Holiday Lights 2014

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I had my own version of Christmas morning on the day I went into the garage to get out the boxes and start decorating outside: A whole shelf of new light displays that I totally forgot about buying at a year end sale last season!! The bells on either side of the garage and the bow displays on the side wall are from those. I also added some more twinkling LED sets to the front palm trees and another couple of sets of net lights. Otherwise it’s all pretty much the same though it seems like I cover more of the hillside each year :)  The photos are a mixture of inside and out. No time for captions – just enjoy the blend of old school and newfangled lights. Oh, and the first official card of the year on the mantle:2014-12-06 11.40.08 2014-11-29 19.52.21 2014-11-29 19.52.33 2014-12-03 21.50.15 2014-12-05 17.06.39 2014-12-05 17.07.07 2014-12-05 17.07.24 2014-12-05 17.07.48 2014-12-05 17.08.00 2014-12-05 17.08.25 2014-12-05 17.09.01 2014-12-05 17.09.13 2014-12-05 17.09.26 2014-12-05 17.09.41 2014-12-05 17.09.55 2014-12-05 17.10.32 2014-12-05 17.11.17 2014-12-05 17.11.33 2014-12-05 17.11.52 2014-12-05 17.12.42 2014-12-05 17.12.52

Things That Make You Go ‘Hmm’ – CTEC Tax Course Edition

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After taking the last few months off to just BE, I’ve decided to start filling up my non-work time again. Only this go round wont be as a volunteer. I REALLY need to push more money into my retirement fund (luckily I do have one that I was funding quite a bit in the 90s-00s) and Id like to continue taking my annual trips without stressing so…I’m sticking with what I know and will be taking on either bookkeeping and/or tax clients in 2015.

I don’t need to do anything for the bookkeeping job other than put the word out and settle on a proper hourly rate. However, since I am not a CPA if I want to prepare and file taxes for people/businesses then California requires CTEC certification which means a 60 hour training course on tax preparation.

So, here I am back in school! Ok, not really…I just had to sign up for an online self study course which I started the week of Thanksgiving. It’s quite the challenge but I only have to pass with a 70% overall score and hey – it’s OPEN BOOK, right? I’m being honest though and not re-taking quizzes even if I don’t get 100% and after 3 units I have a 92 avg. I’ll take that.

NOW – onto the funny part (Yes, taxes can be funny – who knew?!) Last night I was reading the unit that went into detail the many things which you must report on your tax return as income. Most were quite logical and even if it was something I hadn’t thought of before such as any profit you made from re-selling yard sale or rummage sale items at a profit, it made some sense to think that well, yeah, you did EARN money on that transaction and heaven forbid the IRS not take some off the top, amirite?!!

Well, guess what? The IRS isn’t JUST trying to dip into your LEGAL transactions no matter how trivial you think they are. Nope, they also want a piece of your ILLEGAL action – such as:

  • If you receive a bribe, include that it in your income
  • Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included on Form 1040, line 21 or on Schedule C if from your self employment activity.
  • If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner.

Like me, I am sure you all let out a huge round of scoffs and laughter at the idea of any of the above ACTUALLY happening. I can just see it now when I am interviewing a client:

“So, how much did you make selling weed this year?”

“Oh, right…I’ve got that all written down right here….oh, a good year $10,000!”

“OK, cool. Now, did you end up returning the jewelry you stole from that one guy’s house earlier in the year?”

“No, I decided to sell it – got $5000 for it – noted that right here on this line..”

“Ok, excellent – gotta make sure we keep you out of trouble with the IRS!”

“No kidding – they are ruthless!”

-_-

Debunking An Oft-Used Term: Black on Black Crime

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Sorry to get serious, but sometimes I need to get these thoughts out there so that they stop spinning around in my head. In this case, I also want to preserve some data from a valuable post at Demos from last summer:

Black on Black Crime Facts

Additionally – in MOST cases, crimes are committed inTRAracially. Folks naturally gravitate to people of their own culture. Sure, we mix it up here and there in some urban centers and at work but LARGELY people spend their off hours within their own race/cultural background. Therefore, the opportunity for crimes happens within our own spaces. White on white, black on black, Hispanic on Hispanic, Asian on Asian etc.

When someone brings up the “black on black crime” topic, what they are doing is perpetuating the MYTH of “scary black people” and also DERAILING (often successfully) any constructive conversations that are attempted on race relations.

Don’t fall for it.

Let the running begin (again!)

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I fell off the wagon a bit on my initial racing plan for 2014 – we only did 2 of the 4 Foxy Racing Trail runs. I did have fun doing that new 10k event right in my backyard in September, but I’ve otherwise been only fitting in runs to keep from becoming a full on sloth again (let’s just say that all that travel made it hard to put together a routine, as did the long, hot, humid summer). Anyhow, I am sticking with my plan to do the 2nd Annual Holiday Half Marathon. The first one went so well that I thought I would go for it again. Besides, training now should be 1000 times easier than it was last year given that Alex was still here and I was still volunteering with the football team.

So here’s my training plan again – using Hal Higdon again but this time stepping up to the Novice 2 plan:

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That was how I knew I had to do 6 miles while I was in Albuquerque :)

I actually enjoy doing these gradually longer runs on the weekends. That’s when we discover or re-discover trails that we love and go further on them than we normally would. I especially love running after our first ever overnight rain in months! There was steam coming off of everything at San Elijo on Sunday morning as we did 7 miles. The air was so clean and the surfaces were nicely packed and the smells of the freshly washed foliage seemed more intense. Of course, it’s even better when you can slug through those long runs with friends!

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Now with the time change, the fun part begins. Those mid-week runs? Those will have to be before work now. And we all know how much I love early mornings (not even a little!). Ah well, all in the name of fitness & health and personal challenges.

They race is again just before NYE so a week before my birthday. I figured I should hit 50 running, right?

The Kid is Alright – Albuquerque Weekend

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A much needed visit to New Mexico to check in on Alex. Texting & weekend phone calls just weren’t enough especially since we dropped him off on Aug 17th and he wont be back in town until Dec 13th. I needed a visual in between those four months!

The weekend was just perfect. I landed in town right as he got out of his last Friday afternoon class at 2pm. I rented a car and got in to the hotel by 3pm and was picking him up to go dorm room supply shopping by 4pm. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner to combine World Series viewing with food and then went back to my hotel to finish watching the game and play a round of Phase 10 (no, I didn’t remember to pack my cards – yes, they had it at the Wal Mart!) I dropped him back off at 9pm and prepared for the most challenging part of my whole weekend: a 6 mile Sat morning run.

Since I’m training again for a 1/2 marathon I need to run longer distances on the weekends. I REFUSED to do another round on a treadmill after that awful experience in Salt Lake, so I did a google search to find safe running trails/routes in the area and up popped the Albuquerque Road Runners Club. This very active group of runners have planned weekend runs and it just so happened that Sat the 25th was a 6 mile run at the Bear Canyon Arroyo trails. Visitors welcome the site said, so I emailed the organizer to let them know I would be dropping in and the response was immediate & welcoming. Still, I was nervous meeting them at 7:30am on Saturday! Luckily the meeting spot was 10 minutes from my hotel (just about everything was that weekend as it turned out – seems like there’s about a 5 square mile radius of the town with the University in one corner and all other places we wanted to go were contained in there.) My biggest challenge was the run itself – turns out this “older” group of runners were all quite seasoned at altitude distance running and were quite easily setting a 9-10 min mile pace. Meanwhile, there was me – a 10-12 min mile runner at best down at sea level! There was one other runner who was slower, but she only ran with us for 3 of the 6 miles. I felt bad about making them stop and “regroup” for what must have seemed like forever to them waiting for me to catch up, but they were all really very gracious and even applauded me as I came in for the final mile :)  When I checked my phone, I had actually completed the route at just under a 12 minute mile pace, but let me tell you, it FELT like I been moving through molasses and there were several times when there was literally no oxygen in my lungs.

From there it was on to a quick breakfast & cleanup and then I picked up Alex from campus to drop him off at the offsite rugby pitch for the afternoon’s matches. Then I went to buy a chair to sit in because there was no way I was going to stand all day after that run! I left the chair with him to use for future games. Normally the team plays on a field on campus right by his dorm, but for this match they were on a large group of fields near the airport. There were 2 games. The A side which was the main event and then the B side for the younger players (like Alex). They were playing Colorado State which was ranked #10 at the time. UNM is not ranked and in fact is win less within the D1a west division, but that was to be expected. Still, the A side got close a few times and (we think), the B side actually won! I didn’t care – it was just so nice to be back out there watching Alex play again in person :)  We had a quick dinner after and then I dropped him off to go socialize…err…party…errr..bbq…errr….well..it’s rugby! Apparently the Colorado team stayed the night and joined them at their party and everyone was “chill” and had a great time. The house where they gather is about 2 blocks from the dorms – I saw the route – it’s perfectly safe and well lit and an easy stumble back in the wee hours of the morning :)) (again, it’s rugby!)

We regrouped back at Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch on Sunday and some leisurely football viewing and then made our way out to the Sandia Peak tramway to ride up to the mountain peak and watch the sun set over the Albuquerque basin. Then we had dinner up there with a view of the twinkling city lights below. When I dropped him off Sunday night, there was not even a hint of sadness. He will be home for semester/winter break in 6 weeks and now I have seen with my own eyes that UNM really is the perfect spot for him. He’s got everything he needs either on campus or just a block or two away and the rugby team is a great match for him socially. Some of them also live on campus so he walks with them to weight training and practices and meets them for meals. The bottom lines is, they are a great bunch of guys. Fun loving of course, but also smart enough to keep priorities in order. The main reason for the party that weekend was because one of them is graduating at the end of this semester and this was his last game with the team. He’s in good hands with them.

Salt Lake City – Day 4

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Thanks to the previous day’s bus tour, we had decided we wanted to head back into the foothills and explore the botanical garden & natural history museum. So Maryland mom arranged for a one day car rental and took off after breakfast to the airport to go retrieve what would truly be our own personal van (because sometimes the hotel van was actually out shuttling OTHER clients around – how rude!).

Oh, another note as to how we decided what to do on Sunday – thanks to the dominance of the Mormon church in SLC, a vast swath of the city is closed on Sunday. So we had to plan our outing and our meals around those closures.

Our first stop was the botanical gardens. It was cold, windy & sometimes threatened to rain, but never did thankfully. There were also some gorgeous looking running/hiking trails right behind the museum which would have been much more palatable for me to complete my morning run, but I didn’t find out about them in time (hence the misery of the treadmill which I shall never repeat). I had to complete 4 miles that weekend and I am GLAD it was only 4! My knees & ankles hurt for 3 days after that awful run.

Anyway….it was a gorgeous day and as you can see from the dozens of photos below, the gardens were beautiful. The highlight for us was playing Pooh Leaves at the bridge over the creek (it’s Pooh Sticks in the original story, but we didn’t have any sticks handy so we settled for leaves). I just love that photo that Seattle mom took of the rest of us peering over the railing to see which leaf came out from under the bridge first! Of course, my most favorite photo is the one of all of us in front of the most enormous canopy of bright yellow leaves I’ve ever seen on one tree. It just worked out nicely that we chose our own clothing colors wisely to perfectly set off the yellow background :)

The Natural History museum is right next store and they had a lovely soup/sandwich cafe in it so we stopped there for lunch and then wandered through their exhibits learning a bit about the Great Salt Lake and many of the dinosaur fossils found there. The museum also boasted a special History of Horses exhibit which really interested Maine Mom since her youngest is quite passionate about horses and riding. Then there was the rooftop terrace with the most sweeping view of the Salt Lake City basin out to the lake itself. Breathtaking.

Dinner that night was at a lovely little indoor/outdoor cafe/bar that Florida mom found (after figuring out what was actually open on Sunday nights!) I do remember what I ate there but sadly that’s because it wasn’t all that good :(  Kind of rare for one to complain that there’s TOO much flavor, but that was how it was with this stuffed chicken breast dish. Ah well, the fancy beer and the creme brulee for dessert made up for that quite nicely!

As always, we wrapped up the night chatting away in one of our rooms feeling a bit sad knowing it was our last night. We did come up with a long list of potential east coast locations for next years gathering which gave us something to look forward to.

Salt Lake City, Day 3

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Day 3 started out just like Day 2 – only this time since we had a plan in mind on how to start off the day, we got ourselves out of the hotel a little bit earlier :)  The shuttle dropped us off about 2 blocks or so away from where the bus tour was located which worked out fine since we scoped out where the shopping area was on our way. The next available bus was far enough out that we time to walk across the street to the Nordstroms e-bar for a quick, light lunch before hopping on the bus.

Now, this is where I should tell you that our tour bus driver was a bit of a crank. Ok, perhaps a major crank! There was a video that was set to play in coordination with the route which played over the sound system so that even those of us who chose to sit in the back (and where else would you sit? It was a gorgeous day and if you wanted to take pictures, it gave the best views!) However, Mr Crank Pants thought that HE was the Source of All Knowledge quite superior to the canned video dialogue. And, perhaps he was – I mean, admittedly when we could hear him, his interpretation of history & perspective on the Mormon church and the local politics of the area was very colorful & entertaining and most CERTAINLY not covered in the video!

However, when we spoke up about being unable to hear him he EMPHASIZED that he wasn’t ALLOWED to STOP the bus for any long periods of time and they didn’t provide HIM with his OWN microphone to enable him to drown out the video or the traffic noise SO all he could do is shout and if we wanted to hear him we should MOVE UP FRONT!!

Yeah, no thanks :/

He also drove that bus as if he thought he was guiding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (for all my Disney fans, you know what I mean, right?!) which meant that a lot of my pictures are off kilter or blurred and I am kind of surprised I got as many decent ones as I did! Heck a couple of times as we crested over a hill almost all of us in back threw our arms up over our heads as you do when on a roller coaster because it seemed like the right thing to do! Still, it was a great way to see the highlights of Salt Lake City and as a result we figured out where we wanted to spend our Sunday.

After surviving the bus tour, we went back across to a place of serenity – Nordstroms :) We left Florida mom there trying on UGG slippers while the rest of us wandered the length of the mall just for fun. A final meet up at the e-bar for more refreshments and then we called for shuttle back to the hotel.

We actually had to take a (shock!) cab out to dinner! Oh, the horrors of paying for a ride! Dinner was at the Copper Onion which was a rather hopping bar/restaurant which a copper ceiling and, since we were seated near the open kitchen, the smell of onions grilling (it lived up to its name). I…cannot remember what I had there! I do remember having a couple of lovely mixed adult beverages. I also remember that since this dinner was not as long as the last, we got back to the hotel in time to sit in the Jacuzzi after. And it was from that vantage point that I could look up into the tiny gym area and see the Torture Device that was waiting for me on the morning of Day 4 ;-/