Friday, March 2, 2018

Taxing on the brain

Pop quizzes were never my favorite in school and they are still not — in grown-up life.
I can't think of the answer when I'm surprised and then I spend the rest of the next few days trying to get the answer to surface.
I wouldn't be any good on a game show like Jeopardy. I'd come up with the answer four days later in the middle of the night.
So when I had two of these kind of exercises on the same day this week, it made for a difficult day.
First, I had an appointment to change a long-standing insurance policy so I wouldn't have to pay any more premiums and get some cash right now.
In theory, I only had to come in and sign a bunch of papers to seal the deal.
It turned out to be more like buying a house. There were LOTS of papers and most of them required reading them first.
Then, after tedious phone calls between the agent and the company, they discovered we had the wrong papers so I had to return and start over.
This set of papers had questions like when was I diagnosed with a condition that I have had for 30 years but is currently in remission. When and why? And what was the name of each of the medications I took over the years?
What are the doctors names? And the associates who looked at me? Where are their offices and what are their phone numbers?
I was expected to know my family medical history. I understand the reasons for that but do I know when my mother was diagnosed with lung and then bone cancer and when she died? What about my father? What did he die of and when? (Give me a minute and I'll go look at his headstone.)
Who treated him and for what? (I'll need more paper)
From there I went to our tax lady to finish our taxes.
I needed to fill in some blanks for trips we'd taken from whence I did a published story and repairs we'd made to the house.
Now, I'm basically a detail person and I keep receipts and notes but I failed to remember that a new T-line copper pipe from the water softener to the outside line is tax deductible.
I needed a receipt from the fellow who refinished the floor in the foyer.
When did we do that? What was the exact cost?
How many miles did we drive to church each week? Did I include driving the missionaries around to shop?
What did I spend on parking when I went somewhere to do a review?
I panic and sweat.
If I don't list something, our refund isn't what it could be.
If I guess on these questions, maybe I'll go to jail for getting the answer wrong.
I don't want to be dishonest but I don't want to give away hard-earned money either.
It's stressful enough that when it's done and we're basically intact, I just shove it all away, out of sight and mind and try to forget about it.
Yeah, yeah, that'll work.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Grandma's bag

I suppose I'm rationalizing when I say my practice of taking in treats and small drinks to the movies for my grandchildren isn't wrong.
Marc calls it smuggling.
I say it's my way of providing decent snacks and refreshment when the alternative is not only really expensive but consists of junk calories and sugar.
When I load up five grandkids for the summer clubhouse movie, I admit I have to take a really big purse to hold the popcorn, the small tin cans of drink and the chocolate bars.
I then proceed to divvy out the goods along with straws, napkins and Wet Wipes.
The kids are happy and I'm happy.
There's no waiting in line and no fussing over the choices.
I've been quite happy with my life of crime.
So today, when Marc showed me the story about Cinemark moving to ban big bags from the movie theaters, I was sorry to see it.
The company line is that it will help with security concerns (not like the grandmothers out there are packing guns in their purses).
Cinemark says it's necessary to protect their customers (and their bottom line).
I am willing to say I'm sorry and even willing to change my lowdown ways.
BUT I still won't buy the candy and treats available at the showhouse concession stand.
It's all way over-priced for one thing.
And I don't appreciate being forced into paying a high price for something I don't want to eat or have my grandchildren eat.
I suppose I could just bring a smaller bag but I hear the theaters are also going to start searching incoming luggage.
Maybe I could start wearing my grandma vest with all the little velcro pockets to the movies.
No one would suspect a thing, would they?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Survival camp

Marc and I are nearly fully recovered and it's only been three weeks since we came back from California with some version of the plague.
(We can't really call it the plague. The doctors ruled out the flu and we don't have a definitive diagnosis. I'm just calling it Travelitis to the third degree.)
We have been miserable and nothing except time and cussing seemed to help.
Marc was congested and wheezing.
I had a headache, a cough and a general sense of complete hopelessness.
Neither of us had an appetite or the will to live.
By the time we went to the urgent care clinic, we were marginally better but still pretty discouraged.
Now that I'm upright again and feeling stronger I have made a short list of resolutions so as to avoid such situations in the future.
1. Never go anywhere on a plane. There is evidence that planes are full of germs just whirling around and around.
2. Never eat in a fast food or restaurant-style establishment. You don't know how the food is prepared and if you lay your fork on the counter, the germs jump on.
3. Never use a public restroom at the circus. The customers coming and going (no pun intended here) aren't taking the proper sanitary measures and the unisex/open sink facilities are basically giant petri dishes.
4. Never talk to anybody else anywhere. Who knows where they've been?
5. Never assume anything's clean; the hotel sheets, the pillows, the couch, the bathtub, the keys on the computer where you go to get your boarding passes.
Actually, nothing nowhere is safe.
As I reviewed where we went and what we did, I tried to come up a common denominator that explained our getting sick.
Was it the fork I returned in the restaurant that still had food on it?
Was it the pocket full of trash left in the airplane seat as the workers hurried to ready it for the next batch of people?
Was it the guy snuffling in the pharmacy where I went to refill my insulin prescription?
Was it my imagination?
Were we just extraordinarily lucky?
Whatever the cause, I'm perplexed as we move ahead now. We have several other big trips lined up and I never want to feel that badly again.
I guess a face mask and a protective suit is the answer.
Or fly solo in my own plane with a personal chef.
And never mingle.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Unexpected beauty and wonder

It wasn't just the parking fee ($25!!?) that surprised us when we headed into the Dodger Stadium to see a Cirque du Soleil show.
We didn't know how there could be a Cirque du Soleil show in a stadium. We didn't know whether to dress for an outdoor performance or what.
We hadn't heard much about "Luzia" although we had been to a couple of Cirque du Soleil shows before, one about bugs and another with huge moving walls and floors and acrobats who could do just about anything.
We had a free night in Los Angeles so we sprung for the tickets. We figure what was there to lose?
So we walked in pretty much unprepared for the beauty, the beat, the spectacular costuming, the singing, the acrobatics and the clever staging.
We were blown away by the talent and the showmanship.
The galloping silver stallion gives you the first clue that this is going to be magical, followed in the show by the metal tiger and his various jungle friends.
Then you are swallowed up into a world that's frankly unbelievable...from the lady acrobats being tossed from ramp to ramp, the guy who can twist himself into a pretzel and the waterfalls that literally come out of the ceiling.
It's mesmerizing and dazzling and besides that, it's sheer fun to watch.
By the time it was over, we had become fans and we almost forgave them the outrageous parking price.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pillow talk

I never leave home without my pillow.
It goes everywhere with me.
When I travel I take a smaller version of the same pillow I sleep on at home — one I never share.
It's soft, mashable and friendly. It's warm. It stays cool.
When I lose it during the night, I wake up and end up searching around in the dark on the floor for it. If I try to sleep on any of the varieties offered me in hotels, I wake up with a neck ache and usually a head ache.
But in the last year or so, it's become harder to love.
I guess pillows don't last forever. This one had done its time for 40-50 years, maybe?
I tried to replace it with another similar one that was a little too fluffy thinking that after a while it would flatten out enough I could love it.
Didn't happen.
So I starting looking at the display at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They had pillows peddled by this guy who claimed he invented it and it was the best pillow anywhere.
It looked okay but it was kinda lumpy and filled with what felt like bits of foam.
It was also $50.
I looked at it, felt it, tried to imagine myself spending nights with it.
I went home and tried to gauge how closely it matched my beloved.
I returned to the display a couple more times and tried to talk myself into spending so much on a pillow I might not love.
I went out on the internet and read their spiel.
Hey! They offered a 60-day guarantee.
I found a coupon that gave me $10 off the price.
That pushed me over the edge.
I hustled down to the store and bought one.
"Oh, you'll love this!" the store clerk said.
"If I don't, I'll be back," I assured her, gathering up my receipt and tucking it safely into a pocket in my purse.
I tried it that night.
Wow. It was morning before I knew it.
I tried it again for my afternoon nap. Ahhhh.
In less than a week, I'd shredded the receipt and formally adopted my new pillow.
I look forward to bedtime and sinking into slumber. I go to sleep and stay asleep.
I've since talked Marc into buying one though he's always maintained that pillows are all the same and it doesn't matter what you sleep on. He doesn't say that so much now.
I've bought a travel-size one and looking forward to taking it along with me on many voyages.
(No one paid me to say any of this although I would if someone asked me!)
Here's to getting good, deep, sleep!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Stories to behold

When Marc and I started on this journey, there were fewer grandchildren and they were younger.
We could turn to Dr. Seuss and Julia Donaldson and the Berenstein Bears.
We discovered things with Olivia, with Amelia Bedelia, with Curious George and the crazy British Mr. Gum.
Now we have 35 grandchildren ages 6 months to 18 years and their interests run from art to skateboarding and cosmetics and dinosaurs to wizards and science and kids who are always getting into mischief.
We have serious readers and those who just want to be entertained.
We have a couple who keep their gift books in their backpacks and next to their beds.
Some are starting to plan all year to request the books they want. (That thrills us. In fact, there is nothing we like better than to hear that one of our grandchildren has discovered they enjoy reading so much that they want something specific.)
Some have a series that they're following. Together, we've traveled through the Harry Potter series, the Rick Riordan books, the Babysitter books and some Calpurnia Tate stories.
It's been challenging and rewarding.
One grandchild even introduced us to a series he discovered, a series we hadn't realized existed.
Where we could keep a list on a piece of paper and do our shopping in a day or two, today, the list is on a spreadsheet that Marc keeps on his iPad.
We have to start our Valentine shopping right after New Year's.
We have data that goes back decades and a ongoing accounts at the bookstore and and
We believe it's a worthwhile Valentine tradition that put books into little hands throughout the family.
Sure, we'll give them each a bit of chocolate as well as a love of reading if we can.
Both are delicious but one lasts a lifetime.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Expanding and extending...

Seemed like a good idea at the time.
Our Catan games have been played until the cards are in shreds.
I decided to get all new games for Marc for Christmas although I knew it would be expensive to replace not only the games themselves but also the EXTENSIONS.
I write that in capital letters because I have since learned through bitter experience that there's a big difference between EXPANSION and EXTENSION games.
The EXPANSIONs refer to any game that isn't the original basic starter game including Catan Seafarers, Catan Cities & Knights, Catan Traders and Barbarians, Pirates, etc., etc.
The EXTENSIONs make it possible to play the same games with 5-6 players rather than 4.
To mix them up is trouble.
See, I went off blissfully ordering one of each, I thought.
Since the EXTENSIONs are cheaper than than the basic EXPANSIONs, I had to shop around to find a good price on everything.
I ended up ordering part of what I needed from Walmart, part from Amazon and part from Barnes & Noble bookstore.
I probably spent about $400 by the time I saved myself shipping by buying extra stuff.
The packages began arriving about the week before Christmas.
One came in duplicate and didn't match the new set of games I was trying to assemble.
Another one said it was delivered and signed for by a lady in Lehi whom we have never heard of.
Two came as EXPANSIONS rather than EXTENSIONS.
So now I'm spending time chatting with nice people overseas who want to help me.
It's become quite the negotiation game.
First I have to explain the games and why I want them.
Then I have to make certain they understand the difference between EXPANSION and EXTENSION, not an easy task when you're working with people who barely speak English.
Then I get transferred to the marketplace seller because Walmart doesn't deal with these orders directly.
I'm burning up lots of phone and computer time trying to sort this out and in the meantime, I have a couple extra copies that I think I'll just give as gifts to people who don't even know they need one!
Anyone interested?