Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Excuses

Why I haven't blogged recently.

That picture is actually probably almost a week old -- the bottom left corner is now completely done, and about 3% more of the sky/sea is done.

The puzzle's only half the reason, I've also been on the road like crazy for work.  I'm sitting in an airport now in fact, going home from Florida and then no travel until after the Fourth! 

I committed to a marathon on the west coast in just under 2 months, which is scary.  I've done a few long runs 12-10-15-16-17, and the 16 and 17 were not wretched.  I'm not running enough miles during the week to expect any decent result, but I should survive, and it will be an excuse to watch the eclipse out there and go visit my brother and his family. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mystery solved

So this past weekend, I tried to get organized. One task I accomplished was to finally put away our tax documents. I couldn't resist looking again, trying to see where I went wrong.   My numbers were almost exact on the entire return except for one line:  Line 44.  Tax computation.


This is the sheet on how to do tax computation.




Pretty straightforward, right?

There are four main sections based on filing status (single, etc.), and so you go to your section, and then figure out which income line to use, and then calculate. 

I made a very simple mistake and it was 100% clear in my notes.  

I took our joint income (we are married, filing jointly) and then pulled the tax calculation portion for married filing separately.  The base percent calculation for married filing separately is way higher than married filing jointly.  I guess they assume you have half the income and so the tax rate is very similar to single.  Oops.  

I think when I looked at the headers on the sheet, I saw "married filing jointly or QUALIFYING WIDOW(ER)" and kind of skipped over the first part.  We're not qualifying widow/ers, so on to the next section.  "Married filing separately."  Again, not reading very carefully, just saw the word "married" and must have decided that was us. 

It's a shame that tax calculation is at the end of the form, when you're very "not fresh" from working through the first 43 lines...

Oh well, at least the mystery of what went wrong is solved in my mind.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Invisible

Yesterday I had the STRANGEST experience at work.


I had an accounting question on one of my files, so I sent an email to my accounting buddy to ask her to look into it.  I didn't get a response within a few minutes, and I didn't want to move on to another case without resolving this, so I walked down to her office.


Did I mention we have those dreaded glass walls between our office and the corridor?  (Real walls in between the offices though.)


So I could see that another attorney was in my buddy's office, working on his own accounting issue with her.  But she could see me waiting my turn.  And of course when she looked out at me waiting, he turned and saw me, so he knew there was a line.  He got done, I went in.  She pulled up my email, then opened the file on the system.

I walked around her desk so I could look over her shoulder at her computer and show her where I thought the entry issue was.


-- As an aside, I always think of that as the "sexual harasser position."  Too many workplace videos on preventing sexual harassment in the office I guess.  In those videos, things often go south when someone crosses the desk line in an office.  The boss looking over the employee's shoulder starts giving a shoulder massage or something.  Haha. 


I was looking at the screen and my buddy and I were talking about how the funds posted, where, etc.  We'd been working on the issue for probably 60-90 seconds, when this new secretary walks into my buddy's office.  Just hired in the last month (I've never even been introduced to her actually, but I'd assume she knows I'm an attorney, given that I have an office, not a cube, and only attorneys and my accounting buddy have offices).  She just walked right in -- not waiting outside the office for me to finish (with glass walls, this kind of "lurking" is very common in our office). 


And then the new secretary says something like, "Gene [one of the attorneys she handles] is out of the office this week, and I'm trying to set up his new files and his instructions aren't very clear and I don't know how to enter the location code." 


I kind of just stood there in stunned silence.


My accounting buddy sat for a second, also pretty surprised, then she called out of her office to her assistant, who sits directly outside, and asked her to walk the new secretary through location codes.  The new secretary said something to my accounting buddy like, "oh, sorry, does she [accounting buddy assistant] know more?"  My accounting buddy said something like, "uh, well, she can help you with location codes, I'm working on something else right now [and kind of nodded her head toward me]."  And then the new secretary followed my accounting buddy's assistant back to her desk to figure out how to enter location codes.


I was like, "am I invisible????"


It was so weird!  It wasn't like the new secretary poked her head into my buddy's office and said, "sorry to interrupt," or "I just have a real quick question."  Both of those would have been fine, and understandable, particularly if my issue was going to take more than 5 minutes.  But no, she just came in and started talking, like I wasn't there.  My friend agreed it was certainly the weirdest office event of the month, maybe longer.  We laughed for a while and were again joking today about whether or not she can actually see me. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Movie Tonight?

Short notice, but if you like running and you don't have plans tonight, see if the Boston movie is showing near you!  It's in theaters for tonight only.  I'm going with a group of about 20 running friends and am so excited.  To add to the excitement, our office lets us buy a one-day jeans pass in exchange for a $100 contribution to a particular charity, and I bought one for today (since taxes and deductions are on my mind anyway!).  This way I get to wear jeans at the office today (which seriously feels like a huge treat), along with my Boston t-shirt!  And I'm hoping it will be super air-conditioned in the theater so I can wear my jacket too!  Haha.


Anyway, if you're interested in the movie, here's the blurb from AMC's website:

BOSTON: An American Running Story

2 hr 20 min
NR

Fathom Events, in partnership with Runner’s World, bring the first ever feature-length documentary about the world’s most legendary running race, the Boston Marathon, to select cinemas nationwide on Wednesday, April 19 only. BOSTON: An American Running Story tells the story of the oldest annually contested marathon in the world from its humble origins starting with only 15 runners to the present day. Following the tragic events of 2013, BOSTON records the preparations and eventual running of the 118th Boston Marathon one year later, when runners and community gather in support of one another for what will be the most meaningful race of all. BOSTON is more than a running documentary, it is a timeless story about triumph over adversity for runner and non-runner alike. This special one-night event will also feature footage of the Boston Symphony Orchestra recording an original score composed by 4X Emmy Award®-winner Jeff Beal (House of Cards).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fake Working

As is my usual Marathon Monday tradition, I will be "fake working" pretty much all morning and early afternoon today.  I will be sitting at my desk, watching the live coverage of the race and tracking all my friends, same as I do pretty much every year.  In 2014, when Meb won, multiple people came to my office because I was ... ummm, not quiet.  I was so excited when I realized he was really going to do it. 


The first time I got a BQ was probably the proudest moment of my running career.  Happened at Twin Cities in 2010, and I promptly registered to run Boston in 2011.


It was my favorite marathon by leaps and bounds -- the history, the involvement of the entire city, the runners in town wearing their jackets, and the race itself.  Totally amazing.  I think I've qualified a total of three times (?), but I only ran it once, primarily I think because that day was so perfect that I don't really want another Boston memory.  I don't think it could ever be topped for me. 




Good luck and Godspeed to all the runners today.  May the wind be at your back and the memories among your favorite of all time.  I'll be at my desk and not working. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Monopoly

So after weeks of austerity measures, we finally got our "real" taxes back (as opposed to my preliminary estimate).


Remember that Monopoly card that said "bank error in your favor, collect $xxx"? 


Essentially, that's what we got! 

Instead of writing a check for our usual insane amount PLUS $10k, we only have to write a check for our usual insane amount.  Which we were 100% prepared to do (we've owed about the same amount beyond withholding for about the last five years, maybe longer).


I looked over our return to try to see where I went wrong.  I was pretty much dead on through the entire calculation of income and our schedule A and deductions, but it looks like I made a significant error somehow in calculating our tax.  No idea how that happened, but that was the only line that seems to be significantly wrong on my draft compared to our pro. 


Oops!  I guess if I had to make a mistake, better to be implementing austerity measures and living lean for a month rather than going along as usual and then finding out two weeks before the money is due that we have to pay way more than we expected. 


Either way, sweet, sweet relief. 


I'm making a list in my head (well, no, it started in my head, now it's going into writing on the blog) of things I'd spend a "free" $10k on:


Travel!  Trips to see my brother, trips to San Fran, trips overseas, trips home.
Crown molding.  Our neighbors renovated a unit in our condo complex and I saw the finished product mid-Feb and I've been coveting crown molding ever since.
A bike.  Right now I'm only running to work one day a week.  If I had a bike, I'd definitely ride one day a week, and maybe I'd even use it on the weekends.
Lasik.  My eyes I think are almost done with the "age 40" change (as in, I probably need to get readers soon).  I've worn contacts at least 20 years, and I think I'd like to stop.  Not sure if they can fix my original issue (can't see far away) as well as my new issue (starting to not be able to see super up close). 
Mattress.  We got a mattress for our guest bedroom about a year ago, but we're still sleeping on a mattress older than our marriage (8 in a week!).  I think it's probably time for a new one, since I can't even remember when I got the mattress we have.  Anyone tried Casper?  I've heard a few people mention it.  Anyway, anytime I have a restless night lately, I blame it on the mattress.  But the "if it's over 8, it's time to replace" is probably just "big mattress" trying to keep us hooked...
Fridge.  Our fridge is fine, but it has lately started to kind of "hum" louder than before.  We should proactively replace so we have ample time to shop and we don't end up with a melted ice cream tragedy. 


But umm, actually, there's no "free" $10k and I have zero bonus money to spend.  Instead of having to take it out of savings, we'll just leave it there.  And the whole point of savings is to save it for when we need it, not to spend it on fun things like we would free money. 


Oh well, it was fun to dream! 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Large Book

My passport expires this summer, so I'm in the process of getting a new one.  I fully intended to do it last week on my day off, but that didn't happen.  And knowing that we are about to buy international plane tickets for the Fall (after my passport will be expired) is starting to majorly stress me out!  What if the State Department staff all gets fired, or they stop renewing passports, or renewal suddenly starts taking 6 months instead of 6 weeks?  Those are all fairly remote possibilities, but the idea of having to eat a couple thousand dollars of air fare because of the US government is not appealing.  So finally I got on the ball this week, and started doing the application in order to renew my passport that expires in a few months. 
 
Aside from all the usual background stuff, I saw  something very interesting at the top of the application:  a choice between a regular book and a large book passport. 
 

 
 

Having that option kind of boggled my mind.  I have no idea what is true about this large-book option:
  • Fees have changed (and I'm cheap), or
  • I never read the choices fully, or
  • I didn't think I'd travel as much as I do. 

For whatever reason, I've always just gotten the standard passport in the past. And I've traveled enough on each of my last two passports that I've needed to get extra pages (which is a moderate PITA).  This time, I'm going for it!  The large passport book will be mine in about two months!
 
Unless of course any of the out-of-my-hands governmental failures occurs. 
 
So now, assuming I manage to get this application into the mail within a few days (another pain because I can't just mail it, they recommend sending it in some track-able form), the question is:  do we go ahead and book plane tickets for September, banking on having a passport again in my hands in less than five months?  Or do I wait 6-8 weeks, see if have my new passport, and then book tickets, and risk that the price will be higher?  And what do we do if I wait two months and still don't have it?  Hmmm....

Monday, April 3, 2017

Useless list

Recently, I took a vacation day and stayed at home.  I literally don't think I have ever done that before.  Since we take one big trip per year, I usually use all my vacation for that, then finish off any extra days around the holidays.  But in 2016, I hit my five-year anniversary with the company, so my vacation increased by one week, but I didn't know exactly how that would work -- did I get one full week on my anniversary, or would it be a pro-rated part of the week, since I started the job mid-year, not Jan. 1, when vacation starts.  And it wasn't until late January that HR advised that I had three remaining days that I could use by March 31. 


So March 28, I stayed home!  And I had big plans for the day.  The week before, I jotted down a list of what I hoped to accomplish:




Sorry for the grainy pic.  But I had four things on my to-do list:
Renew my passport 
Organize my drawer with running shirts 
Order a cake for our rehearsal dinner anniversary party 
Register for a race


I also had a few other things in my head that I was going to aim to do, including cooking a somewhat ambitious dinner.  But instead, as of 5:00 on my big day off, I had accomplished zero things on the list.  Gah!!!!! 


Instead I filled my day doing the following:
Supported a friend for a medical thing (but I was home by 9:40 a.m., so don't think this is a good use of my day).
Napped
Watched bad TV (Hoarders mostly, and it's true, watching that does make you feel like your house is so clean!!)
Read a magazine
Made lunch
Organized a pile of stuff on my dresser (mostly greeting cards, programs/ticket stubs, race bibs)
Dusted my dresser
Organized the jewelry on top of my closet dresser (I seriously had about a dozen necklaces piled up, instead of where they belonged)
Organized my hanging clothes
Organized a drawer in my husband's dresser

Worked
Wrote results on the back of old race bibs (I have grand notions of someday doing a race-bib-wallpaper type thing)

Since my husband had a meeting that night, I abandoned the idea of cooking anything that took effort for dinner and instead just ate whatever.  Finally at about 7:00, I realized that I hadn't really gotten anything done, so I decided to work on organizing my running clothes.  Purged exactly one shirt, but managed to rearrange sufficiently so tanks and shorts share a drawer, and all short sleeves are in a drawer.  Works much better, and I'm glad I got it done. 



So one thing done off my list.  So defeating! 


I feel a little guilty though because when I got to work the next day, I saw my to-do list, and immediately proceeded to order the cake and register for the race -- basically doing at the office things I fully intended to do at home, which pisses me off because I prefer less time in the office as opposed to more time, but each of those tasks seriously took less than five minutes.  Still mildly frustrating that I didn't just do them on my day off.


Anyway, the day off was a very nice treat, even if it was wasted in many ways.  Man, I love napping!!! 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Serious austerity measures

When I told my husband we should not engage in any discretionary spending until our tax mess is resolved, I think he took me more seriously than I intended.


I got home from work this week and turned on the TV to this message:


I'm locking down the spending, but I might have a different definition of discretionary -- I'm still paying bills at the same amount I was paying before (like I round up on my new car payment so it will be paid off sooner, and I'm not stopping that practice during our "austerity measures" two month period), but I'm trying not to go out to eat or go shopping or pay for any fun plane tickets.  Maybe my husband took "no discretionary spending" as don't pay anything except groceries, car, gas, tolls, boot camp, dry cleaning, and phones. 

I think it's more likely he forgot to pay this bill than that he thought we shouldn't pay it pending resolution of the tax issue, but I can't honestly say I'm sure that's the case. 

In any event, we're paid up now and can watch TV again.  Which is good, if we're staying at home and not going out to spend money...

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pain in my ginocchio

I've had tons and tons of times I thought I was injured in the last 10+ years of running.  Usually random pains that go away after a few days off, usually coinciding with peak weeks or taper time.  I've also had a few falls, resulting in a couple sprained ankles.  Plus I've had two legit injuries -- a pulled muscle back in 2005, and then I broke my ankle in 2015 when I stepped on a rock.  Those are the only two times I've been off running for over a month. 


Oddly enough, in all this time running, I've never had real knee issues that I can remember.  It always seems to be my feet, ankles and calves that get hurt. 


But suddenly, knee pain! 


Oh yeah, the Italian word for knee is "ginocchio."  (Pronounced -- jin -OH -kee -oh, which is odd, because occhio means "eye.") 


Well, somehow my left knee is about the size of a softball right now.


Here's the chronology:


Sunday:  half marathon, pretty slow.  Well, 5-7 miles as planned, then a very slow slog to the finish.  It got into the upper 80s that day, super sunny, not fun.  No pains. 


Monday:  boot camp, less than one mile of running included.  Quads somewhat sore for no clear reason. 


Tuesday:  5 miles, mostly about my average pace from Sunday (so I'd say medium effort).  No pain.


Wednesday:  boot camp, including probably 1 mile of running, and then about 28 flights of stairs up and then down (Mount O) (not something we do often, but probably once a month?).  No pain.  Came home from boot camp, had breakfast, then ran to work.  No pain.  Walking through the lobby and noticed my left knee hurt.  Like hurt.  Went to my desk, went down the stairs to shower (8 flights).  Showered, took the stairs back to my office.  By then my knee really hurt.  It was popping at times, especially at angles, and it felt pretty swollen.  Almost screaming pain when I tried to move my leg certain ways while seated at my desk (so no pressure on my foot).  Wasn't sure how I was going to run home.  Considered getting an uber, but decided to set out after work.  Did a very slow run-walk thing to get home, no pain while running or walking.


Thursday:  5 miles, again, no pain while running.  But my knee was so swollen other people could tell something was horribly wrong.  Again, crazy pain when bending it at certain angles, very painful pops.


Friday:  rest day.  Maybe getting less swollen and painful?  Laying on my back, trying to bend my leg all the way and get my heel toward my butt, I feel like I can't get within 12 inches on the left side, my knee hurts and is so swollen. 


Planning to rest today, and maybe skip my planned "long" run for tomorrow (only 7 miles since there's no race on the calendar now). 


What the heck? 


Part of me thinks it could just be sore from the stairs since yesterday I seemed to feel pain mostly when going up stairs at home.  Maybe it will blow over with a weekend off?  I really don't want it to be anything real. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Baby Names

Not that we are planning to have kids, but we still can't help but pick names.  Just in case, you know?  Within the last few months, we have added two names to the list.  It's hard to say why, but I guess it's a good idea because at my age, if we wanted to have kids, we'd probably have to do in vitro, and they'd probably have to implant a whole bunch of them, and maybe 7 would stick?  Then we'd be all set because we now have 7 names selected:




For boys:





Rubicon Julius Caesar Winston.  Rubicon just sounds so strong.  Especially if we had this boy, our first-born, in Texas.  Couldn't you just hear the football announcer talking about Rubicon?  And since he'd be the first born, we'd want him to be a leader, so we added some solid leader names.  We chose this name more than a decade ago, and for the longest time, it was the only baby name we had.  And since there's a chance that if we had kids, we'd only have one, and since it would probably be male (given my husband's family history of 4 straight generations on his father's side with only male births), we would probably use our "Bennifer" last name (a combo of my husband's last name and mine). 




Mario.  No middle name, just Mario.  It might be hard to explain this to our second son with straight faces, but technically, he'll have been named after a Russian monkey.  When we were in Red Square in 2010, there was one of those guys who had two monkeys.  Kind of looked like this:
Image result for rhesus monkey




But the male monkey (the one I held) was wearing an Italian soccer jersey.  And his name was Mario.  And when I was holding him, and he was squirming instead of looking at the camera, the handler kept doing a low volume shout "Mario!" to get his attention.  The female monkey didn't seem well, she was wearing a little dress but laying in the cart, kind of listless.  After I held Mario, we walked around Red Square some more and had lunch at the cafeteria in GUM (the Russian department store).  We had grapes with our lunch and my husband saved a handful of them and fed them to Mario and his sister when we walked by them again.  So our second male child would be named after a monkey, but my husband has an Italian last name.  So this child would have my husband's name. 


Lamarte Siegfried.  We added this name in mid-2016.  Lamarte was the first name of someone in a case I had at work.  It's pronounced la-MAR-tay.  The name just stuck with me, so I asked my husband if we could use it for our third male child and he agreed, but he wanted to pick Siegfried as the middle name, after one of his cases at work.  We both felt like we spent a disproportionate amount of time at work dealing with Lamarte and Siegfried.  It would make sense to give the name to a later child, to remind us that he probably needs a lot of attention, rather than just letting him get away with stuff like lots of younger kids do.  This one would have my last name because, given the middle name being from my husband's work, he doesn't want the name Siegfried anywhere close to any part of his last name. 


Baron Bush.  Yes, after Baron Trump.  And after W.  If we get up to four male children, we will certainly be super-wealthy, and if we're not, we live in Texas, so at least we'll live like we are!  This will make the late-born child feel very special, entitled, privileged, all that stuff.  And it's a good Texas name -- we'll never be pegged for the liberals we are if we have a child named Baron Bush.  Baron will have our fused last name since it's alliterative. 


Leroy Elmer.  After my grandfathers.  We just added this name in the last couple months (my grandpa Lee died in September).  My husband said in some random conversation that he had never met a Caucasian person name Leroy until he met my grandfather.  That just seemed weird to me.  I'm all about breaking down any racial stereotypes I can (incidentally, my college roommate did the same thing with her son).  I guess sometimes I associate a race with a name, but I don't to the extent some people do (my husband pegs some last names as Jewish for example, and I never would have considered it and usually can't say whether the person is Jewish or not, and I can't even say if I agree that last name is usually Jewish or not).  Living in Texas, I encounter a fair number of Spanish-origin first names (and I learned that Jesus (who I meet a few days per week to run) and Jesus (who is depicted in lots of church art) aren't pronounced the same), but I don't speak Spanish, so if I have to guess at pronouncing a name that's unknown to me, I defer toward an Italian pronunciation.  Anyway, to break down barriers or stereotypes held by anyone besides my husband, our final male child will be named Leroy.  And middle name for my other grandfather.  Glue shouldn't get to monopolize the name.  Nor Bugs Bunny.  It's a very nice name.  But given the glue association, best suited to be a middle name I suppose.  So Leroy will have our fused last name -- he can't have my last name since my grandfather had that exact name and early in my legal career, I defended a credit reporting company, and I learned having two identical names in the same family can cause a lot of needless headaches. 


It's been less pressing to pick girl names with my husband's family birth history.  But of course I had a name that I'd used for my egg baby in high school, and there are family names and other pretty names to consider. 


So, for girls:


Tilapia Sleven Emerald Mafalda.  Our first girl will be Tilapia because that name is way too pretty to be only used for a fish.  Even though I'm allergic to seafood, I've had an affinity for this name for a long time for some reason.  I had pretty much forgotten how long until Mardi Gras last month, when my best friend reminded me about the original Tilapia in my life:  about 20 years ago, I had a freakishly long forearm hair that I named Tilapia.  Tilapia on my arm died (just like the egg that could be fertilized to be a female child Tilapia will probably die inside of me, but just in case...).  My husband actually encountered a real person at work named Tilapia.  It wasn't a good experience for him, but he likes tilapia the fish enough that he was willing to agree that we could use Tilapia as our first female child's name.  As for middle names, it's a random combination that we liked.  Sleven was a movie and it just sounds cool.  Emerald was my high school choice for my future daughter's name, and I used it for my egg baby.  Mafalda is for my husband's grandmother.  It's one of those old school Italian names that you just don't ever hear anymore on anyone under the age of 80 (and very few women over 80 even!).  For unknown reasons, whenever we talk about Tilapia, we assume she has my husband's last name (even though Mafalda did not, she was on his mom's side). 


Florence Genuvia.  Florence is after the city in the country that has our hearts.  And it's one of those pretty names you just don't hear very often.  On my list of things to do when I take over the world is to rename cities in foreign countries (and the countries themselves) so that they're pronounced basically the same everywhere.  It's crazy that we say Paris instead of Pa-ree, Florence instead of Fee-ren-zay, and Germany instead of Deutschland.  It's just as bad in Italian -- they say Monaco instead of Munchen (and we say Munich, also not Munchen), and then they have to distinguish the principality of Monaco by using its full name.  So we really shouldn't have picked Florence since technically, I think everyone in the whole world should know that city in Italia as Firenze, but it's still a pretty name and not too common anymore.  As for the middle name, yes, it's chosen after the prescription drug, but with an Italian spelling.  If we're not doing the first name the proper Italian way, at least we can spell the middle name an Italian way.  Drug companies are really picking all the good names. Given the Italian connection, this daughter would have my husband's last name. 


So if we have septuplets, or I have seven individual births, or some other multiple birth combinations adding up to seven kids, we'll be all set as far as names go! 


But yeah, we'll keep taking precautions to prevent that. 


So really, I don't lay claim to any of these names.  Feel free to use them for your own offspring.  Or suggest them to anyone you know who is pregnant.  However, if the person is having male twins, please join me in pleading that they be named Jesus (not the Spanish pronunciation), and Lucifer.  It will just be so interesting to see how that plays out!  Are people inherently nicer to Jesus?  Or does Jesus do bad stuff and blame it on his brother?  Or is Lucifer the naughtier one? 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Flashback

Long, largely pointless entry to follow.  But at least I'm writing! 


I had a run-in with the law in January.  I had gone to the movies with a friend.  I got to the movie and looked for my wallet, and realized I had forgotten it at home.  I had my bigger wallet, which contains random stuff I rarely use (my bar card, my insurance card, my ATM card, a Sears card and a credit card I don't like).  So I was able to pay for the movie.  After the movie ended, my friend and I chatted for a few minutes and I went to my car because I was supposed to go to the airport to pick up my husband from a visit with his parents.  I should have been fine on time (airport is about 20 minutes away), but when I got to my car, my husband texted me -- "Surprise!  We landed 25 minutes early!" 


So instead of getting there right around the time he landed, he was going to have to wait.  Incidentally, this was day two of round one of the travel ban, so there were hundreds of protestors at the airport here in light of the detainees.  My husband doesn't like being around demonstrations like that, particularly when he's unarmed (as he is about 90% of the time when flying), both because of a fear of violence breaking out around him, and because of a fear of repercussions at work if someone thought he was a protestor or something like that (his supervisors are largely what you'd expect in Texas criminal justice...). 


So I got on the highway, and it was pretty empty.  I got in the express lanes, which have very few entrances and exits, and at this time on this day, even fewer cars.  I maybe passed 4 cars in 10 miles?  The speed limit was 75 and I was probably driving about 90. 

Then the express lanes ended.  Speed limit drops to 65 or 70 I think.  I merged in and there was more traffic, but still not too much.  I was sailing right along until I got pulled over.  Yow.  The first thing the officer said to me:  "I've been out here all day, and you get the prize for being the first car over 90!"  I was horrified, and then even more horrified to have to say, actually, I don't have my driver's license with me -- I do have my insurance card and multiple "other cards" in my name, and I know my DL number, but uh, nothing with my photo and name. 


Shiitake! 



Since then, I've tried to be better about carrying my license when I'm driving.  I've also obviously tried to be more careful about my speed.


I'm least likely to have my license with me when I'm going to I work out, since I don't need a credit card or ID or anything, and it's such a pain to put it in the trunk before I leave the house (my husband has trained me well not to put something in my trunk after I park, and never to leave something of value in the car).  So anyway, this week, I went into my trunk to get my wallet so that I could then drive somewhere and use a credit card but not take my whole purse with me. 


I reached into my purse for my wallet and came out with (clean) underwear.  It was like a flashback to single life especially if I'd been particularly promiscuous (I was definitely more of a serial monogamist, but yeah, I'm sure I still had underwear in my purse on some random occasion). 


So last week I had my most feared commuting crisis.  I ran to work as usual and rode the elevator to my office as usual.  When I got to my office, I checked my email, filled my water bottle, and got my stuff to take to the locker room:  my bag that lives at work (makeup, deo, hair stuff, flip flops), and the contents of the garment bag I'd brought from home for the week (outfit, shoes, underwear, jewelry).  It seemed to all be there, so I went down to the locker room.  Showered, dried my hair, and started to get dressed.


Shiitake.


No underwear.  I sent a text to the only person in the office I thought I could ask to look for clean underwear in my office (my accounting buddy), but she wasn't in for the day yet.  I pondered my options:


1.  Text my coworker.  She has kids, she'd probably have no objection to handling a colleague's clean underwear, but yeah, that just didn't feel right. 


2.  Wait in the locker room, half dressed, until my accounting buddy came in for the day.


3.  Go commando up to the office and search the bottom of my garment bag myself. 


I sat around in the locker room half dressed and in a towel for about 10 minutes.  A few more texts and I realized my accounting buddy wasn't even close.  I was leaning toward option 3, and I started packing up my workout clothes, when I suddenly realized that in an outer pocket of my bag that lives at work, there was clean underwear for just such an emergency! 


It was a pair I hate (which is why they stay at work) (much like the hideous black pumps that live under my desk for the commuting emergency I've encountered a few times -- no dress shoes).  But clean underwear nonetheless! 


I got dressed and went back to my office.  Sure enough, my packing system had not broken down, I'd brought clean underwear, they were just overlooked in the garment bag.  So I put the clean good underwear in my bag that lives at work until I could wash and replace with the pair I was wearing that I hated.  I washed the hated pair and put them in my purse to execute the swap -- and then apparently forgot. 


I'm just kind of glad it's austerity measures and I'm not pulling out my wallet in front of anyone with any frequency -- I can imagine some acquaintances would have been concerned about the state of my marriage if they'd seen me carrying underwear around...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Austerity Measures

For the first time ever, my husband and I are under austerity measures for two months.  We're fairly conservative spenders for most things, but we also both have jobs and get paid enough (especially since we don't have kids, tuition, etc.) that we spend money if we want to.  I feel like our spending usually lines up pretty well with our priorities.  We mostly spend on travel, which is our favorite thing, but of course other discretionary expenses add up. 


Early in March, we did our preliminary look at our taxes.  We usually run the numbers ourselves before getting them done, and usually, the number we get is exceedingly close to the final number. 


And we ALWAYS owe.  We both withhold at 0, so I have no idea how this is the case, but it always happens.  And most years, in addition to what has been withheld, we have owed roughly the same amount.  So we budget for that and it is what it is.  I guess we could ask that additional amounts be withheld so we don't owe so much or so we actually get a refund, but we're pretty good at setting aside what we usually need to set aside, so we just leave the withholding at 0 and then write a check in mid-April.


Well, this year, our preliminary numbers indicate we need to write a check for about $10,000 MORE than we usually do. 


WTF?????


I have no idea how or why that happened.  We each have one employer and we each withhold at zero.  And we have "the usual" deductions (a mortgage, real estate taxes, charitables), and this year we even got to add the purchase of my car to the usual sales tax deduction (since there's no income tax in Texas).  I was thinking maybe we got screwed because we don't have kids, but my coworker said hers were much worse this year too, and she has three kids.  So that's good, I don't need to have a kid to ease the tax pain. 


(I should note here that we're definitely not arguing for a lower tax.  I mean, I get that our President doesn't have to pay taxes, but we firmly believe we should.  We like living in a country where there are schools for kids, roads for us, a military to defend us, police to keep us safe, courts to adjudicate cases, jails to hold bad people, agencies to provide licenses and permits, inspectors for our food, checks for the elderly to keep them off the streets, emergency rooms that treat emergencies, etc.)


We're obviously fortunate in that we can swing the payment as we've presently estimated it, and we're also lucky to have more than a month until we need to make the payment, but we've decided to implement austerity measures for the months of March and April in hopes of having that big check wipe us out a bit less than it otherwise would. 


Austerity measures are nearly killing me.  And we're only two weeks in! 


No fun trips for us.  Especially tough since I've been dying to make another trip to Oregon to see my brother and his family.  And since we were planning to go to French Quarter Fest in New Orleans (but wow, plane tickets were over $500 each! definitely not allowed under austerity measures).  This is probably the biggest sacrifice.  We're also considering using miles for our Fall trip, though we'll defer that decision another month or two anyway. 


No shopping.  I'm not a big shopper, but trying to be a non-shopper is a little more challenging than I expected.  My husband somehow got the elbow of one of his favorite dress shirts caught at work and it tore.  No new blue dress shirt for him (until May).  He's also waiting an extra week for a haircut, so maybe there will only be 2 cuts during austerity measures instead of 3.  No renting movies.  No going to the movies.  But we have Netflix and Amazon Prime, so this really shouldn't be asking a lot.  No extra races -- but I'm planning to register for next year's half marathon since it will be cheapest next weekend, and in this instance, there's no point in saving money now only to spend more later.  But no signing up for races just because. 


No entertaining, aside from what was already on the books -- we hosted a "breakfast party" this past weekend, which was fun.  At the store getting ready for the party, I was picking out flowers for the bar between our kitchen and the dining room, and my husband said they didn't come within austerity measures, but I said we aren't heathens, so we got the flowers anyway.  And we'll have our usual rehearsal dinner anniversary party next month.  And we have a houseguest this coming weekend (visiting for our local RNR half marathon), but she's low maintenance. 


Minimal eating out.  We went out for dinner this past weekend with people we'd usually treat (younger family who just moved here), but we split the check (they are nearly 40 and gainfully employed...).  We have brunches out planned the next couple weekends, we have a "dine at Chipotle for charity" type dinner one night, another dinner out with the new-to-town family, and we'll go out for our anniversary, (and we'll probably each end up going out for lunch on our own during the week once or twice) but I'm hoping for a total of less than 10 meals out (on our own dime) in the two months.  (I'm not counting meals out on my expense account when I'm traveling, or when my coworker takes me out to lunch (using up a Christmas gift card to a restaurant her husband hates), or when visiting attorneys take me out for lunch...  That should ease the pain a bit!) 


I'm sure there are other categories of spending that I'm not thinking of, but regardless, general austerity measures.  Bah humbug! 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Favorite Things

For about the last year, I've been unable to sleep through the night most nights.  I usually get up at 3:xx to pee, and I'm bummed to see I have to wake up in an hour (or less).  Sometimes I fall back asleep, sometimes I toss and turn until my alarm (4:40 lately). 


But last night, I woke at 2:10 to pee, I was so excited to know that I had more than two hours of sleep to go! 


I'm adding "knowing I can sleep for HOURS more" to my list of my favorite things. 


I have tried curtailing my water intake starting in the afternoon, but it doesn't seem to help -- or at least not enough to justify the misery of being thirsty. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

One pound

In terms of weight, I think I may have been at my most content in the last decade-plus in mid to late 2013.  Since then, the pounds have crept on, slowly sometimes, in six big plates of pasta eaten in Italy at other times. 


I have been trying not to stress about it, but to focus more on good food choices and plenty of activity. 

As always, I made a list of resolutions this year, among them, getting back to my "happy weight zone," which is defined by me as the 8-10 pound range where I felt the best.  Technically, it's a 10 pound range, but it's only my lowest weight in the last decade plus 8 pounds -- meaning if I ever got back down to that weight, and then lost 2 more pounds, I'd still be in the happy range.  If I lost more than that, I'm sure I'd look better, run better, and possibly feel better, but given the way I view food (joyfully, full of love, often a treat, something to savor and enjoy, rather than just fuel), and the foods I like, if I dropped below that weight it would probably mean cancer or some other illness.  So it's a 10 pound range in my head, but in reality, an 8 pound range.


So anyway, as of this morning, if I could lose a little less than 2 more pounds, then I will only be 5 pounds away from the very top of my happy weight range! 


That's still a lot of work (almost 7 pounds of it), and I'm not underestimating that, but it's closer than I've been in months.  Yeah!


Buuuuuut... right before Mardi Gras...  Oh well, hopefully with a few more months of good choices and bonus workouts, I might get there.  And when I'm back in the happy range, then I can keep going and get toward the middle of that range.  Or even the bottom, but one step at a time. 


If I define a workout as a single session of weights or running at least 30 minutes, then right now, I'm usually doing about 9 workouts per week -- two boot camps, one long run, three runs in the 5-7 mile range, two commute runs, and one extra class (twice this year it's been spin, and that's definitely growing on me). 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

VD

Valentine's Day seems to be a really big holiday for people who are dating, but less so for the rest of the world.  For us, it's usually an exchange of cards, flowers and sometimes chocolate for me, and some type of event for us -- special dinner, a show, whatever.  Most of all, lots of extra "I love you"s, shmoopy texts, kisses, and hugs. 


This year, we decided to get tickets to Shen Yun.  We went the weekend before last and it was an experience.  The dancing was amazing, and we each had favorite pieces (my husband liked the Tibetan drummers, I liked the yellow blossom dance), but we were both very surprised that about 2-3 of the 12-15 dance vignettes seemed to be very anti-Chinese government.  We were totally clueless walking in!  The website has details about how the performance company believes China's government is trying to make the company fail (and the Chinese government's opposition to Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa)).  But we didn't know any of that going into it, we just expected a 2-3 hour dance performance.  Anyway, politics aside (not that I'm sweeping any issue under the rug, I just know it's quite complicated), the dancing was lovely and it was nice VD celebration for us to be all dressed up and out together, whispering in our box about propaganda, whether we were being recruited, memories of when we were in China...


So when it got to be Sunday night this past weekend, my husband asked what we were going to do for the actual day of VD.  Since that meant we had no reservations, I suggested he come to a spin class with me.  And he agreed!  He usually hates working out at night, and while he loves biking, he's not big on spin, but in the interest of making me happy and ensuring we got to do something together on the actual night, he packed up his biking clothes. 


So I went to my second spin class of the year (also second spin class of the last 5+ years), on Valentine's Day, with my sweetest. 


Why spin?  Well, it's being taught by the great Megan Lyons!  At a fun studio, Grit.  If anyone can convince me to spin, it's Megan.  She's a great instructor and I might stick with it on at least a somewhat consistent basis (at least a couple classes per month hopefully) (of course it's very easy to say that since my work travel doesn't start for another month...).  Anyway, my first class was solely an effort to survive.  Megan's sister had given me some tips and I mostly kept the tension off and just tried to move my legs.  But for the VD class, I actually tried harder.  I'm not going to deny that there were multiple times my RPMs were below what she had set as the floor for the class, and I'm sure I always had the tension lower than it should have been, but baby steps!  I managed to get 13 miles in during the course of the class! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Addition

Also blog-worthy, my niece/nephew brood grew again.  And I got to be there right afterward!


About 9 days before my sister-in-law was due, my brother mentioned their contingency plan if she went into labor early.  She was due on a Thursday, and her mother was coming to town the Monday before.  And if it happened before that, they were just going to bring their son to the hospital with them, since they just moved to Oregon in December and don't have babysitters yet. 


Plan was born.  My brother and I talked on Tuesday.  He cleared it with his wife, since I was far from certain she'd want company being 9.9 months pregnant and it was short notice, and it was their last weekend as a family of 3.  And then I had to run the plan by my husband -- I've been traveling a fair amount for work and lately he's been really adverse to me going anywhere for fun alone if it means extra days apart (well, it's actually mutual, since I've vetoed a couple things he was considering).  My husband said he was on call all weekend anyway, and it would be nice, so I should go.  So on Thursday morning, I bought a plane ticket for Friday morning.  Packed Thursday night and went to bed.


And then my phone beeped.  Her water broke.  A full week early.  Ugh. 


So as I sat on the runway in Dallas Friday morning, Friday the 13th no less, my newest niece made her entrance into the world. 


I got to the hospital that afternoon, certainly the freshest/newest baby I've held in ages, maybe ever. 


So I got to hang with my sweet nephew Fri night and then Saturday my brother and his wife came home from the hospital with baby Ava. 


I held her as much as I could before I had to leave. 



In her first 72-ish hours, she seemed to have a very sweet disposition.  She slept a lot.  But I remember when her older brother was a baby, and it seemed like if he was awake, he was screaming. Especially if he needed a diaper change. Not her.  Very rarely cried, except when she was being changed.  We think she didn't like the cold. 

When I was holding her on my last day there, I had her wrapped in a blanket.  I held her for about an hour.  At one point, she fussed, but it was for less than 3 seconds.  When it was time to go, I finally handed her back to her mom, and the blanket slipped off and there was $hit EVERYWHERE.  Like everywhere.  All over her pants, the bottom of her sweater, the inside of the blanket.  Like she had had a colossal diaper blowout under the blanket.  But she didn't care, just totally easygoing. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Dream

So I woke up this morning in the middle of the most nonsensical dream ever.  I was involved in a court case about an injunction related to changing a highway merge pattern.  This woman who said she was a "country lawyer" had two designer skirts she was trying to sell on Madden (apparently the name of something like Craigslist in my dream) and she didn't have any buyers, so they should leave the highway unchanged so she could easily get into the city and wear her skirts.  Huh???

Not what I planned for my first post back, but whatever.  I'm alive and dreaming, apparently literally but oddly.  I definitely keep meaning to blog, even if it's short.