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My Life was Simple in 1976 and So Were My Taxes

Last evening I spent three hours sorting through boxes, stacks and folders of paper.  My goal is to pare down the amount of paper I have to deal with in my home, which has become overwhelming.  I watched the movie “The Fugitive” with Harrison Ford while I sorted through the paper.  As each commercial started so did my shredder.  The end product was less stacks, boxes, folders of paper and three bags full of shredded paper.

One of the boxes I went through last evening were my tax records since 1976.  I kept the past ten years of income tax records and then began shredding each year prior to the last ten.  One observation I made was the further I went back the less paper I had for each year’s tax records and the tax manuals themselves were less pages. 

It is soon tax time again and which was my inspiration for last evenings project.  I want to be organized for the accountant at an earlier date than last year.  When I got my first job that required filing taxes it was my responsibility to do my taxes.  My dad told me where to get the forms and how to work my way through them to file my taxes. 

I continued to do my taxes until the year that we became part owners in the family business.  At that point in time taxes just became too difficult to do.  I had to call the accountant too many times to make sure I was doing our taxes right.  I caved in after 22 years of doing my own taxes.

In 1976 my tax filing consisted of a one page federal form, one page state form and one W-2.  This past year our taxes included 2 W-2’s, supporting documents for itemized deductions, 1099’s.  The stack of forms and supporting documents measured 3/4 inches in height for last year’s taxes. 

Each year as I look through the tax forms and manuals for our personal and business I have to laugh at the estimated time that the IRS estimates for doing the forms.  One assumption they make is that you will actually understand the forms to complete them in the estimated time.  We moved a long way away from a person’s ability to do his or her own taxes due to the complicated tax code. 

It’s a shame because it was always an area of my life that where I felt pride and a sense of accomplishment as I mailed the tax filing forms each year.

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10 Lessons Learned in 2010

1.  Sleep is necessary…I used to be able to stay up late at night and get up early running on 5 hours of sleep night after night but not any more.  I function better with a good night’s sleep.

2. Stuff is overrated…This past year I have worked on downsizing, thinking about each purchase before I make it and analyzing its importance and necessity.  I have purchased less stuff by asking myself  “What do I really want?”  Definitely less stuff!

3.  Overeating doesn’t make me feel any better..I’m up about 10 lbs in the past two years.  It’s not where I want to be but after working a long day and coming home late, I’m hungry.  I’ve overeaten instead of taking the time to eat healthier.  I definitely don’t feel better for eating the way I have in the past couple of years.  Time for change.

4.  Quiet is EssentialMy home is busy with two grown children and a grandson.  The TV is on almost from the time everyone gets up until the last one goes to bed.  The only way I can keep my sanity is to get up early before everyone else for some quiet or retreat to my bedroom for some quiet.

5. Laughing is good…My  job is crazy and can be really stressful some days but if I take time to laugh about things that I find funny I can make my day and others better. I’ve learned to laugh at myself.

6.  Learning something new makes you smarter…I am stating the obvious here but if you to learn something new you are smarter and you may just learn something new about yourself in the process.

7.  I am not a better person for watching TV…We have DirectTV with over a hundred channels.  Most evenings after work I find very little interesting to watch on tv.  Spending my time reading a new book , time spent writing or diving into a DIY project around the house makes me feel better or at least more productive.

8.  Less is definitely more…The less stuff I have the more room I have to be creative.  When my kids were little their favorite place to play was the room I had just finished cleaning and decluttering.  They would play for hours in a clean room.

9.  Hard work makes me feel better…I love the feeling of a completed project or finishing something that just required putting one foot in front of the other and sticking with it to completion.

10.  Life with a toddler is always full of surprises…My grandson lives with me and it is always a daily adventure with him.   There are times when all you can do is laugh like when the toilet was plugged 10 minutes before Thanksgiving dinner and you find what plugged it was his pacifier he flushed.

 
 

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The Cobbler’s Children Have No Shoes

I’m married to a mechanic.  A very smart mechanic.  He is great at diagnosing problems that others spend hours trying to figure out unsuccessfully.

This is what the dash on my car looks like this evening.

I apologize for the lack of clarity in my photo.

Just about every light is on tonight.  Three of the lights are all tied to one problem, a broken wire on a wheel bearing.  It is intermittent but when it decides to act up all three lights come on.  The car is still safe he assures me but driving with all the lights on is a bit disconcerting.

One light is due to a crack in a plastic piece on the top of the motor that creates a very tiny vacuum leak hence the little light is turned on.  It doesn’t cause any problems for the operation of the car, it just turns the light on.

I have to confess that I am responsible for the low fuel light.  I am breaking my rule about never running the gas tank less than 1/4.  The bell is dinging telling me its time to stop at the gas station which is where I took this picture.

My car is a 1999 Olds Intrigue with 216,000 mile on it.  It’s been a good and faithful car.  Never once leaving me sitting at the side of the road.  I could drive better but as long as it fits my need which is transportation from point A to point B I will continue to drive my Olds at least until my two daughters finish  college.

Over the years my car has been an organ donor of sorts.  We have had customers with car issues that needed parts we didn’t have in stock.  To get our customers on the road quickly and cheaply my husband has robbed parts from my car.  He eventually replaces them as the parts we ordered come in.  At least he’s never taken the radio from my car.  Now, for that , I would be up for a battle.

It’s universal.  People, whatever their profession, rarely want to come home to work on their own things that need fixing.  Carpenters have homes that are 99.95% finished.  It’s tough to tackle that .05% at the end of a long day.  My brother’s, the carpenter, home is just that way.  I was a prep cook for an Italian restaurant.  I can cook just about anything but the last thing I want to do is cook after cooking all day.  Give me a few days off from work of doing nothing and I’m really to cook at home for fun.

Maybe my goal for 2011 will be to finish some of my own .05% projects that I need to finish before throwing any more stones. 

Where ‘s the fun in that?

Starting new projects is so much more fun!

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2010 in Life Happens, Unfinished Projects

 

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Crossing the Finish line

This past weekend I had the opportunity to accompany a friend to Santa Barbara to watch her daughter run in the Santa Barbara Marathon.  Her daughter’s friend had convinced her to run the half-marathon.  The friend had chosen the Santa Barbara Marathon as the one they would run together.  They trained separately for the half marathon because one of them lives in Colorado and the other  in Las Vegas.  They had never run a marathon before and one week before, her friend backed out and my friend’s daughter would be running alone.

We arrived the day before the marathon and went with to pick up the running packet the night before and scope out where we would watch the race from the next morning.  Santa Barbara is beautiful and there were plenty of locations to watch the race from but we chose to be in the stadium where the finish line was located.  The final portion of the race involved entering the college’s track field and running 3/4  of the track around to the finish line.

The runners came filing in one after another and you could see them round the track to the finish line with the ocean and palm trees as the backdrop for the event.  I did a lot of thinking as I was standing next to the finish line.  My friend’s life had taken a very unexpected turn in the past year that left her alone at age 57.  Not where she planned on being near retirement.  She has a lot of questions in her life which started me thinking  about what direction I want my life to take.  What is my plan?

Each of these runners had a plan for accomplishing their goal of completing the marathon.  They had made time for exercise, running and meal planning to help them succeed.  They thought of their goal well in advance of when they needed to complete it to allow ample time to prepare for it.  They enlisted help from the “experts” to gain as much knowledge about marathon running to help reach their goal.    Each found like-minded people to surround them and encourage them to attain their goal.  Finally when the day arrived they showed up to run their race.

There are choices to be made.  We all know where we don’t want to be at the end of our lives but somehow that is exactly where we end because we haven’t been proactive in determining our path.  I don’t want to just end up at some destination in life like riding in a canoe on a river without a paddle.  I know that I want to travel as time permits.  This past weekend was one such opportunity.  A new place to go where I’ve never been before.  We need to take small opportunities along the way to enjoy life and not just wait until after retirement to do it.  Sometimes during retirement or before,  life throws you an unexpected curve ball in the form of illness or death.

Life’s menu is an endless smorgasbord.  Sometimes we need to go against Mom and Dad’s advice and have our dessert before the entrée.  Choosing the kind of dessert is the hard part.  For me,  I think it will be a sample platter that gives me the opportunity to try as many things as possible with still room for more.   I’ve achieved one life goal already.  I obtained my private pilot certificate in April of 2010. 

The day after I received my certificate I took my husband for a local flight.  On the way home from the airport he asked me “What’s next?”   I think he was afraid to ask thinking my answer might be something like “Climb Mount Everest”.  Honestly at this point in time I don’t know what is next in my life but I know with certainty that if I don’t pursue other interests of mine they won’t happen.  They will be missed opportunities. 

As Gregg Hake put it so plainly  in his recent blog post The Antidote to Premature Aging  http://gregghake.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/the-antidote-to-premature-aging/ “No matter how old you are right now, dear reader, you are as young as you will ever be for the rest of your life. It’s never too late to start! Take up that hobby or activity that you’ve always thought would be interesting. What do you have to lose?”

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2010 in Life Happens, Reflections, Uncategorized

 

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Sunday Night Blues Revisited

Sunday Night Blues Revisited


It was about a month ago when I first posted Sunday Night Blues. Tonight is a different kind of Sunday Blue. Today and tonight rather than sitting and thinking about going back to work tomorrow already I started to do some things that I knew would make my walk out of the door tomorrow morning for work much sweeter.

Yesterday after I got home from work around 1pm I started cleaning up “hot spots” in my kitchen. For those of you who don’t know what “hot spots” are in my kitchen they are areas that tend to accumulate miscellaneous stuff that has no place in my kitchen except for the fact that someone placed them there because they were too lazy or tired to put them where they really belong. For example winter coats always end up on the backs of the kitchen chairs because of course they will be worn again sometime this weekend so why put them away now. The other stuff that tends to accumulate in my kitchen is the mail for everyone in the family.

I get mail for my four grown children, my husband and I. The kids come home just about every weekend and pick up their mail but I’ve yet to find a place to keep it where it will be accessible but not out of sight because things like bills need to be paid. I’m working on a basket system for each of them and I try to handle our mail on a daily basis. I’m trying to pay bills as they come in the mail and not wait if possible and get read of junk mail daily. My new resolution for paper is try to touch it only once if possible. File it, pay it, or trash it ASAP so it won’t accumulate or have to be dealt with later.

Last evening I spent putting the second coat of paint on our family room we’ve been working on for about two years. It felt so good to finally get that done. I put the outlet covers and furnace vent covers on after the paint dried. Next I put up some shelves to hold our DVD’s, CD’s and books in the family room so that allowed me to unpack some boxes and bring all the movies to one location in the house. Once there is a place for something in your home and everyone knows where it goes it is so much easier to keep things organized and clean.

Today after church I continued on my progress of finishing things that have been left undone for too long. I dug out some paint for my kitchen and painted a small area that has remained unpainted for the past two years when I had the kitchen floor replaced and took out a pantry and moved the refrigerator to a different wall. The unpainted wall has been the first thing you see when you walk in the front door. It took about 20 minutes to take out the paint and supplies, paint the wall about 8′ by 8′, and touch up a few spots on the kitchen wall. I found a piece of leftover baseboard to install behind the refrigerator on the wall I just painted. That project took all of about 10 minutes to install and complete. Why did I wait so long? Now when I walk into my kitchen each day as I come home from work I am not greeted with an unfinished wall with missing baseboard.

I’ve been doing laundry all day so that will be done tonight. Vacuuming the livingroom and bedroom are next. After that its on to the bathroom for a quick cleaning. Why all the work around the house this weekend? Tomorrow we will have a visitor new to our home, a friend of my daughter. I started thinking this week that we only get one chance at a first impression. My daughter’s friend is no different from any other visitor to our home. Not a celebrity just someone who is coming to our home for the first time. Lately I’ve been thinking that I could do a better job at first impressions and caring for my home and that may just lead to less Sunday Night Blues.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2010 in New Challenges, Reflections

 

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Low Ceilings

Low ceilings on the way to the airport

 

In Minnesota you just expect cold, snowy weather in January.  I wasn’t expecting days of fog and low ceilings.  With only one brief lesson left before my Private Pilot Checkride I am extremely anxious to finish up.  This past week the weather has not been good VFR.  I need a couple of good flying weather days to complete my goal of earning my private pilot certificate before I turn 50 years old on January 25.  I have been working at this for the past year and a half and now I am on the final stretch but the weather just will not cooperate.

Some would say that I shouldn’t have cut it so close to my finish date with not enough time to reach my goal but life gets in the way sometime especially when your 18 year old daughter has a baby in the middle of flight training that you didn’t expect.  This fall was to be our empty nest time but our home is fuller than ever.  I love our grandson dearly and even if it has complicated my goals I wouldn’t change a thing.  The 25th was my goal but it is not set in stone.  Next week I have another chance at finishing up my private.  Monday I have a lesson scheduled and if I can finish with up with my CFI then I can schedule my checkride for maybe next Thursday or Friday and still meet my goal provided I pass.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2010 in Flight training

 

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