Tag Archives: A Fine Mess

Bank Statments and Surprises

The Saturday afternoon mail delivery brought with it a surprise. Well, maybe to call it a surprise isn’t the most accurate way to describe what this was. A surprise generally involves something nice (unless it’s prefaced with ‘unpleasant’). This wasn’t exactly pleasant. Nope. It looked like some sort of tax statement, and it looked like they’d taken some money out of my account for federal income taxes.

Since banks aren’t open long on weekends, I had to wait until Monday to figure out that it wasn’t a tax, it was for ‘other income.’  The problem was, they didn’t know what it meant, and neither did I. So the woman I talked to promised to find out for me.

And she did.

The other income was actually an iPod they sent me after I opened the account last summer. My old bank flagged my account every time I ordered something two days in a row from Amazon (I buy a lot of books). I wanted a bank that wouldn’t do that.

The woman who set up my account didn’t mention an iPod. And she sure as shooting didn’t say a word about it being ‘income’ I’d have to pay taxes on. If she had, I’d have said thanks, but no thanks. If I wanted one, I would  go to the store and buy it.

My daughter was pleased as punch when it came in the mail several weeks later. She’s the reason I had resisted buying one in the first place. In two years time, three cell phones met their electronic maker in the wash/rinse cycles, and one was crushed beneath the tires of my van. I naturally assumed that if her cell phones had short lifespans, something an inch square didn’t stand a chance.

Long story shorter, I’m going to pay $15.00 – $20.00 in income tax on that iPod. Sales tax would have only been $3.90. I’ll grant you that we’re getting it cheap, all things considered, but I’m still offended.

They assumed I opened the account because they sent a flyer through the mail, letting people know about the ‘gift.’ Unfortunately, in my house, if it looks like junk mail, it goes directly in the waste basket.

I wasn’t really awful, but I let the woman know that by not informing me about the iPod/other income/income tax when I opened the account, they not only made an assumption they had no business making, they denied me the right to decide whether I wanted their ‘gift’ or not.

The woman said she would let someone know, and I thought the matter had been dealt with.

Nope. Someone else called about two hours after I finally fell asleep yesterday morning. And this time I really wasn’t happy. Partly because I’d only had eleven hours sleep out of the past forty-eight, partly because I was tired of talking about it.

She just wanted me to know that, because of my experience, they were now going to require anyone wanting one of their ‘other income gifts’ to bring the flyer in with them. And all employees setting up accounts will have to explain that anyone accepting the gifts will have to pay income taxes on it, and not sales tax (which is a whole lot less).

So something good has come of it. At least no one else will wind up with a gift they neither asked for, nor wanted…and then have to pay for it.

Yes, this was a bit of a rant. Have any of you had an experience like mine? If so, what was your reaction? I know that even if the tax bill is $20.00, it isn’t going to make or break my budget, it’s just the principle of the thing.

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Filed under Life, Uncategorized

The Joys of Sleep Deprivation

As is too often the case, sleep is an issue with me again. Or rather LACK of sleep. Insomnia sucks. So does a stomachache. Yup. Which is why I figured it was time to drag myself out to the kitchen and mix up a small glass of what works for me. That would be organic apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and a little bit of water. It works better, and faster, than any antacid I’ve ever tried. It’s kind of nasty, but I can handle a bad taste…IF something works.

Well…also if I don’t have to have too much of it.

Anyway, as is also the case when I desperately need sleep, funny thoughts tend to come to mind. Trust me, there isn’t a whole lot that’s amusing when it comes to vinegar and baking soda.

Unless you happen to be running late for a meeting, and you have a bit of indigestion and decide to save  1/100 of a second…by skipping the water.

Yup. I poured about two tablespoons of the vinegar in a small glass, added half a teaspoon of baking soda, swirled it around a couple of times and tossed it all  back like a cowboy chugging a shot glass of whiskey in Miss Kitty’s saloon (Gunsmoke reference for those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about).

I’ve never tested this theory again. Probably because I intend for the first experience to be the last experience. But I found, at least in that instance, that baking soda doesn’t really dissolve in vinegar.

And I know this because I had half a teaspoon of wet baking soda in my mouth.

Now half a teaspoon of baking soda isn’t that much. Not really. Unless it’s wet, and unless it happens to in your mouth. Then it feels like…oh…maybe two cups.

Because it gets everywhere. I must have gulped a quart of water to get that gritty stuff rinsed out.

And moral of this story is… Two tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar and half a teaspoon of baking soda will get rid of nearly every case of indigestion. But only if you use a little water with it.

Of course if you’d like to prove me wrong, have at it. Maybe I didn’t swirl it in the glass long enough. If you try it, let me know how that works for you.

I’m going to try to get some sleep now.

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Filed under Just for fun

I Really Blew It That Time

This post made it’s first appearance way back on July 5, 2011 (Happy belated Birthday, little sis!). But since I had a grand total of about zero readers then, I decided it might be time for a rerun. Why? Because my son was out here a few minutes ago, trying to talk me into buying an ‘egg flipping pan’ he just saw on an infomercial. If this confuses you, read on…

~~~~~

To explain, my son is autistic. High functioning, but autistic nonetheless. He tends to get enthused about things that, frankly, don’t enthuse me much at all. Take cartoons. Clearly there is something not quite right about a mom who has no interest in them. We have the same issues over things like infomercials, something he absolutely loves. The following is an almost word-for-word conversation we had a while ago…

Saturday night my boy came peeling out of his bedroom extremely excited over an infomercial he’d just seen. About a knife set, of all things. Unfortunately for him, I didn’t get very excited about it.

“You get a LOT of knives, Mom! Stainless steel knives that won’t get dull no matter what you do with them. You can cut cans, you can cut wood…all for just three easy payments of $13.33.”

“That’s cool, son, but I don’t spend a lot of time cutting cans or wood.”

“But Mom, you get a lot of knives. And it comes with not one set of steak knives, but two, in case you have a lot of company.”

“Sorry,  but if we had that much company we’d be having Sloppy Joes – and you don’t need any knives for those.”

“But Mom! That’s eight steak knives, all for just three easy payments of $13.33.”

“I’m sorry but we don’t need more steak knives.”

But it comes with kitchen scissors, so you can cut up chickens and other stuff, Mom. And the first knife they showed is guaranteed, so if it gets dull they’ll replace it. But only the first knife. The rest of them aren’t guaranteed.

“We don’t need knives! 

“But you can have them all for just three easy payments of $13.33!”

No!” (by this point he is getting extremely annoyed with me)

“Those knives sell for $840.00, and you can have them for just three easy payments of $13.33!”

“I don’t really care. I’m not buying them.”

“That’s just stupid, Mom! You’d waste $800.00 when you could have had those knives for just three easy payments of $13.33? That’s just stupid!

“Well, I’m not wasting $800.00 on any set of knives, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

(Now he’s walking back to his room muttering…)

“That’s just stupid. You could have had all those knives for just three easy payment of $13.33….”

And he actually said the phrase, “three easy payments of $13.33″ all those times. I should have written the company to let them know they could have a new spokesperson for their knives. All for just three easy payments…

Now back to the subject that sent me searching for that old blog post-

This ‘egg flipping pan’ is similar to the one I bought six or seven years ago. However, mine wasn’t green, and there was a good inch and a half gap between the pans…meaning all the eggs I tried to cook wound up on the top of the stove. Every time. No matter how fast I flipped the pans. In fact, the faster I flipped them, the faster the eggs flew out.

Looks like someone fixed that design flaw. No matter though, I’m still not buying another one. Spatulas work fine for me. Poaching works even better.

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Filed under Just for fun

Influenza Season – Should We Be Worried?

Unless you’re me, probably not.

Why? Because I spent countless hours researching the 1918 influenza pandemic in order to write Enza. And it’s because of that book that I tend to get a little nervous during flu season. Especially when reports are telling us that it’s worse, and starting earlier than normal.

I’m going to steal a couple of quotes from a blog I wrote last spring, titled The Spanish Influenza Pandemic, so you can see why I might worry about it more than most people.

“Estimates for the death toll, worldwide, range between twenty to forty million and fifty to one-hundred million, depending on the source…Stanford.edu states, “More people died of influenza in a single year than in four-years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351.”  And they’re the ones estimating the lower numbers.

“To put all of this in perspective, a number of sources claim that, “If 1918-19 mortality data are extrapolated to the current U.S. population, 1.7 million people could die, half of them between the ages of 18 and 40. Globally,those same estimates yield 180-360 million deaths…”

Fast forward to present day

According to an article on the CDC website, 17,000 – 52,000 (an average of 36,000) died during each flu season from 1990 -1999.  With the population being en excess of 217 million in the United States this year, some might say that even the 52k estimate is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who live here.

If my calculations are correct, and my math skills do leave a little to be desired, the odds are 1/6,096.  (Just a FYI, according to National Geographic, we each have a better chance of being struck by lightening. It’s true. Over the course of our lifetimes, there’s a 1/3,000 chance that it could happen. I didn’t know this until a few minutes ago, and I’m not especially thrilled to find the odds are that good)

Could a pandemic like the one that happened in 1918 happen today? Who knows? Hopefully not. But I’m sure they didn’t think it could happen then either. Certainly WW1 helped facilitate the spread of the Spanish Flu, thanks to soldiers being transported like cattle on ships.

Except today, not only do we have ships, we have planes. According to CNN, “…there are roughly 10 million flights per year in the U.S. alone…” Who knows how many individual passengers that translates to? Not me, but I’m betting it’s a whole lot more than ten million.

Am I trying to scare you with this post? Not really. Just make you more aware of our history, and the fact that probably haven’t seen the last of plagues and pandemics just because we live in the modern age.

To anyone who thinks we’re past those kinds of tragedies, I have a couple of things to say about that. Antibiotic resistant bacteria and ‘superbugs.’ I won’t go into those details, but if you have some spare time, you might read the article.

So be careful. Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, try to stay away from people who are sick. My kids and I are taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 every day (along with a little calcium and fat for better absorption). You’d be surprised at what that can do for your health.

~~~

On a brighter note, the first issue of my newsletter…with the first installment of Holding On To Yesterday…was sent out on Monday. If you’d like to sign up for it, just click here, fill out your email address, and then confirm that you’d like to receive it when you get the email asking you whether you really want it or not.

 

 

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Holding On To Yesterday

As promised, here is the first scene of my new novelette, Holding On To Yesterday, part one in the Wishes In Time series. If you like what you read here, and would like the rest of the story before it’s published in book form, all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by clicking on this link. There will be at least two more novelettes for this particular story, and possibly four. With each new one, I will only post the first scene on this blog, as well as my other one, with the rest to follow for subscribers only.

Because of the timing, installments will be emailed on 1/14, 1/28, 2/11 and 2/25, with publication scheduled for March 4. Hope you enjoy the story. :)

The raindrops pelting his face felt like the stings from a thousand ravenous fire ants as Kyle clawed his way across the spongy, water-soaked ground. A gale force wind pushed against him almost as though it were a living thing, determined to keep them apart, and yet he pressed on, inch by hard won inch.
  Still, he couldn’t get close enough to save her. He never got close enough. All he could do was watch, helpless, as she lay there dying, impaled by an impossibly huge tree limb. Its branches and leaves covered her like a shroud, leaving only her face, and one lifeless hand exposed.
  “You killed us.” Rather than being drowned out by the hellacious storm, Maggie’s soft accusation drifted across the distance, echoing in his head, cutting his heart in two. Blue eyes, filled with sadness, locked with his as she watched him fighting against the elements, determined to change the outcome this time.
  “No! I didn’t mean to,” Kyle cried, his hands fisting in the grass. Tears streamed down his face as he tried to explain, to make her understand. “I couldn’t get there in time, Mags. I was too late. I’m sorry! I’m so sorry.”
  “If you had ever wanted us, we’d have been home where we belonged. We’d be there with you now. Our daughter would be two years old.”
  Daughter?
  Kyle had never understood why she always talked about a baby, but this was the first time she’d identified it as a girl. Why did she think they had a daughter? Because she’d desperately wanted to start a family? Because he hadn’t been ready, and he’d robbed her of the one thing she’d desired most? The pain that squeezed his chest felt like it might crush him. Thinking of a child in generic terms had somehow made it not as bad as it could have been. But – a daughter?
  Would she have had Maggie’s silky straight chestnut hair? Or would it be more like his, sandy blond with a tendency to curl? Her blue eyes, or his brown? If they’d had a daughter, she would be walking by now, maybe even talking so he could understand her.
  If he hadn’t killed Maggie. Killed her dream.
  The vision before him changed slightly. Instead of just Maggie lying there, he could see a pair of tiny legs sticking out, the head and torso hidden beneath a canopy of leaves. In a sick way it reminded him of the witch killed by a house in the movie about little people and a dancing scarecrow.
  Only it was his family who had been crushed by a falling limb during the storm. The family he could have had, only he’d hurt and chased them away because he hadn’t cared enough to make them his own. Freedom had mattered more to him in that one crucial moment than anything else. Even though he’d realized less than a day later that he’d been wrong, it had been too late. Before he could get to her, to tell her that she was his everything, to beg her to forgive him, she was gone.
  “Think about us,” Maggie whispered, as the vision wavered and began to fade.
  “No! Don’t leave,” he begged, reaching out to try and stop her. “Maggie, stay with me.”

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Filed under Romance, Uncategorized

Superhuman Power

It’s been a long couple of months, and I can’t remember where I read it, but someone asked, ‘If you could have a superpower, what would it be.’I replied that I’d want super speed because if I could get everything I need to do done fast, it would be like adding hours to my day.

I guess it keeps coming to mind because the past couple of months have been crazy. First the writing challenge in November, with Christmas – and all that entails – hot on its heels…followed by the cold, or whatever this is, that I came down with Christmas night. I’m starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, but boy has it worn me out. I haven’t been getting to my favorite blogs like I should. Writing has been minimal. And my house? I’m pretty sure could be declared a disaster zone (maybe I’d qualify for federal relief?). So yeah, super speed  would come in handy right now.

Oh how I wish I could figure out a way to get it. It would be nice to catch up on at least some of the things on my to-do list.

Just think, I could run (literally) to the store, finish my shopping, and be home with everything put away long before I could ever drive the five miles to get there…one way.

There would be no need for a snow blower, just a well made shovel. The treadmill? Valuable floor space could be reclaimed since I could just run to Brazil and back in a minute or two. And what about housework?

Certainly there are things that super speed couldn’t help. After all, cakes would still take about forty minutes to bake, laundry would remain a day-long chore (though folding/hanging/putting away would be a breeze), and I doubt there’s a way to get adequate rest without sleeping six to eight hours a night.

There are other things I’m not sure about either…like speed typing. Would my brain be able to keep up with my fingers? And what about the keyboard? They’re probably not made to type a million words a minute. Would I be burning them out, one right after another?

In many ways, it wouldn’t benefit me at all. But when I think of all the time saved from cleaning and errands…yeah. That would be my super power of choice.

What would yours be? Why? Please feel free to share your reasons in the comments section below.

~~~

Don’t forget to check out the first scene in my Wishes in Time novelette series, Holding On To Yesterday, Part One, on my other blog – Pretty Much Perfect Heroes. If you’d like to read the rest of the story before it’s published on March 4, 2013, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

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Filed under Life

A Blank Slate

Happy 2013 everyone! Where did the last year go? And how did it go so quickly?!

I’ve often wondered why our perception of time changes so dramatically from when we were kids. And then I realized it was because when we were little, and in school, we were always looking forward to something. The more we looked forward to it, the slower time seemed to pass.

As an adult, at least for me, I’ve realized I don’t really look forward to anything like I did back then. Sure, I’ll mark events on my calendar, and I’ll really look forward to enjoying them…but except for a quick glance, every now and again, I don’t think about them much. Life, after all, gets in the way. Every minute of every day when you’re a grownup.

I’m sure most kids look forward to the first day of school every year. But within about ten days, they’re anticipating the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. And hot on its heels is the two week break at Christmas. Then the next decent vacation is around Easter…until summer finally rolls around again.

Those are the things we lived for when we were kids. Our lives revolved around one vacation or another…and we looked forward to them with excitement, anticipation, and usually desperation…because no matter how great that first day of school was…school pretty much sucked. I mean really, it did. We had to get up early every day, sit through mind numbing classes for hours…when all we wanted to do was be outside playing. Or sleeping in.

In the midst of all of that were the biggies though. Waiting to be a teenager. Waiting for our driver’s license. Waiting to graduate, to get our first job, to have our first drink, or date. All we really wanted was to grow up and do whatever we pleased. To not have someone always telling us what we could and could not do.

But…surprise!

As adults, life is usually living the same day over and over and over again. Sure we do our best to enjoy it, and schedule things to make it more fun, but unless we were to keep a diary that listed those ‘different’ things, one day is pretty much a clone of the one that came before it, and the one that will follow after.

And I think that’s why time takes on the weird effect of dragging along like a snail…thanks to the boredom of every day being basically the same, to turning around a few times throughout the course of a year and wondering how we got from January to May, or July to September, way too fast.

Every year for the past few years I’ve resolved to stop doing that. To figure out a few things that will slow time down for me a little bit. And every year I’ve fallen far short of that goal.

But I’m determined that this year is going to be different. I will figure out a few events…special events…I want to do. Things I can look forward to. Maybe make one of those ‘wish’ boards with pictures to represent what it is I want to do. And then hang it where I can see it several times a day to remind me.

Yes, I have some major goals for my family, home, and writing…but I need to plan things that will bring out the impatient kid in me again. Things that have me chomping at the bit because I can hardly wait for whatever it is to get here.

I really think that’s the key to breaking out of the boring box of ‘sameness’ I’ve locked myself in.

So welcome, 2013. We have a blank slate…and we’re going to make this the best year ever, you and I.

I know I’ve shared the following song before, but it’s so very appropriate, and really expresses the way I tend to feel at the beginning of a new year. ‘Another blink of the eye.’ Yeah. That’s how fast 2012 raced by…

*****

Don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter. I’ll be posting the first scene from my new novella on Monday, January 7, 2007 on my new, strictly for writing, blog…Pretty Much Perfect Heroes. Only subscribers will get the rest of the story in their inbox.

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