Watch Out For This “Social Security Number Suspended” Scam

Someone just called me claiming that he was an investigator from Social Security and my account had been suspended for $10 million of financial fraud, and drug trafficking, in Texas (I live in Washington). He said he had a warrant for my arrest. At first, I thought I had an actual case of identity theft to sort out. My first thought was, Will I ever see my friends again? Would they visit me in jail? He asked for my first and last name, bank information, and birth date, which I gave him, thinking he was an actual authority figure. He did seem to start backpedaling once he heard the super low numbers of my finances and that I have a payee, so I don’t have full power over my money.

I called my dad, who’s also on disability, right after this. He said that he got a similar call a few days ago, ignored it, and they never arrested him like they claimed. That it’s a scam. I found a warning on the Federal Trade Commission that this is indeed a scam going around (Leach). Leach says not to give out your Social Security or bank information to anyone who contacts you. Also, she shares the real Social Security investigation number, but adds that people can fake it on your caller ID, so to hang up and call the actual number yourself, just in case.

Since I already made my mistakes, I followed her advice to file a complaint on the Imposter Scams section of E Consumer. I couldn’t understand the site well enough to know if I did it properly, but at least I tried. Also, I followed my dad’s advice to let my payee know what happened.

Wishing you all safety!

Works Cited

Leach, Jennifer. “This is What a Social Security Scam Sounds Like.” Federal Trade Commission, 27 Dec 2018. Accessed 11 June 2019.

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What Wicca and Witchcraft Mean to Me

Wicca is a nature-centered religion that helps support me through life. I’ll explain my interpretation of it in solidarity with a friend who has a similar belief system~we discussed how our beliefs aren’t well understood or represented. In this post, I’ll imagine Wicca as a potion brewing in a cauldron, with the following ingredients (not all Wiccans are witches, and vice-versa, but I practice both together): interconnectedness, nature, intuition, harmony, and magic.

Joyce and River Higginbotham, who teach courses about Paganism (a category that Wicca falls under) say that every part of the universe is interconnected (L 2442 Kindle ed). Even things that seem innocuous can branch out deeply. When I was 5, I got into Pokemon. A few years later, I wanted to make fan Pokemon, and I checked out a DK encyclopedia, Animal, for inspiration.. At first, I mainly wanted to use the entries for ideas for new designs and attacks. The book got me more deeply involved because some of the entries said that species were in danger because humans damaged their habitats. Pokemon lead me to developing interests in biology, animal behavior, ecology, and working on environmental solutions.

Nature is at the heart of interconnectedness. Some humans (still not all, even today) can access technology and other modern comforts, but I think it’s important to remember that our collective power manifests from the nature that came before us and continues struggling to support us and the rest of the biosphere. We evolved from primates, and every organism’s evolution can ultimately be traced back to microorganism from over three billion years ago. We rely on plants and, for the omnivorous, animals to give us energy. We need water to stay hydrated and clean. Our species isn’t the only one that matters – every life form has its own valid way of existing in the world and deserves respect.

Compassion for each other and other species can return, like connected bodies of water, to ourselves. Love is the best answer that I’ve been able to find for my existential anxiety. Dannion Brinkley says in his review of A Dog’s Purpose that “This wonderfully imagined, inspirational tale is told by a spiritual guide dog who teaches us that our life’s purpose is best accomplished when the word ‘love’ is a verb” (New York Times). I struggle with loneliness, but keep reminding myself of the pockets of connection I manage to find, such as when an elderly woman at the library enthused with me about books. Although relationships are a significant part of a fulfilling life, we also need tools within ourselves, both to keep ourselves safe when we can’t get support from other people for a while, and to protect the ones who do want to be part of our support system, but still need to look after their own needs. Wicca helps me remember to use mindfulness – focusing more on the present – such as when I light a candle and watch the flame flicker. Also, my religion can simply be fun. It’s great to bust out the environmental activism for it sometimes, but other times, I just play Bejeweled 3 for the Esbats (full moon holidays) and match as many of the round white gems as I can! Loving others from a spiritual level, being present in the moment, and having fun combine into what I think of as harmony, another ingredient in my interpretation of Wicca.

Aside from doing what I can for my spiritual and mental health, I also try to listen to my intuition. For example, when I’ve managed to get to the grocery store, lettuce has been one of my go-to vegetables because, as an artsy person, I remember hearing that a balanced diet needs different colors of food, and green is one of my favorite colors. I recently found out that romaine lettuce, my favorite type, has magnesium, which I found out from other articles about some of my symptoms is very likely something I’m deficient in. Sometimes, people criticize me for what they consider ditzy thinking, or for getting caught up in details that seem irrelevant, but my random thoughts can, over time, form a better picture than they’d expect. Don’t underestimate me, lol! 😊

To finish brewing this potion, let’s get to the magic of it! I see magic as using my spirituality to empower myself in a creative way. The most magical experience I’ve had so far was when I painted a Valentine themed puppy at a February art class that taught the design, “Love Bandit.”  I asked the energy of the puppy to help me cope with my loneliness for both human and animal connections, and with sparking my creative hobbies. The art instructor told us herself, “You can’t take a puppy with its head tilted too seriously,” and she’s right! His sweet, playful energy helps me cope while I wait for other things to come through, such as getting to adopt my first pet. Since the class, I’ve started writing some short fantasy stories, so he has helped there, too! A witch can use all kinds of things for magic: artwork, candles, plants, writings~ Some people prefer to do it mentally, or only have the option to do it that way, but it helps me to have physical structure, since I can be inclined to ruminate.

I hope this Potions class has been more enjoyable than Snape’s in Harry Potter! By the way, even though I’m a witch, I still think the best potion of all is chocolate milk!

Also, here’s a link to an adorable Umbreon riding on a broomstick, by Foxlett on Deviant Art!

Works Cited

Higginbotham, Joyce and River. Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions.

3 Muskateers Has Adorably Encouraging Chocolate Bars Out

Content note: homelessness, hunger, broken social services

It cheers me up a little bit to see that 3 Muskateers bars have lately had encouraging little messages on their wrappers, such as “You’re unstoppable!” or “You’re awesome!” The company made a few videos to go with this project. All of this is for their anti-bullying campaign, “Throw Some Shine,” (Lukovitz) to encourage teens to be kinder to each other. I’m 24, but am still excited to pick one up at times like when I’m at the bus plaza, getting to yet another appointment that will probably go nowhere because the systems are so broken, and stop to pick one of these up at the plaza’s convenience store for a small solace.

A recent time I got one was when I was at the plaza before a doctor’s appointment for a new heart problem. Since I struggle to carry enough food home to properly grocery shop, and haven’t been able to get help (one person has allegedly agreed to start taking me once a month, but since I’ve kept falling by the wayside, I’ll stay skeptical until the day, if that comes, when she picks me up in her actual car for a grocery run) I sometimes get overpriced, limited-option convenience store food to make my survival just slightly less harsh. A social worker called me at the last minute, asking me to immediately get to the library to meet with him, in between the shitty lunch I was rushing through when he called and, let me reiterate, *an appointment for a heart problem,* not much later that afternoon. Meeting him turned out to be yet another loss, since he had said someone would come help me clean for my inspection to take a bit of the stress off my body as a disabled person; he also said he’d take me grocery shopping; neither of these things ever happened.

The food left in my bag as I scrambled to the library was a bag of chips, which I was trying to eat while walking, and one of those 3 Muskateers bars. A homeless person was sitting by the Red Robin, a restaurant in between the plaza and the library. I had no cash on me, just my card, so I gave him that chocolate bar.

Not that sweets accomplish much for hungry or homeless people. When I lived in a shelter, we’d have a muffin for breakfast; when I was in assisted living after that, we’d have cereal. Neither type of breakfast soothed my hunger. My blood tests still came back with too low protein levels. A chocolate bar is even less substantial than muffins or cereal. I guess it’s a little better than nothing in this fucked up world…and 3 Muskateers is taking an extra step to show us that they hope for us to still see the good in ourselves.

Works Cited

Lukovitz, Karlene. “3 Muskateers Intros Upbeat Wrapper Notes, Videos to ‘Throw Shine.'” https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/287780/3-musketeers-intros-upbeat-wrapper-notes-videos-t.html . Accessed 26 May 2019.

A Million Acts

I’m currently listening to Brene Brown’s audio book, The Power of Vulnerability. She shares a quote by psychologist Mary Pipher: “Social change is a million individual acts of kindness. Cultural change is a million subversive acts of resistance” (00:21:40-48).

I’ve felt like a failure with my attempts to contribute to society, but this quote makes me realize that all of our small acts may link together in ways that we’ll never be aware of. I still feel hollow when I wonder if my acts in the world that I’ll build up over a lifetime will have ever made a difference. However, this quote may have gently blunted my intertwined idealism and existential depression enough to keep at least doing one more little thing day by day.

Someone once came by my job training program to claim that homeless people do nothing to help themselves. I said, “Some of them may have depression and could need treatment before they’ll feel up to handling more.” Unfortunately, my words seemed to have no effect. Now, that encounter doesn’t haunt me as much because I’m considering the possibility that I planted a seed in him. Maybe he’ll encounter other people who will encourage him to try to understand homeless people. I wasn’t the one who got through to him, but maybe someone further down the line will have an easier time. I at least got the idea on his radar.

I asked myself what small things people have done in my own life that have made a difference to me to see if I could reassure myself that this idea is true. It only took a moment to think of an example, and this person probably has no idea how big of an effect she has had.

When I tried going to college several years ago, one of my English professors had us put sticky notes in the books she assigned us to read to organize our thoughts for the assignments. I didn’t manage to graduate community college, but I kept recording my thoughts about things I read for myself. Over the years, reflecting on other peoples’ ideas like she taught us has improved my abilities to understand ideas, connect them, and communicate them.

Back then, she said that I didn’t contribute enough to group discussions. I’m truly sorry I disappointed her, but a number of factors have made me a more outspoken person today, and behind the scenes, I don’t think she realized how deeply her teaching reached me. I didn’t even realize myself yet how significantly her teaching would shape my life while I was still her student. I wish I could send her an email now with my appreciation, but it appears that she has retired, so it doesn’t look like the school website has her email address anymore.

Another student there who I dated for a while thought I was silly for taking my reading so seriously. When he said that, I felt self-conscious, but continued my work. That lead to the moment when I recently wrote down this quote that Brown passed along through her audio book, as if I was still a student, so that I wouldn’t forget it. Remembering the quote helped me understand service and justice a little better than I did the day before.

The way my professor woke up my thinking abilities has allowed me to see how unified we all are in our struggle and the ways we try to love each other through it, from the brief, temporary conversations with strangers to the ongoing dialogues with those close to us, even though we often don’t get to find out whether or not our efforts had an impact.

Works Cited

Brown, Brene. The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage (audio book). Narrated by author. Sounds True, 2012. Retrieved from Hoopla Digital Library.

*Edited 5/25/19 to improve word choice and add minor details.

*Edited 5/26/19 to improve sentence structure, word, choice, add that I wish I could thank her but can’t find her school email now, and admit emotional nuance instead of acting like it was a tied-up bow like in a previous edition of this post