Sunday, March 17, 2019

Random Thoughts

     We are 2/3 of the way through tax season, four weeks to go. While the six-day-a-week grind of getting up very early to get to work (with possibly a lap-swim workout before) is getting old, I'm still digging the mental challenge, and happily making lots of overtime pay. I keep going by regularly reminding myself of all the fun I'm going to have the rest of the year with the funds I've made doing taxes.
     I did take a break last weekend to visit my sons in Fort Collins. I drove there Saturday and returned Monday. I had a great time and a much-needed mental break.
     One of my biggest challenges in life has been to let go of my kids. They are quite successful adults and have their own lives. I do pretty well when I am away from them--I don't call a lot and I try hard not to be pushy or nosy. I think they would say that I do OK not being nosy. On this most recent visit, however, I feel I overstepped my "mom boundaries." No details are necessary here, but it left me feeling not quite right, and I made amends and apologized. As usual, it was a bigger deal to me than to them. Because I miss the sons so much, it's really hard when I get to be with them not to go into excess-mom-mode. 
     The other challenge is that it is a 9-10 hour drive to get to Fort Collins from Wichita. While I can do it myself, and have done it many times, it's not my favorite thing to do. That long drive home after a great visit is really a downer. Flying would take almost as much time and create additional inconveniences for the sons. I know options and solutions will develop over time. We shall see...
     Back to tax season... I committed this year not to gain the "tax season 10," weight I had put on in previous years due to stress-eating. My husband is supporting me tremendously in this effort by cooking lots of healthy food for my lunches and dinners. I've also avoided eating out at lunch, which was a big contributing factor to the weight gain. So far so good--I've stayed steady at my starting weight, and I feel so much better than in tax-seasons past. I keep reminding myself that this is not just for tax season, that this is how I want to eat for life. Occasionally my sweet-tooth gets a bit too wound up, and I've noticed that more sugar in my diet makes for more aches in my body. It's a good connection to make, because the hurting is not worth the sweet treats.
      Lastly, oh joy, Opening Day of baseball season is March 28. As John Fogerty wrote in "Centerfield," "We're born again, there's new grass on the field." I already have tickets to the Cubs-Rockies game in Denver, and I have a spot reserved in the California five-stadium baseball tour. Go, Cubs!!!!
      Thanks for reading my random thoughts,
                     Leta
     

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Selectric

     I took typing class in high school. I don't remember if it was required, but in hindsight, I'm glad I took the class because it has been a very-much-used skill my entire lifetime. I'm using it now to write this.
     I'm not sure what brand of typewriters we had back then at Huntingdon High School, but I think they were IBM Selectrics. This was back in the mid-1970s, and yes, they had been invented by then. The electric typewriter was quite the hot item. The Selectric has this awesome auto-correct ability where you press a certain key and it backs up and whites-out the mistake so you can retype it correctly. No more gunky white-out.
     I went through several decades of life without touching a typewriter, as computers developed into tools of everyday use. Then several years ago, I acquired a bookkeeping gig that required me to type one 1099 form and one 1096 form each January. Because I was only doing one of each, I didn't want to invest in costly software and bulk packages of the forms. That left me with needing an "old-fashioned" typewriter to successfully handle the multi-part 1099 form.
     The old downtown Wichita Public Library had typewriters in the business section for public use. I went there for several years to do my annual ten minutes of typing. Once the new library was completed, I learned that the typewriters were not included, and that the new library doesn't even have a business section. Where could I find a typewriter? Meanwhile, my way-into-new-technology husband is trying to come up with ways for me to not ever need a typewriter again.
     Fortunately the office I work in during tax season is attached to a bank that has an electric typewriter. I used that one this past January to type my 2018 forms. We also use it occasionally to type an envelope or mailing label. It is quick, handy and useful.
     My co-worker and I set out this year to clean up our office space of old computer equipment and assorted ancient junk that had been sitting around for years. In one corner that I had truly never paid attention to, we discovered an IBM Selectric. Literally, I had worked there for a full nine months (over three tax seasons) and never noticed this typewriter in the corner underneath an old fax machine.
     Woohoo! Our very own Selectric! We moved it near an outlet, plugged it in, turned it on, and... nothing. It wouldn't start. Dang. Could it be fixed? The quest was on.
     I googled "typewriter repair in Wichita." Needless to say, there were not a lot of options. One phone number was disconnected, the second said "closed," and at the last option, the person who answered the phone said, "No one fixes Selectrics any more, you can't get parts."
     But I'm determined. I asked Joe, the CPA I work for, if he knows anyone who fixes typewriters, because Joe seems to know everyone. I kid you not, his several-times-a-week workout buddy, George (not his real name), used to work for the premier typewriter repair company in Wichita, still fixes them and "has a garage full of Selectric parts." (This stock was later confirmed in person with George.)
     Off the Selectric went for George to resurrect. Fortunately George is a determined soul also, and he and Joe are good friends, because this was a lengthy job, mainly to de-gunk the ancient thing. This past Tuesday the Selectric returned to our office in perfect working order. By the way, I did George's tax return, and he makes enough money servicing typewriters that he gets some 1099s for it (that means he makes at least $600/year from an organization for the repair work). I'm not the only person around who finds a typewriter to be a handy tool.
     I've used the Selectric several times already. It works great. It feels like "my baby." It makes me giggle that it was able to be resurrected and restored to working order. George says it will work better the more we use it. If you are one of my letter-writing partners, you just may get a Selectric-typed letter from me next time. Albums and turntables have made a comeback, why not typewriters?!?!? 
     Merrily typing away,
         Leta
   
   

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Be Kind to Your Tax Preparer

     I'm beginning my fourth consecutive year of working as a tax preparer. While things start out slowly in mid-January, by February, things get crazy and keep getting crazier till the filing deadline (not necessarily April 15). I'm a "numbers nerd," I learn a lot, I enjoy the folks I work with, and I love the job. The work matches my skills nicely. Plus this job supports my travel habit during the other nine months of the year.
     In general, I would offer that the folks who write and pass tax legislation don't have a clue what they are actually doing. All political parties are equally clueless. When a tax preparer hears the word "simplify," we know automatically that the tax code and systems to support it will become infinitely more complicated. The whole "file on a postcard" thing is a silly fantasy.
     The CPA I work for attends a weekly tax luncheon, wherein tax accountants and attorneys discuss the latest changes. There is an extraordinary amount of detail relative to the tax bill that Trump was able to get passed that is still not defined enough to be programmed properly in the tax software. Many questions remain. If these pros don't know what's going on, there's little hope for the rest of us. Then there are the changes which are made retroactive, which adds on a whole 'nother layer of complication, because where records should have been kept, they probably were not.
     Then there is the government shutdown to contend with. Effects of that are still becoming known. We don't know if the filing deadline will be extended. Deadlines for forms being mailed have been relaxed somewhat, pushing even more work toward the already busy end-of-season.
     So be kind to your tax person when he says, "I don't know the answer to that right now." Or when she asks for more details. Or when he says that the software isn't complete enough yet to actually file the return with the IRS. Or when the refund you were expecting turns into an amount owed. You are working with folks who are in a nearly constant state of trying to hit a moving target. Please be kind. We truly are doing our best in each moment.
     Digging the numbers,
                 Leta

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Much-Bigger Perspective

     I've been watching a series on Netflix called "Nature's Weirdest Events." One was an ice tsunami that came ashore and destroyed a bunch of homes. There are several instances of bug and bird invasions. There is a frog that is metabolically built to freeze solid in the winter and come back to life with the spring thaw. It's very interesting stuff. While it would not be my first thing to study, there is at least one fire ant expert out there, and it was fascinating to learn how those tiny vicious creatures operate. There's a tiny parasitic moth that preys on the fire ants, a glimmer of hope in controlling their invasion.
     I am also very fond of the Astronomy Picture of the Day (click here). These are fabulous photos of earthlings looking skyward, or into deep space, or from space back at our magnificent planet. I love seeing our planet from space because 1) there are no border lines, 2) I know I have no concept of how big Earth is, 3) something bigger than me did an outstanding job of making this extremely unusual world that supports such a huge variety of life. If you look at photos of Mars and Earth, the difference is mind-boggling. How did this amazing, water-based, rich-with-life planet happen?!?!
     Two important life reminders come to me through these sources. The first is that our planet is a living, intelligent system that is perfectly capable of taking care of itself. While I believe we should take excellent care of our earthly home, I don't buy into all the fuss about global warming and such. The planet will simply have cycles of change, and one human lifetime is a minuscule speck of time in its long-term existence. Certainly human life and property may be damaged along the way, but Earth will do what it needs to do to sustain life, or if necessary, wipe it out and start over. That's happened in the past.
     The other life reminder is "there's nothing to worry about." The Intelligence that has created our planet and the mind-boggling variety of life on it, much still undiscovered, is way bigger and smarter than me. If It can do such a great job with our planet, then I can rest assured that I don't really have to worry about much. Live well, feel good, do good, have fun, love. I believe in the goodness of all things, and the magnificence of planet Earth is a pretty fine indicator that we are eternally loved and cared for. What a glorious playground!
     I encourage you to find some ways to reach beyond your day-to-day, limited perspective and get a bigger view of the glorious world we live on. Learn. Travel. Hang out in nature. Hug a tree. 😊😊😊
     Appreciating life,
                  Leta

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Grateful Goodbye to 2018

What an interesting year 2018 was, with many out-of-the-ordinary happenings for me and our family.

WORK I completed my third season doing tax preparation. I was really active with MELT Method teaching, including classes, workshops and private lessons.

HEALTH Surgery was a biggie for the year. Dennis had shoulder surgery in June, and successfully completed six months of physical therapy. After x-rays showing arthritis in my left hip, I arranged for and got myself psyched for hip replacement, but that never happened due to a rather bizarre set of happenings. I'm in wait-and-see mode for now, not ready to reschedule a hip surgery. My pre-surgery evaluation, however, was comforting, as all my numbers were in the normal/healthy ranges.

TRAVEL Our older son, Derek, and his partner, Caila, spent most of the year working and playing in Australia and New Zealand. What a challenge having them so far away, and a joy that they were able to experience that adventure. I enjoyed trips:

  • Chicago and Ohio (Cubs game, friends and family visits)
  • Eastern Canada, exploring Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara
  • East Coast baseball tour thru Baltimore, Philadelphia, NYC, Cooperstown, Boston
  • Timber Creek Retreat
  • Dallas for an Abraham-Hicks workshop
  • Fort Collins, in September to visit Eliot, and December, for Christmas

DOG We kept Derek's Golden Retriever, Dusty, while he was in Australia. While I was not initially excited to have our first dog ever in our home of 33 years, we became very attached to this great critter. We got him all caught up on vet care, including neutering. I went to a six-week obedience class with him, which achieved the primary goal of him learning to walk comfortably on-leash. We returned Dusty to Derek at our Christmas visit. Coming home after Christmas to no dog at home was heart-breaking.

FAMILY We were blessed with sons' visiting Wichita when Eliot and Aliza arrived for a Memorial Day weekend (friends' wedding) and Derek and Caila passed through after returning from New Zealand. Eliot is now the proud owner of the newest car in the family, a 2016 Honda Civic, his first car purchase.

MISCELLANEOUS
I received my first Social Security payments, woohoo!
I played lots more golf than in the past few years.
We had a major tree-trimming job done around our home and attempted lawn restoration.
My birthday-gift-to-me was registering for the California Baseball Tour in August 2019.
I added five MLB stadiums to my bucket list: Baltimore, Mets, Yankees, Fenway, Toronto.
I set a new personal annual lap-swim record of 136 miles.
I had a CUBS World Series ring on my hand.

All-in-all, a very good year, despite all the unusual happenings. I feel so grateful and blessed!
     Looking forward to a great 2019!
              Leta



Friday, December 28, 2018

The Mixed Bag That Is Life

     We just completed a wonderful Christmas celebration with our sons in Colorado. We stayed in the comfy, newly-settled home of older son Derek and partner Caila. Younger son Eliot joined us, along with "third son" and family friend, Ryan. Assorted other friends of the kids joined us over the course of the day. The gift exchange was great fun. Dennis and Derek made us delicious feasts to celebrate being together. We finished off the day with loads of laughter playing the "Cards Against Humanity" game.
     For 11 months this past year, Dennis and I dog-sat our son's dog, Dusty, while he was in Australia. While I was not initially thrilled about the idea, I grew VERY attached to this wonderful doggie. We agreed to return him to Derek at our Christmas visit. The drive to Fort Collins with Dusty went very well. He had the back seat to himself and slept most of the way. He settled in nicely to his new home, and was yet another joy of our super Christmas holiday together.
     Leaving on the day after Christmas is always a bummer for me. Saying goodbye to the kids and facing the seemingly-endless nine-hour drive home is a drag. This year we had the added bummer of leaving "our" doggie there. Not having the dog in the car made for a simpler ride home, and we really are happy that Derek and his dog are reunited. The big blow came, however, when we opened the door to our house and no tail-wagging, smiling dog came racing to greet us. Tears have been flowing freely, because everywhere I look, there's some evidence of a missing pup. I texted Derek, saying "I'm considering dognapping."
     The past few days have been quite the emotional roller-coaster ride. I will get over my grief regarding Dusty, I know. I keep reminding myself that even though it feels like we lost a pet, he didn't die, we will see him again, and he is with his rightful owner who is ecstatic to have him back. So I will cry as much as I feel like, and eventually I will get motivated to clean the house of the "dog hair everywhere."
     While the lows of life are not as much fun as the highs, I am grateful that I can fully feel both and the contrast between them.
     Life is good!
           Leta

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Little Things That Make Me Smile

     This fine work of snowman art was painted by yours truly, and now hangs by our fireplace. It's not destined for an art museum, but I like it. I put it as the background photo on my Chromebook, and each time I open the laptop, the snowman makes me smile. 



     This led me to thinking about other little things that make me smile. Here's a partial list:

  • 75-pound Dusty dog lying asleep in my lap 
  • Lilies
  • Snow on evergreens
  • Just the thought of Opening Day of baseball season
  • A completed sewing or crocheting project
  • The "me-ness" of my woman cave
  • Catching a palindrome of numbers on my car's odometer
  • Christmas lights
  • The morning cup of coffee
  • Folded and put-away laundry
  • Hand-written, snail-mailed cards and letters

     That's good for starters. What items are on your list? Let's spread our smiles around!
              Leta