Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Too Much Time On My Hands, Not Enough Flavor

I've been meaning to post about this for awhile now. A while back, mid-tax season (when I was too busy to say anything about it), Miss Vickie's changed their packaging and the seasoning on their Jalapeno Kettle Chips. Did anyone else enjoy these delicious marvels of deep fried goodness (or what was delicious before they went and screwed up the recipe)? Now, they are called "Hand-Picked" Jalapeno chips and gone is all the jalapeno flavor! Replaced with what can only be described as the exact same seasoning that Lay's uses on its Sour Cream and Onion chips. Before posting, I decided to see if anyone else out there was talking about this and found this very important website (now, there's a blog with a mission, don't you think?). It seems they agree...the green specks are clearly chives, not hand-picked jalapenos, and all the spicy flavor is gone, gone, gone. I'm hoping the makers of these chips will read my blog, of course, and change the recipe. If that doesn't happen, then I'm afraid I will need to change my loyalty back to these.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Bloggy Introspection

This post over at Jim's place and the ensuing links lead me to give a few minutes of thought to the following questions (I'd be more interested in your answers, honestly):

Why am I blogging? I blog for fun, to relieve stress.

Who am I blogging for? Me!

What am I blogging for? Therapy...I think this falls in the "deep inner need to express myself" category.

What is my blog’s purpose? I don't understand the question.

What is my blog’s mission? I can't even imagine answering this question with a straight face. I read blogs that clearly do have a mission. Mine is not one of those and I would only embarrass myself to claim otherwise.

Where was my blog a year ago? Basically the same place as it is today, only I think I wrote more frequently and had more regular visitors (the notion of "readers" is laughable to me...the fact that anyone even returns to visit is a mystery).

Where is my blog now? I'm thankful for the good friends who still stop by on a regular basis and the new friends who've come along.

Where will my blog be next year? Not sure. I'm not committed to maintaining it, but I don't feel pressured to maintain it either. It's likely my blog will still exist in one form or another as long as it does not become a chore, which I can't even imagine.

Where will my blog be in two years? Now, this is starting to sound a little too much like work! Who knows?!

Where do I really want it to be? I'd like to think that it will be more exciting and thought provoking, less about dog crap in the dining room, and more about things that really matter, like pumping bilges.

Do these answers make me happy right now? Well, they don't make me unhappy. ;-) it time to stop blogging?


Monday, April 28, 2008


Okay, where was I? I've been a little out of touch lately. Ever since the big crash...

I've had a hard time bouncing back from the tax season "finale." There have been a few shake-ups on the home front as well. For one, the 17-year old has come back home to roost (flying in from CA where her mother decided that her rebellious teenage behavior was more than she could handle...we've also had our fair share of exhausting exchanges of wills and egos, but nothing like her mother was dealing with, which shall remain private*). We always said her strong-willed, inner-directed nature would be a handful when she hit this age, but we couldn't have predicted just how difficult. Whew! Tax season was almost a breeze by comparison.

The 19-year old, the one who was going to get married on Valentine's Day, is living on her own, albeit very tenuously, and is now expecting a baby in August. The once-upon-a-time fiance, aka "the baby's daddy," is no longer in the picture. This whole situation tears me up and I wish I could think of a positive and/or humorous spin to put on it, but I can't. We have talked about the adoption option (and the courage it would take to go down that path). She's not decided against adoption yet, but I can tell she is already emotionally invested in the baby's life.

Needless to say, this puts our departure for the Pacific Northwest on hold for now. Not that we had any immediate plans to sail away. We knew it would be a slow transition, but we really didn't expect all this.

Oh! And my other job? The the jewelry making business? Yes, well, it seems I had a product defect in the type of crimp beads I was using, so one by one, I was getting calls from my customers (friends) telling me that the bracelet, necklace, etc. had just broken. Aye!! So last week, I recalled it all and spent Saturday doing warranty work. Not quite as serious as the other issues, but still, that stinks.

I was very thankful for the opportunity to take a long nap yesterday. On the bright side, my eyes are much better (the pressure is much lower, thanks to the medication), the goldfish didn't die when I changed his tank, the dogs' health is much better, the carpet is clean, there's food in the refrigerator and gas in the cars.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Update of Sorts, All Sorts

I am finally coming down from the "high" of April 15th and got a full night's sleep last night. Yesterday was a day of clean-up. I'm hoping today will be a day of recovery. And bill paying. And new glasses. And other errands, like car tag renewal (yipee, I'll be sure to post about that), that fell to the bottom of the list of priorities for the last few weeks.

The good news is:

The Bug is not dead yet...$7,000 of damage (yipes! I hit the only mailbox in the neighborhood mounted on a freakin' telephone pole, it seems), but at least it's not totaled. I'm relieved about that because I love the car and really didn't want to lose it. It was sad watching them haul it up onto the tow truck bed. My husband, bless his heart, came out to help me clean up the body (and engine) parts strewn all over the neighbor's lawn.

The Goldfish did not die. I've gone to the pet store to get supplies to change out the tank, thinking that a good cleaning is probably in order. Of course, if he survived whatever it was the other night, I'm sure to kill him by cleaning his tank. I'll be sure to preserve some of the dirty water, to mix in with the new, just in case.

The dogs did not die. Cocoa's explosive diarrhea is under control and so is Smokey's. The carpet is still pungent though. I'm calling the carpet cleaner today. But Smokey is back at the vet for an ultrasound of his liver. One of the issues noted the other day when he was in was that his liver is enlarged on one side. We're pretty sure it's not going to be good news, but we're preparing ourselves for that possibility.

And I think, for all the doubts I've had about giving up what some might think is a "good" career, God made his intentions pretty clear with the events of this tax season. I no longer have any doubts that I'm doing the right thing by leaving. I finally hit my breaking point. I still don't know what I will do when I grow up, but I feel good about my decision to leave. That's comforting.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I Killed The Grasshopper

I really finished my last tax season with a bang…here's the bullet point version...

Worked 'til 4:00 am the night before the 15th (it's still "night" if you sleep before returning to work)

Got stuck in traffic for an extra hour (very unusual on my commute…there was an accident), so I hit the day running full speed at 9:00 am ( running on fumes).

Delivered tax returns to an aging, ailing bank president (LATE…see the last bullet point). Delivered only 1 of his 5 returns (left the others on my desk because I completely forgot about them); returned to my office and came back with the rest, embarrassed and apologetic.

Returned to the office to face 22 voice mails and over 100 emails (some were junk that got through the iron curtain, but still...)

Made many phone calls, reviewed many calculations for extension payments, made phone calls for checks, try to figure out a frustrating foreign tax credit situation for a client who was NOT happy about owing so much tax on his home that he sold for over 28million pesos, however much that is.

I was the last one to get all of my "extension checklists" turned in. The last person to get all of my client's checks turned in. The last person to receive all of the signed e-file authorization forms from my clients. And I won the prize for most "repos" (reprocessed returns due to changes after the tax return has already been copied and assembled for delivery to the client).

I was also the only one whose client check turned up missing in the whirlwind of activity that is our extension process. I called the client to find out if they had sent it in. When they said no, I was relieved that we hadn't lost it, but had to quickly come up with a solution. The solution involved my own check book. I'll get reimbursed and charge the client later, I hope!

I had trouble printing out my own extensions at the end of the day, due to user error. I don't normally do these myself, so they presented a challenge beyond words. I had to write checks for these also, but later forgot that I did that, transferred my "surplus" cash into a CD and promptly overdrew my account!

Just when I thought I was done with everything for the day, I got a phone call from Australia, the parent company of my client, wanting to talk about an acquisition of my client and all of the tax consequences therein. My brain was mush, so I asked if he could call back tomorrow (at which point I was unable to find their files).

No sooner had I hung up the phone call from Australia, my husband called to inform me that the dogs (one or both, he wasn't sure) had crapped "all over" the dining room carpet and he blamed ME (because he thought I hadn't let them out before I left for work, which I did, but no matter...when the dogs are sick, he gets scared and reacts with anger and frustration rather than say, just cleaning up the mess). This, after recovering Smokey from the Vet two days ago for his numerous maladies, including explosive diarrhea that we thought was finally under control...turns out it was Cocoa's there are now diarrhea stains all over the house…both were treated for some kind of e-coli bacterial infection with shots and pills…it's a miracle the whole family didn't become afflicted).

I finally decided to turn off all phones and email at the office around 6:00pm and joined my co-workers who were enjoying appetizers and drinks at a nearby restaurant.

There ensued much relaxing and chatting about all of the horror stories of tax seasons past and present, award presentations (I received a crown for my title, Queen of the Repos), rappers (don't ask) and general unwinding. I had a couple of drinks to "celebrate."

I left the restaurant around 10 pm for the 35 mile drive home and was absolutely exhausted. I managed to get almost all the way home, forcing my eyes open the whole way, until I just couldn't any more. I had just turned onto the gravel road that is our street and was not more than a block's distance from my home when I apparently fell asleep and careened into a steel mail box post, which sent me into a small ditch. The airbags didn't deploy, but there were body parts all over the neighbor's lawn, and fluids and engine parts dangling from the Grasshopper (my green bug). Fortunately, I was wearing my seatbelt and was unscathed (just a small bruise on my wrist). Thank God I didn't hurt anybody, or fall asleep out on the freeway, or the country highway leading to our home, which has much bigger ditches! I have praised the Lord more times than you know for that!! But my confidence has been shattered and I've learned first hand just how quickly we can go from being in control to out of control in the blink of an eye, literally. For all the nights I drove home late, I always worried that I might fall asleep at the wheel, but never felt close to doing so. Although I only had 2 drinks over the course of 4 hours, I'm sure that was the straw that broke the camel's back and I should not have driven home. Very, very scary! The funniest part (and believe me, even at the moment after I was jarred awake and found myself in a ditch, I thought this was ironic) was that my purse contents spewed out all over the floor...and my AAA card, which I normally have inside a wallet, inside a zippered compartment of my purse, was the very first thing I picked up off the floor, from the top of the pile. Amazing.

But wait, the day's not over yet! So I walked the block or so home (a very humble way to finish off tax season, I must tell you), walked into a house that reeked of dog crap (which was still all over the dining room), got ready for bed and discovered the goldfish had (almost) died. He was floating upside down, struggling to hang on, so I turned him over and held him for awhile wondering how much more of this day I could take. I finally nestled him in the grass hoping to prop him up a bit, poured in a large amount of "Stress Coat," bid him adieu, and went to bed for a very restless night of sleep.

When I woke up the next morning (very early, worried about what the neighbors would think when they looked outside to see my car on their lawn), I was afraid to go see what had happened to the goldfish. Instead, I told my husband to please dispose of him after I left. I walked down the road to pick up the body and engine parts (and the neighbor's mailbox which was about 30 feet away from its post), leave a note on the car, called the insurance company, the tow-truck and the vet.

And for all that, my day could have been so much worse. It could have been my last! I've counted my blessings a thousand times over! And speaking of worse, one of our tax managers lost her sister to cancer on the 14th. Talk about stress. She had been sitting vigil over her sister for a week knowing she only had days to live, while clients continued calling about their tax returns. So we were all reminded that at least our big deadline was not a matter of life or death although we sometimes act like it is.

Still, April 15, 2008 will go down in history as the most spectacularly bad April 15th I've ever experienced, capping off the worst tax season ever (this last week, I worked 106 hours...I've never seen so many 90+ hour weeks on the time summaries, so I was not alone). We had more new clients, less staff and we changed tax software. It was awful. And it is my last. I have no doubt now. I normally experience a surge of energy or renewal after the 15th, brought on by the sense of survival (that, and the pride of accomplishment, I suppose). But I don't feel that this year. I worried I would get that feeling and back out of my decision, only to be asked to leave instead. But I didn't experience that surge of energy, and I was asked to stay instead. But I won't be working in public accounting for much longer. I may return one day, when I decide that life as a pauper is too hard to bear, but for now, I'm done. Finished. I will work for a couple/few months to wind things down and start telling clients that I plan to go live on a boat. That day can't come soon enough.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Reaching Out


Who says the animals have no ability to reason? :-)


Friday, April 11, 2008

Where's My Coffee?

The Caffeine Click Test - How Caffeinated Are You?
Created by OnePlusYou

This is no joke. I didn't even have my "morning coffee" until 4:00 this afternoon. My head has been swimming (and pounding) all day. My eyes have an aversion to the light. I'm feeling overwhelmed and completely incapable of dealing with even the smallest things, like clicking a link button. Seriously, it took a minute just to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, in order to test my caffeine level. Of course, I knew this without the bloody test, but I'm procrastinating putting in my timesheets for last week. And of course, the week ain't over yet. There's still lots and lots to do before Tuesday. I need caffeine. Lots of it!


Monday, April 07, 2008

Getting Older

Our dog, Smokey, is getting older. He turns 15 this month. It is sad, especially for my husband who has taken him to work with him almost every day, until this year. Now, Smokey can no longer climb into the truck and can barely toddle down the front walk to the truck, let alone navigate the stairs without tumbling into a heap. We've blocked off the stairs in our house and we leave him at home during the day while we're at work. Physically, he's been deteriorating ever since the bizarre horse related incident. The physical ailments include poor hearing and eyesight as well as wobbly legs. But now, he's mentally losing it also. He often requires a nudge to remind him what we mean when we open the door to let him outside. He no longer responds with his usual sense of purpose. With a tug on his collar, he will finally walk outside, but then he will just stand on the sidewalk and stare into space. With a little more nudging into the grass, he will immediately do his business, but then again, he'll just sort of wander around until he is turned back in the direction of the front door. But then, when I open the door for him, he'll act like he's trying to enter the house through the wall instead of the door, nose pressed against the wall while the door is standing wide open just to his left. I think he is guided by light, and so the porch light shining on the wall is brighter than the open door. If I fill Cocoa's food bowl first, he starts eating out of Cocoa's bowl, rather than going straight to his own and waiting to be served, as he has for the past 14 years. Then when dinner is over, he wanders restlessly around the house, in search of scraps, like he's famished. At least he still has an appetite. But now, this...

He's obsessively licking the furniture. Seriously, he cannot be that hungry! I'm wondering if it's something in the metal trim that he likes, maybe an iron deficiency? Or maybe he's just senile. Stop licking the furniture, dammit! It's so hard watching them grow old.

Speaking of getting older, my last trip to the eyedoctor was on a Thursday afternoon. Apparently, that is the same day the buses transport seniors to their eye doctor appointments, because the waiting room was entirely full and all of the patients were elderly. But I forgot to mention one particularly interesting one...his name was Dick (I know this because he was wearing a flight jacket with the name Dick embroidered on the front) and on the back of the jacket were the words "Slick Chick." Of course, I chuckled a little at first, because I didn't know what it meant. I only knew that the words were incongruous with the man wearing them. Honestly, I thought he must be a Shriner, or something. But fortunately, someone else in the room knew what it meant and asked him about it as he was getting ready to leave. His eyes lit up! Turns out he was a gunner in WWII, on the B-17G Flying Fortress known as Slick Chick. And once he started talking about it, his daughter had a hard time getting him out of the doctor's office. I was moved by the brush with history there in the waiting room. I don't know why. It's not like I don't know that everyone around me has a story. It's just that I tend not to think about it much. Dick made me think about it a little bit more and I was appreciative of his service to our country.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Eye Update

I'm finally coming down from the dilation of my eyes, enough to get back on the computer anyway. Still not enough to look at the little numbers on tax returns. Wow. I forgot how much I hate having my eyes dilated. My pupils are larger than normal anyway, so basically the entire iris is black when they do this. And everything up close is double and triple vision for awhile.

I went back to my office afterwards and the flourescent lights created a foggy halo effect around my peripheral vision. And of course, they were bright and painful, and they made me squint. I went into my office to pick up work for later, after the dilated pupils constricted, and to try to clear my desk of the debris that built up while I was out for a few hours, and to talk to everyone in the office that had questions about things they were working on for me (it never fails when you are trying to get out of the office, everyone wants to talk for "just 5 minutes.") I turned the light off in my office and then everyone stopped by to laugh at me working in the dark. Then when they saw my eyes, they laughed some more. I get no respect.

Anyway, the good news is that my eyes are responding well to the drops. The pressure dropped to 22 and 27 today (vs. 32 and 47 the other day). The goal is to get them both under 20 which the doc said may or may not happen over the next few weeks on drops alone. He suggested two drops in my right eye to "kick it up a notch." Then, if this doesn't completely do the trick, I am a candidate for laser surgery. The technician, whom I love (a different technician than last time...this time I got Lottie and she's a gem. She's a "fat old woman," her words, and she's a hoot...she liked a necklace I was wearing and wrote down on my chart, "patient is burdened by the large pendant around her neck, so I took it from her") described the laser surgery as working like Scrubbing Bubbles, energizing the drainage tissue (which she described as sponge-like) to clean themselves up. This is a new form of laser surgery in which no tunnels are bored and no scar tissue can develop. She said that they do many of these procedures every day and "did you see any of those people leaving today, screaming or crying?" "No, but did you bribe them with lollipops?" I still think I'll try the drops first, but good to know the surgery is an "easy" alternative.

They took photos today of the optic nerves, to see if there is any damage. Last time I was tested (in 2004), there was none. Of course, that was great relief at the time, but also made it easier to let it go. Wrongly, I also thought this meant that I didn't have glaucoma yet, just high pressure in my eyes. Being told that I actually "have glaucoma" is sobering. So, while my corrected vision seems unimpaired and I hope there is no damage, it will probably do me good to see some damage in the photos.

I go back in a few weeks for a follow up and review of the photos as well as a visual field test. I am such an over achiever that the visual field test makes me very nervous. I know it's not the LSAT or the GMAT, but I just can't help myself. For those who have not gone through a rigorous one of these, it is intense and you walk away with a headache. You basically put your head inside a black box. Then, every time a light flashes anywhere in the box, you hit the button on your joystick. Of course, the lights go off at unpredictable speed and direction and all of your button pushing is recorded on a computer where they read the results. I got a little trigger happy last time, pressing the button furiously the entire time, hoping not to miss a one, like I was playing a video game rather than trying to get an honest read on my eyesight. Exhausting, it was. I'm not looking forward to doing that again. Silly, I know. There are worse things that people have to go through at the doctor's office.

In the meantime, I've got a new prescription for new glasses. Aside from the slight need for bi-focals, which I'm opting not to correct at this time because it's not bothering me much at all yet, my prescription hasn't changed from the glasses I'm wearing now that are over 6 years old.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go practice for my visual field test. ;-)