Category Archives: Uncategorized

Feeling Old in an Age of Technology

At fifty years old, I thought myself to be up-to-date, computer literate, able to use a cell phone with one hand. When I watch my daughter and others her age use the phone as a keyboard, I realize that I am really in the dark ages and getting darker all the time. I’ve heard about blogs but the thought that they might become an important part of business life never occurred to me. Blogs, podcasts, RSS, discussion threads… I feel like I’m on another planet. My goal for the coming year is to be able to text messages without having to drag out the reading glasses and typing each individual letter… that’s so yesterday (just like that comment.) My daughter uses the feature that automagically guesses what you are trying to type and types it for you. My words end up looking like my fingers were on the wrong keys on a typewriter (I can remember when the latest technology was the correction tape key on an IBM Selectric)! I remember having to program my parent’s VHS player for them and set up their voice mail. Now I feel like I AM my parents. I have to rely on my kids to keep me functioning in a technology-filled world. It’s the Fourth of July so I’m leaving now to go pop firecrackers while I still know how!

New Crayons

I remember the excitement of going back to school.  Getting new school supplies, new clothes, being a grade “older”.  Well, here I am — going back to school (and it’s not just the “grade” that’s getting older these days).  School has certainly changed!  I’m enrolled in an online college.  I never have to go to a classroom.  So much for new clothes! I didn’t get any new crayons this time around either. But I can see the need to get out the sharpener because as far as pencils go, well, I’m not the sharpest in the box! My online college gives me access to a tool called a “Math Assessment.”  My first indication that I was in trouble was when it said that I had 3 hours to complete it.  THREE HOURS!  If it takes me more than 5 minutes, it ain’t happening in my lifetime. I’m a firm believer that the only math I need is the math that is available through my desktop calculator.  I don’t need to know calculus or trigonometry… dude, I can barely spell those words, much less define them – or, God forbid – work a problem. School these days is so much better.  Heck, with school online, not only do I not need new clothes, I can attend class in my PJs.  There’s no tardy bell anymore, no detentions – and if I’m lucky, I can stay out of the principals office (this time around!)

The Day Curtis Died

The day I found out that my stepson was murdered was one of the worst days of my life…I thought that when the detective called me on the phone and asked if Curtis was my stepson – that maybe he was going to tell me that Curtis had gotten into some trouble…I really thought he was going to say that Curtis had a warrant because of a traffic ticket he hadn’t paid and that the detective wanted to know if I knew where Curtis was…. I don’t remember much but I know that he asked if he could come over because he wanted to talk to me… as many crime shows, CSI, Law and Order, that I have watched….I should have seen the warning signs. When it did click that something wasn’t right – I asked the detective… “is it bad?” and he said to me “it’s pretty bad”. He said he would come over in 30 minutes to talk to me and my husband. I told him that if it was bad, I couldn’t wait. He asked if anyone was home with me and I told him yes.

 

 

That’s when the world stopped. I screamed…. and fell to the floor… gutteral cries from someplace deep inside. Shock, disbelief, and more shock – followed by unbelievable, unconsolable grief.

 

Curtis’s brother, Cheston was in the next room sleeping peacefully for the last time. I found my way to the garage where my husband and son, Garrett were. I couldn’t even talk. I regret to this day the way that I told Cheston about his brother’s death – but there was no sugar coating anything that day.

 

I called my sister-in-law to break the news because I couldn’t bring myself to call my mother-in-law. Curtis was her world. Then the thought of calling Curtis’s mom, Sheila – I just couldn’t be the one to tell her that her first-born son was dead. I knew how bad it was to hear this news on the phone and worried that she would be at home alone when the news came.

 

Memorial Day… normally a time I looked forward to… having some time off work – if I was lucky, even getting to go to the coast to get away. Memorial Day will never be the same ever again. Nothing will be the same again. Christmas, Thanksgiving, October 8th…. nothing.

 

The only hope we could hang on to was that they knew who had killed him. We hoped that one day there would be justice. Apparently God will be the one who is control of justice rather than our justice system.

 

Two years after Curtis was killed – his killer was finally on trial. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that he would not be found guilty. In fact – it never even crossed my mind. Throughout the trial – I still was confident that he would soon be in jail – after being free two years after the fact. His killer was able to finish his degree… make that double-degree. He has a girlfriend (now wife) (honey, where were you when the autopsy pictures were shown…. believe it or not, your boyfriend shot Curts twice in the back….he is not innocent. Even you know that he ended another person’s life.) You didn’t hear the truth – you were only there for stripper-girl’s ridiculous lies. Do you really think that two people who were walking ahead of JJ and company started the argument… you are deluded if you believe it…Barbie started the conflict.

 

JJ had an illegal gun – hollow point bullets (come on JJ – even I know what they are and what they are used for) – but sweet innocent JJ didn’t know what they were until the DA told him in court… don’t forget your double-degree….are you really that stupid? Oh, and the 81 degrees with a 16 mph wind was a really nice touch… did you hear everyone laugh at you when you said it? 81 degrees at 2am in the morning IS hot.

 

I really appreciated all the remorse you showed at trial… do you seriously believe that Curtis deserved to die? The worst thing he did that night was to push your buddy down…for God’s sake sticks and stones…How can 9 shots from an illegal weapon that you had to go to your car and get and then come back to the scene, be self-defense?

 

Post traumatic stress? really? That high-stakes poker game you held in your home in Lubbock…the mean ganstas broke in and held a gun to your head and your little dog too?? At least they had mercy on you that night! If they had shown the mercy that you showed Curtis – you’d be gone and Curtis would still be here wouldn’t he?

 

Did you see the heartbreak in your father’s face during the trial? I did. I know that you put him through hell. Did you see the pain in our faces? or did you even bother to look? You’ve put us through hell.

 

You may have been found “not guilty” but that is far different than INNOCENT. You are certainly not innocent. You took Curtis’s life that night. You took part of our lives that night.

 

I hope that each and every day for the rest of your life that the first thing you see when you close your eyes at night is Curtis. Now and – forever!  When you have children I hope you worry about them every night – worry that they might run into someone just like you.

 

There will be justice – from a much higher power than the United States justice system – which obviously has flaws or you’d be someone’s girlfriend right now.

 

God is a forgiving God – but He still allows us to suffer consequences of our actions. Don’t kid yourself for one minute that there won’t be consequences.

 

Jonathan David Johnson murdered my stepson, Curtis Leon McElhaney, Memorial Day weekend 2006. Pray everyday that you don’t run into him on the street – it has been proven that he can murder someone and get out of it due to post traumatic stress syndrome… he just “snapped”.

 

Hope none of us “snap”.

More to the Story…

My bank finally came through for me. They agreed to write an official check for the amount of money actually owed to Social Security – $1345.00. At first, they were going to write it for $1445.00 (the actual Treasury Department deposit amount that was being held) and make me fend for my $100 myself – but after some whining on my part and showing them “official” documentation of what was owed, they agreed to make it for the exact amount owed Social Security – imagine that… make it payable for the correct amount! What a novel idea!!

 

Next, I mailed it USPS Priority Mail on Wednesday, March 3rd and opted for tracking with the name of the person signing for the package. (I don’t know why I would be paranoid about it being received – ha!) I received confirmation that it was delivered on Friday. Would have sent it UPS overnight but the mailing address was a PO Box and after trying for over an hour to find an actual mailing address, I gave up.

 

Delivered on Thursday to my payroll department was the “wage garnishment” paperwork. Thank God I went straight to my bank and got the check as soon as they told me they would do it – and thank God that I went straight to the main post office in Oak Cliff and mailed the check that night.

 

I provided my payroll department all the documentation showing that the check had been cut – been made payable to Social Security for the amount due – and included the priority mail information showing it had already been mailed. The only intelligent person that I spoke to in this whole ordeal was our payroll manager who said it was good enough for him and he would file all the information together.

 

I don’t know what will happen next. Will I receive something saying that the amount has been paid and I am no longer under a wage garnishment? More importantly, will my company receive something calling the dogs off? Something inside me says that will be too simple.

 

My payroll department has about 2 weeks to receive something cancelling the wage garnishment order before our next pay period. I have to admit that I’m still a little (okay, a lot) worried. As logical as the people were at the Social Security office – and as many times as I heard the phrase ‘a wage garnishment order has already been issued, there is nothing we can do’ – I’m terrified – logic is not a trait they possess.

Trip down Going Postal Lane – Part 2

If you haven’t read Trip down Going Postal Lane – Part 1… stop here and read it first!!

 

Oh for God’s sake! You are not going to believe this. I just called the Social Security office (at 6:30 am) this morning and here’s how the conversation went.

 

“Sheila” answered the phone…. I go through the whole story about how I received a wage garnishment notice – how the money is in the bank and they just have to take it – and she says “well ma’am, you’ll just have to send that money back.”

 

Wait…. it gets worse.

 

I explain to her that they, (Social Security /Treasury Department) have a hold on my money and that I can’t send the money back unless they release it. Next she tells me, “We do have you set up for a wage garnishment.” Well, no duh! Why do you think I’m calling you at 6:30 am on a Monday? Finally she realizes this is above her brilliant-sentence limit and transfers me to a “specialist.”

 

Next I’m connected to Special Agent Kathy who has me hold for a good 5-minutes while she looks over her information. Then she proceeds to tell me that I called the Social Security office in November to make payment arrangements – and that I hadn’t made a payment since December (remember Cruella DeVille from the last post), so it is automatically sent to be collected with wage garnishment. So after a few more minutes of HER telling ME what was going on – I asked if she would like to hear my version of the story.

 

I explained to her that the only reason I made a payment arrangement was because they started sending me notices saying that they would retain IRS refunds, garnish checks, etc. Since I  couldn’t get them or my bank to send the money back – and I couldn’t send it back because of the hold, I felt like it was the only thing I could do. Furthermore, when I contacted them again about sending my bank a letter asking them to take the hold off my account – that very helpful Cruella DeVille had told me that I couldn’t make a payment arrangement and they never should have set it up (see Trip down Going Postal Lane – part one).

 

So, she proceeds to tell me that they don’t have a hold on my account – that I need to contact my bank because they CAN’T hold my money. Really? Check my bank balance and compare it to the available balance! I explained to her that it seemed to me that everyone was passing the buck and that no one was willing to take responsibility for this situation that was out of my control; that I HAD talked to Social Security, my bank, and the king of the treasury department – and everyone says “It’s not ME!” Well, we know it’s not THIS me – because I would not willingly put myself in this ridiculous situation.

 

Next she says that since I have a payment arrangement and I haven’t paid it since December, they CAN’T stop the wage garnishment order. I just about lost it here folks. I think I asked her if they had any common sense laying around that they might be able to use.

 

She tells me that “what YOU need to do is contact your bank and tell them to look in the ‘green book’ (wonder if that is symbolism for the color of money they ‘don’t’ hold) and that they should look at the instructions. So I ask her if there is a number where I can call her back if I have any other questions – and she says no. I say “of course not.” So she promises to put a note on the file so if I call back I will be routed to a “specialist”. I’d hate to be routed to an amateur.

 

At this point, does anyone REALLY think they want their money? I think there is something more sinister going on … maybe if they can make me crazy now, I can never collect my own Social Security payments. I’ve got news for them – if I go crazy, I’m leaving instructions on filing disability so someone else can go crazy with me.

 

Well – standby for more exciting adventures down Going Postal Lane… it’s leading to the bank.

My Trip down Going Postal Lane – Part 1

I am going to be on a soap box today kiddies. I am about to have my own personal war with the Social Security office. Social Security — now that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.

 

My mother passed away in June of last year. She died at the end of the month so her July Social Security payment was automatically deposited into my account, as her representative payee. This money has been sitting in my checking account for the last 7 months.

 

This has been an extremely frustrating and quite unbelievable last few months – so take a trip with me down “going postal” lane.

 

First, my bank put a “treasury department” hold on my checking account for the $1445.00 that was deposited after my mother’s death. I called the Social Security office to find out how to get this money back to them – and their oh so logical response was – just write us a check. As I patiently tried to explain that I couldn’t write a check for the money, because Social Security (aka Treasury Department) has a hold on it… to which I was informed that they did not, in fact, have a hold on the money.

 

Next, I contacted the bank to see what could be done. Amazingly, they “don’t have” a person they can contact about transferring the money back. Clearly, they only process the electronic transactions and don’t have a contact person at the treasury department. Humm! Whatever.

 

So, I make a blind stab at contacting someone at the treasury department – and surprise, surprise, I was told that they do not place holds on people’s checking accounts… Right. When I tried to ask a few more questions of this most helpful employee, he hung up on me. I did call him back to ask him who his supervisor was and was informed that he didn’t have a supervisor. So with all the grace I could muster at this time of stress – I said, “so you’re the king of the treasury department” and he said yes and hung up.

 

So apparently NO ONE is responsible. Not surprising.

 

After repeated attempts to contact my local Social Security office – I finally wrote a letter to them to get some help – since contact by phone was not actually possible. I did get a phone call from a blocked number (which of course I never answer) and guess who it was? So I frantically call the number back – and, I know you know this before I even write it, it went straight to voice mail.

 

With a few more attempts and voice mails under my belt, I wait patiently for another 3 or 4 days to get another phone call. This is how we communicated for several weeks. I would call and leave a message – then she would call and leave me a message (because I’m not answering blocked calls).

 

In the meantime, I am starting to receive threatening letters from the mob stating that Social Security would garnish my wages, retain my income tax refunds, take my first born child – you get the picture. So I decide that it is in my best interest to set up a payment plan so it at least looks like I am trying to get their money back to them. Keep in mind, they have a hold on my checking account for $1445.00 already – so this money is over and above the Monopoly money in my account.

 

Once I was approved for a payment plan, I foolishly thought that I could show my bank this agreement and magically, the Treasury Department hold would be taken off my money. How completely ignorant I am. Now, I’m paying in my money – the hold is still on the money in my account – and IF the Treasury Department ever reverses the money, I’ve been told by the bank that it will be for the full $1445.00. So how do I ever get back the money I am paying with the payment plan.

 

The bank informed me that if I could secure a letter from the Social Security office stating that they no longer wanted the hold to be on my account, that she could miraculously take this information to the Supreme Court – oh, I mean their Board, and MAYBE have the hold taken off the money. So, here we go again with the 3 month ordeal of speaking with someone at the Social Security Office.

 

Finally, I’m able to talk to the person at the Social Security office that assisted me with the payment plan. After another 2 weeks, I received a piece of paper in the mail that was addressed to me stating that I had a payment plan – nothing to the bank – looked like when a kid writes his own “my dog ate my homework” excuse – no letterhead, no mom’s signature, or anything official looking in sight.

 

I call back – leave multiple messages and get hold of my Social Security contact after another week. I asked her about addressing the letter to the bank. She told me it had to be approved. A couple of days later, she calls and says her supervisor, Cruella DeVille, told her they could not send a letter to the bank. Stupidly, I ask to speak to the supervisor.

 

Cruella gets on the phone and informs me that I have to pay this money back in one lump sum. I asked her why they set up a payment plan (seemed logical to me) if I couldn’t have a payment plan. She said they should have never set up a payment plan and that I needed to have my bank send the money back.

 

Oh for cryin’ out loud. Is this really America? Land of the free, home of the brave? What have I been asking for? Take the money, PLEASE.

 

So now, I contact my bank again – tell them that Social Security says to send the money back. I give them the authorization (like I have any authority) to take the money and send it back – don’t pass go, don’t collect $200 dollars… send the root of all evil back.

 

Moving along down the postal road, the bank now informs me that “their records show they have not received a copy of my mother’s death certificate.” I politely inform them that my records show that no one has asked me for one.

 

Last night, I returned home after attending a pleasant evening of Christian music with my lovely daughter – feeling spiritually uplifted, etc. when I look at the day’s mail. There, sitting in the pile, is a notice from Social Security saying that they have sent this same notification to my employer – to begin garnishing my wages. Seriously? Are you kidding me? The money is sitting in the bank – just take it! Why do you want to publicly embarrass me at work for something that is NOT my fault – and is obviously COMPLETELY beyond my control. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. Also enclosed was my monthly invoice for my monthly payment that Cruella told me I could not have. (Our fine government hard at work.)

 

I believe that they purposely mail this type of notification so that it is received on a Friday night, after “normal business hours” – as if you could actually reach someone by phone anyway – to reduce the possibility of people going down “Postal Lane” while they are in the peak of frustration.

 

I don’t by any means condone the recent incident where a man flew his plane into the IRS office in Austin due to his frustration in dealing with them – and I have a whole separate blog I could write about frustration with the IRS – but thank God I am a sane person (okay, that could be a matter of opinion) – it’s scary, but sometimes you can see how people end up on the trip down “Going Postal” Lane. I’ve been so frustrated over this that I have smoke coming out my ears and have started breathing fire – or maybe just riding a broom – or maybe I’ve just become that word that rhymes with the person that rides the broom…did I mention I have a bunch of puppies?

A Mother’s Son

Full of hopes

My dreams for you

Way back when you were only two

 

Presidential candidate

Astronaut

Michael Jackson

A moon that walked

 

Life ahead of you

Future bright

Dents in the wall

Your motorized bike

 

Football pee wee

Soccer shoes

Friday night skating

A girlfriend or two

 

Camping went

Marshmallow sticks

Falling Water

Sleeping in tents

 

Fire burns brightly

Shooting stars

Freezing cold

Sleeping in cars

 

Teenage years

Smoking pot

Raising hell

Likely, as not

 

Backyard bonfires

Aerosol cans

Policeman, fire trucks

Life in your hands

 

Boyish pranks

Before it’s too late

Juvie detention

Scaring you straight

 

Grandmother’s memory

Lost in space

Caring and feeding

Kissing her face

 

Crown molding

Drywall

A nail or two

Constructing a life

House shiny and new

 

Fighting addictions

Tricky and sly

A little won’t hurt me

The devil lies

 

Second chances

Save your life

Changing attitudes

Ending strife

 

Mother’s love

Strong and true

For today and always

Each day renewed

 

Never stronger

Full of faith

Hope still fills

Not too late

 

Presidential candidate

Astronaut

Michael Jackson

A moon that walks

 

Full of hopes

My dreams for you

Way back when you were only two

Seven Years Later

Memorial Day used to be a holiday that I looked forward to every year. As young twenty-somethings, we would go to Padre Island every year with a big group of friends. We’d take off work the Friday before to make it a long four-day weekend.

Now, many years later, the only thing Memorial Day reminds me of is the death of my “twenty-something” stepson. Although the intense feeling of loss, pain, and anger has lessened somewhat, a song on the radio, a commercial on TV, or driving down Greenville Avenue near the M-streets, can bring those feelings back in at the speed of light.

Occasionally, when my co-workers and I go out to lunch and we end up at a restaurant somewhere on Greenville Avenue, near Martel. I don’t bring Curtis’s murder up every time, but it is always front and center for me. I know my friends remember. On my way home each day, driving east on I-30, at the Ferguson Road exit, I pass the funeral home and cemetery. Some days I’m listening to music or an audio book – and if I’m listening intently, I might pass that exit without thinking of Curtis, his dad, and other family members who have followed them over the last six years, into life’s next journey.

I live in what used to be my grandmother’s home. She and my grand-dad built this house. She moved here when she was my age and lived here until she was 99 years old. Then she moved to a nearby nursing home until moving to Heaven at 106. It is a 58 year old house, and was in need of some updates when I moved here almost five years ago. One thing we still need to update is the floor. Curtis worked at Empire Today. Every time I see the Empire Today commercial, I think about the need to repair my floor, co-mingled with thoughts of Curtis.

On Memorial Day in 2006, Curtis and his girlfriend at the time were having dinner and drinks at J. Pepe’s on lower Greenville, near the M-streets. As they left the restaurant, walking down Martel where his car was parked, another group of people were leaving Kinki’s –a bar across the street from the restaurant. An argument ensued for some reason and at the end of the night, our world was forever changed.

I am not posting this blog to bring up sadness – really just reflection. I do remember Memorial Day 2006 more than others – and I don’t “look forward” to Memorial Day. But I don’t write this with sadness — more as just a way to share my thoughts. So, Memorial Day is a day for us to remember – remember our troops who have fought and died to ensure our freedom – enjoy some time off work, and a time for me to reflect on Memorial Day 2006, one that I will never forget.