Scattered Thoughts

oak-toad-from-floridan-alaskiana

Oak Toad by Janson Jones from Floridana Alaskiana*

Update on the Current State of Affairs in Our Household:

The Tax Man Cometh

tax-cartoon1I sat down at the computer yesterday afternoon around 2:30. I didn’t get up until 1 a.m. I was doing our taxes using one of the online programs. It was incredibly painful, taxing even (is that where the term originates?). So I e-filed our federal and state returns around 1 in the morning. When I did my error check, I came back with no errors. Hooray for me. I’ll tell you, I was grasping for every single deduction and credit I could find (while staying within the limits of the law!), and even then, we were in the owing category for a while.

This year, we had fewer deductions than last year; couple that with the fact that Corey was on unemployment for most of the year and had no taxes taken out on that, which means that we are getting a much smaller refund. I know a lot of people prefer to break even at tax time because the logic is that you don’t want the government to have your money in an essentially interest-free account during the year. But the fact is, a nice, big refund is like a boon for us. It allows us to do things like go on vacation or put on a new roof or continue to renovate the house. We wouldn’t be able to save otherwise because we always end up tapping into our savings during the year because there are always emergencies.

At one point, we actually did have a nice savings account, but those days are past. I’m hoping that we can get back to saving once Corey gets back to work, but I won’t hold my breath.

Shipping News

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The Rogue Island Tug

Speaking of Corey getting back to work, we are going to use part of the refund to pay for another class in the hopes that after this particular class and endorsement, he will be more employable on a wider class of boats. The tug boat industry is so tight right now that jobs are at a premium.

Once he completes this class and joins a different union, we are hoping that he might be able to catch some boats out of the Gulf Coast or even West Coast. The pay is better, and the companies fly their people to and from jobs. Keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts because we really need this.

The Home Heating Situation

42-15257051I’d like to report that we successfully made it through the coldest part of winter using only space heaters and lots of blankets. We plan to pay off our exorbitant balance with the gas company with the other part of our tax refund. I would really like to stick to that plan and not have to be diverted.

Once we get the natural gas turned back on, that means that Corey can install the whole house hot water system that we’ve had in a box for almost a year. This system is supposed to provide hot water on demand throughout the entire house. I’m really looking forward to that as the electric water heater that we got for the interim sucks big time. Being able to take long hot showers has been an impossibility, and everyone must wait at least a half an hour between showers unless you want a cold shower.

I’ve really missed being able to take a long hot bath without having to boil water to add to the available hot water. It’s more of a pain for Corey than me since he has to tote the hot water into the bathroom, and each time he does, Shakes attacks his toes because he thinks that Corey is bringing in some kind of weapon to hurt me. Shakes is a serious mama’s boy. Have I mentioned that?

The Birthday Boy

angel-wings-tattooSo my oldest son turned 18 yesterday. We were able to take the family out to dinner on Sunday night. It was Corey, me, Eamonn, Brett, and Alexis, which was really nice. Of course, Eamonn’s friend and my pseudo-adopted son Josh came along too. He spends more time at our house than his, but we really don’t mind. He’s a nice kid and fits in with our familial quirkiness really well.

For Eamonn’s birthday present, Brett bought him a Bob Marley t-shirt, which was a big hit. Alexis got him a Scarface poster to hang in his room and a small stuffed penguin (he loves penguins)—both big hits. Corey and I gave him a new silver chain for his cross, only to find out that the cross is broken at the top (another jewelry repair to add to the list), some new studs for his ear, and a handwritten coupon towards a tattoo.

Eamonn envisions having wings put on his back, which I am not opposed to, but that’s something that he’s going to have to pay for as I’m sure that it would be quite costly. But above the wings he wants to put a Latin phrase, which at the moment I cannot recall. We figure our promise of funds will cover the Latin phrase.

Sweet Dreams These Are Not

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Meye Nightmare by L. Liwag

I have been having the wildest most violent dreams this past week. I don’t know if this is a side effect of my new migraine medicine, but if it is, I hope that it passes. In one dream I was involved in an altercation that involved a rocket launcher being aimed directly at me, and then lots of stone throwing (symbolic, huh?).

But last night, or rather this morning, I had a very controversy-filled dream that involved all kinds of people. In one part, I was with my friends from ODU Mari and Marty. The three of us used to go to lunch together. Well in my dream, we were shopping for wine and cheese, and then we were going to go to my house to relax. Marty ended up drinking a bottle of wine (she doesn’t drink in real life) and getting very ugly.

The dream continued to the next part in which I was having an argument with my former father-in-law, which never would have happened as he is very laid back, and he stormed out of Alexis’s birthday party. In the dream, she was still a little girl. After he stormed out, I had an altercation with Alexis and hit her repeatedly. Again, this is not something that ever happened or would happen in real life.

I woke up gasping and feeling completely discombobulated. I have to tell you, dreams like those are so unnerving that they stay with me for days, and I probably read too much into them. Why did I dream that? What did that mean? I psychoanalyze myself like crazy, which makes me, well, crazy.

It’s Raining . . . It’s Pouring . . .

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Rain on the Window Pane by L. Liwag

It has been raining here for seven straight days. What, is this Seattle? The worst part about the rain is that I have to dry off the dogs each time they go out, or they have muddy paws. Occasionally, one of them slips past me when I’m drying off the others, which results in muddy paw prints on my sheets.

Can I just tell you how absolutely annoying that is? I know that I have wiped muddy paw prints off the bed at least four times during this god-awful rain. I’m not about to yank the sheets off every time one of the dogs jumps on the bed with wet paws or I’d be washing my sheets every day. Changing the sheets on a normal basis is a hard enough task for me, what with the bending over.

Our backyard looks like a marsh, and I swear that there is a mud puddle that is at least three inches deep and about four feet long. Of course the dogs walk through this pool of muddy water each and every time they go outside. I know that it’s deliberate because they think that it’s pretty funny to watch me spaz out when they do it. I think that Tillie is the ringleader with the whole puddle thing, but don’t tell Corey because according to him, Tillie can do no wrong.

Well, that’s all of the latest news. Nothing exciting really. Just needed to write about it so that some day I could look back on this and think: Geez you have a boring life . . .

More later. Peace.

*http://floridana.typepad.com/weblog/oak-toad-bufo-quercicus/ 

My Calendar Fetish

2009-calendars

Isn’t Daniel Craig dreamy? There were no calendars like that available, and besides, I don’t buy man candy calendars. That would be sexist . . .

Just Like Books, You Can Never Have Too Many Calendars

So today, we did one of my favorite after-Christmas things: We went to Barnes & Noble to scope out the 50 percent off calendars. Now some years, I buy calendars for everyone before Christmas and wrap them as presents, but lately, I’ve found that buying them after Christmas is not only more cost effective, but it also allows the kids to pick out the calendars that they want as opposed to my buying what I think they might want—big difference.

I mean, when they were smaller, it was pretty easy: Thomas the Tank Engine, or then later, Sponge Bob, or something like that. But now, they have branched out. This year, Brett picked out a calendar with black and white pictures of trees. This after first picking up a star chart, then a night sky calendar.

Eamonn shopped by phone. His first choice was a Red Sox calendar, but sports calendars sell fast; then he wanted a Venice calendar (?), no Venice, but could I interest you in a landscapes of Italy? No. Then I remembered that he liked motivational quotes. I mentioned that. He wanted to know if it was too girlie, so I had to describe the pictures. That one seemed to meet his approval.

Moving on to Alexis. She has pretty eclectic tastes. One year it was Jimmy Hendrix, the next Bob Marley. Far Side always works. This year, I knew that I could win with a Family Guy, so I grabbed what appeared to be the only one in the store. I could not find, however, a daily planner, lots and lots of weekly ones, but no daily ones. That search was quickly sapping the little energy I had left (we had made two stops before Barnes & Noble). Not to mention, my daughter is very persnickety about her planners; i.e., they must be a certain size with the pages laid out in a certain way. No way I was going to chance that one.

Then it was my turn. I used to buy four calendars: one for work, one for the kitchen, one for the bedroom, and one for my purse. Now I don’t have to buy one for work, even though I dreamed this morning that I had to go back to work on Monday for a former female boss whom I absolutely loathed, and I hadn’t done any of the projects that I was supposed to do while I was out of work. Don’t you hate those kinds of dreams?

We won’t discuss the number of calendars that I actually ordered at work or you might think that my OCD was/is truly out of control. And it was three, by the way, not counting the one that I brought from home, or the one that I had in my purse. And yes, I used all of them . . . moving right along . . .

So I found my first calendar right away, the kitchen calendar: it was an orchid calendar, beautiful miniature orchids in very simple vases with lots of open light. The bedroom calendar was giving me fits. That’s the one that I write all of my doctor’s appointments on and keep on the wall next to the computer, so it needs to have fairly big boxes, and be of good quality paper. I also need to like it a lot. I looked at the motivational one that I had picked out for Eamonn, which is why I knew about it in the first place.

I looked at other flower calendars, a Celtic calendar, a wildlife calendar, a fairy calendar (I like fairies if they don’t look too overdone), and a Dalai Lama calendar. I knew that I wasn’t in the mood for a country (as in Italy or France or whatever, which I’ve had before) or an animal (which I’ve also done before). What I really wanted was black and white, and the only one that I had seen was the tree one that Brett grabbed. And then there it was, on the bottom shelf of course where it is hard for me to bend down to see, a black and white Zen calendar. I grabbed it and put it in the basket.

Then I picked up a small weekly planner for my purse to duplicate all of the doctor’s appointments, etc. But I still manage to confuse times and days somehow, even though I check the calendar on the wall and the calendar in my purse. Don’t ask me how I do that because I’m still trying to figure it out. And don’t suggest that I use the calendar on the computer, because I’ve done that, too, with the reminder system and everything. I still show up at the doctor’s office on the wrong day or at the wrong time because I really don’t remember what day it is.

I didn’t have this problem so much when I worked because my body clock was set the same as normal people’s, but when you find yourself finally closing your eyes at 5:35 in the morning, it’s hard to be in sync with the rest of the world, and unlike one of my regular correspondents who can get by on four (4!) hours of sleep a night, I now need at least 9.

What’s really hard to believe is that I used to get by on five hours of sleep without any problem, and I would wake up early on purpose to get in at least 30 minutes of work out time, including 150 crunches every week day morning. This was when I was a single mom and had to fit in the work of two parents into one parent’s body.

You adapt. Then, I was buff and strong. Now, I’m a slug.

So back to Barnes & Noble . . . Brett and Corey are off looking for reading material because Brett has decided to try to spend less time playing video games and more time reading, and I am trying to find just one book (which is very restrained of me): the sequel of Into the Woods by Tana French. I don’t know the name of the sequel, but I know that it is out because of  Publisher’s Weekly, a really wonderful online publication that I receive that keeps me up-to-date on new releases and things that are happening in the publishing world.

So Corey finds out from the help desk that the sequel is indeed out, that there is supposed to be one in the store, and an associate walks him over to where the book is supposed to be located, but of course, it is not there. Of course it isn’t because I could spend all day in bed tomorrow reading it. It would be wonderful. I can just imagine it. Ah me. Reading nirvana.

By the way, if you like mysteries, read Into the Woods. It’s a first novel by French, and it is masterfully written. I finished it, and I started having a tantrum to which Corey asked, “What’s wrong now?”

“It’s just not fair,” I whined in my most petulant only child voice. “This is her first book, and it’s wonderful. And, it’s a cliffhanger. I hate her and I want to be her.” Yes, Lola logic at work once again.

So we left the store with just one little problem: I set off the security alarm, which I had done when I walked in. I had asked the people at the checkout to scan my purse and explained to them that I had set off the alarm when I came in, and when I entered and left Kohl’s and had no idea why. They obligingly scanned my purse, said there was nothing there, asked if my coat was new, to which I replied, “nope.” We walked out the door perplexed until I realized that I was wearing new jeans that Corey had bought me for Christmas from Old Navy. Maybe there was a magnetic strip somewhere inside one of the seams?

Why me? When I get home, I take off the jeans, and lo and behold, there is one of those bulky tags that says, “remove before washing.” It’s one of the new security tags. No wonder I’m setting off alarms. I’m just glad that I look too much like a goofball to be thrown to the ground and manhandled by some security guard because my back couldn’t take it.

Speaking of Kohl’s, Brett’s jeans were exchanged, and so ends the great Levi’s 569 saga of 2008. Let peace reign again. I left a message on his father’s voice mail and told him that we were near a Kohl’s (true) and that we exchanged the jeans without any problems (also true), so everything was taken care of (also true). Now if he can accept that, everything can be fine. (We’ll see).

Also ends the great calendar quest as well as the jeans saga of 2008 as we approach the end of the year, and I have to say that I am awaiting 2009 fervently hoping that I can find a curse breaker to end this long-running streak of bad juju that has befallen our family. If you know of any good curse breakers who aren’t complete frauds and charlatans, ask them to send some good juju my way.

More later. Peace and goodwill to you all.