Tax time. Those very words instill fear and anxiety into the average American Joe. Which form do we use? Are you single or married, filing jointly ? Any dependents? How many exemptions? Oh then comes the W-2’s! Did we make too much or not enough? Interest, dividends, IRA distributions …bring it all down to Line 15 and record total income. Out of pocket expenses for classroom supplies. Student loan interest deduction…tuition and fees. Breathe and calculate the AGI.
Sound familiar? Many will simply pay a professional to do their taxes and then… there are those of us who tackle them ourselves. I am one of those people. I have an accounting background and have been doing my taxes my whole life. Granted there have been those rare occasions when I needed an accountant to handle those few oddities along the way like purchasing/selling a house or getting an inheritance.
So today before I could slice, I had to do my federal taxes. I really miss having the tax pamphlet sent to my house with all the explanations and forms included. I am a visual person and like being able to see everything in front of me. But no! Now everything is electronic filing. I use an online tax program that asks a million questions along the way to see if you can itemize or not. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t tell you that’s the reason why it’s asking those million questions. In the end, it acts like it is doing you an enormous favor. It tells you that you can only take the standard deduction. Really? I knew that before I even started. Ugh! so the long and short of it is that I am wishing for the old way of doing my taxes. Papers spread out in front of me in a way that makes sense. For those we still need to do their taxes, peace out and may the force be with you.
Waiting….waiting…..get ready, get set….BAM! It came out of nowhere…whoosh…blubbb..blubbb …being pushed down by what felt like a hundred elephants. …being swept backwards …arms and legs thrashing wildly….Don’t panic…….have to get air…..dear God help me! I see light…..hurry move toward the light! At last, my body propelled itself upward and burst through the surface. Air once again filled my lungs as tried to get my bearings. My board, where was my board? There it was floating toward the shore. I had to get back to the shore. Just a little further…stroke…stroke….stroke. Finally able to stand up, I stumbled forward and flung myself down on the wet sand. “Are you ok? Are you ok? my niece and nephew asked. “Yes,” I said. “I’m just a little shaken.”
In 1988 our honeymoon consisted of a 3-day/4-night cruise to the Bahamas, a tour of Cape Canaveral and 2 days admission to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Our time spent at Disney was exhausting and somewhat of a blur. My newlywed husband had released his inner child and was determined to see everything in the short time we were there. He literally dragged me from one end of the park to the other. “Slow down, we can always come back,” I said. Stopping for a moment, he turned towards me and said “But…. you never know when we’ll be able to come back here.” He was right.
Fast forward ten years to 1998. My husband and I would be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. Where should we go? What should we do? How much can we afford? These were some of the questions we bounced around. We wanted to do something special since we hadn’t gone anywhere since our honeymoon. My husband, being in the Army Reserves, decided that we were going to take advantage of one of the military’s best kept secrets. We would be staying at one of the Armed Forces Recreational Centers. The high demand to stay at one of these centers often required that reservations be made at least a year in advance.
Hawaii, Japan, Germany, and Florida were the options. Financially, the first three options weren’t viable at the time, so naturally we picked Florida. We would be staying at The Shades of Green Hotel located on the grounds of Walt Disney World. This would be a combination family vacation/ 10 year anniversary celebration. It seemed preposterous that we would be making reservations a year ahead, but we did. We booked two adjoining rooms. One room for my sister and her family. The other room for our family of four.
Our daughters were both at a perfect age to experience the Wonderful World of Disney. The oldest was 8 1/2 and the youngest was 4 1/2. I really don’t know who was more excited about spending 10 days at Disney World. Was it the girls or us, their parents? I think that it was pretty neck and neck. Personally, this time around, I was so excited to be able to see things at a much slower pace. Ten days, on the grounds, and the ability to go in and out of the park whenever we were tired. It was heavenly .
There were many magical moments during this family vacation/ anniversary but two in particular stand out for me. One was when my youngest daughter had the opportunity to talk to Ariel, The Little Mermaid. She absolutely loved Ariel. When it came time for her to say hello to Ariel, she asked “Where are all your sisters?’ The young woman apparently taken off guard took a moment before answering. With a sweet smile on her face, she answered in a gentle voice and said, “My sisters are at home in the sea.” Her answer seemed to satisfy my daughter, who knew the movie both backwards and forward.
The second memorable moment came during the Electric Parade when all the Disney Princesses were parading down the street in front of us. Such joy and excitement pulsed through my 4 1/2 year old that my sister and I swear she had an out of body experience. Whether young or old, during that vacation we all experienced the magical world of Disney.
A painter and a writer, artistically practicing their craft, create wonderful visual images that leave an imprint in our mind. Whether it is the vibrant hues of color painted across a canvas or the flow of a thousand descriptive words, we get the picture. One of the most beautiful places I know is located in Cape May, New Jersey. It is called Sunset Beach. At dusk, crowds flock to this southern most point to witness the sun sink slowly into the ocean. Breath-takingly beautiful, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I can’t wait to return!
A record breaking heat wave swept through the Midwest during the summer of 1988. Between May and August, there were 45 days where the temperature rose above 90 degrees. Out of those 45 days, there were 7 days where the temperature rose above 100. Adding in the heat index on those days, the temperature sometimes felt like it was 111.
As luck would have it, I was married on one of the hottest days that summer. On July 16th the temperature reached 106 degrees with a heat index of, you guessed it, 111 degrees. But that’s a story….. I will have to share with you another day.
My sister and her family had come in from Pennsylvania for the wedding and were staying at my parent’s house. From the time I was little, I always looked forward to the times when my sister and brother-in-law would come home to visit. Anywhere they went, I went. I was their sidekick. At the drop of a hat, they would say “Come with us, we’re going on an adventure!” So needless to say, three days before I was getting married, we went on an adventure. This time, there were eight of us going (5 adults and three kids). The destination…..Six Flags Great America.
“Wow! Look at all the rides. Can we go on the swings first,” begged my nieces and nephew. Getting a game plan together, we decided that my sister and sister-in-law would take the kids on the swings. My brother, brother-in-law and I would go on a roller coaster called The Demon. We would meet at the park benches after our rides were over.
So into the queue line, the three of us went. We chatted about this and that as we inched forward slowly. Up one way, back the other way. Up one set of stairs. Thank goodness there were fans stationed along the way to keep the air flowing while patrons waited. “So where do you want to sit when we get up there?” I asked. “We’re going to sit at the back,” answered the guys. “Oh! I see how it is. You guys don’t want to be first to go down that drop. Chicken! bak bak bak, ” I said. Up one way, back the other way. Getting closer. Last set of stairs.
“Enjoy the ride,” I said as we went to stand in the separate queues for each car. As the ride pulled in and came to a stop, a voice said “Thank you for riding The Demon. Please wait for the harness to raise and exit to your right.” ” How many?” asked the attendant. “Just Me,” I said. Usually if there is one person riding by themselves, they try to put another person in the same car with you.
No such luck. So into the third car from the front I went ……by myself. I have to admit I was a little nervous sitting there, but before I knew it, down came the harness and the ride started to move. With senses heightened, I heard that unmistakable sound coming from beneath me. Click… click …click ..click. Up, up, up in the air the car went. I was getting ready to scream as soon as we reached the top but then something happened. The ride stopped! Remember that heat wave I was talking about earlier? Well, it caused the power to go out on half the park. I was stuck at the top of the roller coaster. I hoped the ride would start again but it didn’t. I sat up there for 45 minutes, with the hot sun beating down, before the park decided to walk us down from the roller coaster. I remember how hard it was to stand upright in that car and get out onto the staircase. I was shaking like a leaf because I’m afraid of heights. In my mind I kept saying “Focus on the person who is helping you. Don’t look down at the space between the car and the staircase. Just take one step at a time. It’s going to be ok.” I was so relieved when I finally reached the bottom.
“We are so sorry for the inconvenience. Here’s a coupon for a free small drink.” said a park employee. “Really?” said my brother-in-law. “You could at least give us a free coupon for an extra large drink!” People were pretty upset that they didn’t get us down sooner so they finally gave us an upgraded drink voucher.
“Wow! That was intense walking down those stairs. I’m still a little shook up.” I said to my brother and brother-in-law. With a smirk on his face, my brother-in-law said, “You know if you sat by us, at the end of the ride, you wouldn’t have had to walk down so many steps.” “You’re funny, very funny!” I said. We all started to laugh. This definitely was one adventure for the books.
She was 55 years old at the time. Women of her generation stayed at home and raised their children. If she ever needed to go somewhere, there were only 3 options available….walking, taking a bus, or waiting for her husband to drive her once he came home from work. Being a strong and independent woman her whole life, I really don’t know what prompted her to finally learn how to drive,but at the age of ten I hopped in the backseat and went along for the ride.
She had signed up for driving lessons during the week but on the weekends my dad would take my mom to practice. “Get in the car” my dad would say. “It’s time to take mom for her driving lesson.” So into the backseat I climbed. “Dad, where are you taking mom to practice?” I asked. “Just wait. You’ll see.” answered my dad. We drove for what seemed like an eternity but we finally had reached our destination…..the cemetery. “Why here?”asked my mom. “Because dear, everyone here is dead. It’s the live ones you have to worry about.” answered my dad.
So my dad pulled over in the cemetery and parked the car. He had my mom get behind the wheel while he went around to the trunk and pulled something out. When my dad sat back down in passenger seat he had a baseball bat. My mom looked at me. I looked at my mom. In unison, we both asked “What’s the bat for?” Calmly he said in a matter of fact way, “It’s to hit the break if I need to. I won’t be able to reach it from the passenger seat.”
So my dad had my mom check her mirrors, adjust the seat, and start the car. Slowly she pulled away from the curb. Make sure you use your turn signals. Stop and look both ways at the intersections. Keep your hands at 11 and 2. Turn the wheel hand over hand in a turn and ease up on the gas. Gently tap the brakes. I can still hear my dad repeating these directions to my mom. Over and over, he had her wind through the cemetery first one way then another. Eventually, he told my mom to pull over to the side because he wanted her to practice going through the motions of parallel parking and backing up.”Ok, pull up along the “imaginary” parked car ,” he said. “Good now keep your foot on the brake and put the car in reverse. Now here’s the hard part. I need you to gently press on the gas while you turn the wheel counter clockwise and roll backward.”
I’m really not sure how it happened but the next thing I knew the car was propelled backwards and my dad hit the brake with the bat. “Holy crap!” shouted my dad. “You just rolled over the dead!” “It’s a good thing it was a flat tombstone.” I think my mom was so nervous about backing up that when she initially gave the car a little gas to back up and went to tap the break to slow down the reverse motion, she accidentally hit the gas again. During my mom’s driving years, she always seemed to have trouble backing up.One time backing down the driveway she knocked the water faucet handle off the house. Another time,she backed up on the street in front of our house and locked up the bumper with the fire hydrant on our front lawn. That accident caused quite the commotion on our dead end block.
In spite of all the mishaps and some gray hairs along the way, my dad and I were so proud of my mom. She was the only one of her five sisters that ever learned to drive. When it was time for me to learn to drive, off we went to the cemetery. My mom was now the teacher and I was the student. In my own family, this tradition of learning to drive in the cemetery continues on.