Thursday, March 23, 2017

What a week

So, Allie has pneumonia.

Tuesday felt like it should have been Thursday.  This has been the longest week.

On Monday, we were able to refill Allie's prescription for an inhaler.  She used it Monday afternoon and there was no improvement in her coughing.  I helped her use it again at bedtime with the same results.  While Sunday had been a day of recovery, she seemed to be sliding downhill Monday evening so I brought her to the pediatrician first thing Tuesday morning.  I was shocked when her temperature came in 100.9.  She'd had a fever on Friday and Saturday but I'd stopped checking it Sunday night because she had been getting better and hadn't had a fever since early Saturday afternoon.  She was diagnosed with lower left lobe pneumonia.  It was caught on the early side and she's been on antibiotics, which have aided in her recovery.  I need to bring her back in two weeks for a lung check.

I fully expected the doctor to tell me Allie had a sinus infection, so I'd intended to bring her to school late.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  When we went to pick Anna and Emily up at school, they were surprised that Allie had stayed home and asked what she had.  When I said pneumonia, Anna gasped a little and asked, "Is she going to die?"  No, no, no.  She's going to be fine.

Have I mentioned how we're going to DC for a few days at the end of April?  We have family and friends down there so it will be a combo trip of visiting and sightseeing.  We've been trying to fit in a DC trip for a few years now but the timing never worked with my work schedule.  The girls are at a great age for DC too.  The last time we were there, we visited the zoo and that was about it.  They were just too young to "get it."  So I've been doing some planning, with the girls' input, of course.

On Saturday, as I was caring for a sick Allie, Rich says, "Maybe we should go to Florida instead of DC.  I saw a commercial for Key West the other day and it looked nice and warm."  Five minutes later, I see the same commercial.  What are you trying to do to me?  You better believe that I scoped out this imaginary vacation to the Florida Keys.  We actually would have been able to get a hotel room with points but the airfare was ridiculous.  So DC it is!

I want to thank you all for the kind comments.  It helps me to see things from a different perspective.

TGI (almost) F

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Playing the comparison game

It started over the weekend.  Rich was looking for a movie to watch Saturday night on the Fire Stick.  My attention was half focused on my laptop and the 80 something photos of fourth graders that needed to be edited.  He gave up and chose something with Gwyneth Paltrow based on the ratings.  "Ugh.  Not a fan," I commented.  The movie was blah so we quickly changed it to What's Eating Gilbert Grape because Johnny Depp.  AND it's a really good movie.

The next day, as I'm hurriedly unloading my groceries at the checkout counter, I spot Gwyneth on the cover of Women's Health magazine.  Have you seen it?  She's wearing a red bikini and written next to her abs is the statement "Get. Her. Abs.  Just 3 moves."  Does anyone, especially in this day and age, actually believe that three abdominal exercises completed three times a week will actually give them abs that look like Gwyneth's?  A celebrity.  Who I bet has a personal trainer.  Who I bet has a maid.  Does anyone actually believe that Gwyneth is scrubbing her own toilets and bathtubs?  

I scoffed as I threw my Cadbury Creme Eggs and chocolate fudge Pop-Tarts onto the conveyer belt.

Dear Women's Health - I gave birth to triplets at 35 weeks and 6 days.  Before I started shrinking, I stood at just under 5'4" tall.  I have a petite frame so carrying three babies for that length of time stretched my skin and muscles beyond my body's natural ability to "bounce back."  I could do these 3 moves till the cows come home and I will never look like Gwyneth.  Thank you and have a great day.

I don't know.  Maybe this just set me up for a bad week or something.

Here's the thing - we spend so much of our lives in competition with others.  Whether measurable or not, it's there.  In high school and college, there's your class rank based upon your grades.  Do high school seniors still vote for "most likely to succeed" and "best looking"?  When I was working, we ranked the staff based upon their work abilities and performances.  I'm sure I was ranked as well.

As required by the state of Massachusetts, the girls participated in statewide testing for the first time at the end of third grade.  Several months later, the results were mailed to parents.  There was a graph that marked the grade the state considered passing, the average grade of the entire third grade of our school district and your child's score.  How do you compare to everyone else?  It's all laid out right there in front of you.  

When it comes to photography, I've always been the first one to tell you not to compare yourself to others.  Find your own style.  Don't follow trends.  Stop caring what others are doing!  But I found myself doing just that this week.  Maybe it's a combination of the time of year and everything going on right now - sick kid, tax returns, yearbook photos - but my photography has felt flat.  This isn't the first time I've felt this way but now that I'm not working outside the home, I sort of feel like my presence online is work.  I was scrolling through IG on Monday morning and I suddenly felt so insecure.  I'm too old.  My kids are too old.  While technically correct, my photos of my kids have never been and will never be called magical or whimsical.  I'll never be named one of the "fill in blank" photographers of the day, month, year.  Really, there was just a lot of self-induced negativity going on.  I try not to take things to heart but man, there are some cliques on social media.  Don't get me wrong, I've meet some super nice people - including some who live locally.  On the other hand though, I tried to connect with some others who live here and I was basically invisible.  Okay.

I apologize for my negativity.  I know some don't like reading it as it pulls them down.  I try to stay positive but I've always said I would stay true to myself and this has been a low week.  I can't imagine I'm the only one who has days like these which is why I'm sharing.  Okay, I'm going to end this so I can work on a tax return.  I don't have a desk so it's all spread out across the kitchen counter and I'd really like to clean that all up.  Thanks for listening.  And tomorrow is a new day!  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Snowed In

For us New Englanders, March is not the beginning of spring but merely the continuation of winter.  There's a downside to those unseasonably warm days we had back in February.  It was so nice to be able to feel that warmth but it made it that much more difficult to return to freezing cold temperatures.  Last week, we had a little storm blow through and then earlier this week, a much bigger storm hit but due to a shift in the rain/snow line, the precipitation in our area turned to freezing rain and washed away half of the snow.  We're supposed to see more snow this weekend but apparently how much is still up in the area.

So, yes, I agree.  Winter storms, newly fallen snow - it's all beautiful while it lasts. (But we can't wait for beach weather!)

I began writing this on Thursday.  That night, Allie became ill.  Flu-like symptoms.  Fever.  She's better now.  Still not 100%.  Coughing tonight and her inhaler has expired. There's nothing in it anyway.  We'll have to request a new one tomorrow.  I was awake half the night Thursday and I still feel exhausted.  Slightly fog-brained.  A lot on my plate which seems absurd for me to say because I'm not working.  I hung out with Allie on Friday watching cooking shows and HGTV (per her request), too tired to do much else.  Eh, laundry and tax returns can wait.

This school year has been fairly healthy for the girls.  There were a few very minor colds until January, when one by one the stomach virus hit.  It was spreading like wildfire in the schools and mine didn't get it at the same time or close to each other, which leads me to believe they picked it up at school.  I was bleaching every possible contaminated surface at home.  A few weeks ago, Emily had a cold - not very bad.  And then Anna and Allie.  Allie had just gotten over hers when this virus hit.

I'm definitely feeling that winter grumpiness right now.  I think we all are.  When life becomes too routine, I start to feel caged in a bit as well.  Time to change things up.  

3.19b

3.19a

3.19c

3.19d

3.19e

3.19f

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tax, as it relates to the blogging world

Almost five years ago, I wrote this post regarding blogging and taxes.  I received the equivalent of hate mail for publishing those thoughts.  Or truths, really.  I obviously hit a nerve with some people.  At that time, monetization of blogs was really picking up speed and I was watching bloggers "sponsor" other bloggers or showcase "c/o" clothing.  It's kind of crazy to think how earning money from a blog has changed over these past five years.

I've come to realize that after 20+ years of tax work, most tax related topics are of interest to me so when I came across an online discussion of a large blogger and the assumed tax treatment of that blogger's expenses, I couldn't help but read.  A common statement is that these popular bloggers, who are most obviously generating a considerable amount of revenue, are writing off everything.  "Writing off everything" apparently means they are deducting their expenses directly against gross income.  However, some of their blogging expenses would be considered personal (nondeductible) expenses for a non-blogger.

I think we can all agree that with blogging, and social media in general, there's a very fine line between what's real and what's fake (or curated.)  A blogger goes on a lunch date with her husband, takes photos of her outfit and food, and generates a blog post about this lunch date.  Said blogger makes money off of links to the outfit she wore in the post.  Blogger claims that the date was set up specifically for purposes of generating blog content.  This is her image.  She dresses in these outfits for lunch dates with her lovely husband.  Don't you wish you had this outfit?  Don't you wish you had a husband like mine to sneak away with during the week for a lunch date?  Don't you wish you could eat this meal of carbs?  Is the blogger therefore allowed to deduct the costs of the meal (subject to the 50% allowance) and the outfit as business expenses?  What percentage of these expenses are personal?

Blogging as a business is still so new that tax standards have not yet been established.  Plus, unless you are taking outrageous positions on your tax return, you'll most likely slide right past scrutiny with the IRS.  There have been severe budget cuts within the IRS which means that audits have significantly decreased.  The odds of being randomly selected for an audit are extremely tiny.  I hate to say all of this because it gives off the impression that you can take pushy deductions on your return, keep your fingers crossed and simply get away with it.  Tax is not a black and white world.  There are so many gray areas that you sometimes have to take a position because there simply isn't a straightforward answer.

If you're interested, here's an article published by Forbes last year regarding bloggers and the US Tax Court.  As outlined in the article, a blogger (vlogger, actually) took a position on his return and the IRS and the Tax Court both disagreed with him.  Yes, I'm a tax nerd who searches the internet for articles related to bloggers and the Tax Court.  As you can see from the article, there have only been a handful of Tax Court cases involving bloggers.  This is a new chapter in the tax world.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I can remove myself from tax

But I can't remove tax from me.

I may be "retired" but right now I'm in the middle of Friends and Family Tax Season.  I'm typically not a procrastinator but I put this off for as long as possible.  When we sold our rental property earlier in 2016, I told myself I would figure out the gain and have the workpapers ready to go well in advance.  Never happened.  I did finish our returns yesterday though.  But I have plenty more to do.  Including going all the way back to the '80s to figure something out.  And now the house is a mess and I'm behind on laundry.

As I mentioned earlier in the school year, I'm volunteering as a photographer for the school's yearbook.  Because of the templates used to create the yearbook, I was asked to photograph the entire 4th grade in groups of two or three kids.  For these types of photos, communication is sent out to the teachers so they know when to expect us. It was agreed that we would take those photos this week, which now consists of a snow day and a half day.  I should mention that there are twelve 4th grade classrooms.  Twelve!  So the first class I went into, my Speedlight wouldn't fire.  I've never had that happen to me in all the years I've used it.  It was powered up but half of the settings on the screen weren't showing.  What the?  So I turned it off, bumped my ISO up to 1000 and I was fine without it.  Before I headed to the next classroom, I stopped at a table in the hallway to try to figure out what was wrong.  It turns out the camera hadn't registered that the flash was attached.  I took it off and popped it back on again, and it was fine.  Such a simple fix.

Friday night was the annual Father/Daughter Dance and I actually had time this year to do the girls' hair without running around like a maniac.

3.15a

3.15b

3.15c

3.15d

3.15e

Their dresses are from OshKosh.  Perfect for spring and can be paired with a little jean jacket for cooler days.