My mom’s story…

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My mother needs to write her life story. She is an amazing woman. She has been through so many things that seem to me to be ‘the stuff they make movies about’. She doesn’t see these things individually as extremely dramatic, but I think that is because she has grown so strong in dealing with these things that she looks back and perhaps believes they were simply a ‘part of life’. Even though she may say this to herself, she certainly made SURE I never experienced some of those ‘life experiences’ (that I could control) and for that I am forever blessed and thankful.

I remember sitting on the back porch with my husband drinking a little red wine with mom one night about two or three years ago. I asked her to share some of her life stories with my husband… and taking a deep sigh, she did so.  She shared some wonderful, sweet things from her childhood, her dreams as a young adult, and then some of her experiences that I consider ‘nightmarish, unfair, and tragic’ – of which she spoke about almost in the third person (probably to get through explaining it). I wish I would have recorded those few hours of her talking. She would smile as she shared the good things, but you could tell that the bad things were difficult to express, to remember, and to relive. Although she obviously couldn’t share everything that night, my husband immediately begged her to write her life story. Since then, we have both begged, bugged, and reminded her to do this. Trust me, she has a biography that would win an Oscar.  It will help someone. It will uplift someone. It will most probably save someone’s life.

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t as if her entire life has been some awful, horrible horror story. Not at all! In fact, I can tell you personally (as I was with her since she was 19) that even when things were bad, she always brought ‘magic’ into our lives as children. We didn’t have much money, but I honestly never knew that until I was an adult. Birthdays and holidays were the sweetest days in our lives and in our home she would simply NOT tolerate anything but happiness on those days. My childhood was bittersweet, and the sweet part… was because of my mom. She had good moments throughout her life as we all do, and her life is probably the sweetest now than it has ever been.

If you met my mother today and got to know her.. You would find a woman who is loving, kind, giving, loyal and one that tries to enjoy the small pleasures in life. You would also find a woman who is strong-willed, a woman who is absolutely fierce when it comes to something she passionately believes in, a savvy business woman, and a woman who when attacked (by people, life or circumstance).. is a FIGHTER.

IT IS FOR THESE VERY REASONS, because of the beautiful soul she is today, that she needs to write her story. People need to see HOW to see the good things while going through horrible things. People need to see HOW bad things can often turn us into amazing, strong, yet also kind and loving people. People need to know that even if life is difficult at times, that you can change your circumstances, your outlook, and give your children an entirely different perspective for their own lives. People need to know that playing ‘victim’ is easy. Overcoming obstacles and living your life out loud is not – but clearly worth the effort. This is what my mom’s story will do for so many people.

So a few weeks ago, she sent me about three pages of her life story. I’m happy she started it. She has a long way to go though. Time to get back on it now, mom…

I set up a blog post for her through WordPress sometime in March… and I’m happy to say she is using it! She is not only an amazing woman… but also an AMAZING writer. Her blog posts hit various topics.. They range from posts about relationships – to funny off-beat commentaries – to the serious issues of health, life and death.

The following post is her latest (written yesterday) and is regarding her health issues and the nightmare she has gone through concerning her kidney cancer from the Camp Lejeune water contamination. Before reading it, see the PRELUDE story below the link to catch up (if you don’t yet know the history of her recent health issue).

http://wp.me/p2hrZc-3e

(link above is her article “Waiting to Exhale” on her ‘Linsey Speaks’ blog)

PRELUDE TO HER POST:

Two years ago mom was diagnosed with kidney (renal cancer) and had a radical nephrectomy. We discovered this was caused from the water contamination in Camp Lejeune while we were stationed there when I was a child.

Linsey (my mom) and me on our mother’s day cruise last month, May 2012

My father also had kidney cancer six years ago! Kidney cancer is very rare in itself (only about 2% of all cancers) and the chemicals that were in the contaminated water (PCE, TCE, and Benzine) specifically cause kidney cancer along with male breast cancer, leukemia, and birth defects. These chemicals can lay dormant for 10 to 50 years. Uggh… What a nightmare.

We knew instantly this was not a mere coincidence – yet the government continues to deny any responsibility. It is only until recently that a Bill was presented to congress to cover the Vets (AND THEIR FAMILIES) that lived in Camp Lejeune (from 1957 to 1987) for these health issues. Unfortunately this Bill continues to sit in Congress, stonewalled for how long… we still wonder.  Fortunately for my dad, he had VA Healthcare for his nephrectomy six years ago. My mother however, had and continues to have NO health insurance. The VA will not allow her to apply for health benefits because she is not a VET. They are only just now quietly beginning to award benefits to the vets themselves related to this (kidney cancer included), but they publicly deny any correlation despite the proven studies, reports and tests on that water and those chemicals found within it.

Just recently CBS did a documentary that is available on Netflix via online streaming called, “Semper Fi. Always Faithful”. PLEASE WATCH IT. You can do it right from your computer or smart phone. It is fascinating and horrific, and oh so very important.

To continue.. Over three months ago, during her routine annual exams, there were four nodules found in her lungs. We were told this was most likely renal (kidney) cancer metastases (as is the case 90% of the time when lung nodules appear within 2 years of a kidney cancer nephrectomy). We were also told it was possible it was primary lung cancer (as her mother and two brothers – my grandmother and two uncles) all passed away from this. They couldn’t diagnose it either way however, without getting a cell sample to definitively figure out exactly what kind of tumor cells they were. We were told the chances of it NOT being cancer was very, very small. In fact, the oncologist literally said, “Look, it really ‘can’t’ be anything but cancer, but we can’t treat it without knowing exactly what kind of cell it is.”. When we asked why he couldn’t just operate and remove them (or even one) it was only then he told us, “Well, because that is very invasive and with even a small chance of it being a benign tumor or granuloma, we wouldn’t do that without a diagnosis.” Ahh.. so there was at leas a ‘chance’ of something other than cancer… but honestly the chances were so slim that everyone assumed it was cancer, so we simply waited test after test to determine what KIND it was in order to figure out the next step.

My mother was so brave and positive through all of this. Our family was scared and ready to face to obvious, but I think every one of us held on to that small chance of hope that there was an escape. We tried to forget about it and live our lives daily, but the black cloud hung there… every single day.

She went through two lung needle biopsies, pulling three cell samples in all. All three tissue samples contained only necrotic (dead) cells. No… that is not a good thing (as we initially thought) because cancer tumors, especially renal cancer tumors are HIGHLY necrotic. It just made it more probable that it was cancer. Nevertheless we all held onto that glimmer of hope for that slight chance of it being non-cancerous.

Mom didn’t want to know the details until she had to. She wanted to live her life as much as possible without knowing the statistics, the trials, the chances. She didn’t even want the doctors to talk to her regarding these things. She was ready to face the facts when they were available, but until then she told them to talk to me about what was ‘probable’, what was ‘suspicious’, etc., etc. I’m glad she chose that. It helped me as much as her perhaps because I was able to keep myself busy (I was able to DO something at least). I read all the trial studies. I knew the percentages of this and the chances of that. I wrote it down and waited with my mom for the results. First this test (nothing). Then that scan (nothing). Then a second needle biopsy (nothing). Then another CT scan… Uggh. We have been waiting since March for someone to tell us WHAT this is, so we could start some kind of treatment, schedule a surgery, something.. anything.

Without a diagnosis of the type of tumor cells however, the doctors could not begin treatment (as each cancer cell type responds to each treatment entirely differently than another).

Finally… yesterday, the clinic called me regarding her latest biopsy results. Over the telephone, the Nurse Practitioner read the pathology report from the procedure she had undergone last week (using a Super-Dimensional GPS-like laser bronchoscopy machine to get the biopsy tissue sample). I was stunned.

WE FINALLY GOT VIABLE CELL TISSUE SAMPLE.

A DIAGNOSIS HAS FINALLY MADE.

Mom’s blog regarding her experience yesterday is here… This is her story to tell

http://wp.me/p2hrZc-3e

Linsey

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Taxing the Rich, Paying the Poor – Just this CPA’s opinion (probably not what you would expect)

Flag of the United States of America

Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America is based on our freedom to express ourselves and our opinions (at least for now… hehehe). The following is nothing more than MY opinion. I’m sure there are MANY that will agree, disagree, and fall somewhere in between. I love a good healthy debate (without personal attacks, please) so if you would like to add your own comments, I promise to post them wholeheartedly as long as there is not cursing, racism, or personal attacks. (Sorry.. my blog, my freedom of choice – but I promise to be completely unbiased on any comments otherwise) – Girl Scouts Honor.In my opinion, TAXING THE RICH is like penalizing the people in our country for making something of themselves – while rewarding many (not all) that do not. I believe our country was founded upon the ability to make choices and if we choose to work hard, we have the opportunity to become as successful as we want. In our country, there are no limits (or there isn’t supposed to be) on what we can do. Instead however, we are moving more and more toward a society that rewards those that do not work hard, that do not have the motivations of our forefathers, and often (not always) take advantage of the already excessive social programs we now have in place. First, let’s discuss taxes, then just a quick point on the other social programs I am mentioning here.

Taxing the RICH more and the POOR less is a very popular topic right now (and actually has been since our complicated tax laws and social programs really took off after the Great Depression). For simplicity, let’s compare someone making $300k (most would consider this in the ‘RICH’ category) versus someone making 20k (some would consider this in the ‘POOR’ category) per year.  Now suppose instead of this complicated tax law that we currently have, that each paid 10% of their gross income (not net income, no more loopholes, etc.) in TAXES. This is NOT taxing the ‘RICH’ MORE, correct? Even so, the ‘RICH’ person would pay $30,000 in taxes compared to $3,000 from the ‘POOR’ person. See? The ‘RICH’ would already be (and in our current system already IS paying) MORE TAXES.

Taxes

Taxes (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

In my opinion, our system is already unfair in increasing tax rates based upon your income. WHY should someone who works hard and is successful pay 30% compared to 5% or 0%. Don’t we all live in the same society with basically the same opportunities? Every single person in this country could start their own business or any child can go to college if it were their choice. I was very poor growing up (although my mother never let me realize that because of her love and rearing of me)… and I simply got student loans and went to college and have started numerous businesses. More importantly, I was given nothing by my parents (other than love and encouragement) and certainly nothing by our government to do this. It was my choice. Others have the same choice – why should either be penalized or rewarded because of their choices in a country that is supposed to be about freedom of choice?

On the other side (to be fair), I will say that the ‘RICH’ perhaps have the money to pay CPAs (or Tax Gurus) to find loopholes for tax avoidance where the ‘POOR’ do not have that luxury. This is a valid point and unfair truth based on our current tax system that I admit wholeheartedly. We all know that Big Corporations, Banks, Politician, etc., do exactly this and often pay NO tax whatsoever.  The only fair solution to me is to completely re-vamp our tax system altogether.

I would absolutely LOVE to see a FLAT TAX based on gross income (not net income, not after various loopholes, mind you) for everyone. GASP!!!  I say this and I am a CPA myself? Yes… because I would much rather spend my time on helping my clients grow their business, plan their future, train them on accounting, and reach their goals (i.e., counseling) than  I would working our complicated tax laws to ensure they take this deductions, get that credit, use this exemption, etc.  I know my clients would love it as well. Who likes dealing with taxes anyway, especially with our 5000 pages of tax law that comprise our current system!

The other point people often make is that the ‘RICH’ still only pay 2% of all taxes in our country while the ‘POOR’ pay the remaining 98%.  Okay… but that is misleading! If instead you look at it based on the individual instead of the group, almost every individual in the ‘RICH’ category already pays WAY more than any individual in the ‘POOR’ category – and this includes our gradual step-up of tax rates relative to income rising. The whole statement  is misleading because those in the ‘RICH’ group only make up a small percentage of our society – so of course OVERALL they pay less (as a group) than all the rest of our country’s population.

The problem with all of this lies in our POLITICAL system, of course. All of the special interest groups have their hands out influencing our politicians. In order for the politician to gain support and money for their campaigns to be elected (or re-elected) they have no choice but to pick certain groups, follow the crowd, and do what is in that group’s best interest, rather than the PEOPLE. It’s called bribery and it is thought of as simply normal in our society. I think our forefathers would shoot us all if they saw what we’ve done to our country in this area.

On a personal note – I am not a staunch follower of any particular political party for those very reasons. There are valid issues and points that I believe strongly in on both sides.  Ultimately I suppose I would be considered a Libertarian or Independent because my VERY strongest belief overall is that the government should STAY OUT of our personal lives and making laws that should be individual choices. Period. Period. Period. We are not a socialist, communist, or dictator-lead country. We are supposed to a country that enables its people to make their own choices, follow their own free will, and enjoy the land of opportunity.  I believe strongly the main purpose of government is to do the following and THIS is what our taxes should be spent upon before ANY solitary other thing:

1)      Protect OUR PEOPLE here in this country – protection for us in our streets domestically and certainly internationally, but only when it is clearly warranted. I understand humanitarian efforts are needed in other countries, but until we get our own country in order we simply need to help all those here first. It’s sad, but it is necessary. There are people starving in our own country – and yet we spend $5 million on grass boats in some other country? Really? This is a Republican view, until I stated that I disagree in going abroad. A Libertarian view is one that believes we need to take care of ourselves. Selfish? Perhaps. But we should be helping one another HERE in our country, not just ourselves as a person. If we do that, then perhaps we can use our extra resources to help others abroad. Until then, we need help here now… RIGHT NOW.

2)      Take care of our Children, our Elderly and our Disabled. This is more of a Democratic viewpoint, but it is absolutely critical and even a Libertarian would agree that each community (or State) should take care of its own people (rather than having the Federal government do this. The way to the means does NOT matter to me honestly  – but spending $3 million dollars to save the whales when our children, elderly, and disabled are homeless, starving, or worse in incomprehensible to me.

3)      Provide Healthcare to All American Citizens.  If there is one thing I strongly believe on the democratic side of viewpoints it is this. It is an absolute abomination that our Citizens (not illegal aliens – I’m not going to even touch that topic in this post) do not have healthcare. I’m not talking about affordable healthcare – I’m talking about pure healthcare for every single person in our country – regardless of their status, income, ethnicity, etc. I do not agree with private insurance at all. The wealthiest can afford the best care while the poorest receive nothing. I know… this is the opposite of my view on the tax system – but my reasons here are moral and ethical. Having good health is NOT a choice and an opportunity that everyone in our country currently has (which is different than becoming successful in our country and being penalized or rewarded for it by the tax rate you pay). This issue hits directly to my heart in these days as my mother is currently not cared for by any health program. She worked all her life, but was laid off several years ago. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and needed surgery – but had not insurance or governmental assistance. The ONLY thing she had from her entire life of working was a small (very, very small) IRA left to live on, and her home that she had worked to finally pay off. In order to receive Medicaid, the government will insist on putting liens on that home. In order to have payment arrangements with the hospital (which we felt fortunate to have found one that would even do this), every bit of that small IRA will need to be exhausted. The question is… Where will she live and how will she eat once they take this from her?  The infuriating part (other than this being caused by the Camp Lejeune Marine Base Water Contamination – which I have posted on before) is that had she actually done NOTHING responsible such as saving to own her home and putting a little money away for her retirement… HAD SHE DONE THAT INSTEAD, she would have Carte Blanche and all the state and federal help she needs to for her healthcare. But because she worked and was responsible, she receives NOTHING. Really?!?! Darn, had she only taken advantage of the system, spent all her money, never saved a dime, she could get on welfare, Medicaid, and have her local state grant programs. Hmmm… what are we teaching our citizens here, folks?

4)      Education for our Children – If our tax dollars are spent on anything, our children’s education needs to be included. Again this is a democratic viewpoint I suppose, but they are our future and without providing them this, our country’s entire future could be at risk. There is no excuse for a country like ours to not educate our children beyond the low state standards that our set. This goes hand in hand with paying our teachers a fair salary (as well as holding them accountable for their performance) and teaching our children about the opportunities for higher education, college loans, and the opportunities available to them – regardless of where they come from and to teach them that saying the ‘cycle of poverty, bad education, and crime’ is no longer true – it truly is a choice in this day and age.

In my opinion, other than the main issues mentioned above, I think just about every other social program should disappear, except under extreme circumstances that are reviewed and approved on a case by case basis.

  • Welfare is the most widely abused social program I know of.  If it didn’t exist people WOULD get jobs, even if it meant finding jobs where childcare is provided or childcare swapping groups would be formed.  Again there are extreme cases, but they should be reviewed case-by-case and approved only when absolutely necessary for a limited time while the person is being taught how to get back on track.
  • Unemployment is also abused. Although certainly needed by so many today, it is ABUSED by 80% of its recipients and the people who pay for this program are those that pay taxes (i.e., those that are working). How can someone be on unemployment for 18 months (now reduced to six months recently) and still own luxurious assets and go on vacation? Is anyone really verifying they are trying to find work? Again, this is another social program that is overly abused and should be monitored much more extensively and provided under certain circumstances and guidelines to be awarded.

Overall, I believe, the Federal government should pretty much STAY OUT of our personal lives. Why do so many groups out there insist on trying to pass laws that are personal and of moral and ethical basis? In my opinion, the government should NOT be able to tell me that guns are illegal, that marijuana is illegal (although I personally wouldn’t smoke it if you paid me to), and that religion is not allowed in schools, that abortion is legal or illegal. These are all personal choices and every time the government tells us or passes a law involving moral and ethical issues, we take one step closer to being a Socialistic society and one step away from living in the Land of the Free.

Thanks to Leslie for inspiring this topic this morning. Although her views on this are different from mine, I love that even more – because in our country, we do have freedom of speech (at least for now).

MY OWN QUICK TIPS – to determine if your blog or web reader comments are from Spammers, Spam Bots… or from actual legitimate readers and followers

Blog spammers, web spammers and spam robot web crawlers (spam bots) are much trickier than regular Email spammers.

Spambot

Spambot (Photo credit: eelke dekker)

Be careful to protect your content from these clever spammers. They disguise themselves as genuine readers and followers. They post flattering and complimentary comments on your articles and posts, hoping you will approve them and allow them to be posted on your site. Once they get on your site, they often steal your content, mislead your true readers to their own site, and even sell your content to their own customers by using link-backs to your site! 

When reviewing your  reader comments, there are a few simple things you can do to often tell immediately if you have a spammer comment or spam bot comment:

  • If you allow comments on your site, set it up so that the commenter must provide an email address in order to make a comment. This is very important and an easy way to often (but not always) see an obvious spammer comment. For example, if their email address is something like jerry@discountdrugsonline.com (fictitious email, I hope) you may have a spammer that is trying to push his own website and products.
  • Mouse-over the commenter’s Login Name (not the email). Usually hosting sites and blog providers like WordPress will provide a mouse-over pop-up picture of the commenter’s own site instantly (without you ever having to actually click and enter their site). If you see a pop-up site picture that looks like a site that sells products or services you probably have a spammer. However, be careful! Many of these spammers are very clever and have a facade mouse-over site that may even appear as a real blogger site.
  • Read the words of the comment itself. It the commenter speaks specifically about something in your article or web page, that is great and a good chance that it is coming from a legitimate reader and not a spammer. If however, the comment is VERY general and doesn’t mention anything specific about your topic, be cautious as this is the most common give-away of a spammer or spam bot.
  • Look at the grammar in the comment. If the grammar is ‘off’ and you see certain words misplaced or used incorrectly, you probably have a spammer or spam bot comment. Often spammers or spam bots will use article spinner tools. These tools will take a general comment and switch around verbs and nouns, which allows them to post the same comment on various posts without being caught by the search engines and the spam catcher applications. This doesn’t happen as often with live human spammers, but even they are beginning to use this tool to expedite their efforts. It’s pretty easy to spot these comments and it is a good indication of a spammer.
  • Look at the IP address of the commenter. If you see multiple comments using the same IP address (even if the last three digits are different) there is a good chance you are being spammed.
  • You also have the ability set up your blog or website so that ALL comments must be approved by you before they are posted. I personally chose NOT to do this and it has worked fine on my blog site – but only because of the Akismet tool. Any comments that have been automatically posted (so far) have always been by legitimate readers. Further, all spammer comments have been caught (so far) by Akismet and held in my Spammer Box – for my review, my approval, or my deletion. How you set up your own blog or web site is your choice.
  • Utilizing a spam catcher tool such as Akismet will help catch spammer and spam bot comments automatically and place them in your Spam folder for your review. Upon reviewing them, you can decide whether to approve them for posting or delete them permanently. Most site providers offer this type of tool free of charge.

Happy Blogging!

Ooops! Learn from my mistakes – Tips EVERY blogger should know about SPAMMERS

no spam!Okay, I admit I am new blogger.

Today I made a HUGE ‘newbie blogger’ mistake that I’m sure many bloggers and website owners haven fallen prey to.

My hope is by sharing what I have learned it will help others to avoid the same mistakes.

First, you should know my entire purpose in creating this blog was to provide helpful, free content for individuals and businesses relating to small business issues by using my CPA knowledge and my Sales and Marketing background as the basis for my content. The intent is to provide this information FREE, without pushing my CPA services at all. I strongly believe this is the only way to actually be heard in this day and age, especially with so much media and push advertising constantly being shoved in front of our eyes and ears. So far, I have enjoyed this immensely – BUT…

I am learning some costly mistakes along the way, including the topic of this post, which is about BLOG and WEB SPAMMERS.

Having had my WordPress blog site up for about a month, I noticed today that I had over 300 comments sitting in the SPAM folder on my blog site (and over 700 since I started blogging). When I opened the folder and read these comments, they all seemed VERY complimentary to each of my articles and I didn’t understand why there were in my Spam folder at all! So like so many new, beginning, naive bloggers… I deleted the obvious SPAM comments, and simply approved the others, thereby allowing them to be posted. Ooops… big mistake!

What I have now discovered is that by approving those comments, I have fallen prey to spamming robots (called ‘spam bots’) and even hired human blog-web spammers. To make matters worse, this can affect my Google and search ratings! This is certainly not a good way to start out blogging, but now that I know this I want to SHARE this information to anyone that follows my blog and to all new bloggers out there.

As long as we learn and help others with our own mistakes, I believe it will be returned to us (in some form) in the future.

My blog is a simple, totally free blog site with WordPress. Even with the free version, anyone can utilize many of their free plug-in widgets and applications. One of these plug-in applications that helps to block these blog and web spammers is something called Akismet (I had never heard of it before today). I am sure there are other applications provided by other blog and web sites, but this particular application is utilized by WordPress (just FYI).  Anyway, I discovered this tool today as I was reviewing all of these ‘wonderful’ comments that were placed in my Spam folder – and then realized that this ‘Akismet’ application had been the culprit that placed them there. At first I was irritated (they were good comments after all, I thought). I became curious and wondered WHY it did this and HOW it determined what was spam and what was a legitimate comment.  So I dug a little deeper and realized this application was actually protecting me exactly the way it was intended to do. It was actually my own action of un-spamming and approving those comments that allowed myself to be bamboozled by these Spammers! 

These spam bots and personal spammers are quite tricky! They post flattering and complimentary comments on your blog and web site for the sole purpose of having you approve their comments so they are posted on your site. Once you do this, THEY SELL YOUR CONTENT and often entice your readers to follow them to their site to sell them their own products. Often they even sell link-backs to YOUR OWN BLOG for small amounts of money to their customers! They do this without your permission of course, and certainly without sharing their revenues.

Again, shame on me for not researching this BEFORE approving those comments. The price paid will be mine, as it will now take me the same amount of time to go back and delete all of those comments as it did when I originally approved them. Fortunately only my time is lost….. for this mistake.

This certainly shows the vulnerability we are constantly exposed to in our technologically dependent society – and often without ever realizing it.

Below is the link of a short article that is a MUST READ regarding 5 things every blogger should know and spam bots and web spammers.

This particular article is from ‘Akismet’ but I am only suggesting it for the content it provides. My intent for this post is not to suggest or recommend Akismet or WordPress. This information will apply to any web or blog site and probably any type of web-spam blocking tool that is available through your own web or blog provider.  I hope you find it as useful and helpful as I did. Enjoy!

FIVE THINGS EVERY BLOGGER SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SPAM: How we stop comment and trackback spam.