Finding Sylvia – Crisp Hallowe’en

In Canada, September indicated the start of fall. School started back up. The days started to get shorter and cooler. My parents would put their large garden to rest. The leaves on the trees would start to change color. We were surrounded by forests and the different colors on the trees were beautiful.

The anticipation of Hallowe’en on our street was exciting. We would start planning our costumes at the beginning of October. Our costumes were all home made. Pirates, princes and princesses. Star Trek was huge when I was growing up. I was always told to be the poor damsel in distress so the boys could rescue me. GI Joes were also popular and the boys would try to dress up like their GI Joe.

Ghosts were easy to do but we never really went the scary route of Hallowe’en. We wanted to be heroes and heroines. Part of the Star Trek team. Hobos were also big as we could just take our father’s pants and shirt and just be messy. There was no intent to be disrespectful to anyone. We just knew that the amount of chocolate and candy and chips and popcorn balls would last us until Christmas.

We went out trick or treating on our street. We could go by ourselves because that was the time. We knew everyone in every house. We knew who always gave the best treats but we each had our favorite so we argued over which house had the best. Everyone looked out for each other. We were not alone and we had no need to be afraid. We only needed to be afraid if we were disrespectful to anyone. Because the adult who caught you would let you know and then would inform your parent.

As a young child, going the entire street as well as the four or five houses that faced the main street, was quite the walk. Then when we had loaded up on our treasures, it was time to head home and check out what we had . My brother always ate way too much on the way home and would end up with a bellyache.

I would eat some of my favorites on the way home. Licorice and chocolate bars. But not too much. I was tired of listening to my brother whine about feeling sick. I wanted to see what all the treats were.

Mrs. Wright always made the best popcorn balls. Then there were other mothers that made chocolate chip cookies. So many different, wonderful homemade treats. I can’t even remember all the treats. My parents knew all the neighbors so there was no need to check the items or throw out the homemade goodies. These were all hardworking families. They were all good people. Most of them were German. A few Italian families. Mrs. Wright and her son were Irish. But a good neighborhood.

There was nothing sinister and nothing to be afraid of. Until one summer, much changed for me. But for now, everything was wonderful and child like. We were so lucky to have this time.

Finding Sylvia – Frohe Weihnachten

As a child, winter was special as it meant that Christmas was coming. Having German born parents meant keeping all the traditions that were German. Christmas started at the beginning of December and we celebrated Christmas on the 24th.

The start of baking traditional German Christmas cookies started at the beginning of December. My brother and I also received the chocolate Lent calendars that began December 1st. Each day we opened up a section of the calendar that revealed a chocolate until the 24th. They were wonderful German chocolates that were so delicious.

My mother started baking Christmas cookies that my brother and I loved. She tried to keep ahead of us eating them all but she did manage to put a fair amount to the side for Christmas day,

The house was filled with German Christmas songs and my father had a beautiful tenor voice. He sang along with most of the songs and I was enthralled. My brother and I grew up knowing all the traditional German songs. I think “Leise reiselt der Schnee” (quietly falls the snow) is my favorite.

Christmas Eve day was magical. My brother and I were told that Saint Niklaus would quietly steal into the house to deliver the gifts as long as my brother and I were well behaved. Oh we were good. Our rooms were spotless and the basement where we kept a lot of our toys was immaculate.

My mother always had goose for our Christmas Eve dinner along with potato dumplings and peas and carrots (from their garden). Dessert was stollen and cookies. Stollen is a German fruit yeast bread. To this day, I need stollen at Christmas time.

We would clean up the dishes and the kitchen then my mother would take my brother and I downstairs to watch the television and wait for the arrival of Saint Niklaus. Yes, it was my father who brought out all the gifts and made sure that we could hear his footsteps as he moved around upstairs. He managed to give a loud ho-ho-ho then stomped out.

My brother’s and my eyes were huge as we would listen to Saint Niklaus moving around upstairs. I think we both held our breaths the whole time. Could anything be more magical than that? I thank my parents for doing this for us. The wonder and excitement is something that I will never forget. Too soon we grow up and face the harsh realities of life and my parents made certain that my brother and I could be children through and through. I thank my parents for that special magic time.

Finally my mother would say that we could go upstairs and see what was in store for us. I don’t know how but when we went into the living room, the Christmas tree seemed to be even more beautiful. My parents were factory workers and they could not afford extravagant gifts but the gifts my brother and I received were special.

We would all open our gifts and then sit back and enjoy them while we listened to more songs. We were allowed to stay up for a while and then were ushered to bed. Falling asleep those nights were easy. I am grateful that I was able to have such a childhood. How I wish it would be like this for all children and how I wish it would have lasted.

Finding Sylvia – Winters as a Child

Ah, winter. The smell of winter. The crispness of the air left your nose tingling. As a child, I loved winter. We would get snow in November and it would last until March. My parents weren’t too happy because it meant shoveling a driveway and then again once the snow plow went through.

But as a child, it meant crisp whiteness until February. Best of all, it meant that Christmas was coming soon. We were in the ultimate winter wonderland. Lots of snow meant no school and time to make forts. Go sledding and skating. Usually our street froze over and we could skate on it.

Our forts were spectacular. We would dig into the huge snowbanks on the sides of the road. Our friends would build a fort on the other side of the road and we would have wars. My brother and I had to protect our castle but try to take over the castle on the other side of the road.

Once one side had declared victory, we would go sledding. The farmer’s fields behind the row of houses opposite to where we lived had the most awesome hills. They always drifted over with the most spectacular drifts. Yes, as children, we would go in a group and sled to our hearts content. As long as our parents could hear us, there was no worry. For them or for us. It was so much more different back then.

When weather conditions were right, our entire street would be covered in a sheet of ice. Sparkles danced when the sun came out and shone on the ice like a mirror reflecting back colors. We would eagerly put on our skates. The boys got out their hockey nets and be world famous hockey players.

I couldn’t be bothered with that. I was a figure skater, don’t you know? We taught ourselves to skate and we were pretty happy with what we could do. I would pretend to do difficult spins and jumps. Actually, on the uneven surface of a gravel lined street, it was pretty difficult to just skate forwards. But I managed skating backwards and doing, what I thought, was intricate footwork and spins and spirals.

Our imaginations were wild and free. It was unlimited and we were allowed to be free spirited and child-like. Whatever we chose to do, we would check with our parents first and then go off on our adventures. We did have to check in with our parents but that was the only limit. We had our imaginations and that was all we needed.

Finding Sylvia

I was born in 1958 in Kitchener, Ontario to German born parents. My parents grew up in Germany during World War II. My father decided to move to Canada, hearing it was a land of opportunity. Hearing that it was a vast country. He traveled to Canada on a large boat and settled in Kitchener. It had a high concentration of Germans. In fact, before World War II, Kitchener was named Berlin. The name was changed after World War II.

My father had Austrian friends who took him in and helped him in this new country. He yearned for a German wife and placed an ad in a German newspaper. So, yes, my mother is a mail order bride. I’m not sure why she decided to answer my father. I know the situation in Germany after the war was difficult. I suppose my mother thought that it would be quite the adventure to travel to this great and beautiful country called Canada.

She traveled to Canada by boat and met my father. My father’s friends helped with the wedding arrangements and my parents settled into a comfortable apartment on the bottom floor of a house. I arrived shortly after that. Apparently, I was a difficult baby as I had colic. My mother probably smiled when my first daughter also had colic. Pay back.

Life was good for my parents and my father yearned to move out to the country with a house and a large sized lot. They found a single street subdivision, at that time, far outside the city limits of Kitchener. They purchased a one acre lot and proceeded to build themselves a sturdy, brick bungalow. We were surrounded by farmers’ fields, bushes and a creek.

Life as a child in the 60s was carefree. No cares or concerns. It was the time of big, sold cars with no seat belts, no child car seats, no helmets. How did we survive through all of that? Our toys were few. I was the only girl in the neighborhood and I did not care about that. Neither did the boys. We had legos, GI Joes, Barbies and our wild imaginations which we used every day. Children were seen but not heard and we were disciplined by all the adults on the street.

Our family was the first to purchase a television. It was a large, brown box that stood on wooden legs. No remote controls back then and a remote was certainly not needed with the three television stations that we could mostly get with the silver rabbit ears that came on the back of the television. To select our channel, there was this small, wooden dial on the side of the television that we would have to get up from the floor or couch and turn.

I can still smell the different seasons that came in that area of Ontario. Spring had such a full, sweet scent and once I could smell it, I knew summer was coming. Summer would have a heavy, wet scent for, at that time, our summers would be hot and humid. Fall had a scent of crispness with a cool wind. Then the scent of winter was cold, crisp and wet of snow. I learned to recognize them all.

I Cry Out to God

I have sinned. I am a sinner. We are all sinners. Not a one of us is perfect. We have made mistakes. We have done things we regret. We wish the things we had done, we could have done differently.

But I was young and had scars. Scars that went deeper than I thought. No one to turn to. No one I could ask. Except God. And I have cried out to Him. But why does it hurt so much and why does it feel like God has turned His back on me? What have I done? Am I that bad?

Life has hit me so hard. At every turn, I have struggled. It feels like by myself. And I wonder what is happening? And why? I am not that strong. What lessons do I need to learn?

I am so busy thinking of others first. Helping others first. Realizing that I cannot live their lives. All I can do is love them. But I am not that strong and right now the burden is so heavy and I just don’t know what to do. I can’t take anymore Lord. I am breaking. Without Jesus with me, I just can’t do it. And I don’t know if He is there. I just can’t feel Him.

I am breaking. Slow tremors of pain running through me. Tears running down my cheeks. All I want is for all those I love to be safe. Happy. Healthy. And I feel powerless. Everything is spinning out of control.

Is prayer enough? I don’t feel that God is hearing my prayers. I feel He has turned his back on me because I am a disappointment. I have sinned. All I wanted is to be treated fairly and I did not start the fight. I just have to defend myself. But no one understands the pain and agony I went through to finally claw myself out for some shred of peace only to have to fight other battles. It is never ending. It continues.

And I just can’t do it any more. I am broken. I am in shattered pieces. But I know I will somehow pull myself forward. Try to pray to God who is not listening. Who does not hear me. Why do you hate me God?

Reconstruction Surgery

It is now done. I have lived through the reconstruction surgery on my right breast. I did mention previously that the left breast had been affected by the radiation treatment. It shrank. A lot. So I was lopsided. I still wish the radiation could have shrunk my belly but that wasn’t an option I was allowed.

The reconstruction surgery came up pretty quickly. I wanted to take care of my back issues first which I did. The steroid injection was done to relieve the sciatica in my lower back and down my right leg. It seemed to work for a few days but I still have sciatic pain along with an annoying pain in the front of my right leg. Let me just say this, I will not go for another steroid injection. The injection was not pleasant and for the cost, I am not willing to make another attempt at that.

Instead, I am going to try acupuncture. I just need to set up an appointment for that. I am also doing yoga / pilates exercises for my lower back. Considering the alternative of surgery for my back, I really don’t know what I am going to do. But I will try acupuncture and yoga before seriously considering surgery.

As for my poor right breast, the surgery went well. My doctor had re-positioned the nipple on my right breast during surgery. I was just barely coming out of the anesthetic and my doctor wanted to make sure the nipple was live, so he stuck a needle into the nipple which promptly bled. I kind of freaked out in my lethargic state but was glad that I didn’t feel it. The doctor tried to tell me that there isn’t much feeling in breasts. I went back to sleep unconvinced about that one.

I was told that I shouldn’t do any heavy lifting and to rest. Well. More or less. We participated in a yard sale two days after surgery. Then Sunday, my husband and I picked up azalea bushes and flowers which I planted. I also spread mulch in the rose bed. Then, naturally I needed to go visit Gizmo and Lance Monday. Groomed them and gave them grass time. I think I’ll wait until next week to ride but we’ll see how that goes.

All in all, I feel tired but really good. Until I showered today and the bandages came off my right breast. The doctor had marked up my breast prior to surgery and I still had the four different colors of pen on my chest but I’m pretty sure he didn’t use yellow or green. My breast grossed me out and I quickly covered it with a comfortable bra. I was told I will no longer want to wear any bras with underwire.

I’m okay with that and I was also given the name of a bra store that has everything for a woman like me who just can’t decide on or find a comfortable bra. I have no idea what bra size I am now.

Even though I am a breast cancer survivor, I am still struggling with lingering issues from the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I still have tingling and numbness in my toes. I have much better movement in my left arm but it is only because I push myself. I have not yet gone for my tattoo but that will happen. But – I – am – a – survivor.

Computers – Can’t live with them – Can’t live without them

I finally found a job I love doing.  I signed up with an online company to do transcription work from home.  I love doing transcription work.  Or dictation if you are old school like me.  All I needed was an operable computer and good internet.

Suggestions were made to get noise cancelling headphones, which I purchased.  It was also suggested to get an ergonomic keyboard, which I purchased from Microsoft.  It is a wireless keyboard and came with a  mouse.  I downloaded audio player software products.  Then I decided to get a foot pedal.  I used to do a lot of dictaphone work and used a foot pedal back in the day.

So there I was.  All set and ready to go, right?  I went through the company’s tests and samples.  Everything worked well.  Great.  I was loving it.  Now play the dark music.  Da-da-da-dun.

One day before I was to begin an actual assignment, my laptop went haywire.  I was typing away and suddenly 000’s went racing across my screen.  I quickly saved my document which became all kinds of 0000’s.  I tried to shut down but it filled with 00’s and then 11’s.  What is a girl supposed to do then?  I pushed the power button to turn it off and started to panic.

Turned my laptop back on and it was clear.  Started typing again, only to have ^^^’s racing across my screen.  Again, I had to push the power button to turn the laptop off. Did one of the audio programs have a virus attached to it?  Uninstalled Express Scribe, FTR Player and Liberty Court Player.  Then reinstalled just Express Scribe.  Started typing again and now *****’s raced across my screen.

Thank goodness I paid for the Geek Squad Support.  Let me just say, I have already given them many challenges.  Bonus part is that I contacted them remotely and they could access my computer to see what was going on.  The technician I chatted with did not know what was going on but he said he would clean up what he could.  It took him two hours to clean it up and he did say it was challenging.

The next day I thought everything was fine and started on my work again.  I was going along for quite some time and feeling pretty good when &&&’s started to race across my screen.  I had a real hissy fit and started to cry.  Turned off my laptop and took it to Best Buy and Geek Squad.  I was ready to drive over my laptop with the truck.  Geek Squad asked me to try to replicate the problem.  It wouldn’t happen obviously.  Things like this never replicate themselves in front of technicians.  They took the laptop in for repairs and told me I might want to consider getting a new laptop.  Which I did.  A 15.3″ Lenovo Yoga.

Went home with the new laptop, totally frustrated.  Set it all up with the wireless keyboard and mouse.  But I didn’t need the keyboard right away and set it to the side in the box.  I was working along for quite some time, thinking well, that’s that.  1111’s started racing across the screen.  I don’t know about you but tears ran down my face.  I stayed quiet because after telling my husband about taking the other laptop in for repairs and having to purchase a new laptop only to have the same thing happening on the new laptop, would not go over well.

Removed all the audio programs again.  But then I thought, what if it’s the foot pedal?  It was not responding quite well.  So I removed the foot pedal and continued typing my current assignment.  I started to breath and then 000’s.  Racing across my screen.  Silent screams.  Really silent screams inside the pit of my stomach.  I managed to finish the assignment that night but my head was ready to explode.

The next day the same things happened.  000’s and/or 111’s.  It wasn’t the foot pedal and I couldn’t tell which audio program was doing it when I thought, what if it’s the wireless keyboard sitting in the box beside me?  I took the keyboard and put it into another room.  Started typing on another assignment and all went well with my world.

I found a spare mouse in the study.  Unplugged the doey for the mouse and keyboard.  Plugged in the thingey for the new mouse and absolutely nothing happened, in that no more numbers or signs racing across the screen.  Oh my goodness!  It was the wireless keyboard.  In the box which caused the start of my mental breakdown.  Exchanged the keyboard and mouse because I was not sure if the keyboard was broken.  Simple me figured out the problem but now I have two perfectly good laptops.  Well, if my daughter’s laptop crashes, she can have the Asus.  Hers is getting old.

Now, when I am not doing my transcription work, I unplug the doey for the mouse and keyboard and plug in the thingey for my purple mouse.  Everything works just fine now.  I just don’t know what to say.

Chapter 5 – Stephen Feldman and Frank McKnee

Here I was, talking to two men at the same time. This was interesting. Really, very interesting. This had never happened to me before. Having conversations with two different men. I did not let either man know that I was talking to the other.

Stephen and I had long, interesting conversations. He was a contractor who was working on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Geez. I just cannot believe I kept talking to this person. Steven had a son who was overseas somewhere with his mother. I can’t remember exactly where but Stephen was trying to get his son into the United States with friends who were in Texas. He said his ex wife was not a fit mother and was willingly giving up the son to Stephen. I just kept listening to the stories and thinking, really, now? But I was getting pulled in. He kept promising that as soon as he was able, he would come to see me.

At the same time, I was having long conversations with Frank. He would call me at different times of the day. He was an artist and he did send pictures of his work. He was very talented and I told him he should keep painting. He did portrait work and he said he would paint a picture of me.

There were so many times I wanted to end it with both men. They both had distinct accents that I could not quite place. Eastern European, I thought. But both men just wanted to talk. Just wanted to get to know me and for me to get to know them. I was bewildered and did not know what to think. They did not talk about love or money or needing anything. Just wanted to talk. They kept making promises to see me as soon as they could. What could be the harm in that?

Lots. Neither one could meet me over coffee soon. It was always business trips, finish the contract, or under pressure to work. Frank’s father had died and left the business to Frank. So he needed to go to England, of all places, to sort through the details. Frank also had a daughter who lived in New York. The daughter had a daughter who visited Frank on occasion. He actually sent pictures of the granddaughter.  As I said previously, he recorded a song that he sang and sent it to me. I could see pictures and what appeared to be normal furnishings in a house in the background.

All of these conversations were happening not just over one or two weeks but two to three months. No talk about having or being in a desperate situation. Both men let me know they were well off. Not exactly how much but in general terms. Good, I thought. I’m not getting suckered in, I thought. Both men seemed to show genuine concern for me.

As time went on, I thought these men might actually be real. Stephen claimed to own a house in Texas. He also mentioned the city which I cannot now remember. Frank claimed to own a house in Miami, Florida. I googled both names and did not come up with anything. I tried to google addresses and houses but still came up with nothing. Also, when I googled their phone numbers, both were VoIP numbers with no name attached. That should have given me the best reason to block their phone numbers and have nothing more to do with them.

But I couldn’t do that. I kept answering their phone calls. I kept talking to both of them, and I was trying to decide between the two of them. Ladies and gentlemen, these things never end up well. But having a hopeful heart, I kept pressing on. More in Chapter 6.


Chapter 3 – Online Dating

Daniel was quite the con artist. I blocked his phone number. I was frustrated. Really? I thought to myself. Is this all there is? I also made certain to notify the administrators at Christian Mingle about Daniel Steiner.

Another way to know when you are dealing with a con artist is by the phone number. If they aren’t registered with a recognizable cell phone company, then you can be 99.99% certain that they are somewhere overseas. They will always be with a VoIP (voice internet Provider). Also, do a bing or google search on their name. Chances are extremely high that you will not find them anywhere.  Now that I am out of this online dating scene, I am pretty good at telling everyone the don’ts. Wish I would have listened to myself after Daniel.

But, no, I plugged onwards with Christian Mingle. I was determined to find that man. Or was I just angry over what my ex had told me? Or was I wondering if there was any man for me? Could it be that I believed that I was not good enough? That I did not deserve anything? After living with a man for over thirty years who let me know that I wasn’t good enough, I probably believed that.

I spent quite a few nights looking through the available men. I kept updating my information. I kept changing my introduction. I kept changing who I might be interested in. It seemed that any man that I might be interested in, was already busy chatting, with someone else. If I sent a wave, I might get a wave back but nothing else.

Then a man sent me a wave and wanted to chat. He looked interesting. I cannot remember the name. We chatted for a long time. He designed jewelry. He had a house in Raleigh and one in California. When I asked about meeting for coffee, don’tcha know he suddenly had to fly out to California to take care of business. A huge sigh from me. Sure. So I ended that one.

But he kept wanting to chat. He had all kinds of interesting things to say. I chatted back, knowing this would not go anywhere. This went on for quite some time. He kept talking about his house out in California. He kept saying he had to settle “things” in California before he could get back to Raleigh. Surprisingly, he never talked about how beautiful I was or that he was falling in love with me (typical with con artists). He also never once asked for money. I think I did google him and did find jewelry made by him but there were never any pictures attached. So finding his name was a good thing.

We did keep chatting but then I found Frank and Stephen. Or rather, they found me. To be continued in Chapter 4.

Chapter 2 – Online Dating Scams

There I was. The first person to approach me was a through and through con. For all I know, it could have been a woman on the other end as I discovered later. The thing I was told was never give out your personal email to anyone on these dating sites.

So, there I am, looking through the matches I was given. I was wondering why so many people were busy chatting with others. I could not get a chat started with anyone. What was wrong with me? Was my bio not good enough or interesting? Was my picture not good? Was I too old?

Finally a man named Daniel started chatting with me. He was a contractor who lived in Florida. Florida? Don’t ever start anything with someone who doesn’t live in the same state. My mistake. I was intrigued. He was a very handsome man.

We started talking on the phone. A wonderful, deep voice with an accent. East European. Why was I being sucked in? I should have stopped. I should have said, thanks but no thanks. But I was sucked in by his promise of love and romance. Too much. Too fast. This went on for approximately one week. Just as I thought we would be meeting somewhere for coffee, he had to suddenly fly to Dubai on business. Warning lights! Flashing! Loud beeps! My brain heard them but not my heart.

We kept talking for another week or two. He was very romantic. He would call every morning, promising all kinds of wonderful, tempting things. I was being sucked in deeper and deeper. I knew better but after so many years of not being wanted or complimented, this was wonderful.

This is the typical format for these con artists. They first talk about love and promises and what they want to do once we finally meet. You are romanced right off your feet. Then comes the con.

One afternoon, I get a phone call from Daniel who is frantic. He had been driving back to the hotel late at night and a child ran out onto the street and he hit the child. The child was taken to the hospital and Daniel was taken to jail. Daniel needed bail money and didn’t know what to do as they had taken his wallet and passport.

I should have said good luck to you and hung up. But no. I was stupid and thought I was in love with Daniel. Many phone calls happened and Daniel finally asked for the bail money. I can’t remember how much he said he needed but I told him I didn’t have the money. Many more phone calls happened until I just said, I don’t have it and I wouldn’t send it. Suddenly, all phone calls stopped. Thank goodness because if I had been pushed one more time, I just might have sent that money. That is how desperate I was for love. Stupid me.

This is the typical scenario of all con artists. Let me tell you, older women who are divorced or widowed are quickly targeted. They know that older women who are on online dating sites, are a little desperate for love. For some reason, whatever smarts we have, go out the window when we are given the picture of a handsome man and then sweet talked. I was smart with the first bum and became suddenly dumb with the second one.

This is not the end of my story. There are more which I will share. I am writing these blogs in the hopes of saving you from being scammed. I did post Daniel’s picture on several places with the headline, “Do you know this man?” One woman messaged me and I told her my story. She was so grateful because he had approached her and she thought his story was fishy. She ended it with him right away. I hope I am able to save more.