Category Archives: Rants

Insanity or perseverance?

Last January, within weeks of moving into our new Denver apartment, my husband signed me up for skiing lessons. I’d been once or twice on the East Coast, but Colorado skiing is not East Coast skiing, and I was grateful for the instruction. My husband has been skiing out West all his life and is comfortable on any mountain, but we both agreed that me getting lessons from someone else would be the best way to preserve our marriage.

On my first lesson, I progressed quickly and the instructor recommended that I was ready for intermediate lessons. A month later, I took intermediate lessons and “graduated” with flying colors. I was ready to move from the easiest green runs to more difficult, steeper blue routes.

And while I am not a fan of moguls (nor do I have any interest), I am now completely comfortable on all blue runs, and even some of the difficult blacks. All this progression in just one season, about 15 total days of skiing. This is not to say that I’m headed to the Olympics any time soon (ever), but to illustrate that learning to ski, that getting better at skiing, was neither particularly difficult or time consuming for me.

Skiing is a progression of cause and effect – do this, and you will turn; do this and you will stop; do this and you will speed up. While skiing, I’ve taken a few tumbles, but nothing serious. If it weren’t for the actual ski equipment, skiing would be downright enjoyable. Ski boots are tight and uncomfortable and cause my feet to go numb. Skis are heavy and cumbersome and difficult to transport. Ski poles are just annoying to have to carry.

So when my husband suggested that we learn to snowboard, I thought it would be perfect. Compared to ski boots, snowboarding boots are a dream. Comfortable, easy to walk in, cushioned; like a slightly-tighter pair of your favorite Uggs. Snowboards are light as a feather and a joy to carry around. In theory, it’s a wonderful sport.

But I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.

My husband and I signed up for three snowboard lessons in early December. The first two days were terrible. Awful. No good and very bad. I cried after each lesson because it just. wasn’t. clicking. Each time I fell (which was about every five seconds) I swore I had just given myself a concussion. Despite hearing from everyone (instructors, friends, the internet, chair lift operators) that the first two days are hell, I convinced myself that I was never going to learn, that I was an utter failure, etc. (I tend to be melodramatic like that.)

It doesn’t help that I have very little patience for learning new things and I arrogantly and stubbornly dislike doing this at which I am not inherently and immediately successful.

The third lesson was better. I made it down the beginner “mountain” (really, more of a hill) without falling and ended the lesson without crying. I was no expert, but I thought maybe – MAYBE – I could unlock the secrets of this mysterious sport.

We just got back from a week-long trip to Steamboat Springs, a small ski town about 3 hours northwest of Denver. Since one of my goals for 2016 is to stick with snowboarding, I diligently put aside my skis for several days and resolved to work on my snowboarding.

Day one of snowboarding, I fell so hard that I thought I shattered my tailbone. I checked with my mother (who’s a nurse), and since I exhibited none of the scary symptoms (lower-leg numbness, inability to put weight on either of my legs, pain shooting down to my feet), we concluded that it was just bruised. Yay! No emergency room trip required.

After a few days of skiing, I determined that I was sufficiently recovered to snowboard again. The morning went well. I worked on my toe-turns, fell but didn’t die, and generally managed to swallow my terror and made it down the mountain without falling off a cliff.

That afternoon, I sprained my ankle, leaving me sidelined for the rest of the trip.

WHAT IS THIS DEVIL SPORT AND WHY DO PEOPLE ENJOY IT?!

Is it too early for me to break a resolution? At what point do I throw in the towel? Should I keep trying and risk breaking a limb, or do I call myself a quitter and preserve my general well-being?

Is continuing to snowboard insanity or perseverance?

 

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Why we left DC

My husband and I packed up our Washington, DC apartment on December 20, 2014. We spent Christmas with my family in Florida, and then made the long drive from FL to Denver just after the start of the new year. I realize my blog name – Slightly North of Home – doesn’t really apply any more, but I figure it’s too late to switch it over to Slightly West of Home. I haven’t really discussed the factors that led to the cross-country move, so I’ll interrupt my series of posts on our Europe 2014 trip (to Iceland, London, Paris, and Normandy) to fill you in.

About 6 months ago, Adam and I started to get the sense that we’d had enough of DC. I’d been in the city for almost 3 years, and he’d lived there for a full 2. Don’t get me wrong, the things that I loved about DC when I first moved still applied. Almost limitless free museums, events, and concerts. A great and ever expanding food scene. Incredible memorials that tugged at my patriotic heartstrings. Located on the East Coast, close to my family in North Carolina and a short plane ride from my parents in Florida. We had decent jobs and great friends there. We knew our way around; it was easy to navigate (it’s a grid system, people). We had found a Crossfit gym liked, with trainers we adored; our apartment was well-located and not crazy expensive (as far as DC apartments go).

But then, there was the traffic. Rush hour that lasts from 4 – 8; construction or road closings or just people traveling that means highways are jammed even on weekends. Protests for this, that, or the other that shut down major arteries through the city and make getting home from work a general nightmare. Even the metro system isn’t a reliable answer; lines grind to a halt almost daily due to technical malfunctions, trains are late and jammed with people. There’s a never-ending list of escalator and elevator closures, making getting off the metro another exercise in frustration.

There was the cost. Even our not-crazy-expensive apartment was well over $2100 for 800 square feet of space. To ride the metro during “peak times” aka to get to and from work, basically the only time you’d want to ride the metro in the first place, was a minimum of $2.70. Add on more money if you transferred lines or left the boundaries of DC proper. Some mornings, it would cost me $5 one way just to get to work. I wouldn’t complain if the metro operated efficiently, but see the above paragraph. Paying $10 a day to be inconveniently transported to and from work seems a little ridiculous.

Adding to the high cost of living are various forms of taxation imposed on residents. In addition to sales tax (which is, surprisingly, a fairly reasonable 5.75%), DC collects 10% on “prepared food”, which encompasses any meal served from a restaurant (even if it’s to-go) as well as any alcohol sold for consumption on site. I know it’s primarily aimed at collecting tourist dollars, but it makes eating out way expensive for residents too. Then there’s the “state” income tax. DC uses marginal tax rates (just like the federal government), and anyone making above $40k is in the 8.5% tax bracket. ($40k does not get you far in DC, so most people paying taxes in the District are thrown into that bracket.) The top income tax bracket has a rate of 8.95% which is the highest on the East Coast by far.

There are several other frustrating aspects of paying income tax to the District of Columbia (such as the very obvious and blatant marriage tax penalty – that, by the way, is not imposed on same-sex couples, even if the couple is legally married in DC) that could possibly, probably be overlooked, under normal circumstances. Like if the DC government wasn’t rife with crooks and coke addicts. Or if those were the most ridiculous tax rules enforced.

But then, just when we thought DC couldn’t get any more ridiculous, an idiot named Phil Mendelson decided it would be a good idea to extend the DC sales tax to include all “wellness services” – specifically, gyms. You read that right –  the DC city council voted to tax fitness. In a state that saw insurance premiums rise by 11% from 2014 – 2015, you are now penalized for living a healthier lifestyle. (Don’t worry, though – hair cuts and spa services are still exempt!) As soon as that law passed, we knew we had to get out.

I understand that, on paper, it sounds pretty silly that we uprooted our lives to avoid spending a few extra dollars on a gym membership, but it’s not about the money for us – it’s about the principals involved. Since moving to Colorado, we’ve joined 3 separate fitness facilities – a Crossfit gym, a rock climbing gym, and a racquetball gym. I’ll probably also join a yoga studio. We’re going skiing next weekend, and hiking the weekend after that. None of those services are subject to sales tax. In a nation where two-thirds of adults are obese, I refuse to believe that gym tax is the right option, and I want nothing to do with a state that imposes one.

Hashtag: accountant problems

Let’s talk about all the ways I’ve become a worthless human being in the past two weeks.

I work late, get home too tired to even think about reading blog posts, much less write one, hit the snooze button on my alarm clock instead of going to the gym in the morning, drink too much coffee and get so involved in my work that by the time I realize it’s lunch time, it’s actually 3pm and my metabolism has long since crashed. I have purchased lunch instead of bringing it from home five times (and at $7 per lunch, that’s an entire pedicure I wasted because I was too lazy to pack something). And worst of all, I have no one to blame for this but myself.

You see, months ago, I sent an email to a coworker volunteering to help him out if he got too busy during tax season. In my previous job, my focus was mostly income tax, and preparing 1040s is my first love. My current role has me focused on auditing (working in a group setting, checking numbers, writing memos, and dealing with clients who are usually less than thrilled to have their work reviewed), which is fine, except for the fact that it was about to be tax season and I was just itching to get my fingers onto a personal income tax return that I could prepare in the privacy and isolation of my cubicle, where the numbers made sense and there was limited interaction with the outside world.

And yes, I know I fulfill every accountant stereotype out there. (See also, I love to clean.)

Accountant stereotypes
So, when I got an email a few weeks ago asking if I’d like to get involved with an “interesting project” that would be a “great opportunity”, I ignored the language that causes anyone with a shred of experience in the corporate world to flee, and like a naive little lamb to the slaughter, I accepted. Fast-forward to a week later, when this assignment that was supposed to take me 5 – 6 hours has taken me 15 -20, because I’m not preparing 1 return, but 5. That’s right – this guy hasn’t filed an income tax return for FIVE YEARS.

Things I wish I could send to clients...

Things I wish I could send to clients…

Oh, and did I mention that he’s rich, so naturally he and his grandchildren have trusts in place for their financial security. None of those returns have been filed either.

People. A plea from your neighborhood accountant. PLEASE FILE YOUR SHIT. The IRS will probably not find you, but when you do eventually decide you want to file, they will charge you a lot of penalties and interest, which no one wants to pay. Also, your accountant will hate their life while they try to organize multiple years of yours.

(Note that I am not providing any of the above as a tax advisor. I can’t do that, and you should not take advice from someone who considers “file your shit” an acceptable way of communicating.)

I’m not entirely sure where I thought this post was going, or what I wanted to convey, other than the fact that busy season is coming to a close and I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will be thrilled to get my evenings and Saturdays back, because I put on some honeymoon weight (that I haven’t quite managed to shed. (Side note – did you know alcohol isn’t calorie-free? I always thought the antioxidants in wine meant it was healthy and therefore would not cause weight-gain. What an unjust world.) and need to get back into regular gym sessions.   This Saturday will be the last one I have to spend at the office for a whole 8 months, and I am stoked!

Hope everyone else is having a great Tuesday (and that you’ve already filed your taxes)!

Grumpy Cat