Celebrating Easter

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(Because it is Sunday, we are taking a break from the A-Z Challenge topics.) Easter has always been a delightful celebration day. Of course, as a child I had no concept of the Resurrection — death in any form was pretty nebulous, and the whole idea of someone dying on my behalf would have made no sense at all. But we celebrated Easter and honored God by dressing up in wonderful new clothes and heading to church after our Easter egg hunt.

Mom always made Easter dresses for Melody and me; most years they were alike, but some years we had different ideas of what the ideal dress was, and she accommodated us. There were always new shoes and socks, and some years gloves, purses, and hats. What fun we had getting all dolled up!

Easter of 1959 was very special. I was on the verge of a Very Important Recital and Mom was about three weeks away from having our baby brother. So my Easter dress that year was the one she made for my piano performance at San Bernardino Valley College. It was glorious — this picture definitely does not do it justice!

Melody and Fawn all ready for church, Easter 1959

Melody and Fawn all ready for church, Easter 1959

My dress was sky blue taffeta with pale pink rosebuds tying up every scallop of the overskirt. I was beyond proud, and tried very hard not to lord my beautiful dress over Melody, who looked adorable in a dress also made by Mom. I felt very grown up.

Today was another glorious Easter celebration. This time the girls in question were Lily and Olivia, dressed in compatible but not identical blue dresses with white shrugs. Neither Mom nor Grammy sews these days, so the dresses were store-bought, but still delightful.

Fawn, Lily, and Olivia all ready for church, Easter 2014

Fawn, Lily, and Olivia all ready for church, Easter 2014

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was a busy place, what with a baptism, a visit from their granddad, and an Easter egg hunt following the service. Both girls took part in the processional, and Lily was composed and efficient in her role as junior acolyte. This grammy was properly proud. And when the last hallelujah was shouted and we headed home, there was family time, more Easter candy, and dinner at their great-grandmother’s house eaten at the kids table with their cousins.

All made possible because of the Resurrection.

Day #16: P is for Political

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The Free Online Dictionary defines “political” as “of, relating to, or dealing with the structure or affairs of government, politics, or the state”. Urbandictionary.com carries it to another level, defining it as “an adjective used to describe actions or statements which are self-serving”. They explain, “Political works typically involve half-truths, hidden motives, deceptiveness, faked integrity or sincerity, or false advertising via exaggeration.”

If that second definition reflects the perception of the general public (especially those under 40 years old), it is no wonder that ordinary citizens who might otherwise want to serve in their communities are allergic to anything smelling of politics.

Daddy always said that citizens should pay close attention to local politics, and national ones would take care of themselves. By this he meant that if we selected intelligent, upstanding, ethical people to serve on our city councils and boards of supervisors, these people would get the grass-roots training that would suit them for state offices, and eventually national service.

Unfortunately, the cart is often before the horse in our modern political scene. Someone who aspires to a state or national office uses the power of his or her political party to get them elected to that local office, not because of a particular desire to serve the community, but purely as a stepping stone. And the financial reality of political advancement is that it costs such an exorbitant amount to run a campaign that only the extremely well-heeled or beholden candidate can take part. Many politicians say and do whatever they think those in a position to help them want to hear, in order to lock up that lucrative endorsement or generous donation. Hence our suspicions about hidden motives and faked integrity.

In order to fix the unholy mess we now call politics, drastic changes must happen. Massive campaign reform that levels the financial playing field by mandating bargain-basement spending allowances for EVERY candidate would be an excellent beginning. Not only limits on the amount a private citizen, advocacy group, or political action committee could donate, but how much a candidate could spend, would mean that an ordinary citizen with a desire to serve would have just as much opportunity to go before the voters as one born into money, or backed by a huge corporation with a political agenda.

I wonder if it could really happen? What do you think?

Day #15: O is for Onerous

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Dictionary.com defines “onerous” as “burdensome, oppressive, or troublesome; causing hardship”.

One of the most onerous burdens for many people today is overwhelming student loan debt. Quite often it seemed very reasonable to borrow the money at the time, and the repayment felt very affordable. But then life intervened, and all of a sudden there was a WHOLE LOT of debt, and not much available money to pay it off.

That’s where I am today. I never anticipated retiring from teaching with student loan debt. When I borrowed the money, I thought I was going to stay married to the bitter end, because I really didn’t see a reasonable or practical way out. So I thought our dual income would be paying off my debt. But someone wiser than I once quipped that “life was what happened while you were busy making plans” or some such thing. And it happened to me. To add insult to injury, my quest for a master’s degree ended after my mother’s death, as I simply didn’t have the heart to finish without her.

The moral of this story is: Don’t borrow money to go to school, especially when you are old enough that your career will probably be a short one. Cash flow your classes, even if it takes longer to finish. Learn from my mistakes, so that “onerous” is only a A-Z Challenge vocabulary word, not a life experience.

Day #14: N is for Numerous

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Dictionary.com defines “numerous” as “very many; being or existing in great quantity”. Or as my young granddaughter would say, “lots and lots!”

Some fortunate (or possibly boring) people are very focused in their interests and only concentrate on one or two interests or activities. Then there are those of us whose interests are so scattered that “numerous” barely describes the breadth of our activities. I, of course, fall into that latter group.

I am a collector. I happily collect dolls (old, new, expensive, or affordable), and have done so since I was a small girl. My mother, grandmother, aunts, and sister are/were doll collectors, too. I have dolls from my childhood and one very special one that was my mother’s last childhood doll, as well as my daughter’s dolls that haven’t yet been given to her daughters. And I have numerous friends in two doll collecting clubs that add to the joy in my life.

I collect books. Or perhaps they collect me. They surround me with little islands of pleasure and story, carry me away to exotic places, or help me discover hidden treasures. There are books in book cases throughout the house, books stacked under my bed, books on my computer desk, books in my car. And in my rented storage space there are book cases overflowing with books, and boxes and boxes and boxes. I’m working at thinning them out, but it is a slow and torturous process.

I collect frogs…stuffed ones, pewter ones, porcelain ones, magical ones. Also a unicorn or a dragon or two (or perhaps three).

I collect vintage clothing, especially lingerie. Until my last go-round searching for cartons, cases, and hatboxes spread across my storage unit over my past two moves C is for Challenging, I had no idea how many wonderful lacy petticoats, split drawers, and chemises I actually own. The practical voice in my head says I need to cull my collection; the secret hoarder inside says, “No way!”

I collect family stories. They end up in my blog, in my photo albums, told to my children and grandchildren. Family stories connect the generations with each other and with our shared history.

I collect teapots and tea paraphernalia. Once upon a time I dreamed of having a tea room with my mother, and we started gathering teapots, English bone china cups and saucers, and other tea accessories. I’m not sure where that dream is right now.

But most satisfying of all, I collect friends and family. I am so blessed to have dear friends who have become family, and family who are dear friends. I appreciate the bloggers who visit and comment and the friendships we are forming as we share our writing. If what I have heard is true, and friends are the gifts we give ourselves, I have been a very generous giver!

Is there something especially numerous in your life? Comment and share in the fun!

Day #13: M is for Merry

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Dictionary.com defines “merry” as being “full of cheerfulness or gaiety; joyous in disposition or spirit; festively joyous”.

My mother was merry. It was second nature to her, that joyous disposition. And her cheerfulness was contagious. Even as she battled breast cancer — and it truly was a battle — she said on more than one occasion, “I’m not sick…I just have cancer!” And she meant it. It wasn’t bravado to make her family less frightened, it was her own merry spirit shining through adversity.

It was part of what drove her to make the holidays so special for her loved ones. Birthdays, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas…she loved preparing for the holidays, loved gathering “just right” presents, having us all together. She was merry, and she made our time together merry, too.

Being merry is contagious…infect someone you love every day!

Day #12: L is for Loquacious

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Google defines “loquacious” as “tending to talk a great deal; expansive; communicative; chatty”. I love that word, and hereby claim it for my own.

I spent the morning doing what I do best — talking. Specifically, talking to a lovely group of women while adopting the persona of my great-aunt many generations removed about a subject near to most of our hearts but not discussed much: lingerie. And more specifically, talking about the correlations between the restrictions placed on us by our underpinnings throughout history and the restrictions put on our freedom of movement, self-determination, etc.

You may have read about my search for my missing corsets and lost script. The corsets were eventually found, the lost script is still lost. So this morning I got up extra-early, sat down and wrote my new script, then reduced the amount of vintage clothing and lingerie I was taking by about two/thirds.

The ladies were very receptive to both my clothing and my story, and I think I did my Great-great Aunt Fanny proud as I told her story of loving and becoming the widow of Major General William Dorsey Pender. Lots of words were exchanged this morning. Good stories, honest sharing, women letting their hair down. Loquacious. It just fits!

Free night ramblings

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Since Sundays are “free” days and I don’t need to follow the A-Z Challenge structure, I’m going to ramble off into “complaining about taxes” mode. In today’s case it wasn’t the taxes themselves that were nearly driving me to drink, but the ridiculousness of the hoops I needed to jump through in order to figure them.

(I should explain that I was doing my husband-who-lives-across-town’s taxes today, not my own. Had they been my own, I simply would have said some version of “screw this!” and put them away until Tuesday. However, since they were his, and I had planned on having them finished a couple of weeks ago and am tired of listening to him complain about priorities, I needed to get them done.)

Anyhow, we had each received a 1099-C a while ago from a creditor, explaining that they had decided to cancel an outstanding credit card debt, and that they had notified the IRS of our increased taxable income for 2013. Now I don’t know about you, dear reader, but on my retirement/Social Security income, adding an extra $21,000+ on which we hadn’t had taxes withheld was like dropping a huge bombshell on my finances. And we had agreed that this one was his responsibility, as I’m paying on student loans (sigh!) So I started researching the whole process, heart in my throat, and discovered an interesting fact in the fine print that is the instructions for IRS Form 1040: If you were insolvent (in other words, owed more than you owned) at the time of the discharge of the debt, you didn’t have to claim it as taxable income. This was great news. The not-so-great news was the Mongolian cluster f*ck I had to navigate through to accomplish this. (I started with my husband’s taxes because he would have apoplexy if his return were late. I don’t even care on mine any more.)

First there was the “income” section. It all made sense until I got the part where they suggested that less or more might be due, depending on whether your Social Security Benefits were taxed. So I had to complete the Social Security Benefits Worksheet. It took me at least 45 minutes to determine that $32.00 of his Social Security income was not taxable. Whoopy!

Then there was Form 982: Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. In order to fill that one out, you need to use the Insolvency Worksheet, located in another section of the tax booklet online. (Of course, before that you need to STUDY the instruction booklet, read all the possible scenarios, and realize that yours is different from all the examples.) So I successfully navigated through the forms and completed the rough draft of his Federal return.

This afternoon I tackled the California return, thinking I could just plug in the numbers from the Federal form and be good to go. WRONG-O! I entered the numbers and started scrolling through the instruction booklet on line. When I was ready to figure the tax owed, I discovered through trial and error that the online instruction booklet did not have the tax tables on it. I could use the table that accompanies the booklet for the Tax Schedules, but I have heard over the years that the taxes are higher if you figure them with Tax Schedules instead of from the Tax Tables.

I tried the “find forms and publications” area repeatedly, with no success. I finally realized that the only recourse I had was to pick up a complete instruction booklet, which means tomorrow I must drive across town to the IRS offices to get a copy of the entire instruction document, as our library (the only other source listed) is closed on Monday.

The “renters’ income tax credit form” was also nearly impossible to find…no, I faked it. It WAS impossible to find. But I have now “guesstimated” his tax forms, finding he’s getting a refund from one and has to pay less than he was hoping for on the other one. Tomorrow afternoon I will complete them after my visit to the IRS, and hopefully get started on my own.

It is April 13, 2014. Are your taxes filed yet?

Day #11: K is for Kissable

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I’m going to switch things around a bit for Day #11 in the A-Z Challenge. Because I’m still working on this year’s tax return, tonight’s blog is a list.

Dictionary.com defines “kissable” as “inviting kissing through being lovable or physically attractive”. Here’s my list of my ten most kissable objects:
1 and 2) my granddaughters
3) baby toes…any baby’s toes!
4) a baby’s head
5) a baby’s nose

Do I detect a pattern here?

6 and 7) my siblings
8 and 9) my children
10) Daddy.

Hmmm…that isn’t where I thought this list was going to go. No furry kittens, no unicorns, no frogs. Ah, well…

Day #10: J is for Jaunty

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The Free Online Dictionary defines “jaunty” as 1) having a buoyant or self-confident air; 2) crisp and dapper in appearance. I would like to share two pictures of the man in my life who most epitomized “jauntiness” to me: My grandfather, Frances Carroll Getts (Frank) Buffington.

Grandad Buffington ca 1959 Grandad Buffington 2 ca 1959

It is obvious from the way he carried himself…even barefooted at the beach…that this was a man who knew who he was and where he belonged. I don’t ever remember him being less than impeccably dressed, no matter what the situation. His hat was positioned “just so”, and his shoes were spotlessly shined. (These pictures were both taken in the late 1950′s.)

Grandad Buffington was my mother’s stepfather, although that made absolutely no difference to any of us. He was about as cool as cool could be, because besides being a salesman and house-flipper (long before it was the thing to do), he was a musician with a full drum set and an organ in his living room. None of my friends grandparents had either of those, let alone both! And even more wonderful, the closet in his master bedroom had a shaving sink (where he shaved with a shaving brush, shaving cream, and a razor), the perfect dressing area for the gentleman of the house.

Frank Buffington: Jaunty. Classy. Cool.

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