Finding meaning in the mundane.

I am trying to overcome a lifelong habit of procrastination.

To slay the dragon, as Steven Pressfield says, and do my Work. 

I have found some incredible resources online, tools for my battle. I started reading articles, signing up for newsletters, downloading ebooks.

The problem, is, there are so many good resources out there, that reading about how to stop procrastinating has now become a form of procrastination. 

*sigh*

… and the battle rages on.

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Pre-pizza cereal. Miss you @robynshinn 💞

Pre-pizza cereal. Miss you @robynshinn 💞

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What Did This One Do?

I am on the fence about poetry.

There are poems I love - epic, timeless, soul speakers -

This Is Just To Say

Sunday Morning

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Where the Sidewalk Ends

- but there are just so damn many bad poems in the world, it’s hard. I can’t flat out say “I love poetry!” the way I love Tom Robbins books, HBO Programming, or Marlborough region Sauvignon Blancs. (Or french fries. I LOVE french fries.)

But. I do love the written word, down to my bones. So I plow ahead. I get a Poem-A-Day email from Poets.org and to be honest, most of them I skim and delete without much more than a, “meh.”

This one landed in my inbox a couple weeks ago and it stuck with me. It is not especially beautiful or original (how pretentious! - as if I am in any position to judge), but the image struck me, I thought I would share.

I hope you like it.

Sky Burial

by Ron Koertge

Q. You’re Such a Disciplined Writer. Were You Always That way? 

A. When I was in graduate school, I worked part-time at a local library. I ran the used bookstore in the basement. The money came in handy. There was plenty of time to study. 

I learned to know the regulars who talked about living with pain and waiting for bland meals to be delivered. 

One sweltering afternoon I read about Tibetan body breakers who dismember corpses with their hatchets and flaying knives so the vultures will have an easier time. 

I imagined my own body and the monks asking, “What did this one do?” And the answer would be, “Not much.” As the hand I could have written with flew away from the wrist.

 image

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Finally feels like summer is coming this week! We’re in the golden pocket, before the real heat sets in and makes life miserable for east-siders with no AC. We are taking full advantage: this weekend we had a picnic in the park, planted flower seeds in our garden (“what kind of flowers?” my dad asked; “blue flowers,” we replied), dug for treasure in Scout’s back yard, romped in the roses and rode the train at Descanso Gardens. 

Off to the zoo this afternoon and when we get home, Daddy will be here. Great celebrations shall ensue. I will probably cry.

"I can’t WAIT to show daddy my new sunglasses."

What did you get up to this weekend?

image

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Saturday night, gettin wild…  @robynshinn @mtshinn @rockbonham

Saturday night, gettin wild… @robynshinn @mtshinn @rockbonham

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Oh, Monday. Always full of promise, and yet always dragging your feet…

We had a very mellow weekend. Mila was sick yesterday. She woke up with fever breath and heavy eyes, and although she really wanted to go to ballet and see Scout, she gave in pretty quick, a sure sign of illness. She told me her head hurt when she moved, so I gave her some ibuprofen and we settled into the bed - the three of us gals - to watch Frozen. Again. That damn song has been stuck in my head for like 3 weeks now. No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to let it go. (Badda-boom.) Billie woke up singing it this morning. Her version goes like this: “Letigo, letigo, letigo, maw.” (Repeat.) If I could get her wee voice stuck in my head, I’d be ok. But I have the full Disney musical version running on a loop (seriously - I wake up in the night and it’s still fucking going) - and it’s driving me bananas. I mean, I’m saying things like driving me bananas, a sure sign of losing it.

Come on Tuesday, help me out.

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Overheard

…some prick at Mohawk Bend a few weeks back (just found the note in my phone) say:

"I lost my cool when I lost my Mercedes."

Well, obviously.

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I went to Trader Joe’s last night. On the narrow ramp at the entrance, I got stuck behind a very old, very slow moving man. White hair and white sneakers, baseball cap, glasses. Eyebrows raised, as if forever saying, “Huh?” While others darted past, I patiently pushed my trolley behind him, too polite to pass until we got to the flowers, and space.

I saw him again by the eggs, clutching a loaf of bread.

As I steered my nearly full trolley away from the register, he stepped right in front of me again. I funeral marched behind him, back up the ramp, while others scuttled past into the air and light.

Halfway up the ramp I thought, this is my life. I am forever stuck in the slow lane, because I’m too polite to pass.  

P.S. Do you like the new layout? HUGE thank you to my friend Adele for my new fancy logo!

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Keep moving. Slower or faster does not matter as long as you do not stop.
- Confucius
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The Tax Man Cometh

Did my taxes yesterday - holy shit, this may be the first time EVER we filed before October. Yay! (And also boo, because, taxes.)

It occurred to me while getting my ducks in a row, that I might try something different and offer a few tips I have picked up in my many years of crunching numbers.

(For the record, I refuse to think of myself as an accounting professional. I still believe it’s temporary. BECAUSE IT IS. Also, I am not a CPA and do not offer tax advice. Merely organizational suggestions.)

First off, if you don’t use accounting software such as Quicken or Quickbooks, Intuit offers a great free tool called Mint. You can register at Mint.com and enter your login information for any accounts you hold - banks, credit cards, loans, etc. Mint uses the same security (ie. encryption) the banks use so no need to worry; they can’t access your money, just your information. Download the app for your phone too. Mint updates your accounts in real time, so you can check your overall financial situation at any time and always know where you stand.

(Not always pleasant, but definitely useful. It’s amazing how quickly things can get away from you, especially when you don’t pay with cash - and who the hell uses cash any more?).

Mint will send you alerts, letting you know when bills are due, if you incur bank fees, etc. You can also set goals, and keep track of your progress. If you are falling behind, Mint will suggest ways to get back on track.

When you first start out, it’s useful to login frequently and check that your transactions are being assigned to the correct category (such as meals and entertainment, fuel, website expense, etc). Most of us spend our money at the same places, so after the first month, it pretty much takes care of itself. Every time you pay at Chevron, for example, Mint will categorize it as fuel. But it’s a good idea to check periodically and reassign anything that’s lumped into “uncategorized expenses.”

You can also tag which categories are tax-related. When it comes time to do your taxes, login on your computer and run simple”trends” reports to find out how much you spent on tax-related (deductible) expense categories for the year. It’s a good idea to check the uncategorized expenses again (for the year) before you do this, to make sure you don’t miss the big stuff by accident. The reports are not as detailed or in-depth as you get with accounting software, but they can still give you the sums you need to file your taxes. Saves a lot of time combing through bank statements or adding up receipts.  

(It is also useful for non-deductible expenses if, like me, you are often left wondering where all your money went: Wait, I spent how much at Target???)

Speaking of which, save those receipts! Especially if you are an independent contractor (as it seems almost everyone in LA is) filing as self-employed with a Schedule C to itemize your deductions.

Did I just lose you? It’s not as complicated as it sounds.  Most people in this country are employed by a company and paid through payroll, with taxes withheld from each paycheck. Those people will receive a single W2 (that piece of paper that shows how much you earned and how much you paid in taxes) at the end of the year, which makes filing your taxes pretty simple. You can choose to take the standardized deduction, which varies depending on your income and the size of your family, or you can choose to itemize (list out) your actual deductions. For payroll employees with a single W2, it’s definitely easier and often more beneficial to take the standardized deduction. If you are filing your own taxes using a program like TurboTax, you can try it both ways and see which one saves you more money.

However, if you are an independent contractor receiving multiple 1099s and subject to self-employment tax (one of the many taxes I totally don’t get - What’s that? You don’t have any benefits or job security? Or paid vacation? Or sick days? Or retirement? Well, in that case, you better pay us an extra 15% of your income, you lucky bastard!), you will want to itemize your deductions. In the event that you get audited, the IRS will not accept bank or credit card statements as proof of payment, so keep all your receipts just to be safe. I use an accordion file with a divider for each month. I keep it in a drawer and try to stick all my receipts in the correct month at the end of each week. Or even better, each day. You can get fancy and separate them by expense category. Personally, I tried this once and found that because it required one extra step (thinking), I didn’t do it. The monthly method will require extra work should you ever get audited, but not nearly as much work as my previous filing system, which consisted of a drawer. 

(My previous filing method left something to be desired… Wait, is that a baby in there?)

There are lots of free financial tools available online and in the app store these days, from loan calculators and credit card comparisons, to free credit scores. If you’re interested in finding out more about any of this stuff, Bankrate.com is a great resource for all things financial. 

Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

(Yep, finished it.)

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