You got it. They want it. They will take it.

Okay, so you’re asking how I could be so stupid trusting a Mexican “friend” when I had been ripped off of my jewelry by a young Mexican girl who I only tried to help get some food for her baby? Good question. This was much different in that I trusted a guy who I had known for two years and considered to be a “friend”. Boy, was I wrong!

No doubt you think I am just complaining and I do agree that I need to vent a little because I’m so angry and I can’t do a thing about it because of my own stupidity; however,  I am posting this in the hopes that someone will learn from my mistakes and not be victimized the way I was.

I’ve gone into what was happening with my idiot landlord in another post, so I won’t repeat all that here. He had made my life a living hell since the day I moved in but recently it got worse. My apartment flooded every time it rained at night so I got up to an inch of water everywhere. The ceiling was leaking badly plus I had two windows that had been broken for months. Not only did he not do the repairs, but he increased my rent 2,000 a month, which is totally illegal under the terms of my lease and rent control in Mexico, demanded that I pay it early, and said nothing would be repaired until I paid the new rent. It was an intolerable situation to say the least.

Just when I was about to give up two things happened. First, a Canadian friend offered to pick up all my stuff and move it to her storage and let me stay in her trailer until October 28th when it was rented to another tenant. She said she would have me out of there by Saturday, August 31st. She would bring over some plastic bins for me to pack everything in and to go downstairs and wait for her to bring them to me. I waited and I waited, then I sent her a message asking what was going on? She replied that her boyfriend did not agree with what she was doing, so the deal was off.

Now the panic really set in. As much as I had some very dark thoughts about what to do I hated the idea that my idiot landlord was going to get all my stuff, like my desktop computer, my big screen monitor, my printer, my desk and more. I posted photos of everything for sale on Facebook with how much I had paid. Not a soul responded; however two things did happen.

First, a lady in Guadalajara who I had been chatting with on Messenger, asked me what type of things I had for sale. She ended up coming to my place and buying an iron, ironing board and some patio tables. That got us talking a lot more on Messenger and when she understood what I going through she offered to sell my things if I moved them to her place. That avoided my landlord getting everything but I still had no clue what to do with me.

Then out of the blue a guy posted on Messenger an offer to help me with a free apartment for the month. His house was in Chelem, Yucatan and he sent me photos of the apartment which was gorgeous. Right on the ocean. Originally I declined if only because it would be a major move to a place I knew nothing about plus my two years of work on my website, AjijicToday would be toast, but we ended up talking for quite a while and he convinced me to come, although he also said that he needed to know right away or he would rent the apartment. It was a very stressful time and was about to result in some hasty decisions which I lived to regret.

I called a driver I had used for two years, someone I considered more of a friend, to ask about moving my things to my friend in Guadalajara. As luck would have it he said he had been hired by someone to move furniture from Guadalajara, he had a van booked, and, most importantly, he would move my things for free. This was on a Tuesday and he had the van booked for Thursday. Now panic really set in. I had one day to pack all my stuff to move, book a flight to Merida and figure out what I was going to do with my computer.

This is where the lessons learned start.

He took me to get some boxes from Strom and to Walmart to get some plastic bins, which were on sale. I bought five, hoping that would be enough with the boxes. That Wednesday was one of the most difficult of my life and beyond exhausting to pack everything. I knew that I would only be allowed two suitcases, one of which was already oversized so I would have to pay extra for it. It was incredibly difficult to look at everything and decide whether to give it up or take it with me in my luggage.

In the meantime my dentist had asked me about my executive office chair, my monitor and my printer. He was interested in the monitor and he said his brother’s office had been broken into and everything stolen so he would probably want the printer. I was very concerned about these two things making it to Guadalajara or if my friend could get a reasonable price for them, so I had my driver take them to my dentist. I also gave him my 2,000 pesos office chair because of all the work he had done to relieve my pain.

Shortly after the trouble started and I had no idea just how bad it was going to get. My driver called and said that the van had broken down. He had two guys who would move my stuff for seven hundred pesos. What choice did I have? My life was packed in boxes and bins piled high. I had packed my food for my friend in Guadalajara. My landlord was pressing me for the rent. I had to agree.

In all the panic I didn’t have a bin to pack all the food from my refrigerator, so we rushed to Walmart again to get another one. This is only important because it’s important to note that there were now six bins in total.

The guys showed up with a pickup truck which I didn’t believe had enough room for my stuff. They also had no room for me, so I had to go with my driver in his car. Yet more money that I could not afford.

The guys left and we followed them shortly after. Again, important to the story of what happened. We found my friend’s house and the moving guys arrived shortly after and unloaded everything into her garage. Given that I would probably never see her again I wanted to spend some time with her, if only to thank her for what she was doing for me. That didn’t happen because my driver said he had another client to take back to Ajijic after he dropped me off at the airport. Here again, important to the story, and the first of many lies.

After I finally arrived to my new apartment here I went on Messenger to let my friend know that I had arrived safely. This was the first indication of the trouble that would soon unfold. She said my driver had come back to her place after dropping me off at the airport. He said that the bins were his and he had loaned them to me. Another lie. He knew that they were mine because he was there when I bought them. Then she asked me where the coffee maker that I had promised to her was? I had no idea. I texted my driver and he said it was there. Another lie.

Then she had gone through all the photos I had taken for the Facebook post and she started asking me where certain things were. Not surprisingly things of value. The ones I hoped that she got a decent price for so I would have some money after paying her a commission that she had agreed to. She had apparently texted my driver asking where certain things were, like her coffee make and he said that I had sold a lot of things before I moved. Yet another lie because I hadn’t sold a thing. She also said my very expensive desk wasn’t there either.

As it became more and more apparent that things had been stolen, either by the guys who moved my stuff, either on their own volition or on instructions from my driver, I started texting him asking what was going on? No response for days, with the last text telling him to respond or I would phone the police.

Still no response so I texted one of his drivers telling her to tell him to answer me or I would contact the police. A short time later he called threatening my life if I sent one more text message. I was now two thousand kilometers away so I wasn’t worried, but he did know where my friend lived and she was already worried now that she knew he was a thief. She begged me not to contact the police because she was obviously worried about her family.

The point in all of this is a question of trust. Not only did I believe that my driver was an honorable, honest man, certainly no thief, but after two years I considered him to be more of a friend than just my driver. He proved that he was no friend. Just a common criminal, willing to screw anyone including friends.

So, what’s the lesson learned, and at great expense to boot?

When it comes to Mexicans trust no one. I am certainly not saying that the majority of Mexicans aren’t wonderful, warm, friendly, hard-working, honest people. They are, but, based on my horrible experience, I still believe that you can’t trust anyone.  

Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20. What should I have done? First, I should have carefully taken photos of everything as I packed. I should have had a documented receipt signed by the moving guys and my driver confirming the number of bins and boxes. For the boxes I should have signed each one on the top and had my driver sign as well so I would know if the box had been opened after it arrived at my friend’s place.

After everything was delivered I should have checked that nothing had been opened, or damaged (they destroyed my large and expensive fan), and taken photos of everything to confirm that what was loaded at my place was actually delivered. It wasn’t. I soon understood why my driver was in such a hurry to leave. He didn’t want me to realize how much had been stolen.

What do I think happened? First, the van did not break down because not only was there room for everything but also room for me to go with the bins and boxes so nothing could be taken. The trip would also have been free as he had promised. Instead remember that the moving guys left before we did and arrived after we did. Why?

Either on their own, or more likely as instructed by my driver, they had stopped somewhere along the way and gone through all the bins and boxes to steal anything of value. They kept the coffee maker and my desk on the truck for my driver who hadn’t even had the decency to make me an offer for them. They put everything that they stole in one bin, a bin that later I understood had never been delivered because we were short one bin.

That a “friend” would do this to me has made me very upset and angry. Yes, I feel stupid for trusting him. Much worse is how it has upset my friend in Guadalajara. She was incredibly generous in offering to sell everything for me. At first I wondered if I was just being unbelievably stupid trusting someone that I barely knew with all my stuff? There was no guarantee that she wouldn’t just sell everything and keep the money, but this was still better than leaving everything for my idiot landlord. In fact, she has already sent me money that literally saved my life because I had no money for food. She’s a wonderful lady who has proved to be a great friend, far better than all the “friends” I thought I had, not one of which offered to help me in any way.

Just in case you think I somehow gipped my terrible landlord by not paying the rent for September, he got to keep eight hundred pesos of the damage deposit. I left the blinds I had bought for the two big windows that I had also paid to have installed. I left many things that were just too difficult to remove or pack, like the bathroom mirror, toilet seat, lighting strip, shower curtain, under counter light in the kitchen, dish drainer, upgraded kitchen faucet, huge 20 X 12 tarp that had blown off the mirador, and three plants on the terrace.

Lessons learned. Don’t trust anyone here.

James Taylor got it right, but it depends on which "friends" you have

The very popular song from way back in 1971 expressed so very well the true value of real friends, but it also had an ominous verse, for me, at least.

Ain't it good to know that you've got a friend
When people can be so cold?
They'll hurt you and desert you
Well, they'll take your soul if you let them

These days Facebook is chocked full of "false friends" who delight in pretending to be actual friends. Most of these have never met you in real life. Many of them are just there to criticize you and insult you when you say something they don't like. Some just friend you because they think that their value is somehow determined by the sheer number of friends they have. Some just want to air their opinions, good and bad, because they are very lonely. I guess I fall into that last category.

In real life there's nothing quite as wonderful as having great friends. They share the good times with you and build strong and lasting memories. I always considered that I had a lot of those, mostly because I have lived in a lot of places in my life. Like most people I had school friends, first when I lived in Toronto as a young kid, then in Churchville at a one-room schoolhouse, then in high school in Streetsville. That's when I first joined the group I played in for ten years during which I made tons of people I would call friends. During my twenty-three year marriage we made a lot of friends as a couple, many of those with our son and daughter's sports, traveling all over the place for tournaments. When my failed marriage was clearly over and my mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer In 1993 I moved to the Okanagan in BC to spend what time she had left with her, having been apart for more than twenty years. Thankfully she beat the odds and survived another fourteen years and I ended up spending those fourteen years in the Okanagan where I met an incredible group of simply fantastic friends, the best of my life.

In 2007 disaster struck, which I have detailed elsewhere, and my doctor told me that I had to leave to survive, so I moved to Boquete, Panama and stayed for just under two years. Met a lot of people, some good and some not so good, who ripped me off and I was forced back to Canada. My darling cousin, Joan Thomson, in Toronto gave me refuge for several months until I met a girl and moved to London, Ontario, where I spent the next uneventful five years, and hardly made any friends. I did meet one man, Siege Pedde, who changed my life by giving me a job and lending me the money to buy a car at a time I was living in shelters.

As I approached pension age and knew I could not possibly afford to live in Canada on my measly pensions I started researching warmer climes where the cost of living was lower and discovered Ecuador. I moved to Cotacachi in the mountains and soon made many friends, both Expats and locals, including my soon to be fiancee. Patricia. Again disaster struck when I didn't get one of my pensions and I was forced back to Canada again, this time to Belleville to live in a house in the country owned by my dear friend Heather's son. Yet another disaster when I was left freezing in the dead of winter with no heat and I moved into my first group home and spent the next two years moving around various group homes. The various guys I lived with could never be considered friends, but the President of the charity that ran the homes, Bob Cottrell, sure was. He helped me immensely over the next two years, especially when I returned to Canada for my visa.

Then it was off to here in Mexico, originally on a six-month tourist visa to just check it out. Within days I met a host of people I thought were going to become really good friends. Then I met the proverbial love of my life, Elba, and we planned to get married as soon as I got my visa and came back to stay here in Mexico. Not only did we have a wonderful group of friends together, but she also introduced me to her large family, including her two wonderful sons who were soon calling me Dad. It was the happiest time of my life.

It's over a year ago now and getting dumped came dangerously close to killing me. I saw no point in going on. I felt totally worthless. I had no future. I was filled with dark thoughts of swimming out in the lake far enough not to make it back. It's was only through the grace of two real friends at the time, Violeta and Don, that I survived. They convinced me that I wasn't worthless and that I would be missed. That was then, and this is now. How things have changed with both of them.

Last October I discovered that I only had twenty-eight dollars in the bank in the middle of the month. I had no idea how I was going to survive and I got very depressed, thinking my life was over. I reached out for help on Facebook and got an onslaught of horrible attacks, both public and private. "Suck it up", "Quit whining", "Grow up", "Stop f*cking posting", and worse in private messages. It became painfully clear that these people I had thought were friends were not. I was shocked and deeply hurt. About a month before this I had adopted my best Buddy, Rollie, my new dog. We had so much fun together and he filled a very big void in my life. After I had gotten very drunk and was chatting online with my friend Christine, she sent over a doctor, Dr. Lupita, and some of her colleagues to talk to me. She held my hand and promised to help me with food and even some website work to earn a little money. She also said she would talk to the animal rescue operation, who had been threatening to take Rollie from me, to convince them that this would be the very worst time to take him from me. It didn't matter. They showed up unannounced the next morning and took him from me. Losing my best buddy at such a distressing time nearly killed me. I never heard from the good doctor again. So much for getting the help I so desperately needed.

To make matters even worse this was also the time I started to run out of my critical diabetic medications that I had brought back from Canada in April, without which I would be at great risk of having a heart attack or stroke and would die. Someone told me that I could get my meds from a place called Seguro Popular in Chapala. With help from John Kelly, the President of the Canadian Legion here, I went to the office to apply. After pulling together tons of documents and going to the office three times the doctor informed me that they couldn't help me. Dead end, literally.

In desperation, I contacted the nurse at my doctor's office back in Belleville to see if there was any way they would renew my meds without seeing me. When I hadn't heard back from her I took a chance and called the pharmacy and learned that my doctor had been charged with some offense and his clinic closed. The pharmacist was very understanding and agreed to give me a three-month renewal until I could find another doctor. My friend, Doral, agreed to pick them up for me and ship them to me. I asked her to give me the size and weight so I could check out what courier to use, but she sent them by mail. That was last January 18th. I didn't know at the time that customs here seizes all meds not sent by bonded courier. Yet another dead end, this time terminal. 

Now that the end is near I again reached out to the friends I thought I had in the world. Although it may well have been pointless, one of my many regrets was that I have maintained this website for more than ten years now, basically a diary of my life since starting to write. In all that time not a single person has ever added a comment, good or bad. I was totally mystified and confused, especially for one post that took me days to create because I listed every friend's name who I could remember, adding links to their Facebook pages if they existed and asking them to comment. Not a soul responded. Recently I did another Facebook post appealing to my "friends" in all those places to please comment on this site. I prefaced the comment with "my time in Mexico was coming to an end", not wanting to sound overly dramatic by saying I was leaving feet first. I got only one comment from a stranger, a Facebook friend, saying that she would read more and comment. Not one friend responded. Sad.

I guess it all boils down to how naive I am. People have always said I was a likable guy and a good friend. I truly thought that these people were my friends and that they cared at least a little for me. Not so. No one cares if I live or die. Many of the people I thought I was really close to, people who I thought cared as much about me as I cared about them, totally abandoned me. My best buddy in the whole world, Wade Silver, who had been my closest friend for fourteen years in the Okanagan, never said a word. Those two friends who had saved me after I was dumped, Violeta and Don, haven't said a word. Don ended up marrying Elba but said our friendship would not change. Wrong. I left two heartfelt messages on Facebook Messenger for Violeta, begging to see her one more time, went unanswered. Even my desperate pleas to Christine, who had agreed to handle my affairs after I was gone, have gone unanswered for months now. I've had to turn to John Kelly again for help, but so far he hasn't responded either. 

Obviously part of the reason I have found myself in such a mess is the fact that I haven't made a dime with my websites. Despite more than two years of working all day, every day, building my sites I knew I had to do something, so I offered to sell a forty-nine percent interest in my umbrella site, The Mexico Today Group. I sent a detailed proposal to people I knew had money and who would make a fortune by investing in the business. Siege Pedde back in London, Ontario. Jon LeHoup, who I had worked for decades ago. Francis Dryden, who had befriended me before I loved to Mexico and had helped me to find my first apartment. Frank Roberts, who was recently here in Mexico. And many more. Not just people who I knew had the money, but people who knew other investors and might pass the proposal on. Not a single response. When I followed up with Frank a few days after sending him the proposal, asking him if he had read it, he said that he thought the fact that he hadn't answered me was my answer. Cruel. Not even so much as a thanks but no thanks after all the effort I had put into the proposal to him.

I can't comment on friends without also including my family. Again I've gone into great depth elsewhere about what happened with my family so I won't repeat myself here, save to say that to this day I don't understand what happened with my kids, Christopher and Heather. They both encouraged me to leave my terrible marriage and move out West where they saw how happy I was. They both understood after I ended my marriage and went out West to be with my dying mother for whatever time she had left. The day I left my daughter to go out West I never once thought that it would be the last time I would ever see her. I figured she would come out on vacation as she had done before. That was over twenty-four years ago and not a day has gone by that I don't miss her with all my heart. Chris and I reconnected way back in 2009 and I was to meet his three daughters but that never happened and he ended up blocking me on Facebook. One of his daughters, Mackenzie, connected with me on Messenger when she was fourteen and I was thrilled. She was very upset that her parents hadn't let her make her own decision about connecting with me. We had many great chats and she told me she was coming to Mexico for a wedding. She was going to let me know where and when and I was praying that I could somehow afford to go and meet her. That was months ago and she stopped talking to me for some reason. 

The only family member I have maintained any contact with is my dear cousin, Joan, but even that has turned sour. Admittedly in my depths of depression, I wrote emails to her explaining my situation and telling her I was about to give up and why. I included my last ditch effort, my website called, a fund-raising site to save myself and go on to leave a legacy for myself by doing good works here in Mexico. My goal, quite possibly absurd, is to raise a hundred million dollars, a dollar at a time. I asked her to visit the site and let me know what she thought of it, but she either didn't read my email or didn't go to the site or didn't think much of it. I'll never know. After she rescued me and I lived with her for several months after returning from Panama all those years ago Joan knows all too well how tough my family situation with my kids has been on me and I thought she understood that she was the only family I had left, but I guess not. Just like everyone else in the world, at least in my world, no one cares.   


Lesson learned - a question of who to trust

Yesterday as I picked up a few essentials at Super Lake, bemoaning the fact that I had thirteen dollars left until my pensions come in at the end of the month and wondering how I was going to make it, and, yes, feeling sorry for myself, when I came out of the store I noticed a young girl standing just outside the entrance. She had a crude cardboard sign with English and Spanish scrawled on it saying "please help me. I need food for my baby".

It's a sad fact of life here that Mexicans are forced to beg. Kids are often trying to sell you something. Ladies sit outside places like Super Lake with a cup in their hands hoping you will give them a few pesos. The vast majority of Mexicans live in abject poverty.

As I came out I reached into my pocket and gave her the few coins I had planned for the bus. I couldn't carry what I had on the bus so I was going to need my driver to come and get me, something I could ill afford.

As I stood outside waiting for him I watched person after person just ignores this girl, not even returning the hello she said to them. They saw her sign but just walked by her. As usual with Super Lake, there were no locals coming out because they can't afford to shop there. I wondered if local folks would ignore a woman begging for food for her baby?

After a few minutes watching this I couldn't take it anymore. I asked her to come back to the store with me to get some food for her baby. I told her I was not a rich American so I couldn't get her very much but I would try. She got bread and some small jars of baby food and I treated her to some chocolate for herself. It was only a couple hundred pesos.

She was thrilled at this very small gesture. She told me her name was Melissa and she showed me a picture of her baby, Daniel Alexander. I gave her my card and told her that if she ever faced a day when she had no food to come to my place and I would feed her something. She couldn't stop smiling and even helped me with my groceries when my driver arrived.

My point in telling this story is simply to encourage you to give when you can, especially if you have more money than you need. The locals are an admirable, warm, proud people, happy with little but when someone like Melissa needs our help please give. It will make you feel very good, as it did for me.

As that old radio program used to say, "And now for the rest of the story." Oh, and this is a good one. If all you get out of it is how stupid I am, well, you are SO right.

First, Melissa called me yesterday and asked to meet me at Super Lake so I could buy her more food for her "baby". I told her it wouldn't be much because I don't have it to give her but I would buy some for her. I said I would be there around 3:30 and we agreed to meet. She wasn't there but called me later to tell me she was now at Super Lake and expected me to come back. I said no but told her if she came to my house I would give her a little money. Big mistake!

She showed up a while later with a friend in tow, no doubt because she didn't want to be alone with a man in his apartment, regardless of the fact that I could be her grandfather. So be it. I understood. I fed both of them. Her friend and I went out on the terrace to have a smoke and Melissa asked where my broom was because she was going to do some cleaning for me for the money I gave her. Nice, I thought. Then she said they had to go because her "baby" was sick. We said our goodbyes.

Oh, read on. This gets a lot juicier. A little while later her friend came back alone. Needless to say, I wondered why. I thought she might have forgotten something. She then tells me that Mellissa had shown her my diamond ring and said she was going to sell it! Sure enough, I checked and it was gone! This was the thanks I got for helping her?

We called the police who showed up fairly quickly. They took all the information and then told me to call Uber to take us to the Chapala police station where they would meet us and then go to Melissa's house together. When her friend and I arrived at the police station it was closed. No sight of the two officers that came to my apartment. An officer outside said we couldn't do anything more tonight and we had to come back in the morning.

I figured that my thousand dollar ring would be sold by then so I convinced her friend to go to her house and confront Melissa to give back my ring or she could deal with the police tomorrow. She didn't answer the door and when her friend called her on my driver's phone so she wouldn't recognize the number she hung up on her. Now the plan is to go to her house in the morning with her friend and the police to confront her to get my ring back. No doubt she has either sold the ring by then or will simply deny she stole it. The police believe her friend who Melissa was dumb enough to show the ring to and tell her she was going to sell it.

We gave her the chance tonight to just give my ring back and be done with it. No police. No charges. No possible jail time, but she refused.

The bad part of my story is how stupid I was to trust this girl. It turns out she has five children, all of whom have been taken away from her. For me, as dumb as I know I was to trust her and try to help her, the good part is that I know her friend could have simply gone home and forgotten about it. Instead, she came back to my place to tell me what happened and then she spent hours with me dealing with the police, going to Chapala, confronting Melissa, and now she's doing it all again tomorrow.

I have hesitated to name her until this is hopefully over and maybe I get my ring back, but she works at Super Lake and I hope to be able to disclose this amazingly honest girl's name so you can tell her she did the right thing when you see her.

I pray that tomorrow will bring a better ending to this story. Even if she hasn't already sold my ring and gives it back I don't know how things work here in Mexico. Will she still be charged with theft now that the police are involved? Do I have the right to stop her being charged if I get the ring back? Do I even want to? She's clearly a thief and I don't want her doing this to anyone else. I am trying to warn anyone who sees her begging at Super Lake to avoid her like the plague.

Live and learn.

Just when you think it can't get any worse....

After the police station was closed last night my driver, Salvador, suggested we go to the police station at 8:30 when it opened today. I handed my phone to her friend to make arrangements to pick her up this morning. When she hung up I asked what time he was picking her up and she said 8:00 o'clock. I asked if she had given him her address and she said yes.

This morning I'm anxiously waiting for them to show up at my place. It gets later and later and she has to be at work at Super Lake at 10:00 so I begin to panic. I text Salvador asking where they are? He calls and tells me he is in Chapala, knows nothing about picking her up and doesn't know where she lives. By now, with all this total screw-up, Melissa has had plenty of time to sell my ring. The police no doubt wonder where we are and drop the case.

A very bittersweet end and a huge loss for me. A thief gets away with it. and will no doubt do it again? For me, my trust is gone. Never again will I try to help a local. Expensive lesson learned.

A final note. Just when I thought Melissa's "friend" was so wonderfully honest and was being so helpful, she told me she worked at Super Lake and was working 10:00 until 2:00. My very confused driver, Salvador, and I went to Super Lake to see if Estafan could come with us to the police at 2:00 when she finished work. 

Yup, you guessed it. She doesn't work at Super Lake. Although I am still absurdly confused as to why she came back to tell me that Melissa had stolen my ring, I guess she was in on it from the start. Maybe she came back to see if she could steal something else. I'll never understand all this. I'm out my ring and there's no hope I'll ever get it back And the little thief gets away with it.

If you are at Super Lake and see a girl holding a sign begging for food for her "baby" rip the sign out of her hands and tell her to scram!

Beyond Frustrating!

Our trip to Canada has taught me a new lesson - some people are just too stupid to deal with!

First, my least favorite airline in the world, AeroMexico. After months of fighting with them, filing complaint after complaint, all of which were ignored, they did us in. The agent in Guadalajara took our passports, our boarding passes, which I had printed out before we left, and my tourist visa. Elba and I were talking and not paying much attention to him. He handed our passports back to us. Only when we headed for the gate did we realize he failed to give us back our boarding passes. We raced back to the luggage check-in where they searched everywhere for our boarding passes, finally finding them. Off we went to board our flight.

Our first flight was to Mexico City and then on to Toronto. When we went to board the agent would not let me on because I didn't have my tourist visa to surrender. I had to race to Immigration to get a new visa (535 pesos); but they only accept pesos. I had changed what pesos I had to Canadian dollars for our trip. Off I raced to the exchange to get pesos again, then back to immigration and finally doing my best O.J. Simpson run back to the gate, only to watch our plane pulling away.

We went to the AeroMexico.ticket office where they informed us that we had to pay another 19,000 pesos to catch a later flight. They also had only one seat left on the flight. I blew a gasket when Elba suggested she would fly back to Guadalajara and I would go on alone. Not a chance! I finally found a wonderful supervisor, Erica, who arranged for us to fly at the same price we had paid, plus she put us on standby for the 1:00 a.m. flight. We spent the next several hours praying that we would get on the plane. After everyone else was on the plane they called us and not only got us on the plane; they got us sitting together! Relief.

We were now arriving very late for the train to Belleville, which we had paid for and tickets were non-refundable. A very nice agent arranged for us to catch a later train at no extra cost. One of the good guys and not one of the stupid people.

When we finally arrived at the hotel we ended up dealing with the most offensive, ignorant, confrontational manager. It made our stay intolerable. At one point when we desperately needed our credit card in Toronto, he had processed four hundred dollars in new charges to our credit card without notice. We kept getting declined at places like McDonald's because I had four dollars of credit left thanks to him.

I had tried to reactivate my Canadian telephone but had lost my SIM card. Chatr Wireless told me to go to any 7-11 and buy a new SIM card for $10. We found a 7-11 in Toronto and asked for a SIM card for Chatr Wireless. No problem, well, except that the stupid person I dealt with gave me a SIM card for a 7-11 phone, not Chatr. Never did get my reserved Canadian number back.

We needed a courier envelope for my passport and visa to be returned to our hotel on Friday or I would not be able to fly back to Mexico. We went to the Purolator office on Yonge Street and asked for a next day delivery envelope. They didn't have any, but told us to go down the street to the Shoppers Drug Mart to buy one. I clearly told the agent there that I needed a next day Purolator envelope. I paid him and left the envelope with the lady at the consulate.

Thursday she emailed me telling me that the package would be ready at 4:30; but then asked me what she was supposed to do with the Canada Post envelope I left with her! That led to an unbelievable back and forth with her and Purolator trying to get the right shipment organized. I finally got a simple email from the consulate saying that "the envelope is gone". That led to total panic thinking I might not get my passport back in time and would not be able to fly.

Friday late morning Purolator showed up with my treasured envelope. Thank you, God!

Now we just need the taxi to show up on time. The train to run on time to Toronto. The UP shuttle to run on time to the airport. AeroMexico not to again screw up our flights back. Hopefully we'll arrive back in Guadalajara tomorrow morning to be picked up by our good friend, Jack. No more stupid people!



Reflections. Too trusting or too stupid?

As yet another year draws to a close it's time to reflect on life so far and try to improve in the future. In reacting to some of the truly bad things that have happened to me many people have said that I am just too trusting. Although that may well be true I think trust is an interesting issue. I have always believed that trust must be earned, but the other aspect of this is do you not trust new situations because of someone else's abuse of your trust? For me this usually revolves around money and to me it's simple. If you ask to borrow twenty dollars do I refuse because of the people who previously never paid me back? Is that fair to you to punish you for the actions of others? I don't think so. You earn my trust by paying me back because that means I will always lend you money if I can. Burn me once and, no, you will never get to burn me twice. I've learned that you can't be trusted.

It also depends on the circumstances and whether or not it was intentional. For example, a good friend of mine, who at the time was very drunk at the Corral, asked to borrow twenty dollars, obviously to buy even more alcohol that she didn't need. If I refused based on how drunk she was then I am passing judgement on her which is not my place. I gave her the twenty dollars hoping that she would use it for a taxi ride home, which she did. What she forgot was who gave her the money to take the cab. She never paid me back.

Another time my very best buddy asked to borrow fifty dollars because he had to go to a hospital in Vancouver to check out problems he was having with his heart. I was worried I might not ever see him again so obviously I gave him the money. Thankfully he returned to Kelowna and he was fine, but he never paid me back either. Do you hold something as small as fifty dollars against a friendship of years? No. Again, based on these kinds of experiences do you then refuse to lend any money to other people? I don't believe that's fair. Everyone deserves a chance to either earn your trust or lose it.

When I questioned my in-laws somewhat strained relationship with my mother's sister and her husband I learned that they had loaned them nine thousand dollars for some project and had never been repaid. I wondered how they could ever socialize without this subject coming up but that was their decision and they had to live with it. They're all gone now so hopefully they aren't arguing about it in heaven.

Sometimes it doesn't directly involve lending or borrowing money. It's more a case of morality. When we were ready to sell our first house we contacted a Realtor at what was then Canada Trust, a company my father had worked with for years before. We weren't thrilled with his performance on marketing or showing our home and figured we would not renew the contract with him. Just before the listing was about to expire he approached us to buy the property himself, excluding his company in the process. I asked him what would happen if his company found out the property was sold and we didn't pay them their commission and he told me not to worry about it. I did worry and refused to accept the deal. I also wrote to the manager of the company telling him what had happened. Sometime later this guy was charged with fraud and lost his license. Good thing he didn't take me down with him.

As I grew older I learned to trust people a lot less and ask more questions. I guess I should have included family in that. My brother from BC showed up at our door one day, needing a place to stay. We happened to have an extra bedroom downstairs so we let him stay with us, much to my ex-wife's chagrin. He started having questionable women stay overnight, which was hard to explain to our kids. After a couple of months living on our dime I suggested he needed to get a job if he was going to stay in Brampton. He did find a job, surprisingly at his age, but he needed transportation to get there. Again much against my ex-wife's wishes I cosigned for a loan for a motorcycle for him. Sixteen hundred dollars. No sooner had he supposedly gone to work for a couple of days then he took off back to BC, taking the motorcycle and sticking me with the loan. We had borrowed the money from our local bank, who also held our mortgage, so there was no question that we had to repay the loan. Thanks bro!

My twenty-three year marriage was never great for many reasons. More than once we talked about splitting up but I could never do it because of the kids, which was another huge mistake on my part. I should have left long ago, like maybe a year into it. Any time the subject came up, usually in an argument, my ex always agreed that it would be a fifty/fifty split. I was never overly thrilled by this because she had never lifted a finger to help in any way with all the renovations I did on all of our houses. I had single-handedly increased our original one hundred dollar investment in our first home to around a hundred thousand dollars, all by extensive renovations and smart buying and selling. After I had finally had enough and moved out I still paid for everything for the house for almost a year because my ex chose to sit on her ass not even looking for a job. When I had asked her about her employment insurance she said she still had the reporting card in her purse, SIX MONTHS after she left her job. I was done being abused.

When she finally realized I was serious and not coming home she suddenly changed her tune. No more fifty/fifty. Now because she knew I hated lawyers and would never waste money on them she played the guilt card. She needed the money to "support our daughter". After a lot of back and forth, none of it good, I got to keep my last paycheque and she got everything else. Not only did she get all the money I had earned over the years she also took all of my Rosemond prints that I had been collecting for twenty years and she took the thirty-five Charlie Brown books I had also collected. She had never even opened one and never understood the humor anyway. So much for trust, even with someone you've been married to for twenty-three years!

Okay, so now I'm finally free. I can think only of myself and my kids. My dear mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given less than six months to live. Her and my Dad had moved out west in 1970 and I hadn't seen them very much in more than twenty years. I decided that I had to spend whatever time she had left with her so I went out west in 1993. Along with my clothes and a few things I took my very expensive DJ system thinking that I might be able to setup a DJ service in Kelowna. I had made hundreds of tapes, yes, tapes, of every kind of music imaginable so it was an idea. When it turned out that I needed the money more than the equipment I talked to a guy who owned a music store, Musicplex, in Bolton, Ontario. I think he had sold me the tower speakers or the mixing board. Don't remember. He said he would sell it for me for three thousand dollars with a ten percent commission which sounded reasonable. I also missed my daughter and wanted to see her so I called her and she was excited to be going to see me. So in the middle of January, in the depth of winter, off I go travelling across the country taking my life in my hands. It was no fun.

After I dropped the system in Bolton I went to Brampton to see my daughter. I never saw her but that's another story not really related to the trust issue. The gist of the story here is that the bugger sold my system and never paid me a dime. So much for that trust issue.

There were certainly trust issues in my fourteen years spent in the Okanagan. Some small. Some large. One that comes to mind is about family again, my sister. After my Dad passed away in May of 2005 I was the only one who volunteered to care for mum who had advanced Alzheimer's and could not be left alone. Caring for her was the hardest thing I've done in my life. It was not made any easier by my brother and sister being completely useless at helping me. Neither of them ever understood what caring for someone with this disease is like.

The only break I ever got was when her caregiver would come for four hours during the week. This allowed me to go shopping for food and run any errands, but it never gave me my own life back. The only time I ever left mum alone was to go and do some paid work for a friend. A neighbor called me saying that she found mum wandering around the neighborhood without a coat on looking for me. I rushed home and found the front door wide open.

So Christmas was approaching and I knew this was going to be tough for mum without Dad. I had also been invited by my then girlfriend, Sylvie, to spend Christmas with her. My sister said they needed to celebrate Christmas a day ahead of the twenty-fifth, which I wasn't crazy about, but I went along with her knowing that I was going to get away for a few days, something I desperately needed to do. They actually showed up a day even earlier than planned and informed me we were doing our gifts now. When I asked why she said they had to get up early the next morning because they were going to Vegas for a week! So much for my planned break from caring for mum. Did I trust anything my sister said after that? Not a chance. She made things even worse when she took mum out of a care facility I had taken me nine months to get her into and put her in an assisted living place in Revelstoke. She drove them nuts there because they were not equipped to handle someone like mum. At one point she was found wandering around Revelstoke with no coat on. Luckily someone knew she was my sister's mum and took her to her store.

The next one doesn't involve trusting a person per say but more trusting that something will go as planned. When I moved to Panama I sold most of my things, like tools and furniture, but I was left with a lot of personal things, five bins full, in fact, that I didn't want to part with. I left them with a good buddy, thinking that I would have them shipped when I got settled in Panama. A couple of months later my buddy phones me to tell me that his mother's place had been broken into and all my stuff was gone, most of it not replaceable.

When I made the plan to go to Panama, partly because I had not been able to sell my house, I offered to let my former electrician stay in my place for just the pad rent. He and his wife had split so he needed a place to stay. Before I left I made a point of warning him about the roof. Although I had reinforced it wherever I could and put on a new coating to waterproof it better, it was a roof on a mobile which can't handle a heavy snow load. My Dad had shoveled the snow off their mobile's roof for thirty-five years. Sure enough my buddy calls me to tell me that this guy had paid no attention to the roof and it had caved in under a heavy snow load. It would cost at least twenty thousand dollars to replace it.  So much for trusting him.

In doing my research about Panama I had made contact with a very attractive girl who offered to help me with relocating to Boquete. After a couple of weeks talking to her online she said that her mum and dad owned a small house that might be good for me. She said she would talk to them to get me a good rental rate. She came back at three hundred dollars which I thought was good based on the photos I had seen of the place. I sent her the three hundred US dollars to hold the place for the day I arrived. Big mistake!

After a harrowing trip only because my first plan was to drive but they wouldn't let me in at the border so I had to go back home, sell my car and get a flight to Panama instead, I landed in Boquete. I met up with her and went to the house, which turned out to be a disaster. It didn't have a fridge which she knew I needed because of my insulin, so I had to spend three hundred bucks to get a fridge. Then there's no hot water, which I also told her I needed. I had to buy an instant on hot water heater and pay to have it installed, all on my nickel. Then I came home to find the house in darkness, the only one on the street. I learned that not only am I supposed to pay the electric, which was supposed to be included in the rent, but I am to pay for the previous tenant's bill! I also learn from a neighbor that the previous tenant was paying one hundred and twenty-five dollars rent, not three hundred! So much for trust.

Why was I forced to come back to Canada? Well, here's a trust lesson for you. I've gone into great detail on how I was ripped off by a girl who worked for me and for whose family I gave shelter to so that they wouldn't be homeless, so I won't go over it all again. Save to say that she ripped me off for my brand new cell phone, my brand new camera, all the things that belonged in the penthouse I had let them stay in, told the police that I was in the country illegally, that I was a drug dealer and that I had raped her, all of which came far too close to me spending the rest of my life in a Panamanian prison.

The next trust issue was in a relationship. I have always felt that the two most important factors in a good relationship are respect and trust. Without those you have nothing. I am the first to admit that I am a hopeless romantic so I am often less cautious than I should be. I also believe in love at first sight which can be even more dangerous.

While I was staying at my cousin's place in Toronto I met a girl on an internet site. We ended up talking for hours on end, even at one point for the whole day while she was at work and her boss was away. She was married but very unhappily, in fact she had left him for several months earlier but gone back which she regretted. She wanted to meet so she came to Toronto. For me it was love at first sight. No question. She was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I ended up moving to London to be with her.

Long story but it was a challenging relationship. Although I had eventually met her daughter, Emily, who I loved like my own, she didn't want me to meet her older son and daughter, which I always had trouble with. Something wasn't right. Finally she lied to me about going to visit a niece in Toronto when she had actually flown to Ottawa to spend the week-end with yet another guy she had met on the internet. Broke my heart. I swore I would never trust another woman, certainly not with my heart.

On to the whole Ecuador thing. Although I did a ton of research before making the decision to go, the biggest factor was the advice of my dear friend, Heather. We talked for hours about all the pros and cons and it basically came down to her saying I was basically "molding" in London, waiting for my kids to change their opinions and contact me, which might never happen, or just to die. She said if I didn't go I might spend the rest of my life regretting not going, which was very true. So off I went.

There were enough trust issues in Ecuador to fill a book, not one of them good. The first was meeting Anna on the internet and believing that she was going to work for me on my websites. Let's just leave it that it was a disaster. Next was my landlady on the cabin I rented. Originally I had only booked it for a week until I found an apartment, but it was nice and I wanted to stay longer. I brought in Anna to translate and hammered out an agreement for rent that included morning coffee, meals, utilities ( including DirecTV) and firewood. At one point she asked me to prepay two month's rent because "they needed the money". I wasn't cray about that so I paid a month in advance. Long story short, again, the coffee was sporadic, the meals were pathetic (they mostly ate the food I bought), no DirecTV, horrible internet and they let all the other guests use the firewood load that I bought.

Things were not working out and after the panic trip to the hospital she asked me to move out. I totaled up my prepaid rent, the two bottles of rum they had drank on me and the firewood they had let everyone else use, total two hundred dollars. She said they would pay me the day I moved out. The taxi was loaded with all my stuff on my way to Cotacachi and I asked her for my money. She said she hadn't been to the bank yet. I offered to give her a ride on our way. Now she said they were waiting for a check but assured me that she would bring my money the following Monday to Cotacachi. Despite unbelievable efforts I still have no money from her. Burned.

Then there was my "driver", a friend of Anna's, who had picked me up at the airport in Quito. He agreed to do my shopping runs to Ibarra for the big supermarket. On one of our trips I asked him to stop at the bank first and I took our three hundred dollars, not knowing what I might need to pay for in cash. I did spend some of the cash. I figured about eighty dollars but I put my food shopping on my debit card. When I got home I checked my wallet and discovered I only had twenty dollars. He had stolen two hundred dollars from my messenger bag while I went outside the van for a smoke. This from a guy I had paid handsomely for the trip from the airport and other trips around town. Nice!

Next was my lovely "facilitator", a person who helps you with your visa applications, who came recommended by a group called Visa Angels. She was no angel. After following her recommendation to travel to the other end of the country to file my application in Guayaquil and paying her handsomely for it, she said she need the three hundred and fifty dollar fee for the government, which I sent her. Then things fell apart on me with getting my meds so I had to cancel my application. I explained it to her and asked for my deposit back. She kept it inventing some lame ass story that she had made more trips for me, even though she had done nothing. I went to the police but they said I gave it to her willingly so there had been no crime. Nice!

In Cotacachi there were a number of little trust issues, but the biggest was with who ended up for a time being my fiancee. When I first met her it was love at first sight for me, no question. I asked for her phone number and she put it in my phone as Patricia Esposa, which means "wife". We had a whirlwind romance, at my expense of course, but I was already planning to return to Canada because I could not afford to stay in Ecuador. I left planning to return as soon as I could to marry her. It was tough trying to maintain the relationship at a distance, especially with the language issue, but we tried. She was struggling and so was I because I had not yet started receiving my other pension. She had found a new apartment she called our "love nest" and was busy decorating it for us. It seemed that every month she had something she needed money for, like she couldn't pay the rent or the electric bill, so I sent her whatever I could even if it meant I was eating at the Salvation Army kitchen because I had no money for food.

At one point I sent her a hundred dollars American to repay my good friend, Dutch, money that he had loaned me. She said she desperately needed it and would talk to him to pay him later, a little at a time. She never talked to him. We had also started a crowd funding campaign to get me back to marry her and a friend had graciously donated fifty dollars. It was in my savings account that I told her we couldn't touch because we would need to give the money back if we weren't successful. She took it out anyway. In the end when everything fell apart and we were no longer engaged she had taken me for six hundred and fifty dollars American, something I could not afford. Nice!







Life Lessons Learned Too Late - irreplaceable things.

Several times in my life I moved to start all over again. Back in 1993 after my marriage of twenty-three years was clearly over and my mother in BC had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and given only a five percent chance of surviving more than a few months I decided to move to BC to be with her during her remaining time. Our last matrimonial home had been sold and my parents and I had driven my van down from BC to Brampton to get rid of everything left in the house. Despite the fact that my wife had always agreed that it would be fifty/fifty if we ever split up that soon changed. She had rented an apartment for her and our daughter so she wanted pretty well everything out of the house for the apartment. I had a lifetime loathing for lawyers for good reason so I always said that we would never resort to lawyers if we split. By my accounting she got about ninety-five percent of everything we had, most of which was from my hard work over the years with zero help from her. I wasn't planning on taking any of the furniture all the way to BC anyway so she got all that. Two things that really peeved me were that she wanted all the Rosemond prints that I had carefully collected during our marriage plus she wanted the thirty-five Charlie Brown books that I had also collected, not one of which she had ever opened a page on. As annoyed as I was it wasn't worth a legal fight so I let her have them.

Flash forward to 2007 and the disaster that was my renovation in what was Westbank at the time. My doctor was very clear in telling me that I had to get out from under all the stress I was dealing with and I had decided to move to Panama. I sold off thousands of dollars worth of stuff, mostly all of my very expensive tools, but also some things like furniture, dishes, small appliances and pots and pans. I still had a lot of personal stuff left, actually five large storage bins worth and I left these with my buddy Wade to ship to me when I got settled in Panama. He had moved them to his mother's ranch and when she was away her place had been broken into and everything, including my bins, had been stolen. Among my prized possessions were two framed prints of those you get done where you dress up like the old West, one with my parents and brother and sister, and one with my wife and kids. They were both awesome and irreplaceable. The other thing was a large (about three feet by a foot) framed print of both my kids when they were young that Tracy had given me as a gift back in 2000 and it read "a father holds his children's hands for a while, but their hearts forever." Again, irreplaceable.

After I was forced to return to Canada I eventually moved to London, Ontario and started building up possessions all over again. Over the years there I went from things I had got through welfare to having my own decent furniture, a big screen TV, a nice bike along with some biking equipment, a great car (yet another Honda), appliances and so on. When I planned to move to Ecuador I donated a lot of clothes to Value Village but I also managed to sell a lot on Kijiji. Again I was left with a lot of things, like tools and my bike that I didn't sell. A friend at the time offered to sell everything for a commission so he took several bins of stuff. Over the next few months while I was in Ecuador he sold a lot, including my bike, but never paid me a cent. I only found out what he sold from people who wanted to buy whatever it was. He refused to answer my many emails and let me know what was going on. Eventually he stopped responding to people who wanted to buy stuff. Just a total crook and at a time that I was desperate for money in Ecuador.

When I was forced to return to Canada, again, I had to sell everything I had acquired during my time in Ecuador. I had a number of small appliances, like a coffee maker and toaster, a really nice large screen SONY 39" monitor, an EPSON printer I hadn't even used and a bunch of dishes and pots and pans. I sold a lot of it for decent money but got nothing for things like my Logitech wireless keyboard that I paid a hundred dollars for and my brand new leather cowboy boots that I paid three hundred dollars for and never even worn because of my foot problems. I gave Patricia at least a hundred dollars worth of food and things I had left. She also managed to score my cooler bag that I had used to carry my insulin to Ecuador.

The point of my post is to do whatever you can to protect the things that are irreplaceable. I had every opportunity to scan the two old West photos so I could have reprinted and framed them again. Both photos were very special because my parents are both gone now and I have no relationship with my brother or sister, plus obviously I am no longer married and my children have decided to have nothing to do with me so there won't be any more photos. I might also say that back in the day we didn't have smart phones or digital cameras for photos and video, so we took pictures. In my younger days I never realized how important photos of my kids would be now that I'm older or even video of my son in his hockey years before he gave it up. My ex got all the photos when we split so today I have nothing. I did scan and post a few photos that I had, but not nearly enough for the twenty-three years that we were together. I would encourage everyone to take as many photos and video as you can. Someday you will treasure the memories, believe me.

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Living with pain

Not that long ago really, in terms of a lifetime, I was in great shape and very healthy. During my years in the Okanagan I was incredibly active. I ran a hiking club, year round. In the summer months every Sunday, weather permitting, I would roller-blade usually for several hours. I had several boats and went water-skiing at every opportunity, even learning to slalom. I biked the Kettle Valley many times. My Dad and I dirt-biked all over the Okanagan and in Revelstoke. I played tennis, although not as often as I would have liked. I even para-glided, which was awesome. In the winter I downhill skied, cross-country skied and snowmobiled. I played racquetball three times a week, including Sunday mornings which usually ran three hours or more. I danced for hours usually once or twice a week at the Corral. Most of my many good friends were twenty years younger than me because people my own age couldn't keep up. I was a very fit one hundred and seventy pounds and, despite the fact that I smoked and ate my fair share of fast food, I had all kinds of stamina and energy. I slept like a baby and was rarely sick, usually a cold once a year or so.

Things changed in 2004 after my dirt-bike accident where I tore up my foot pretty bad. The doctor said I had to stay off my foot for probably up to a year because if I re-injured it I may never walk again. I heeded the advice and basically sat around eating and watching TV. Soon I had ballooned to two hundred and twenty pounds. Suddenly I had all kinds of health issues, like acid reflux, and I couldn't walk up the stairs without puffing. When I went to my doctor he was shocked at my weight gain and bluntly told me I had better lose the weight or I would probably have a heart attack. This was also when I was diagnosed as diabetic.

Over the next few months I managed to lose the weight and gradually returned to my active lifestyle. I felt so much better and my diabetes was controlled by only Metformin and nothing else. After my Dad passed away in 2005 I moved in with my mother to care for her because she had Alzheimer's. This was a twenty-four seven job so I had little chance to do anything that meant leaving her. My brother and sister were useless in giving me a break. I did manage to do a lot of work around the house and I completely rebuilt the beach area and added a new dock.

After my sister took my mother to Revelstoke I sold the house and moved to a place that I basically took over the mortgage on and worked my tail off for a year and a half gutting and rebuilding. Seven days a week I worked very long and physical days. One consequence was that by the end of the day I could barely walk because of the pain in my feet. I had plantar fasciitis big time, but I found inserts called HeelThatPain which worked really well and I still wear them today. At one point, after things fell apart with the reno, I was under such stress that my sugars were off the chart. My doctor put me on large doses of insulin which brought down my sugars. He also told me that I was a poster child for a heart attack and I needed to find a way to get out from under all the stress. This is when I moved to Panama.

In Panama I got involved in the renovation of a multi-apartment house for a guy back in Kelowna and again worked long days, seven days a week. In the sixteen months I was in Panama I took one week-end off. My meds continued to be Metformin and reasonably small doses of one kind of insulin. Then I had my gall bladder attack and my emergency surgery in a third-world hospital that nearly killed me.

After I was forced to return to Canada my first doctor was horrified at the twenty year-old type of invasive surgery I had and which would not bode well in the future. I still managed to remain fairly active in Toronto, mostly biking and some roller-blading. Then I moved to London and soon the downhill slide would start. I did continue to bike the trails around London and get in some roller-blading and ice skating before I started having issues with my feet. This started after I worked four months at Home Depot, walking the concrete floors in cheap work boots. By the end of even a four hour shift I could barely walk.

The pain in my feet continued to get worse and my doctor suspected I had peripheral neuropathy, which was soon confirmed by an EMG at the hospital. Not only did they confirm I had it in my feet, but it was also starting in my hands. This was particularly disturbing because I spend twelve hours a day on the computer. As my sugars continued to deteriorate my diabetic specialist doubled, then tripled my two types of insulin. This, combined with a total lack of exercise resulted in putting on thirty-five pounds. The acid reflux returned along with a host of new ailments. Just recently an ultrasound confirmed that I have what's called an incisional hernia as a result of the botched surgery in Panama.

So, today this is my life. I am already on the maximum daily dose of Gabapentin, the pain killer for my neuropathy. Despite this the pain is twenty-four seven. I walk with a cane because the pain makes me lose my balance. The pain in my hands is now getting worse by the day. My hernia is painful, but the surgeon can't operate until I somehow magically find a way to lose weight. My shoulders, which were diagnosed as "frozen shoulder" are painful, especially when trying to put a coat on. My knees are starting to ache like I have arthritis. I have to take a sleeping medication to stay asleep at night. I can't eat anything without it causing unbelievable flatulence and belching. Because my sugars remain high I am having trouble with my vision, especially first thing in the morning. I have to magnify my windows to be able to read on the internet. I need a nap every day mid afternoon, partly because I have sleep apnea and also because of the meds I'm on.

There are days when I don't think I can take it anymore. I just came out of fourteen weeks of counseling, which helped but offered no solutions for my situation. My therapist couldn't believe what I have been through or how much I am dealing with now. My mental health is about as good as my physical health. The horrible situation with my kids, realizing that it's been twenty years since my daughter had any contact with me. I have five grandchildren I've never met. I live in a city I loathe. I have no friends and no social life. Life is really taking a toll on my sanity right now. I am usually such a decisive person, but right now I am adrift. My quality of life is diminishing rapidly.

Life Lessons Learned Too Late - How one mistake can ruin your life.

When you are young and foolish you make mistakes in judgment that are just part of growing up. Sometimes you "get in with the wrong crowd" with peer pressure to do something you know is wrong. If you get away with whatever stupid thing you did, well, that's just exciting, right? If you get caught; however, that's a whole different story. Especially these days with so much video being shot of those dumb moments, like the riots in Vancouver. In Kelowna there was the case of the kids who stole an SUV and trashed it, recording every moment of their crime like idiots.

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Know your parents' finances before they're gone

It may well be just how it was with my generation, but I suspect that children are still uncomfortable discussing finances with their parents.  Other than the obvious signs of jobs and possessions, we assume our parents are doing okay handling their finances. Not always.

In my entire life I don't even remember overhearing a conversation about money from my parents. They both had jobs, working man types and we always had food on the table and clothes on our backs. We went on vacations, albeit camping, every year and we had a few "toys" like mini bikes and a skidoo. My parents drove late model cars and I don't ever remember not going somewhere because we couldn't afford it. We never went to Florida or did things like the theatre or had any luxuries, and there was no question that none of us would be going on to university, but we were never poverty stricken, at least not that I remember. In my own life, when we were just starting out and the factory I was working in went on strike, and I did not get any strike pay because I was not in the union yet, nor could I get unemployment insurance because I was on strike, things got pretty scary for a bit. I remember having nothing more than potatoes and onions in the house for a couple of days because what money we had went to baby formula.

My Dad always worked hard and I don't ever remember him being out of work except after the fire at the refinery when he was in hospital for several months. My Mum worked with the bank forever and still did after they moved out West. My Dad was a Real Estate Broker for a time here in Ontario, but he couldn't take being away from the family as much as the career demanded. When they moved out West he got a factory job with what later became Western Star Trucks. At the time I didn't understand how he could go from broker to factory worker, but I realized later that he got his family life back with that job. Come 3:30 he was gone, leaving the job behind and they had a camper and a boat and they went everywhere. They had a good life even though they never had any real money to speak of.

They both retired early, in their late fifties and we assumed that they took early pensions or had money stashed somewhere to live on. Both my parents drank and my Dad smoked, although he "hid" it from my Mum. Yeah, right. Dad loved his steaks. Mum loved to gamble and went to the bingo and the casino all the time. For seventeen years every winter they went south to a fifth wheel trailer in Yuma, Arizona. Dad always bragged about how much cheaper it was to live there. I learned much later that my uncle let them stay in the trailer and ended up giving it to them in his will. When they couldn't travel south anymore because of the health insurance they sold it for something around eight thousand dollars.

Back in Ontario, with help from the Veterans' Loans Program, they managed to buy an old farmhouse in Streetsville. Before that we had been living with my grandmother on Hugo Avenue in Toronto. To my knowledge my parents never owned a home before Streetsville. They had lived on the island and in an apartment in Ajax and on a farm that would become Don Mills today, but they always rented or worked for it. Streetsville was the princely sum of $10,000, but it had no indoor plumbing and was heated with a stove. It was like going back in time to the eighteen hundreds. The next years were spent renovating the place, putting in central heating and indoor plumbing and many other things, including aluminum siding the entire place, so I assumed my parents got the money from somewhere.

In 1970 life for all of us changed dramatically. My parent packed up and moved out West to Kelowna. They had tried to sell the place in Streetsville before they left, but the market wasn't good, so they had taken it off the market and rented it instead. This was a fatal mistake. Not only did the guy renting it not pay the rent, but he left the place with the heat shut-off. The water pipes froze and the place was flooded, damaging everything, especially the original wood floors. My Dad had to come down by bus to assess the damage and repair everything. I don't know what they eventually sold it for, but a lot of the money went to a lawyer trying to sue the tenant for all the damage. Before any settlement was reached the lawyer committed suicide because he had embezzled money from another client, so my Dad lost everything as well.

While they were renting a house on Marshall Street in Kelowna, they would camp every week-end at a place called Shady Rest out in what was called Westbank at the time, now West Kelowna. They had a spot reserved right on the beach and one day the manager came by to tell them that they would not be able to camp there anymore because it was being converted into a mobile home park. My parents jumped on it and were amongst the first three people to lease lots on the beach. Somehow they managed to finance a mobile home costing $12,000 and put it on the site, where they would enjoy life for the next thirty-five years. It was an incredible spot, year round.

My Dad never seemed interested in starting any kind of business, but he had called me one day in a bit of a panic, telling me that friends of his were building a theme park and they had run into some money troubles. If we could come up with Nineteen Thousand dollars we would get forty-nine percent of the business, which was to be called The Flintstones. My Dad had been working part-time for the people that owned it, building log boats and many other things. He was very talented that way. My wife at the time would have nothing of it. I offered to put our house money in trust for two years and, if the theme park failed, we would come back to Ontario, but she wouldn't budge. My Dad could not come up with his share either, so we both lost out. The park went on to make over a hundred thousand dollars per week for many years and was eventually sold to interests from Calgary for 2.7 million dollars. Yes, our ships had come in and sailed without us.

When I moved out west in 1993 it was primarily because my mother had been diagnosed with fifth stage melanoma and didn't have long to live. I wanted to spend whatever time she had left with her and Dad, not to mention my family out there. Mum and Dad seemed happy and they had their little pleasures, like "Happy Time" every day. My Dad was always puttering around with something. For a time he made little animal windmills, like Tweety and Sylvester. People loved them and he couldn't keep up, but I don't think he ever made any money.

Life changed again beyond drastically when my Dad died in my arms in the spring of 2005. That's when I got the rude awakening on their finances. As my father's executor and now my mother's care giver I had to know everything and it soon became clear they were not in good shape. First, my Dad had no insurance with a death benefit, which sure would have helped. There wasn't even any money to cover the costs of any funeral, even though his wishes were to be cremated and not buried. He also didn't want a sad funeral so I had a celebration of his life instead. Still the costs of the very basic process were twenty-five hundred dollars, money we did not have. I was fortunate to find a most compassionate funeral director who asked if my Dad was a Vet and then told me I could get the money from the Vet's association and that she would wait for the money. I have no idea what I would have done if she hadn't told me that.

Second, they had built up a large line of credit, too large, with a local bank and hadn't been making any payments except interest for many years. It looked like this is how my Dad dealt with their expenses being more than their fixed incomes for quite some time, if only because there was nothing that he had borrowed a specific amount for. It was the a very big build-up from their draw and it was allowed based solely on their thirty-five years with the bank. It is important to note here that although they owned their mobile trailer they did not own the land it sat on, in fact, they paid dearly to rent it, four hundred and twenty-five dollars a month when Dad passed away.

Dad's pension would now obviously stop, but his small Veteran's pension would thankful run for a year, so that was going to help a little. At the time of his death their home was on the market, but the decision was made that it would be too much for Mum with her Alzheimer's to lose Dad and then be forced to move, so we took it off the market. She was also getting worse and would need to go into a care facility, something that was not available at the time because there were over three hundred people on the "emergency" list already. I knew it was going to be tough to survive, but I hoped to be able to take advantage of programs such as Community Futures to see what I could do for money.

The biggest shock came with the arrival of my Dad's Visa bill. He owed a shocking fourteen thousand dollars and with an interest rate of nineteen percent. I had remembered him being very stressed about something with Visa, if only because it was the first time he had ever mentioned anything about their finances. He said that something had gone wrong with the automatic payment they were to take from their account and he hadn't noticed it on the bank statement, and now they were pressuring him to make up the back payments. He didn't say how much he owed or what the payments were, just that it was giving him grief. I can see why.

There were so many issues with this Visa account. First, how in the world did he ever manage to owe that much in the first place? And why, when they had a line of credit with the bank, and at five percent, didn't he just increase the line of credit and not up the Visa? When I delved into this with the bank, the first excuse I got was that Visa and the bank are separate operations and there is no coordination between the two. Weak excuse, at best. Second, the reason he owed so much was that he had called asking for an increase of ten thousand dollars to put a new engine in his disaster of a boat, something that the bank should never have allowed. When I questioned why they didn't at least offer to increase the line of credit, they had no answers and admitted that they should have looked after my father better. I told them I at the very least wanted the ridiculous interest charges reversed and the amount added to their line of credit. I then realized that for some unknown reason the account was only in my Dad's name, so in my mind the account was gone with him. I asked them to show me any documentation where my mother had agreed to pay the account. I also checked the law and discovered the debt did not automatically fall to my mother.

The next disaster with the bank was that, as executor of my Dad's estate now, I had to redo all the paperwork for the account. As soon as I notified the bank that my Dad had passed away they asked for his debit card and they cut it up right in front of me. No problem, I figured, because they would now give me one in my name for the account, right? My own bank, BMO, had issued me a card the minute I opened the account with them. No such luck. They then inform me that it will take a "couple of weeks" to issue me a card. When I asked how I was supposed to pay for things like groceries now, they had no answer. I had to carry cash.

Next thing they called me up to ask me to come in and bring my mother to sign new papers and I receive our debit cards. Remember that my mother's Alzheimer's was so bad she could not possibly control her money or have a debit card. She was a gambler and loved the casino, but with her memory she could easily blow all her money and not remember doing it, so a debit card was out of the question. I stressed with the manager that she was not to even mention this to my mother or sparks would fly. When we got to her office the very first thing she did was pull out my mother's debit card and ask her to sign it! I had to say that my mother was not allowed to have one, and that set her off. She blew up and stormed out of the office, hollering about not being able to have her own money and making quite a scene. I told the lady I was dealing with to go and get her because it wasn't my fault she hadn't listened to me. The manager ended up calming down my mother and explaining that I was just in charge of things like Dad was now and that the bank would do everything they could to help her. All total BS.

I explained that we were going to be losing Dad's pension now, but that I was going to try to get unemployment or find a way to make money to help out, and the bank manager said they would allow any increase I needed on the line of credit to help. I said that as soon as I could find a care facility for my mother I would be selling her place and pay down the line of credit. I mentioned that there were things I could do using my renovation experience to add value to the home and she agreed to extend whatever financing I needed. So, as bad as things were, I thought we would make it, at least until we could sell the place.

The next few months were challenging on so many levels, but we managed. Mum always blew up at me when I told her that things were different now and she could not afford to spend the kind of money she had been at the casino. This was a weekly fight. When the winter set in heating became a major issue. She insisted on having the heat set at twenty-five degrees, which was like an oven. We had a pellet stove in the living room, but the pellets were very expensive. Their place was also the only one in the park still using oil, which was also very expensive. In one three week period we spent $750 on pellets and oil. I kept the pellet stove blasting for her in the living room, but I kept turning down the thermostat for the furnace and every time she walked by it she turned it back up, swearing at me that it was her home and she wanted heat.

It started to drain our limited finances and my attempts to get work were also a disaster. I had managed to register for a course through Community Futures and get Mum into daycare, but she absolutely refused to go, so I lost the course and the funding. On top of all that the bank suddenly chose this time to inform me that they had changed their minds and would not allow any increase in the line of credit. We hit rock bottom when I had no money for either pellets or oil and we had no heat. Finally I managed to convince their oil supplier that, based on the thirty-five years we had been a customer they would deliver oil and let me pay for it as soon as the money came in. We would have frozen to death. The days my mother had to wear three layers of clothes and her coat were pure hell because she could never remember why it was so cold in there and begged me constantly to turn on the heat. It was hopeless.

The point here is that all of this could have been avoided if I had asked my father to share some information with me, just in case something happened to either one of them. I know this is difficult because no parent wants their children to interfere in what they view as their private affairs, but the reality is that one day you will be dealing with it whether you like it or not. It's a whole lot easier to ask the questions and find the information you will need when your parents are there to answer your questions than it is after they are gone.

Lessons Learned Too Late - You've got a friend

Do you remember your best friend from Grade Five? How about your coworkers at your first job? Or the people who attended your wedding (the first one)?

In days gone by people, especially family members, often lived in the same place, more often than not, small towns in the country. In places like the East Coast of Canada, the whole town might all be related, which makes dating a challenge. As time went by and the world got smaller and careers got less traditional and we moved out of the horse and buggy age and into the era of fast planes, families started living further and further apart, often only connecting at holiday times like Christmas, or family reunions or, much worse, funerals. You lost daily contact with your immediate family, your brothers and sisters and possibly your Mum and Dad, and cousins, well, they were soon distant memories.

Going back into the fifties and sixties, long before the technologies we have today, or sites like FacebookLinkedIn or, you kept track of your high school friends with the yearbook and maybe a few phone numbers. You made all sorts of promises to stay in touch but you never did. You might have carried a small address book, but it soon became out of date as everyone moved around or away from your hometown. As you changed jobs you lost contact with everyone at your previous job. As you moved, maybe miles from your hometown, maybe even across the country, you lost touch with family and friends. You made new friends wherever you went, but they too moved away or you moved again and you lost touch. If, like me, you look back on a lifetime of jobs and places I've lived, you soon realize that you came into contact with hundreds and hundreds of people over your life and you often wonder "where are they now?"

Sites like ClassMatesFacebookMySpace and so on are growing even more popular because they allow us to not only interact with our current friends, but they help to find long lost friends and family members we have long since forgotten. When I first joined ClassMates and registered under my grad year, I soon discovered many of the people I had gone to high school with. It was a real treat to learn where they had ended up, what they were doing now, and to reminisce about times we spent together. Sites like are devoted solely to tracing your family back through the generations. It isn't as popular or useful as a Facebook because it's not free and it needs people to go looking for you or your relatives. A combination of this site with Facebook would be ideal for getting in touch with old friends and colleagues.

In my own case, my parents moved me out of downtown Toronto to the middle of the country, north of Streetsville when I was only twelve. I lost touch with all of the friends I went to public school with because, first I no longer went to that school and, secondly, if I ever had anyone's phone number it was long distance to call them, so I would never have called anyway. I vowed that, as soon as I got my driver's licence, I would go back and visit them. Never happened. I went to your typical three-room schoolhouse in Churchville, Ontario and made many great friends, most of whom lived in the village of Churchville. I met my first love, Roxanne Rollings, in Churchville. I met Dave and Doug Fraser, Wayne Wilson (who I later learned married my Roxanne), and so many more guys and girls who were my life. A lot of them moved on with me when I graduated to go to Streetsville Secondary school, but, again, as important as they were in my life at the time, I lost track of all of them. Even the guys I was in the bands with, who were closer to me than my brother at the time, all drifted away. My first band, The Tempests, was with Chris Hayes, David Kirk and Don Thurston. No idea where any of them are today. I went on to be in bands with Doug (Buzz) Sherman, who went on to be in Moxy, but died tragically in a motorcycle accident some years later, Paul (Zak) Marshall, one of my best buddies ever, Nolan Yearwood, who was the Commissioner of Finance for the City of Toronto, Alan Macquillan, every bit the star. I really miss him and his stories. Victor Dimitroff, who I did find a couple of years ago on Facebook. These were all guys I played with over ten years of being in a band and they were an important chapter in my life.

My career spanned several employers over the years, most in and around Toronto and Brampton, but then I moved to the Okanagan in 1993, leaving there in 2007 to travel to Panama, then returning to Toronto in March 2009, and then to London in September 2009. It has been a journey and along the way I have met many wonderful people and I'm happy to call many of them my friends. Given all the time apart I don't know if those I consider to be good friends would still feel that way about me. Some I have hurt, unintentionally, like my previously oh so solid friend, Bianca, who came to me in my hour of need after my father passed away suddenly in 2005, and who since helped me out when I was struggling in Panama, for which I have not repaid her. I feel terrible that this has cost us our friendship and I hope one day to be able to repay her and rescue our friendship.

Facebook allows me to keep track of friends and people like those I met with what is now called the Okanagan Club. I get to make comments on their page, but hardly anyone ever comments back because they either don't know me or have long since forgotten when I was on the executive. It's kind of funny that, at the time, I put forth a proposal to widen the approach of the club to not just skiing, which it was at the time. Took a couple of years and a new exec but they finally bought into the idea.

For me, LinkedIn is gradually getting to be a sort of Facebook for business, as I widen my "network" more and more. It doesn't help a lot to rekindle old relationships at companies I have worked at and, in fact, some of them, like Shaw Fiberlink, are long gone anyway. Most of the people I worked with at the TD Bank, when I was only nineteen, are probably dead by now. I was just a kid.

My point in all of this is that, if you are young, or if you have kids that are young, get them to include their friends in their Facebook group, or at least get email addys for them. Email addresses, particularly ones like @hotmail, don't change with the provider, like Bell or Rogers, so they will probably stick. Encourage your friends or your kids to get or email addresses with their full names, so that they are reserved, for women, at least until they get married. Long ago I got my full name, garycjones, at all of these -,,, and, so I will be the only one in the world with my name. This site is also the same, so if someone remembers my name they can pretty well find me.

Do all that you can to stay in touch with your friends. They are the family you choose.