Amber: My Sister Through My Eyes

amberAmber’s life began on June 28, 1975.  As soon as she could walk and talk, her enthusiasm for, sweetness to and curiosity about other people were immediately apparent.  She never knew what a stranger was, if you turned your back on her for a moment you were sure to turn back and find her striking up a conversation with whoever happened to be passing by.  I can picture her as that little girl and I can picture her by her mothers side always wanting to help, the true personification of Mothers little helper, always wanting to be of service.

These two qualities that defined her as a child, the interest in others and the genuine desire to help them and make their lives easier, continued to define her, no matter what hardships she endured, throughout her life. 

There was another side to her greatest strengths, as is so often the case with all of us, they were also her greatest obstacles.  Amber’s selflessness and self-sacrifice caused her to perhaps give too much while not asking for enough in return.  The great stores of energy she drew on to work an increasingly demanding and exhausting job, while raising her kids, and caring for her family were eventually drained.  Her body was more frail than she realized and her will alone was not enough to sustain her.  In addition her innocence and her complete lack of guile which allowed her to see and expect the best in others left her vulnerable to hurts, a heart like hers could not make sense of, and she at times blamed herself for the failings of others.  But no matter what the cost she would not abandon that innate loving kindness and sweetness.  

It is no wonder that, as her health began to fail and she could no longer keep up with the demands of her Title Insurance job, she went back to school to work in healthcare.  After graduating first in her class she decided to pursue working with cancer patients and in that she found what she considered to be her true calling.  She choose healthcare because she cared deeply and passionately about all those who crossed her path and because she had suffered she had vast stores of empathy and compassion for others who were suffering.  She became a true friend to her patients and their families and she liked to think that she, in some small way, shared their burden and by doing so made it lighter.  When her health continued to deteriorate to the point where she could no longer do that job she mourned it for the rest of her life.

Even this loss did not take away her sweet spirit and she continued to pour her love and care into her children, her family and her pets.  She became quite active on social media and was a tireless cheerleader for others, always striving to make them feel loved and celebrated.  She was, in the last months of her life, contemplating writing a book in order to share her triumphs and tragedies, letting people know they were not alone and still trying to help as many people as she could.

Amber’s life had its hardships and was far too short, but all those that knew her felt blessed by that knowledge. Her sweetness , her kindness, her innocence, her lack of guile and her generous heart were so special they could not be ignored.  She is gone from this world but her influence remains with us and if we can, through her example, open our hearts to love freely and to treat each other with compassion and forgiveness, she will have achieved her true aim in life, she will have helped forever all those she loved.

Amber’s life ended at home surrounded by people and animals she loved, her parents, her son and her beagles.  She will be so sorely missed.

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Goodbye Pat and Goodbye 2015

Weeping Quote

I have never been so relieved to have a year come to an end!  For the most part it was a good year but the end was one of the roughest times of my life.  The whole month of December was kind of awful for a myriad of reasons but the toughest moment came the day after Christmas when our good, family friend Pat passed away.

My family moved in with Pat who was around fifty at the time, when I was a little girl.  We had just moved back from California and had no money, no prospects and no where to live.  Pat was at that moment, and for the rest of his life, our guardian angel.  He was unfailing kind and generous, sweet and playful.  He was the best of friends and the best of people.  He lived with my family for the rest of his life and died in his own bed at my parents house.

He was what some might consider an unremarkable man who lived a remarkable life, filled with tragedy and loss and ultimately redemption and love.

The thing that was so very remarkable about Pat once you got to know him  was how happy he was with so little.  In our modern view, the gifts that life gave him were so pitifully few, he was never in love (the one date he ever went on ended with getting kicked out of his house for dating) he never had children or a high powered career, he wasn’t famous, he didn’t change the world.  And yet in all the time I knew him he never shed a tear (he said he had cried all his tears when his mother died), he never complained about the life he was given, he never forgot to say thank you for even the smallest gesture of thoughtfulness.

I’m not really sure if understanding the life he lived makes his unfailing contentment more or less amazing.  He lost his mother at age seven and was sent to an orphanage with his brother.  A couple of years later he lost his father as well.  He continued in the orphanage until he was adopted by some cousins but even that  was shortlived and he time and again ended up homeless on the streets of Detroit.  He though about becoming a priest but was disillusioned by the hypocrisy he witnessed while working around the order.  He went into the army and was one day away from shipping out to Vietnam when he contracted double pneumonia and was eventually given an honorable disability discharge.  He had a mental breakdown a few years after he left the army and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent some time in an institution.  He moved to Colorado and ended up buying a house for his beloved poodle Blackie.  That was the only reason that he bought the house because he wanted his dog to have a home and a yard and so he provided them.   Some time later he started going to the church my father worked for and that was how we met him.  When we moved back from California, homeless and desperate, we found out that his dog had died and he was terribly lonely and heartsick over his dog’s passing.  The pastor of the church thought it might be a blessing for him to have some companionship and it was undoubtedly a blessing for us as well.  From that day on he was a part of our family.

Time and again life gave him obstacles and problems that he saw for what they really were, gifts.  The pneumonia that wrecked his lungs and was the foundation for a life time of lung problems wasn’t a curse it was the blessing that saved him from the horrors of war.  The death of his beloved pet was the reason our family came to stay and he finally got the love and friendship and the home that he had never had.  It didn’t make him bitter that life had been so hard because he knew the worst that could happen, he’d lived through it, and the qualities of character and personality that caused him again and again to seek a life of service and a purpose in helping others, helped him to remain happy and positive and unfailingly grateful.

There have been so many lessons I’ve learned from Pat in our life together but his last lesson and gift to me (and one that I needed more than ever as I dealt with the loss of him) was that this too shall pass.  Pat lived a life blighted by pain and suffering for the first two thirds of his time on earth but the last third, though it maybe didn’t make up for or remove those lost years, did give him something he’d always wanted, a home, a family and unconditional love.  I imagine it would be all but impossible for me to experience the amount of loss and devastation  in my life that Pat suffered but even if it did, the memory of how he dealt with that loss and the knowledge that it did eventually get better will stay with me through anything.

So goodbye Pat, I loved you and I will always miss you.

Lincoln Quote

 

Dissecting Understanding Part VIII: Perception

per·cep·tion
pərˈsepSH(ə)n/
noun
  • the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. “the normal limits to human perception
  • the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses. “the perception of pain
  • a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. “Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public

 

I would like to discuss the third bullet on this Philosophy Sunday.

(Mini-note…”Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public”??? That sounds mighty ominous!! Is that why that horrible show about that one iconic family is such a hit? Because that is Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public?? What a sad state of affairs….)

Perception is a fickle and capricious beast! As a whole, society’s perceptions are seemingly in constant flux–at least that is my perception–shifting from one point of view to the next, one extreme to the next, more quickly than the blink of an eye. As individuals, we seem to be either a stick-in-the-mud-sticking-to-my-guns type, a que-sera-sera type, or a “sheeple” who ebb and flow along the most-popular-perception-at-the-moment type. Perception is weird.

perception-quotes-4

It has been argued that, essentially, there is no reality–only everyone’s individual perception of reality. And since perceptions are a lot like opinions–everyone has one and everyone’s is different–it is hard to argue the existence of a one true reality. Also, like opinions, everyone seems to be positive that their perception is the right one.

This battle that perception causes, is, in my opinion, the biggest contributor in any argument. “You said this, this is how I perceived it, and now I am mad. ” Followed with a, “Yeah, I did say that, but it means this to me, and I cannot believe that you could perceive what I said in such a way.” Or, “This is how my people perceive the world. This is what we believe in, and we are 100% right, and you are 100% wrong. Therefore YOU change your opinion!” Followed with, “Well that doesn’t make any sense to me and my people. Obviously you guys are crazy, and unless you change, you will be destroyed.”

people

To dial it back to a more mentally manageable level, how does perception affect your day to day life? For myself, I find that other’s perceptions of me seem to vary quite a great deal. Being one who strives to be the walking epitome of “Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover,” it is a personal goal of mine to contradict those perceptions. I want to look like a veritable badass, but in reality I am sweet, almost too sensitive, and pretty friendly. I want to look cool, but really, I am hardly “on fleek.” I can be a punk, a geek, a goth, an emo, a slightly unprofessional-looking professional, a rocker, a furry, a valedictorian and the class clown–but in reality, I do not fit fully into any of these categories.

Sometimes the perceptions of different social groups surprise me! In my group of hooligans, although I am one of the oldest, I am one of the tamest. One of the least experienced, and kind of a puss when it comes to some of the more “hardcore pastimes.” (For example, the mosh pit! I have never been in one!! Or fighting–I have never been in a fight, even though several people have tried to start one with me.) However, my stories being told at the museum where I work–man! People seem astounded by my badassery!

perception16075-how-you-are-isnt-always-as-important-as-how-youre-perceived

I do kind of feel that reality is based on your own perception. And your perception–your world-view, if you will–can be changed. Therefore you can change your reality. However, you cannot force someone else to change their perceptions. What are perceptions made of? The thoughts, opinions, nature/nurture, and reactions of the individual. I cannot see the world through your eyes, because I was born with mine; and visa versa.

Although I am sure the governments of the world would like us all to be on the same page, I don’t think there would ever be an agreement on who, in fact, carries the right belief. I mean, we purposely have different perceptions in the United States–because that is what democracy is all about! Therefore…is world peace possible? Is there a way to collectively alter everyone’s perceptions? In that case, would there need to be one single answer? Would it not be more simple to just agree to disagree? I am rather against a “sheeple” mentality, so I do not think a single collective perception would be ideal, but what do I know? Only the reality that I perceive…

mehaha

 

IRS Scam – Don’t trust calls from these numbers: 415-800-4078 and 415-366-6646!

My new home?

My new home?

Scam alert!  I was chilling at home, minding my own business, enjoying my day off when I get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS.  They told me that I owe three thousand dollars from my tax return in 2011 and 2012, that I made a mistake on my taxes and the mistake was revealed during a recent audit.  They tell me that they tried to contact me by letter twice in the past six months and that I never responded.  I have moved a lot since 2011 so I’m thinking that maybe they sent the letter to an old address.  In the back of my head I’m hoping that all this is a scam so I ask “how do I pay the money?”, I figure if they give me a way to do it right there I’ll know it’s bullshit for sure.  They tell me that there is no way for me to pay the money back at this point and that it’s too late.  They tell me that I will be arrested at some point today, that I am facing up to three years in prison and that I need to find a criminal attorney to represent me.  They also inform me that all of my property including my car and bank accounts will be seized to pay what I owe.

It may seem silly that I believed them.  But I did.  I completely freaked out.  They weren’t asking for anything, they just seemed to be informing me that I was in serious trouble.  So many things went through my mind.  Like who was going to take care of Railey while I was being arrested, and would I lose my job, and how was I going to pay the IRS back and pay for an attorney and convince them that I didn’t know I had done anything wrong.  I called my husband as soon as I got off the phone with them and he, ever the voice of reason, was very sure it was a scam and was very sure he didn’t need to come home from work to watch Railey while I went to jail, (all of this seems extremely silly and pretty funny looking back but that is what I wanted him to do).  He told me to send him the phone number and he would investigate.  Once I got off the phone with him I looked up the number online and sure enough it was a scam.  There was even several warnings about it on the IRS website.

Maybe I should have known all along that there was something wrong here but it’s hard to think straight when it seems like your whole world is falling apart right before your eyes.  So be warned, all you trusting or slightly naive members of the human race, there are really awful people out there who will try to take advantage of you!  I’m still not sure what they were after but I’m sure I would never want anyone else to feel the way that I just did.  The number that they called from was 415-800-4078 and they claimed to be Nicky Johnson from the IRS.  Apparently they have made these calls from several different 415 numbers according to scamming websites.  I looked at my call history and it seems i have received calls from the number 415-366-6646 as well.  Don’t be fooled, don’t answer or return a call from these numbers and don’t give out any personal information.  Below is some information from the IRS website specifying some of the things a scammer will do that the IRS never does:

The IRS will never:
Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at http://www.tigta.gov.
If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add &quotIRS Telephone Scam&quot to the comments of your complaint.
Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to http://www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

The source of the above info and the place to go to learn more is:

http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Phone-Scams-Continue-to-be-Serious-Threat-and-Remain-on-IRS-Dirty-Dozen-List-of-Tax-Scams-for-the-2015-Filing-Season