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!”

-_-

How to make chore day fun! (Cats help.)

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During this recent deep dive into work related tasks with an aggressive deadline, I relied heavily on the old fashioned To Do lists. Mine looked like this 6 of out 7 days a week (I took Sundays off):

Lease

Other regular work task

Lease

Other regular work task

Lease

Household chore

etc etc etc

It worked beautifully because I not only didn’t fall behind on anything at home, but I even finished extracting leases with a solid week to spare.

So, I kept up with the lists this week only they didn’t have to be so packed. Still, I want to keep Sundays as off days, even from home related chores so today I tackled my entire cleaning and running around list and even managed to squeeze in that hill repeat run today. It was not without some adventure though.

On outing #1 for the day, I brought my mini-post it list of places to visit so that I didn’t forget anything. On stop #3, I had my first unexpected moment of funny.

I was at the vets office picking up some hairball treatment for miss Amber who has been barfing multicolored piles for the last week and a half. I think the worst of it is over (at least I hope so because that last one was GINORMOUS) but finally I appealed to the vet for help and picked up some sort of goo that I was able to sneak into her tuna tonight and which they say works perfectly for their equally long haired office cat.

Speaking of the office cat…while I was talking to the one vet assistant and paying for the goo and some of Chip’s bladder friendly food, the other assistant was up to no good. I saw her fussing around with the cat and then the next thing I know she is giggling helplessly as the cat gets away and hops onto the counter where I am standing. He turns his head and gives me the classic cat version of “LOOK at what she DID to me!”

And there he sat with a label on his forehead that read “Spicoli” – his name of course. Yup, she had printed off a label and properly marked the office cat. I couldn’t stop giggling at the sight either and frankly I am not sure how we finished running the payment transaction properly of how I managed to not leave anything behind as I walked out. He just sat there, trying to maintain some dignity and failing miserably.

Stop #4 was lunch at Rubios. I allowed myself some time to sit there and eat and read twitter on my phone which turned out to ALMOST be a huge mistake. You see, when I was done eating I got up to refill my drink and then walked right out the door – and left my phone sitting on the table! Years of having a phone and I’ve never done anything like that. And? I didn’t notice until I had been home for 15-20 minutes!!

Then I had the longest, slowest drive ever back to Rubios of course – people cutting me off, driving super slow, clearly confused about their own routes..pedestrians at EVERY intersection making the waits super long. All along I am imagining who stole my just waiting to be snatched phone and what in the hell I was going to do about it.

Luckily, the employees saw me get up. They thought I went to the bathroom so they waited a bit but kept an eye on it. When enough time had passed that it was clear I was gone, they put it in a cash register up front. PHEW!

My heart was racing and I immediately took that as a sign that it was time to go for my run and shut down the chores for a bit!

After the run I dove right into cleaning. Again, thanks to Amber’s little hairball issue, the carpets were kinda messed up. I swept the downstairs and then busted out the vacuum. Now, I don’t do this lightly. Chip the cat is frighted to holy hell by the vacuum. So, I warn him by bringing it out in stages. First it comes out of the closet. That usually wakes him up from the deepest possible sleep right there. Then, if he is on the floor level where I will start working, I shoo him to the other one. In this case I chased him upstairs so he could hide while I did the bottom floor first. (Amber stays a respectable distance away, but also watches every move)

Unfortunately for Chip, I also had to vacuum the stairs themselves. Now, my plan was to get up to the top landing, turn off the vacuum and then shoo him downstairs.

He didn’t want to wait.

As rounded the corner at the second mid-level landing and started up the last few steps to reach the top, I see him dart out from under the bed to my right. He seems the vacuum – startles and reverses course. I figure now he’s back under the bed for good, right?

Nope, as I keep making my way up, he darts out AGAIN only this time he thinks he can run across the bridge into 16’s room.

Except – the door is closed. Now he has to dart BACK running perilously near to the running vacuum yet AGAIN to get back under the bed. In between, he has to hurdle the litter box on the landing just outside my open bedroom doors. He didn’t QUITE make the hurdle….his hind legs snagged on the scooper I keep next to the litter box causing him to bounce into the litter, scramble…flinging litter all over…then finally back out of the box and under the bed again!

At this point I cannot contain myself and I just bust out laughing as I turn off the vacuum. He hears that the coast is clear, slinks…and I mean SLINKS out from under the bed and FLIES down the stairs to the safety of the furthest corner of the living room behind a chair.

Amber watches the whole thing from her perch on the top of the sofa and then looks up at me and meows “WTF?” (essentially anyway).

WTF indeed.

Miraculously the rest of the day of cleaning and grocery shopping unfolded without a hitch…or..a cat clowning around 🙂

Tomorrow, I rest! After running around a bit on a trail of course!

A Spectacularly Explosive Fail

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Photo by benballer on Instagram

Over the San Diego bay last night, there was a bit of a..shall we say…premature ignition….of Every. Single. Firework set to explode for their 4th of July show.

Check out this post on the snafu, complete with a couple of utterly hysterical videos on Grist

I do believe this is as close you will ever get to a visual representation of the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, don’t you think?!

Dear Generation Z

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This?

This was not invented by you guys.

I know, I know – you don’t believe the world EXISTED before you, let alone that anyone living in it (such as your parent’s generations) ever did ANYTHING remotely scandalous or fun.

Now, the irony of someone like ME telling you this is not lost. I was (and still am sometimes) as straight laced and naive as you could be. There was a LOT OF STUFF going on at my high school that flew right over my innocent little head. I hear stories now about which teacher was sleeping with which student(s) and it curls my hair and makes me clutch my pearls in shock.

And yet.

Trust me when I say that the stuff you guys are writing in your year books is EXACTLY THE SAME as what we wrote in ours. We were rude and crude and dropped words our own parents didn’t think we knew in those things. You guys are not the first teens to do that. No sir.

Last year 15 refused to let me see his yearbook. Naturally I snuck in when he was gone and looked (hush). You know what I found? Nothing. I honestly saw nothing written in there that would be considered shocking. Whatever he was so embarrassed about was so tame that right now I could not tell you what it was for sure. (nor would I, if I could, but the point is – I have no clue!) A couple of months later I asked him about it again and offered to show him my year book from high school first. Just so he could see that he and his buddies are not doing anything NEW. It was like an epiphany to him!

And now it’s happened again. The other day he asked me “Mom, do you know what 420 means. You know, not the date but what it MEANS?” Uh, yeah son, I do.  Did you think that was a new thing with your generation? Yes?! Oh well, you might want to run that one through the Wikipedia machine to see exactly when that started:

See that? 1971!! Whose generation is that? Baby Boomers! That’s even one generation older than MINE! (Ok, so I am right on the cusp. Boomers usually end in 1964 and since I was born the 3rd day of 1965 I try to ride the Gen X wave and I kinda think I pull it off.) Anyway, I was only 6 in 1971 so clearly the folks starting this trend were at least 10 years or so older. Perhaps it wasn’t until the 90’s that it really took off, but the point is – it WASN’T you guys!!

Look – stuff that comes out from one generation to another might be different urban slang and certainly music does keeps sorta evolving. I would say that hair and fashion progress, but sometimes I think all designers got stuck somewhere between 1975-1985 and haven’t been able to release 🙂 Anyway, point is, some stuff has been around for DECADES for teen kids and those three things are:

Sex, Drugs & Rock N Roll!

Lord – even I had to eye-roll at how old school that sounds.

In the meantime, understand that just because I don’t PARTAKE in these things does not mean I don’t KNOW about them.

And 15? I’m sorry, but your brother already pulled the 4/20 party wool off my eyes so it is NOT happening! Sucks to be the youngest, I know.

(Disclaimer to anyone reading this who knows 15 – he is so far about as far away from anything remotely like a 420 dude that there is no worry here at all. This whole thing mostly just amuses me how he thinks all of this is NEW)

Now, go back to doing your homework please.

Love, me

There are reasons I didn’t study drawing in school

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Because, quite frankly, I suck at it:

Partially complete Comic Book Cover "art"

Unfortunately, Alex inherited my lack of talent. What you see up there was our best work on Monday night. Mostly because tracing was allowed for the project. So, he traced and I colored. And that panel was our best work. Because he could trace. And there were no people in it.

Why was I doing this you might ask – well…as I’ve expressed a few times, Alex is not the hardest working student on the planet. He could teach a course on Being Lazy. He’s been perfecting that art form since 5th grade. Avoiding homework, lying about said homework, barely passing classes – the works. His GPA dropped below a 2.0 yet again and he’s been sort of busting his tail (by his standards at least) to not miss any more assignments & to do better work.

Prior to going on his Christmas trip to Sweden, all teachers were put on alert that he would miss the first week of school in January so that we could gather up work ahead for him to do while gone. The biggest of these projects was the AP History Comic Book. He was *supposed* to finish it there.

(You may all start laughing at that notion now.)

He *did* pick a topic and come up with a plot line for the book AND write up a story board for all 24 panels before he left (under my supervision of course). He wanted to do the final panel layout there because he was doing it in Swedish which would give him desperately needed extra credit points. At least, that’s the tale he gave me.

When he got back and I asked to see how far he’d gotten on it, the stories began. When I marched upstairs after hearing too many excuses to look through his school notebooks he brought home, he RACED up to intercept me (red flag!).

” Oh, I think it’s in this notebook…wait..no, I didn’t hole punch it…and..my dad made me do it after I packed so it isn’t where I expected it to be and…..wait wait….where is it…oh geez I think it’s on the desk back in Sweden….!”

So then I asked him where the translation file was (that he said he had completed)

“Um, I did it on Teddy’s computer and I *think* I emailed it back to myself….!”

Now, why would you do that since your laptop was THERE and I setup a drop box account for you to use as a file sharing service no matter what computer you might use (and I knew the dropbox folder had not been updated).

“Um….”

Right.

(Go ahead and keep laughing…this really is amusing).

Thankfully the block schedule lined up for him and he didn’t have History until Tuesday SO – he had all day Sunday after I busted him on this topic (all other subjects had been completed to his credit) and Monday afternoon/evening to do the work.

He still insisted on doing it in Swedish so he got right at that and even willingly handed over his phone to avoid texting distractions.  By the time he went to bed Sunday he was ready to start printing out the translated panels and filling them in with drawings.

The rules were: 1) No stick figures 2) Keep it simple 3) No white backgrounds

Trust me when I say that #2 ruled our world!

I knew there was no way anything would be viable unless I helped with the coloring. Which, I thought was OK since it was nothing to do with the substance of the project or even really the major part of the grade. He still had to make the pictures in his head come to life somehow – I was simply coloring them in like a coloring book. Not all either – he did some.

But – oh, how we suck!

We started finally Monday night after dinner around 7pm. We finished at midnight on the dot.

And that laughing I said to go ahead and do? Oh, did we EVER laugh. Mostly at ourselves.

He did avoid stick figures (barely). I did avoid white backgrounds (though I argued for snow scenes constantly!) We even recruited his brother for help but then we had to fire him – he draws and colors too damn well!! It was so obvious that another person was doing that panel!

His horses looked like elephants. His people started morphing into Charlie Brown or Jack in the Box faces. Warrior helmets looked suspiciously like sombreros and half the time his people had no feet or hands. And, if they had hands it looked like they were 3 times bigger than they should have been and had 13 fingers each.

Oh how we laughed.

I kept grabbing the “orchid” colored pencil instead of the brown – Orchid?? What the hell? It was a colored pencil pack not oil painting!! So half of the brown areas have a lovely purple hue underneath. I thanked him when the background could just be “generic sky” or “generic landscape” and cursed him when it had to be a battle field with tiny body parts & swords & rivers of blood. I also did not appreciate the scene in a museum with Roman Dynasty mosaics on display!  WTF?!!

There was, in fact, a whole LOT of cursing going on!

And laughter.

Which is how we survived the night. 5 hours. 24 panels. 1 cover page and one splash page. And THEN he had to come up with a Title and Logo name (Mr Rogers Leaps Through Time, published by Time Travel Inc). Yes, our Mr Rodgers wore Packer colors and yes, the History teacher is a huge sports fan so *maybe* Alex was playing that up a bit for a few more extra points.

We both agree that even AFTER receiving credit for using a second language that we will be THRILLED if he gets anything over 75% for this work of..NON art.

The grading sheet CLAIMS he wouldn’t BE graded on artistic skills…and he DID remind the teacher that if the pictures make him laugh…well..it IS a COMIC book, right?

Right. Back to accounting for me. WAY easier!

 

I suppose if you LIKE being depressed…..

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I like to be a contrarian sometimes. Sometimes? Oh hush.

The following four things receive HIGH HIGH HIGH Critical Acclaim. Oprah’s Book Club! Grammys! Oscars!

However, I will advise you that unless you WANT to run into the kitchen and swallow a bottle of anti-depressants with that bottle of vodka and slip away into the night…well….then you’d be doing yourself a favor to avoid them.

I’m fairly convinced that even the happiest, most plucky, glass ALWAYS full among us would be in danger of deep depression after exposure to what I think are the most soul sucking pieces of literary, film & musical drivel to be foisted on our senses.

Behold! Your sure fire cures for a severe case of joy:

Sarah McLachlan

There is no denying that she has a very lovely voice. Soothing perhaps….IF she used it for good. But, she uses it for evil. Depressing, go to sleep forever evil. In fairness, I *have* seen her live. And yes, she is JUST as bad on stage. Lordy girl – can you please sing/write SOMETHING with some pep? You can celebrate love and life you know.

Tell me you haven’t had your TV on sorta on auto-pilot, heard the opening strains of “In The Arms of An Angel”, seen the images of animals wasting away and though “GAH! No! Not AGAIN!” and wanted to gouge your eyes out?

Yeah, I don’t care WHAT she sings now. Like Pavlov’s dog, the sound of her voice makes me immediately feel sick in the pit of my stomach and tears well up. Thank you, but NO!

It’s a little easier to avoids books than it is to avoid music since radio stations can assault you and, as pointed out, TV commercials can jump up and bite you – but…..there is something about a depressing book that really insults you. First off – you all probably picked this one up thanks to Oprah, right? I know I did. That first year that she did her book club, I didn’t read anything unless she had recommended it. I was doing OK until this one popped up. What in the hell is appealing about a book where literally everyone dies at the end including the only couple of characters you might have liked? Or, if they are not literally dead, they might as well be because the way the ending is written it is clear that those still breathing wish quite deeply that they weren’t? Who writes this thinking a reader wants to spend several nights immersed in this? Isn’t a book supposed to be a way of ESCAPING reality? And a book takes time and EFFORT to read. A song is a mere 3 minutes of hell. A movie is over in 2-3 hours. A book? That’s usually several days of a few hours here and there depending on how long and how fast you read.

Of course, it is my own problem that I almost NEVER stop reading a really bad book. I stubbornly plug away to the end hoping against all evidence that things will turn around.

Yes, I *was* smart enough NOT to the movie adaptation of this horrible mess.

However, I was NOT smart enough to remember how Oprah had burned me. Because years later when I inherited Jacqueline’s collection of novels which included a fair amount of Oprah Book Club selections, I got suckered again:

Holy hell in a hand basket! First you spend over 100 pages reading about how FABULOUS this family thinks they are…then it all goes downhill from there and one by one they are all exposed to be the shells of human beings that they are. No hope. No learning. No growing. Just mind numbing depravity & self destruction. Again – why the ever loving heck did I read this until the end? Ok, read is generous – I skimmed. But…ugh!

As often as I have marveled at how amazing it is that JK Rowling walked around with the Harry Potter stories in her head, wafting around in her over-sized imaginary glands until she could get them all out on paper – I feel deeply SORRY for authors who carry around tales like those two! I mean, really, how did THEY get through life with the ability to even crack a half-assed smile?

But then – we come – to THE biggest waste of time EVER – which won it’s industry’s highest possible honor (WHY WHY WHY?):

To quote Elaine from Seinfeld : “That movie SUCKS!”

Pretty much, yep.

So in conclusion – if you find out that someone plans on watching The English Patient after spending the day reading The House of Sand and Fog and listening to Sarah McLachlan CD’s…..just go ahead and call the suicide hotline on their behalf. They will thank you later.