Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Sign of An Orderly Society

- So says Wikipedia.

The Absolute Inevitable - something about "death and taxes" - so they say.

As of 7:13 this evening, I am done. I clicked submit. I e-signed. I crunched my complicated numbers. I filled in all the worksheet-this and the worksheet-that. I stapled it, filed it, and sit tapping my fingers, waiting for the refund to appear by electronic-money-magic in my bank account.

April 15th......You don't scare me.
I got you whooped on January 28th.

I know.
There is an inexhaustible list of taxations levied on "We The People."
And I know there are legitimate disputations thrown up against each one. I certainly don't want to abandon my nay-sayer compatriots in this war against taxes, but...
maybe your income tax experience is different from mine.

As in
you owe
and I don't

so you can see where we're on the verge of a little misunderstanding.


I am standing in front of the tiered shelves in the foyer of my local library that house many options for filing my 2009 Individual Income Tax Return. The display of forms, worksheets, instructions, and even a hotline phone number is both overwhelmingly complicated and deceptively simple. These offerings here, are just a fraction of the gazillion forms and worksheets I can access online.

What if I....
bought a Toyota Prius (new, not used)
bought any car (new, not used)
installed a geothermal water something or other
was on extended active duty outside the US, but my home is in the US
engaged in "intangible drilling"
made money fishing
housed someone displaced in a "Midwestern disaster?"

If I did any of those things then I ought to be spanked - that's what. Because it may mean money back, or it may mean money owed, but it definitely means lots of confusing "Schedule A's or B's and forms 8814, and 4972.

It requires deciphering the instructions that say:
1. Subtract line 4 from line 3
2. Multiply $2,433 by the total number of exemptions claimed on Form 1040, line 6d.
Enter the result here and on Form 1040, line 42.
3. Divide line 5 by $2500
4. Multiply line 6 by 2% (.02) and enter the result as a decimal
5. Multiply line 2 by line 7
6. Divide line 8 by 3.0

7. Multiply the number of times you just said #%@!, by 843
8. Divide by the number of children asking for food while you figure incalculable calculations
9. Get a babysitter
10. Drive to the nearest State Liquor Store
11. Pay big time "sin-taxes" on the 40 oz bottle of Absolut Vodka that you are about to drink
whether you are into alcohol or not
12. Write the word "NO" on line 75
13. Put a load of stamps on it and hope for the best.

All this is still ahead of me while I'm standing there in the library lamenting the days when the 1040EZ had my name on it.

A man walks behind me and says:
"Don't do it. Obama will just spend it."

I pretend he isn't talking to me. I don't turn around, I don't even give the little social-graces-friendly-neighbor chuckle to communicate our shared misery in the paying of taxes. I let him walk past wondering to himself if I had heard him trying to be funny.

I want to make something VERY clear before I proceed-
ever about, anything
(Unless your name is Matt, and I am married to you. Then I might say something now and again that could be construed as having a political opinion).
That said, I continue.

I should have a placard pinned to my back that reads:
Taxes: a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc.

Whether you are Mr. Obama, Mr. Bush, Mr. Lincoln, or Mr. Reagan the point of taxes is to spend them. And no matter who the Commander in Chief is, there are a fair number of cosigners on any check sent out by the Federal government.
There have been publicans aplenty throughout more nations than ours, gathering up the taxes since well before the Anno Domini era began. We've been relinquishing our last coins to the publicans, whether they be Re-publicans or Obama-publicans for millennia. And the Romans still have little bits of road all throughout Britain to show for it.

I thank my tax dollars (and my habitual late fees) nearly every day for the library I am now standing in.
There are some reasons to feel good about contributing.

p.s. Mr. Man at the library, if I don't file, I don't get all that money back that will surely pay for a dishwasher.

Maybe someday, when all my "Exemptions" have moved away to start families of their own, I will feel less inclined to file.

Until then -
Render unto Obama what is Obama's, or...
buy a "stove that burns biomass fuel to heat your home" and get a whopping refund for being so "green."

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Am Not Beyond Coveting

The Parent Trap 2-Movie Collection

I'm a little bugged.

The Parent Trap has never offended me before, but'll see.

Apologies to Katie for still having her copy of The Parent Trap. But I am pleased my kids are watching the original now and not the Lindsey Lohan version.

Kids are sick. Sick is rubbish. Rubbish deserves time on the couch watching movies. Which they have done a good deal of this week. I sat down at the tale end of Parent Trap yesterday, just in time to catch the kissing scene.

Good grief.
There they are; Maureen O'hara and Brian Keith kissing in the middle of his California Ranch-House kitchen.
And right there, in plain sight, for everyone to see -
It's clearly visible - just beyond Ms. O'hara's tidy little derriere .

As you can imagine, this was upsetting for me.

What year was this filmed?

I'll tell you what year: 1961

That's What Year.

Mmmm Hmmm.

What year is it now?

I'll tell you what year: 2010

According to Arthur C. Clarke we would be travelling and inhabiting space like it was a trip to Nebraska by 2010. Jupiter would turn into a star and we would colonize Europa...or Io...or some such satellite of Father Zeus.

You may have noticed we are not colonizing a moon of Jupiter.
But the real tragedy, to which I would like to draw your attention is this:

In the year 2010 I am still washing my nasty, grimy dishes by hand. And a few months ago when our water heater went out, I boiled water on the stove to wash those dishes by hand. least I have an in-door stove, which isn't even wood burning.
I'm like - way modern with my gas stove.

A dishwasher in 1961?
Was that really necessary for the Susan/Sharon switch-a-roo narrative?
The set designers of this 1961 film might have thought ahead a little so as to spare the feelings of us "have-nots" in the year 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What Persephone Couldn't Resist

That's a Good Day
Thank You Marba Rose
Thank You Nita Sue

Thank you Celeste Thank you Susie

A long time ago, I had a Grandma.
Marba Rose.

"Grandma," I would say, "I'm hungry.

"What do you want for lunch?" she would ask in this very sincere way, as if she ever expected me to eat anything other than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"Peanut butter and jelly."

As if there existed any other edible anything when it comes to lunch.

She would make a sandwich like this:
Two slices of Shepherd's Bread from the Von's on the corner of Lamb and Charleston in unincorporated Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jiff peanut butter spread so thick on one slice you could lose a marble in it.
Margarine on the other side, but only a bit and only to accentuate what came next-

Le Piece de Resistance
Homemade, from homegrown, pure magenta, sweet-tart a la perfection in a Kerr jar
Pomegranate Jelly.

Slice that bad boy in two, serve with a well chilled glass of 2% milk and feel it stick to the roof of your mouth in pure ecstasy.

Plus, my grandma was a genius and knew pretty much everything, like how to love my Dad and his brother through the teenage years.
And other important things like-
"A glass of milk with a peanut butter sandwich provides all eight of the essential amino acids."
I still don't know what an amino acid is, but my Grandma sure made me feel good about eating my daily peanut butter and jelly.

I have a Mom.
Nita Sue

She lives in the house my Grandma lived in all the years I was growing up. She tends the pomegranate trees planted by my Grandpa way back when. She harvests the leather-skinned fruit. She juices the impossible seeds. And every time she comes to visit me she brings quart jars full of the sweet nectar for me to make into jelly.

She taught me to make the jelly.

I have a friend.

She taught me to make bread.
Not just any bread - the delicious kind, that people fawn over, including myself. The kind we have to ration so as not to eat all three heavenly loaves that just came out of the oven, before Matt gets home to enjoy a slice.

I have a Mother-in-law
Dear Susie

She taught me there is more to life than peanut butter and jelly.
And because I lived in her house for two years and cooked elbow to elbow at her stove, following VERY precise directions all along the way, and because she works culinary magic with any morsel of food that makes its way into her kitchen (including.....onions...) I can now whip up a little dish that makes me feel so sophisticated. Like I should have a bit of lemon sorbet before I eat it to cleanse my palette of all the ordinary things that passed by there throughout the day.

This is it - Carrot and Onion Soup
A bit of butter, a bit of chicken stock, a bit of cream
A whole lot of sauteed carrots and onions

And think your life blessed that you
Peanut buttered and jellied for lunch
with your own homemade pomegranate perfection
and your own "pain du jour"
and you grew up for dinner
eating onions in ANY form that would have once been worse than eating dirt
and is now better than eating candy

If the peanut butter and milk provide the eight essential amino acids, the carrots and onions must provide the for-the-pure-joy-of-it amino acids.

I love women.

We hand things down in a way that the men generally only appreciate at the table,

and that we appreciate in the soul.

Bless you women.

And ain't magenta pretty?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Two Truths

I deal with lots of poop.

I exist in a state of frantically avoiding being late...while still being...well, late.

Recipe for Disaster
1 - Pour both distasteful ingredients into my morning
2 - Pinch nose to avoid the stink
3 - Avoid buying a watch for 15 months
4 - Pretend you can get eight hours of stuff done in two hours...with a toddler on your hip

Then Bake

or Freeze, as one is more prone to do on a morning in January.

Caroline had preschool at 10:30, which is precisely what time I was changing Cecily's rather offensive morning diaper. We still had to pick up our carpooling friend.
I was the proverbial headless chicken.

I might have yelled at the kids to "Get in the car! RIGHT NOW!"
And if I did, I likely apologized in very solicitous tones from the front seat, while eyeing them in the rear-view mirror.

To which Jonah likely replied "Thanks Mom. Turn the book-on-CD back on please."

So if I yelled, they must have recovered.

We got the girls to school.

I took Jonah and Cecily to the library where I have been wielding Jonah for the past few weeks.
I have an itty-bitty problem with late fees at the library. And after a particularly disastrous affair with a stack of DVD's that escaped my to-do list, I had amassed fines well into the double digits. The city library rather generously allows children to "read down" their fines: $1 for every twenty minutes or $6 for every hour. This is not a privilege offered adults. But my children are allowed to read down my fines. So far Jonah has done three hours and twenty minutes at our library. We're still in the red, but he's saved me $16 so far.

I owe him.
Or maybe it can be considered payment for countless hours of my lost sleep in his infancy.

We went to play group at the church after reading time at the library. From there I had to pick up the girls from school. I intended to leave Jo and Cecily in the hands of other capable mothers while I fetched Caroline. At ten minutes to 1:00pm (which is when I was meant to be at the school whisking Caroline into the car) I noticed Cecily was not smelling right, and her pants were wet.

Blast the ineffective diaper!

I laid her on the floor to execute a quick change.
Five minutes and counting...

Unbutton the pants to reveal....
How could this be?

Blast the ineffective mother!

The child had NO diaper on.
While acting the part of the headless chicken two and a half hours earlier I neglected to re-diaper my child.
She was soaked through with pee.
One pant leg full of poop.
Smile on her face.
She could have at least cried to tip me off.

It took more than five minutes to scrub her down in the bathroom.
I was late.

Caroline's pre-school teacher was very understanding.

The offending pants are on the front porch this morning, because the offending mother was more likely to soak them with gasoline and light a match than scrub them at the end of her frantic day.

I'll wait to deal with it until after I've had a piece of the bread I just took out of the oven.
My only proof (just now) that sometimes I can do some things right.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

For Naomi - On Her Birthday



I am no poet.

Alas, I hereby beg the pardon of you who write poetry; my Dad, and Chani.
And you who read it with an ear for letting it "live in you"; my Dad and Chani...and most of the rest of us.

I beg this pardon for the poem I intend to share.

Which I share
Only because Aubrey wrote so beautifully this morning about her first daughter who turned 12 yesterday. Who is a lady in every respect.
She blooms.
Oh, how this little girl blooms.

Aubrey speaks of a photograph I took in 1997. This image I captured on 35mm, black and white, Ilford film that had been purchased in a large roll that was manually wound up into a used film canister in a dark closet so as not to expose it prematurely to light. I clicked with a fully metal, fully manual Nikon F3HP.
Those were the days before omni-digital.
I set the shutter speed.
I set the aperture.
I set the moment of our realization of the possibility of Naomi, in stone.

I took that picture when you, Naomi, were the spark of life itself.
and dividing...
and dividing asunder...
the philosophies of man that would have me believe that the hand of God played no part in the orchestration of you.
But He did.

Then I wrote a poem.

Which I do sometimes...shrouded in the pages of journals rarely opened by hands other than my own.

I prefer prose -the blessed meadow with no barbed wire, strong-arming me into submission.
Prose is...eating chocolate chip cookies and milk in my pajamas and slippers.
Poetry is...singing "Both Sides Now" on karaoke in front of Joni.
One is less comfortable than the other.

If the the photo were taken in the age of digital, I would place it here to couple it with this poem. If it were taken in the age of digital it would be a more beautiful photo with with two clicks of my mouse. Instead it is a black and white rendering of my mother braiding my sister, Aubrey's hair while sitting at the table in the kitchen of the home we grew up in. It is slightly over exposed and lacks the contrast Picasa grants me regularly on the photos I take the age of digital.

Aubrey was sick to her stomach that morning.
My Mother has NEVER missed an opportunity to inquire about,
wonder about,
dream about,
pray about,
welcome with the most brilliant joy,
the possibility
of a grandchild.

While her hands were full of Aubrey's hair, my Mom asked, "Could you be...?"
"Yes, I could be."
"Are you?"
"I don't know."

She was.

It felt like a secret joy when I learned my sister was going to have a baby. I liked it...a lot. She called me in England to tell me when Naomi was born. I was a missionary. I wept over my absence. I wept over Naomi's presence.

I wrote this poem while Aubrey was still expecting Naomi, and sent a copy to her and my Mom along with the framed photo for Christmas.

It isn't titled. Only dated: "Started Oct 97"

Those fingers have woven my hair and hers
Over and under, they swift become lures
Pulling us in for the wiping of tears
Letting us go with the coming of years

Motherhood spills from her heart and her hands
Into her daughter, now waiting she plans
For in your days of youth and mirth
to blessed daughters you have both given birth

I see you both now as women and friends
Yet childhood visions my memory lends
Blonde hair and blue eyes, bare feet and bare knees
We conquered backyards, sailed living room seas

Now you are mothers, I wait for my turn
Unsure of my future, of what I must learn
Yet like a child, I often am scared
Ever I'm worried I'll not be prepared

We have all three been student and teacher
Taken our turn as listener and preacher
Your mothering sermons fall not on deaf ears
You are gently, with love, allaying my fears

Twelve years on I have joined them in the bearing of children. Joined them three times over. I have wept the bitterest tears over my greatest despairs to these two women. My fear of those dark days when I am truly unfit to be a mother. They pick me up every time, casting out the notion that there is any other path equal to this one.

There is a line of mothers behind me, the women who have each borne Eve's pain until I am here to bear it myself. The true pain of motherhood comes after our bodies are broken by the entrance of life. And were it not for my sororal progenitors, namely the one I call Mom, and those truly sister to me, the pain of motherhood would break my soul. But they keep me whole. And with them, I learn that in light of Lehi's opposites, this pain is merely the footpath to life's most profound joys.
And I can't make that rhyme.

So I'm sticking with prose.