are googling his name to find out what’s up with him and why isn’t he doing my counters, it is probably too late….you’ve been scammed. We were very fortunate in finding the right people to help us. It is an infuriating experience to have to deal with being scammed. We felt stupid and incredibly angry over it all. A sign hangs over my husband’s computer to remind us….Trust No One. It’s as true for things that sound too good as it is for the internet.
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
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
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!”
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 preparing 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!