Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I am back...seasons change...tax season that is: San Diego Sour

Had to dessert my blog for a while.  I work in a tax office so January through April is pretty sporadic as far as a normal schedule goes.  Work gets in the way of life:  time wise, energy wise, patience wise.  Sometimes you just want to come home to a sofa, a snack and a screen.  I thought I would re-open my blog with some income tax preparation tips.

Tax tips:

1.  April 15th is every year.  Along with death, you cannot avoid paying taxes.  Don't procrastinate.

2.  Think about your taxes year round.  Our office is open year round to assist you with questions.  If there is any change in your income, call us.  Consider withholding more.  Don't spend all it on a Corvette. There will be tax consequences.  See tip number one.

3.  If it is days before the 15th, we are going to have to file an extension for you.  Last minute on your part does not mean we can work faster to make the deadline.  But don't worry, we will still do your return for you.  If you are worried about penalties, send in a payment to the IRS and the state.  Any amount helps and remember, the interest on taxes owed is far less than on a credit card or other loan.  If you are still worried, see tip number one.

4.  Please give us a working phone number.  We send you an organizer at the beginning of the year.  Please fill it out.  Things change fast these days.  Many of us, myself included, have disconnected our home phones and gone completely cellular.  You may have done that on April 16th of last year so when you come in this year, it isn't a new phone number to you, but it is to us.  Learn how to retrieve your messages and check them!

5.  Income tax preparation is a service.  We don't make the rules so don't get mad at us if you owe.  We answer to the IRS and Franchise Tax Board as well.  We don't work for the IRS or the states.  We follow their rules and they don't answer any of our questions as to "why'.

6.  Income tax preparation is a service.  A paid service.  Please be prepared to pay when you pick up your returns.  We will not electronically file them if you don't. We can't wait for your refund to arrive to take it out of there.  You are not entitled to first class service, a private appointment with no waiting, attention to detail  and tax saving advice for free. We also have awesome candy and drinks. Try a VITA office if free is what you can afford.  VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance.  They are usually for low-income people and those who end up not having to file.  Be prepared to pay with your time by waiting in line and have the work take longer.  Tip number one applies to their offices as well.

7.  We don't have forms.  Don't call us on April 15th looking for free forms that you can have. Most tax returns need to be filed electronically these days.  Even if they don't, the work is still done via computer, not paper forms that you fill out.  See tip number one.

Have a happy and prosperous new year!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

House of Ireland ( Happy St. Patrick's Day)

Another sweet bi-product of genealogy research is wanting to celebrate your heritage.  For me, that meant attending the March lawn program sponsored by Balboa Park's House of Ireland. So I marked my calendar months in advance, asked my friend whose married name is O'Leary, to join Jenn, Alex and Eric and me for an afternoon of Irish culture.  Upon hearing about our outing, Marcia wanted to join us as well.  So I got a shamrock manicure, cut up some soda bread and drove Marcia and Mrs. O'Leary to Balboa park.  We had the luck of the Irish and found a parking space quickly and close by the International cottages in bustling, busy Balboa Park .

Shamrock nail art in honor of St. Patrick's Day

We set up our chairs, commandeered a park bench, and saved a space on the grass with a beach towel for Jenn's gang who were driving separately.  We were handed programs and perused the vendors on the lawn prior to the show.  Marcia bought a bangers and mash stew the House of Ireland was selling.  I talked with the Civil War re-enactment members of the 69th Regiment New York State Volunteers, photographed the shamrock seller and petted the Irish Wolf hounds.

Ray, an Irish Wolf Hound

Shamrock Seller
The Cameron Pipers, a bagpipe group, started off the music by marching through the International Cottage courtyard.  They ended their on the dragon laden stage.  Yes, the stage had a dragon who was named Ollie. According to legend, Ollie helped St. Patrick drive out the snakes and dragons ( except for himself ) in Ireland.  The House of Ireland Queen and Princess emceed the afternoon that featured Kid's Session Musicians from the local school of Irish dance, Pride of Celti Dancers, a Q& A session for both the Irish Setter Club of San Diego and the Irish Wolfhound Association of the West Coast.  The dogs were a big hit with the crowd eliciting many ooh's and ah's at their size and weight.  

Irish Wolfhounds stealing the show

Upon arrival, Alex ate most of the soda bread by himself.  I am happy to report he also enjoyed the Children's Spotlight portion of the program performed by the Little Dancers.   They danced the Pee Wee Reel, Little Light Jig and Single, Jig Shenanigans. The polka set also included the funny sounding Oh, the Britches Full of Stitches and, appropriately for this hot day, We Brought the Summer With Us.

 The Gaelic sports presentation Q & A session was surprisingly interesting to me.  Not much of a sports fan, I was surprised to learn that hurling is thought to be the oldest sport in history going back thousands of years.  It was used as a way to keep in shape when you had to fight to defend your village.  Some very skilled athletes demonstrated bouncing the baseball- sized ball on a bat that looked like a canoe paddle.  Hey, I said I didn't know much about sports.

The program ended with the singing of the Irish National Anthem.  For all you trivia buffs, it is called "A Soldier's Song."

Before I let the photos tell the rest of the story, I'll end by saying Mrs. O'Leary bought a giant shamrock plant that matched her "This is my Lucky Shirt" t-shirt.

Mrs. O'Leary with her giant Shamrock plant

Alex with a little Shamrock plant. (L-R)  Marcia, Jenn and Mrs. O'Leary behind him.
Ollie the dragon on stage with the musicians.  

House of Ireland Singers in Sunny San Diego

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Very Bradbury Birthday

March 8, Saturday 2:30 until 6PM-- 60s pop music and more concert party
for Janet Bradbury's Birthday
One Heart One Mind Center for Spiritual Living
11211 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite G, San Diego 92121
60s music and more performances and sing- alongs
No gifts. I suggest a donation of your choice to One Heart One Mind Center for Spiritual Living.
Schedule: Arrive at 2:30 for socializing and snacks.
Performance starts at 3:30PM.
Dinner at 5PM
The program includes prizes for best 60s outfit, and for answering questions about 60s music.
Dinner will be catered Indian Food and potluck salads and snacks.
Order vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Some gluten free options will be available.
If you want to, please bring a potluck item: salads, snacks or beverages.
Performers include Jeannette, Andrey, Anita, and some yet to be determined.
Please feel free to invite other friends or friends of mine who may have missed this notice.

Please RSVP by March 3 by e-mail  or call.

This was Janet's invitation for her birthday party.  I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to score this  invite via email. I have known Janet from a writing group we both attend, but not much outside of that.  This sounded like a fun chance to get to see another side of her.  So I replied "yes."  

I couldn't be there at the start time so I walked in to find Janet and Jeanette in the middle of signing the Joni Mitchell song "Both Sides Now."  Nancy from the writing group handed me a program; after putting a donation and card for Janet in the designated basket, I took a seat to enjoy the performance.

The tie-dyed peace symbol on the front of the program said Welcome to Janet Bradbury's 2015 Birthday Extravaganza.  The first two pages had the headline "The Show" and listed the song, the artist, the year and the singer.  The next five pages titled "The sing-Along"  had the words to songs we sang as a group--We Shall Overcome, Put a Little Love in Your Heart, Yellow Submarine and Reach Out in the Darkness--A Chant.  There was even a Coca-Cola ad!  The last three pages listed the performers and their bios.  The back page listed a special thank you to people, places and the restaurant that catered the food.  ( Quite good Indian cuisine.)

My favorite part of the performance was when Janet sang a Russian folk song called Dark Eyes in Russian! Afterwards, her daughter Anita joked she was going to play the guitar to the tune of Another Sad Song- literally!

After dinner, we fittingly sang Happy Birthday to Janet who had sung to us all afternoon.  She blew out the candles on her three cakes; yes, multiple cakes, all carrot!  I had to leave before the cake was served and the group photo, but still had a wonderful time.  Later that week, I received the following email from Janet.

Here is the group photo Sam took with a thank you to everyone. It was a  beautiful party! 
Ten of those who came were not in this photo. Thank you to them too!
Thank you to everyone who came. Thank you to our performers for helping me to create a musical experience.
Thank you to everyone who assisted! Thank you to Sitar Indian cuisine for providing great food!

Thank you for the beautiful party and all the great songs! 
May your lives be richly blessed!


And they are Janet, because you are a part of it.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

La Mesa VFW bench dedication & Plaque Removal and Plaque Build Up: San Diego Sweet and Sour

A day in the life in this blog post is both San Diego sweet and sour.  The "sweet" part the title refers to is a bench dedication ceremony at the La Mesa VFW/American Legion post on March 7, 2015.  The "sour" part about plaque removal and build up has nothing to do with dental hygiene but is about plaques on the Vietnam Memorial Monument at the same location. 
Saturday, March 7 the sun shone brightly on the crowd at the Vietnam War Memorial at the American Legion Hall in La Mesa. The Monahan and Ellis families, related through marriage, were among the viewers awaiting the unveiling of the bench honoring their respective fathers. Veterans of the second World War, the late William P. Monahan, Sr. and Ellis Evers were decade long residents of La Mesa. Dinah and Mike worried about what their fathers might have in common to talk about when the families got together.  Usually men of few words, Bill and Ellis sat in a corner and talked for hours about their experiences in WWII.  This bench is dedicated to their memories.  

                                         Monahan and Evers families at the bench dedication.

Upon arrival, we walked around the Vietnam Memorial that was built in 1970. Reading the plaques, I was amazed that they were still there knowing many plaques were stolen and sold for scrap. Heck, the wiring in the street lights on our block was recently cut and stripped of its metal. I was already worrying about the fate of the bench, hoping it wasn't made of desirable metal. My fears about the bench were unfounded, it is made of ceramic mosaics spelling out the words "Freedom is not Free".

                                        Plaque dedicated to the Heartland Youth who fought in the Vietnam War
                                        The Vietnam Memorial at the American Legion/VFW post in La Mesa
                                        A cross with a helmet and two flags top the memorial

After the speeches and unveiling of the bench, TV news outlets interviewed the families and VFW volunteers. I later saw their reports were about attempts to steal the plaques I was wondering about that day. It turns out that same morning, VFW volunteers noticed the plaques were loosened and took them down for fear of being stolen. They will be reinforced and better security measures put into place when they are re-installed. One news report stated how the monument is right across the street from the La Mesa police department. Attention thieves: the plaques are made of bi-metal and are not valuable scrap. Remember what the bench says: Freedom is not free. Neither are the plaques.

Bill Monahan, Jr. & the author behind the bench

The Monahan siblings with their father's bench

Side view of the bench

Feeling nostalgic, after the ceremony, the Monahan clan decided to have lunch in downtown La Mesa.  The Ellis family stayed at the VFW which serves burgers and hot dogs.  We were going to walk, but the traffic was fast and scary.  There were no crosswalks and we would have to taken our lives in our hands or had to walk out of our way to go around Spring Street.  So we drove three blocks to Tiramisu for some great Italian food. It was heartwarming to hear the siblings reminisce about walking to the former bank building and pointing out where they bought back to school clothes.  May their parents be smiling down upon them proudly.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The blog about my block was blocked

Okay, so I had a couple of topics in mind to write about.  The first is about always being the bridesmaid and never the bride.  I can't write that one until I am the bride, which I am determined to be because I have a shot at that weekly.  More on that once I am the bride.

Another topic I was going to write about concerned a possible fight at a community planning meeting scheduled on February 23.  I was going to blog about my block. The "fight" was cancelled before the meeting because my neighbors and I won without having to go to battle.  In part, the one stop pizza parlor pot shop business application was withdrawn because of possible blow back from two neighborhood groups.  The city had already denied the application to the LA based medical marijuana cooperative to open shop.  No matter, businesses in our area have been known to ask for forgiveness instead of permission; illegally operating without permits making all kinds of noises, messes and smells and profits for themselves.  So I guess they thought they would push the issue at the planning meeting because no body cares or goes to those meetings, right? Wrong!  That strategy went up in smoke for them.  Not one, but two adjoining neighborhood groups care about what happens on my block.  So the blog about my block was blocked when the agenda item was withdrawn.  I feel our neighborhood group, dubbed the lunch bunch, has reached its tipping point. Now we can stop shenanigans in our neighborhood before they start, without having to attend the fight.  So I have nothing to blog about because the blog about my block was blocked.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

San Diego Sweet

Sun, sand, surf, scented roes, shoes.  San Diego sweet.  Snow?  No, no, no.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

California Climb

The California tower in San Diego's Balboa Park has been closed for 80 years.  It re-opened to the public in January 2015.  I couldn't wait to climb it!  For the twenty years I have lived in San Diego, I have always wanted to go up it+.  I was miffed that it wasn't open to the general public "for safety reasons".  I would often see people--presumably museum staff-- in the tower, camera's clicking away-- on December Nights.  When asked what they were doing up there, the answer was "safety reasons." Perhaps they were carrying security cameras as hundreds of thousands of people do attend the December Nights event. However, they looked like they were having a good time as opposed to "serious security scanning."  Hmm.  I wondered if the Museum of Man had any job openings for tower security. I never checked but still longed to go in the tower.

In December a local news channel posts an article on facebook announcing  the tower will be open to the public starting  next month!  Yahoo!  The California tower is in the Museum of Man so two tickets must be purchased (of course).  I guess they can't use the side door near the tower as an entrance, "for safety reasons."

My neighbors and I decided to make a day of it, visiting the museum, climbing the tower and eating in the Sculpture Garden afterwards.  One of us was so excited to go, she showed up a day early for the carpool!  I purchased the tickets online; there are many prices depending upon age, military status, museum membership,etc.  If you print the tickets out they won't charge you extra; after all, you get ink and paper free, right?  If you want them on your smart phone, they charge an extra dollar each.  So much for technology getting cheaper.

The ticket says to get in line 15 minutes prior to ascending the tower. A waiver must be signed, tickets collected, a safety speech listened to and tower history videos watched.  Purses, backpacks and water bottles must be stored in the free lockers provided.  Bring your camera.  Definitely bring your camera. Twelve patrons and two museum guides, for a total of 14 people is the maximum allowed in the tower at any one time "for safety reasons."  The size of the tour group is perfect.  As a short person, I often can't see what is being talked about if there are too many people in front of me.  The tower is quite spacious, clean and well maintained.  The guide admits that safety really wasn't really a reason why the tower was closed.  Building inspectors deemed it structurally sound.  Explanations of why the tower closed in the first place include that the tower was expected to reopen when another exposition was held.  There never was.

The 125 step ascent up and down the tower takes 40 minutes.  The time includes 15 minutes on the first level observation deck. Climbing single file, holding hand rails, the group climbs; our sneaker and sandal laden feet pounding the stairs.  We stop at various landings to rest, looking out the rectangular shaped windows framing our view below.  On one landing, the guide shows us the area where the tile had been removed.  We reach the level where the carillon is housed.  The tower was never intended to be a bell tower.  The chimes that play every quarter hour emit from the carillon.  Frequently, the organist comes in to record some notes.  Up, up, up we go. The last staircase is a spiral one.  Hold on with both hands for this one!

I owe the guide an apology.  The camera flash automatically went off blinding her.  Sorry!

The breathtaking views at the top ( bottom level of the tower) gave me a sense of peace and happiness.  It is January, sunny, 70 degrees, and a sweet part of San Diego.  Cell phones and cameras click away.

My neighbor's husband tiled the dome of the adjacent building.  Here is her chance to see his handy work. She approves.

My favorite photo is the one of the roof of the Old Globe.  Now we know where they store the Grinch!

The Encanto Enchantresses descend the tower. We eat a much deserved lunch viewing the tower we just climbed. The next San Diego Sweet adventure?  The new Central Library downtown.