Greetings from Seattle



Friday, February 5, 2016

Taxes

It's always great news when I get this e-mail message!


Great news, Linda I Reeder!

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Your federal tax return was accepted by the IRS.

I began the tax filing process on Wednesday, using Turbo Tax, linked to my online banking with the credit union. This is my third year of filing on line.

Always before that I filed using the standard paper forms, you know, the ones the IRS doesn't send you any more. Since we have a simple life with no debt anymore, that means there is no point in itemizing deductions. The standard deduction works best for us. That simplifies the filing process.

However, income reporting has become more complex. Tom reached the age, 70.5, where he had to start taking Required Minimum Distributions (RMD's) from his IRA's several years ago, so I had that figured out. Then this year I reached the magic age and had to report the RMD's from two IRA accounts.  Except, in the process of filing, just as I was about to tap the final "Send", I realized I didn't have a Form 1099-R from one of the accounts and hadn't reported it. Whoa. Put the breaks on. 

Too late in the day to call on Wednesday, I put the process on hold and waited until Thursday morning to call the number provided for the financial service. I was told the forms had been sent out. Well, I told the nice person, that doesn't help me since I don't have it and I want to complete the filing. 

I found out I could access my account online and get the 1099-R that way, but I needed to set up an online account first.  Well, that got messy, what with having to wait for an email verification code, my newly registered user name getting screwed up, having to make another phone call, finding the problem and starting all over again. 

Success! I got access, got my form, and managed to get back into my TurboTax process, go backwards and find the place to insert the additional RMD information. By now I was feeling a bit shaky about the whole process, but I carefully reviewed everything, finalized the forms and hit the "Send" button.

Then I waited, and waited. Finally Thursday evening I got the e-mail message I was waiting for.  Hallelujah!    

Now my refund can come, and I can apply it to my property tax bill. :-/

At least with that one all I have to do is send a check. 









Thursday, February 4, 2016

Crime

I work very hard at not being paranoid about all of the criminal activity that is happening around me. I prefer to be cautious and feel relatively safe. It isn't always easy.

There is a reason why we have a locking mailbox. On our walks around the neighborhood we frequently see mail that has been stolen from mailboxes, rifled through, and dumped. 
This morning when I went out to get the newspaper, I found this. Someone with a small pry bar broke into the mail box.  As I looked down the street, I saw other neighbor's locking boxes had suffered the same fate. Picture a single guy, or a small group, walking down the street after dark, popping open mail boxes as they went. They may have been looking for something of value, or may have just felt like being destructive. How annoying to a mail thief to have to have locked boxes. 

Fortunately we had collected our mail for the day, as we always try to do. We have let it collect for a couple of days when we are out of town for short stays. For longer stays we have our mail held at the post office. 

Most of our mail is junk anyway and ends up straight away in the recycling bin. But occasionally there are sensitive documents, like 
tax forms that have been arriving throughout January. Most checks got directly to the bank through direct deposit. 

We will repair or replace the box, and try to remember to have mail held even for one overnight from now on. 

But nothing is really safe. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Early Spring?

I saw my shadow today. I hear that Punxsutawney Phil did not. That is supposed to mean an early spring. Here it just means it isn't raining. It will be by tomorrow. 
Clouds are beginning to move in.

We enjoyed a cold sunny 3.75 mile walk this morning in the neighborhood. Since then I have completed my floor exercises and have spent a lot of time at the computer reading political articles and getting involved in debates on Facebook. 

I see that Hillary Clinton has now been cleared by  the DOJ as well as the State Department of any wrong doing with her emails, and the FBI is only checking to see if she was a victim of hacking.  She has apologized once again anyway. Meanwhile Hillary bashing goes on as doggedly as ever. 

While I was wasting my time trying to set the world straight, Tom actually got some work done. I just went out to check on him. I took my camera. He's pruning the espaliered apple trees. 

 While I was out there  I was surprised to see how far the daffodils had popped up out of the ground.

 I found a wall flower blooming. 
  New growth is happening and blooming is beginning.                                                                                   
 Snowdrops and cyclamen say "Why wait for spring?" 
Happy Groundhog's Day. May your days be sunny and your spring be early. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Catching Up

We are having a slow weekend after a busy week.

We just completed a five mile walk along a section of the Green River Trail we had not walked before.
We parked at a little park which is frequently filled with fishermen's cars. but not today. 
 A footbridge takes us across the river. This is where the tidal salt water of the Duwamish River mixes with the fresh water of the Green River. 
 Past a Boeing office building another bridge takes us back across the river. These are all places we have seen from the highways and the light rail, but you get a much different perspective down under it all along the river. 
 Urban art. Looks like the artists had to dangle from the bridge to do their creating. 

 The Link Light Rail tracks are in the distance. The trail goes under them where they cross the river. 
 Early bloomers. Winter blooming viburnum
 and witch hazel. 
 We had seen this Starbucks from the freeway, with it's logo sign high in the sky. We added a mile to our walk because it beckoned to us to "Stop here"!
We had a good break before turning around. 
Such lovely blue sky today!
 Not much wildlife today, only some crows and this cormorant. 
 Back around the Boeing building the cultivated landscape provided winter color along with the bright border of moss. 
 As I previously mentioned, our starting point was where the salt water mixes with the fresh water. Here the Indians set up fish weirs for catching salmon, and their legend explains the rocks that protrude from the water as the tide level lowers. 
 An art installation honors the legend. 




 The tide has gone out enough now that the rocks are beginning to appear. 
 And a fisherman has found his perch. 
Friday evening we attended a performance at Irene's school. An acting troupe comes for a week and during after school hours and into the evening, from Monday through Thursday, they assemble their actors, train and coach them, and on Friday they perform. 

The performance was a wacky version of Rapunzel. Irene was a wood elf. There she is upper right. 

 The entire ensemble. A lot of kids had a lot of fun and some valuable experiences. Very impressive. 

And now the the Jake update. 

We had a busy week, as Jake found an apartment with the help of my cousin. While he continued his USPS training we began to haul mini van loads of his stuff over to the apartment. I met with the landlady and arranged for him to take occupancy on Thursday. 

We shopped for stuff he would need to get started, including several trips to the local Goodwill Store, where I found this little table and two chairs for a grand total of $38.56. 
We lucked out with a break in the rain on Thursday so we could transport his queen size mattress and box springs on the top of the van.  Jake put in a 10 hour day on Thursday and met us at his apartment, where we had been very busy getting things arranged. We were all tired so we took him out to dinner, where he was quite enthusiastic about his first day of actual on the job training. He thinks he's really going to like being a mailman. It was so good to see him happy.

Thursday was his first night in his new home. He reported that it took him seven minutes to walk to work the next morning. 

As of Sunday morning it will be just two weeks since Jake began his new life. We are incredibly grateful for all that has gone so well. 

And that is why we are taking it slow this weekend. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sorting

I am in the desert. 
No, not literally. I am continuing to sort my photo files on my desk top hard drive. But it is nice to be plunged into New Mexico in the golden autumn right now. 


I finally made it through our 2012 New England trip. I have a lot fewer photos of slanted old homes, and the ones I did keep are straight now. I realized I had posted blogs via my lap top during that trip and then dumped all the photos onto the desk top without any editing. My 2011 New Mexico file is in better shape and I am having fun reliving it as I sort the MANY photos. 

Meanwhile, out in the garage, Jake is sorting through boxes of his stuff. He has found an apartment in the area where he wants to live, Ballard, and will be able to move in this week. His unit is in the basement of an old house, and while it's a bit more than he wanted to pay (everything in the city is expensive), he will have almost no commute to work. It's nine blocks away from the postal station he will be working out of - walking or biking distance. We haven't seen it yet, but we'll try to start moving stuff tomorrow. It's one of those cases of "It's who you know". The owner of the house knows my cousin Dan, who owns an alternative fuel business nearby. Jake has been working as a bookkeeper for Dan off and on while he has been in and out of work. Dan told the owner about Jake, and since she hadn't even listed the vacancy yet, she gave it to him. 

We'll help Jake get started financially, and then he should be able to get himself back on track. It's only day 9 of  his new life and already things are sorting themselves out. I feel very relieved and I think we all feel very fortunate. 

Not only that, but yesterday Jake went skiing with his cousin. They had a good time up in the mountain sunshine, and his ankle held up.  He really is on the mend in so many ways.

I'm not sure where this day has gone, but I see that it's getting dark already. We had a good walk this morning on this dry, partly sunny day. The rain returns tomorrow. 

I guess I'll go back and visit the desert. 


Friday, January 22, 2016

Finding Your Power

 Witch hazel in bloom. The power of nature to stay on her schedule.

I haven't posted for quite a while. I really wanted to check in today and let you all know that I am still alive and kicking, but I didn't really know what to say.  Then I just now read an editorial that showed me the way and what to say.

In the New York times, David Brooks writes today on The Anxieties of Impotence.  
........
As Anand Giridharadas writes in The International New York Times, “If anything unites America in this fractious moment it is a widespread sentiment that power is somewhere other than where you are.” 
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The Republican establishment thinks the grass roots have the power but the grass roots think the reverse. The unions think the corporations have the power but the corporations think the start-ups do. Regulators think Wall Street has the power but Wall Street thinks the regulators do. The Pew Research Center asked Americans, “Would you say your side has been winning or losing more?” Sixty-four percent of Americans, with majorities of both parties, believe their side has been losing more.
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In a different way, the American election has been perverted by feelings of powerlessness.

Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc.

To address these problems we need big, responsible institutions (power centers) that can mobilize people, cobble together governing majorities and enact plans of actions. In the U.S. context that means functioning political parties and a functioning Congress.

Those institutions have been weakened of late. Parties have been rendered weak by both campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision, which have cut off their funding streams and given power to polarized super-donors who work outside the party system. Congress has been weakened by polarization and disruptive members who don’t believe in legislating.

Instead of shoring up these institutions, many voters are inclined to make everything worse. Plagued by the anxiety of impotence many voters are drawn to leaders who pretend that our problems could be solved by defeating some villain. Donald Trump says stupid elites are the problem. Ted Cruz says it’s the Washington cartel. Bernie Sanders says it’s Wall Street.

The fact is, for all the problems we may have with Wall Street or Washington, our biggest problems are systemic — the disruptions caused by technological progress and globalization, mass migration, family breakdown and so on. There’s no all-controlling Wizard of Oz to slay.

Brooks goes on to say we must work to repair institutions and have a functioning Congress. As citizens we have work to do. 

As I have read and listened and watched and studied these past weeks, I have again and again been struck by how fearful and powerless people feel. Our current political mess is a result of that. This fear was reflected by my friends at breakfast this morning, at the horror of the prospect of a Trump / Palin presidency. 

But I refuse to buy into that fear. I am determined to retain my own sense of power and to exert whatever small influence I have over the thinking of others to not react out of fear, but to examine all forms of information carefully and to think deliberately about not only what is good for me, but for my country, and to look at what is possible at each step along the way to achieving what we want our outcomes to be. 

I was reminded recently about the fear that was so prevalent in my childhood. The movie Bridge of  Spies and the TV show Madame Secretary both made reference to the duck and cover drills we did in school to "protect" ourselves from a a nuclear attack. The threat of an atomic bomb dropping on us was real and re-lived every day. But we all came through that. Cooler heads and better angels prevailed. They can and will again. We need to do our jobs to support those "cooler heads". 

And on a more personal note, our son Jake has been fighting his own battles. When he called us last Sunday morning to say he needed to come talk to us, we looked at each other and thought "Oh oh". 

I don't want to go into details. Our son has a right to privacy. But the result is that he is now living with us for a while. He has been accepted as a trainee with the US Postal Service and is in the orientation process for his new career. Sunday was day one of taking power over his new life, a life that he has decided he does really want to live, and on his own terms. We now celebrate each day as progress toward that goal.

One thing that I do know is that among my blog family are a group of powerful women, and a man or two as well.  Stay strong, don't hide from the forces of fear, and use your power well.  The world needs us.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Sorry, I Didn't Hear You

I went to the Audiologist today to have my hearing tested.

I had been putting it off. The last time I had my hearing tested was 2008. My husband and my daughter said it was time for me to go. I am having trouble hearing soft consonants, which makes it difficult to understand less than clear speakers, like my grandchildren. I have a hard time participating in conversation in a group with a noisy background. I need clear speech on TV shows or I miss a lot of the dialogue. English accents are hard to decipher, and that's most of PBS.

The results are in. I have significant enough hearing loss that I am now a good candidate for hearing aids. I knew it was true, but I have been dreading it.

Hearing aids are a miracle if they work, but so often they don't. My mother never found any that worked for her. But technology is vastly improved in the last few years. My older sister gave up on hers in the last two years, after trying two different sets. She said she couldn't find any that worked for her. 

Now I get to go down that road. I will be referred to an ENT specialist first, and then to the Hear Center, where an Audiologist will determine what sorts of aids will work for me. There will be a range of styles and technology levels to select from. I will make a guided choice. Then I will have 30 days to try them out. 

The technology will determine the cost, anywhere from $1300 to $3000 per ear. Of course there is no insurance coverage for hearing aids. Most people I know have had their aids replaced at least once as new technology comes along. There will be service appointments and parts replacements. Once you begin down this road, it doesn't end. 

Do any of you have experience with hearing aids?