Monday, March 31, 2008

A Gift?

It's Chinese food again. It must be Monday. As if the slew of Monday morning phone calls ("Are you sure my tax return is right? I can't owe this much tax! Can you check it again?") and urgent interuptions ("You have an IRS auditor in the lobby" "What?! I don't have an appointment with an IRS auditor!" [trying to think about what the repercussions of this might be, all the way down to the lobby, only to find out it was a client instead...isn't she funny?!?] weren't clue enough that today was indeed, Monday.

My fortune cookie says "You will receive an unexpected gift from an acquaintance."




Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Blogroll Addition

While I'm on a posting frenzy (hey, it's all relative), I keep meaning to mention this blog that I've been reading lately that some of you may also enjoy. I think I found her blog through Sisiggy's blogroll (only Sisiggy needs to update her link! ;-).

This post was especially cute (for those of you who are parents or can appreciate the antics of small children).

And this one was a very well composed argument in response to the news a little while back that 1 in 4 teenage girls has some form of an STD.

And that's probably all the capacity for posts I've got in me for another week or so.


It Tastes Like Play-doh

I'm eating left over salad at the office and it's filled with all sorts of greens, berries and cheeses. It's very good until I get a bite full of a certain "green" that tastes exactly like Play-doh. And yes, I do know that that tastes like. I was a member of the paste-eaters club in grade school. We weren't above devouring a bite or two of Play-doh if that was also available. But what could this beeee?!


My Eyes!

I first found out that I have glaucoma (the early stage, no optic nerve damage yet) back in 2004. I began taking drops and the pressure went down to the normal range and all was good. But when the prescription ran out, I was slow getting back to the doctor for my follow up and renewal of the prescription. Time passed (like, almost 3 years!) and guilt set in. Then I read Blindness and felt my eyes twinging with every turn of the page. Then I became hesitant to go back to the eye doctor because 1) I was feeling guilty about not being a good patient and 2) I was fearful of the results. Because, you know, what you don't know can't hurt you, right?

After several weeks of working on minimal sleep, my eyes were feeling very fatigued and I was feeling more brief twinges of pain on a regular basis. I decided that I better make an appointment with the eye doctor (a glaucoma specialist) as soon as possible. And I'm telling you, I was more nervous about going to the eye doctor than I've ever been about going to the dentist. My palms were sweaty for the duration of the visit. On the way to the office, nearly every song on the blues channel I listen to included the words "Lord, have mercy on me" (the last song before I went in was appropriately the Sinner's Prayer), so I continued this prayer for the duration of my wait in the waiting room, all the while trying to pretend I was enjoying the article about Martha Stewart's daffodils.

The visit started out okay, with a question and answer period, some confession of guilt on my part, and a check of my prescription. I'm finally starting to notice that I have to hold things further away to read also, so bifocals may be in my future. Once that was over, the technician checked my eye pressure. Then he checked it again. And again. Then, departing from his earlier friendly conversational style, he abruptly left the room and told me that I would see the doctor next. And he wished me "good luck." I didn't ask, but I knew that he got some high pressure readings, just based on his abrupt change of personality and concerned look on his face, like he suddenly learned I had leprosy. In 2004, the technician had the audacity to say, "I've never seen readings that high before." Casually, you know, like I wasn't in the room.

Then I waited. And not long after (quicker than the usual wait for the doctor), the doctor arrived. He said the technician was getting some fairly high readings, so he wanted to check it again, then he'd get on with the other tests. More drops in the eye and then mirrors and lights and other instruments. He confirmed that the pressure was indeed high ("the highest readings he'd seen in a long time"). He told me the numbers but I said "those don't mean anything to me, what's normal look like?" He said normal was 10-20 and mine was 32 and 47. Alrighty then. Yep, that sounds a little off the charts to me too! He immediately suspended all additional tests, scurried out of the room with a concerned look on his face, came back with some "water pills, to get a jump on bringing the pressure down" and a sample bottle of the eye drops I had used before and set up an appointment to be back in a week to do the other tests. He couldn't get me out of the office fast enough.

I went back to work and imagined that I was just this close to an eyeball explosion. I felt much better the day before, when I was clueless. Now my mind was playing all sorts of tricks on me. I left work at 5:00 to have dinner with some friends and then went home thinking I would spend the evening reviewing tax returns. But when I got home, I was so exhausted from my day at the eye doctor that I went straight to bed at 7:30 (after putting the eye drops in) and though I woke up a couple times in the night, I managed to go right back to sleep until 7:00 this morning. Probably the best night of sleep ever and probably just what my eyes needed, a little rest!

I am optimistic that the eye drops are working and hopeful that when I return, I'll be given a regimen that will prevent me from going blind. I have made a deal with God that if he'll just please, please, please have mercy on me this one more time, I promise not to let things go untended like this again.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Quiz!

From today's quiz on Michael Feldman's Whad'ya Know, on the drive into work this morning...

In which city has the Easter Bunny been banned?

a) St. Paul, MN
b) Sodom
c) Gomorrah

A valuable prize awaits...


My Holy Week

Updated to say sorry, to anyone using a reader, for all the edits to this post... :-)

Do you know how hard it is to find a face cream that doesn't promise to do all sorts of other age-defying tricks, doesn't contain sunscreen (to which I know I am alergic) and doesn't contain mineral oil, which actually sucks the moisture out of your skin? Frankly, I don't care how old I look if I could just get rid of the itchiness, redness and swelling around my eyes. I've determined that it all started with basic dry skin, brought on by the dry air of winter and a fair dose of stress. It became an itchy mess when I began putting various age-defying potions on it to take away the dryness, and then became worse when I tried to cover up the redness with make-up, and it didn't get better with the aid of benadryl, cortisone cream or Gold Bond powder. I'm a mess as it is, getting only a few hours of sleep a night. We really don't need to accentuate it with the red splotches and puffy, flaky eyelids. Seriously. But I think I've finally found a moisturizer that will do only that, moisturize (Oil of Olay cold cream for sensitive skin) and finally the itching and splotching and puffiness are going away. Finally. I still look extremely fatigued, but it's getting better. Thanks for asking.

The rest of my Holy Week as gone thus such...

Yesterday was the highlight of my week, the day that Maxine came to get her taxes done. I love Maxine because for all of her 80 years, she looks about 95 years old but acts like a sarcastic 45 year old. She and I were both wearing colorful Spring outfits from Coldwater Creek (from last year's "collection"), so we lavished each other with compliments on our respective wonderful tastes. She doesn't smoke or drink, otherwise, I'd say she's a lot like the Maxine in the comic strip. Maxine is the only person whose taxes I do while she waits (there was one other this year, but he was an exception). That's because it takes everything out of her to come in for the drop off and it takes just an hour or so to get it done. Otherwise it would take about 3 weeks to turn it around given the back-up in our office right now, and who knows how many hours would be spent just picking it up and putting it down. This act of "kindness" on my part required that I use the dreaded new tax software. So this year it took an hour and a half. When all was completed, Maxine pulled out of her briefcase a gift for me...Fortune, a Beanie Baby, born 3/17/07 "because I work with people's fortunes, not because it will bring me good luck." In return, I unloaded a bunch of "free" paper clips and binder clips into her briefcase. She has a thing for paper clips and rubber bands, you know. I can't tell you how many times she thanked me for the paper clips. She was thrilled! Then she told me that she just loved watching me work. I asked why? First she asked if I had something wrong with my pinkie finger. I said, not that I know of, why? And she said that the whole time I worked, my pinkie finger kept jutting out, like this...

She said that arthritis has made her pinkie finger start doing this and she wondered if I had pain that made mine act up like this. No, I've never had any pain, but now she has me all sorts of conscientious. Sheesh. Thanks for the beanie baby.

So that was the highlight.

The rest of the week included having to give a last minute, very unprepared presentation about the current state of income taxes to the local estate planning society (a group of attorneys, accountants and insurance/financial advisors). Our scheduled speaker fell through at the last minute...just for comparison, last month's speaker was a nationally respected expert on retirement plan tax law. Of course, I had to stand up in front of them with all the slotchy, puffiness going on. And with the NCAA games in progress, I kept getting interupted by the "master of ceremonies" to let me know that everyone would really like to get going so as not to miss any more of the games than they already had. As president of this group, I was the one who conned him into being the M.C. of what we would call our Member Spotlight Night, so he amused himself and the rest of the group by harassing me...I don't work well under this kind of pressure...I kept losing track of what I was talking about and gave the most disjointed presentation ever. I would hate to see a playback of it, I'm not sure I said a single coherent or relevant thing. I also forgot to pass out my handout, which might have at least given them a takeaway that was better than the speech itself.

The next night, I was so productive at the office that I kept on going until about 1:00 am. I left the office and drove about 2 miles (out of the 35 total miles to my home) and my coolant level warning light came on, just about the time I hit the stretch of highway that goes through the "bad part" of town. I pulled over to the side of the highway and the light went off. Encouraged, I started up again, and the light came back on. I took the nearest exit and pulled into a lighted motel parking lot to read my car owner's manual to see what might be the cause and what would happen if I kept driving. There was not an open gas station in hollaring range, but I do possess a AAA card. Based on what I read, I figured I could keep going slowly, pulling over every mile or so to let it cool down, until I reached a truck stop where I could get some coolant (even though the manual said not to EVER, under any circumstances, use non-VW coolant which you can only get from a dealer). But when I checked the coolant level, it was fine, so I didn't add any coolant but I didn't know what else could be wrong. I waited awhile to let the engine cool, I filled up with gas, I read some more of my manual and saw that it could be the radiator fan belt fuse, or the belt itself. I looked at the fuses and none of them looked out of sorts, although I did not pluck each one out to verify. I might add that doing all of this while dressed in a baby blue suit and high heels, trying not to draw the attention of others was a daunting task in itself. Others out at this late hour, in this part of town, are not the sort you necessarily want helping you. I decided to risk blowing up the engine and continue the drive home, inch by inch, stopping until the light went out and then resuming for a bit more. I finally arrived home about 2:30 am. The next morning, I figured I could drive the other car, but when I went to get in, I noticed the left rear tire was almost flat! I summoned my husband and his air compressor to the rescue. Finally, I was back on the road to the office, arriving about 10:00 to start another day.

And that's the day when I received yet ANOTHER notice that the IRS is going to audit yet another client of mine. I've had more audits this year than in my entire 25-26 year career combined! The IRS is very actively auditing "flow-through" entities out there (S-corporations, partnerships, LLCs), just so you know. Getting that notice is never fun. Even if you've nothing to hide, it's still a big hassle!

The rest of the week was fairly routine but busy. I am very excited about celebrating Easter with my family and relaxing for a few hours.

May you and your families all enjoy a most blessed Easter!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Little Bright Spot?

For those worried about their retirement plans and other investments withering away, I just received an "insider" bulletin (i.e. "for financial professional use only, not for public distribution") which had some interesting insights. Today's dramatic and aggressive rate cut (the Fed Reserve cut the federal funds rate by 75 basis points, to 2.25%, the biggest one-time short-term rate cut since the early 1990's) offers a little encouragement. The stock market is responding favorably!

While the recent cuts won't revive the economy, the bulletin reminds us of the following:
  1. The Rebate Checks are coming!
  2. U.S. Exports are booming
  3. Business investment spending is encouraged by the recent Stimulus package, in the form of accelerated depreciation expense
  4. There are some signs of the bottom in new home building (apparently housing starts have held steady for 3 months in a row, after 2 years of steady declines)

I think the biggest question I've had is whether I should be doing anything in response to the market and if so, what?? Pulling out of the market and putting it in the mattress (as my mother suggested)? Leave it alone and don't look (my current course of action)? Use whateve cash is lying around (I just received a bonus!) and buy more stock while it's "on sale?" For those of us with many work years ahead, the answer is probably "do nothing," provided your investments are well diversified. For those looking to retire in a couple of years, the answer is not nearly so easy. The current volatility must be very discouraging indeed, for those ready to retire.

Most importantly, the reminder is not to overreact, or act suddenly on partial information. Freaking out and running for the doors is probably not the answer. That's what brought the country to its knees in the Depression. One never knows where the top or the bottom of the market will be, so to do anything requires nothing less than a crystal ball. We should not stray too far from a balanced portfolio.

I am no investment advisor, so take what I say with a grain of salt and some antacid, but the reduction in rates will mean negative real rates of return on short term CD's for those tempted to invest in cash or CDs rather than the market. The general recommendation from the experts is to remain "invested broadly in long-term assets rather than huddled in short-term accounts waiting for a brighter day."

But you didn't hear any of this from me. ;-)


Saturday, March 15, 2008


My husband is a pyromaniac...

Yesterday looked like the begining of Spring. Warm, sunny, nice. To help green up the place, my husband lit the yard on fire. Today, there is snow on the ground, a reminder that Spring has not yet sprung. This is kind of like washing your car to ensure rain the next day (or in my case, later that evening). Light the yard on fire, another month of winter ahead, guaranteed. *sigh*

And my eyebrows still itch. I'm beginning to think it's just stress. I suppose there are worse ways for stress to manifest itself, but still...


Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Prayer Request

Jim mentions "anesthesia awareness" today and I am reminded to ask for prayers for my admin assistant's wife...he and his wife are going through a horrific experience right now and I pray that life gets better for them very soon! It makes me thankful for all I have, and makes me more conscientious about taking care of my health, for without that, life gets real complicated, real quick!

The situation is that she went in to the hospital yesterday for brain surgery. This is not her first time under the knife. Shortly after they got married about 2 years ago, they discovered a brain tumor. She had it surgically removed and they thought it was all gone. That was stressful enough, but it has returned with a vengeance, and this time required an even riskier operation. This time, they had to perform the surgery while she was AWAKE! Because the tumor was very close to the part of the brain that controls speech, they needed to be able to talk to her while they operated to increase the odds that she will not only survive the surgery, but still be able to talk when the recovery process is over. And as if that is not bad enough, they have to cut open her skull to perform the operation. Oh. My.

I can not even fathom what it must be like to undergo surgery first of all, let alone being awake during surgery, whether intentional or not. And as surgeries go, I think brain surgery would fall into the category of "Least Want to Be Awake During."

If you are of a mind to do so, please pray for Laura.

Update: I just got word that while she is still in ICU, the surgeon thinks the surgery went well.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh, And Also...

My eyebrows have been itching for days now. Does anyone know what that's about?



In work related news...

For the record, yesterday is the day that the proverbial "it" hit the fan. So much to do. So little time. And all we seem to have for help are interns straight out of high school. I think we might be better off outsourcing our tax returns to H&R Block.


Back to work for me.

Go write your memoirs, or something.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

What's In The Bag?

I just love the old family photos (thanks, Dad! Dad has been working hard scanning all of these precious memories into bits and bytes so we shall never forget). Here's another from the archives, circa 1977, near the sunset on the Age of Aquarius and the dawning of the Age of Saturday Night Fever. I was really struggling here to fit in, you see...

California Bound (At The Airport)

And my brother. Poor guy. He's since grown to be nearly a foot taller than me, but you can see here why it was easy for me to pick on him. Not that I did. But to hear him tell it, I was a regular bully. I look the part, don't I? I have sewing notions in the So-Fro Fabrics bag. How many bullies carry around sewing notions? Seriously. When my grandmother died (about this same time), we went through the house with the auctioneer who asked if there was anything in the house we wanted before they sold everything. After being told "no, that's going in the auction" one too many times, I decided on a big bag of sewing notions (rick-rack, bias tape and such). Score!

The really depressing part about old family photos though is looking back and seeing that I actually had a collarbone at one point (which I broke, by falling out of bed, but that's a different post) . People used to tell me that once I quit swimming and running and kept eating the donuts, I would no longer be so skinny. I didn't listen. *sigh*

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mmmm...Fish Bait

Because one person thought this was funny and because I have nothing else to share, I will posit my thoughts on eating fish bait here on my blog, for posterity. Because one never knows when one's memory will disappear forever and then, where will these stories go?

When Sissigy wrote a nice post about her latest culinary failure (and from what I have read, I believe this is a rare occurrence in her house of Domestic Derring Do), it brought up one of those memories that in hindsight is very funny, but in the moment, it is just another moment in your daily life. I find that it is very hard for me to post daily because to do so becomes very boring, for me and everyone else..."today, I woke up, made coffee, took a shower and went to work. And then I came home. And all moments in between were exactly like every other day...busy. And then I went to bed."

I don't usually find myself thinking things like this, as they unfold...

Today, this guy cooked fish bait for dinner. It was delicious. I think I'll marry him.

No. It wasn't like that at the time.

At the time, I was so enchanted with his cooking skillz that it never even dawned on me that, hey! We're eating FISH BAIT! And I wasn't quite yet of the opinion that we would one day get married.

Here's the thing. We lived in California at the time, and we lived on an extremely tight budget, like $100/month for groceries. Something like that. And my husband liked to fish, so there were many occasions when we grilled or fried fish for dinner, mostly for free, except for the cost of bait. And in CA, one of the things he liked to fish with, when he couldn't find the most grotesque sea centipedes on the beach (no, we've never eaten those, although...give us time...we've got more boat repairs ahead) was squid. Salt water fish love squid. He bought it at the deep sea fishing outfitter's and kept it in the freezer. Back in that day, squid was still kind of a rare menu offering at seafood restaurants, so it was still really cheap, especially when you bought it as bait. In Croatia, where my husband is from, squid has been on the menu for eons and it is a specialty along the coast where he lived. So, one day, when faced with the choice of fish bait or nothing, he pulled the fish bait out of the freezer, thawed it, and sauteed it (whole, tubes and tentacles all) in a sauce consisting mostly of Chinese Oyster Sauce, and some chopped vegetables. He served it over rice, and it was delicious.

Since then, we (he, much more than me) have eaten sea urchins, straight off the boats and crabs, straight off the beach. So to order sushi in a restaurant is a very tame experience.

It is the good chef who can turn fish bait into a gourmet dinner. It's been a while since we've had fish bait for dinner, but when I reminded him of it last night, he laughed and said we need to go to the Chinese market and get some stuff. A trip to the Chinese market is like a trip to Disneyland for him. In the right light, he even looks Chinese. I'll let you know what he cooks up. 8-}

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Dreamer

You Are a Dreaming Soul

Your vivid emotions and imagination takes you away from this world

So much so that you tend to live in your head most of the time

You have great dreams and ambitions that could be the envy of all...

But for you, following through with your dreams is a bit difficult

You are charming, endearing, and people tend to love you.

Forgiving and tolerant, you see the world through rose colored glasses.

Underneath it all, you have a ton of passion that you hide from others.

Always hopeful, you tend to expect positive outcomes in your life.

Souls you are most compatible with: Newborn Soul, Prophet Soul, and Traveler Soul

What Kind of Soul Are You?

But I wanted to be the Traveler's Soul!

And that whole part about having dreams that are the envy of others but having a difficult time executing them describes the Sailing Adventure to a tee!!

This was a very hard test because I had to pick the most right answer out of several that could have been right. I hate these kinds of tests. That's why I like math.

Via the Prophet Soul, Bobkat