Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tax Time

A year ago I absolutely swore we wouldn't be in this position, again.

Yet, here we are, shuffling through stacks of invoices, searching for receipts and trying to update software on laptops that should have been replaced three years ago. 

Tax time is comparable to working cattle in that it typically doesn't bring out the best in husband and wife. Like working cattle, tax preparation rarely goes as planned. It’s about teamwork, and coordination and patience. It’s basically thirty-five years of marriage wrapped up into several short days, tied with an ugly bow of procrastination. 

In an effort to appear to be a well put-together couple, my job is to coordinate records and compile them into presentable form to encourage minimal questions on the day we meet with our accountant. It ain't easy. 

Two weeks ago we began sorting through invoices, many that Cody was certain would never see the light of day. 
How many gates can one guy buy in a year? A lot. 
How many fenceposts can cover the exterior boundaries of our place? Even more.
What day did 608 leave our place? What state did she go to? And how much did she sell for? Cody can tell you within seconds. 
I don't really remember 608. Probably because she looked a lot like 606, 607 and 609. 

On Friday Cody came in the house as a man on a mission. He asked, "I put a stack of diesel receipts on the microwave in October. Where did you put those?"
I laughed. 
Oh, I don't know. 
In a folder labeled "Diesel Receipts"? No. 
In your office under a paperweight? Nope. 
In the junk drawer? More likely. 
In Caroline's "Keepsake" (finger paints) folder? Getting warmer. 
Inside page 68 of the Thanksgiving issue of Country Living that was tossed under the spare bed because someone unexpectedly showed up at the door the week before Christmas? This was the most likely place of all.
But they weren't there, either. 
And this is why tax time = hell. 

This week, I find myself updating software on a laptop that 1) I've never used before 2) is about 10 years old 3) is not a Mac. This is just asking for trouble. 
"I'm trying to update our Quicken records. What is your password?" I asked Cody.
"Bull......I think," he said. 
I typed it in:
"Try Angusbull."
I typed it in:
"Nope. It probably has a digit in it."
I typed it in:
"You can't be serious," I finally responded, already knowing he was. When the time came to call the help hotline, I left it to Cody. Only he would be able to answer his security questions. I have no idea what his first pet's name was, but if I had to guess, I'd say Bull. 

We meet with our accountant - a friendly, patient, man with a head full of grey hair - next week. I'm sure there will be plenty of questions from him, explanations from Cody and note taking by me.

No doubt, a new system brought on by the development of Sankey Creative will force 2018 to be better, but that does nothing for our marriage in the week ahead.

There's always next year. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Winter Olympics: For the Rest of Us

"I'm about over the Olympics," I said one night last weekend. We were approximately an hour into the opening ceremonies. 

I've never been much of an athlete. 
My lack of athleticism is likely fueled by two parts inherited kankles and one part non-competitive spirit. I just wasn't built for spandex. 

Field Day in elementary school was my least favorite day of the year. I only entered the jump rope competition because I knew it was the first event and over before the day got hot. I've never been the kind to glorify athletes, participate in endurance training or follow a restricted diet. Ever

Some folks really get into the Olympics, and to each their own. I really get into sipping wine from a VitaFerm cup while looking at cows but I wouldn't expect everyone to get into that, either. 

I think that in order for the Olympics to be extraordinary, you need to show us what a normal person would look like doing the same event. These professionals make it look easy; I want someone to make it look to scale

Show me someone  - who doesn't live on Cliff bars, Vaseline and adrenaline - with a dad bod and a bad knee going down a snowy hill with a hundred little speed bumps with nothing more than glorified ironing boards covered in Crisco under their feet. Then I'll be impressed. 

I'm sure Chloe Kim gets some kind of high off her head spinning around in circles out in the open, cold air. But really, all she needs to do is open a vet bill outside in the driveway during the month of January. Same light-headed effect. My head is still spinning from the October invoice.

"I just can't get into figure skating," Cody said Sunday night as I was playing 52 pick-up in the living room.  
I didn't have a verbal response to that, rather more of a silent, "Thank you, Jesus," in my head. For folks like us, if we wanted to see people get dizzy in glittery spandex, nude tights and heavy make-up, we'll just road trip to watch our niece's dance recital in South Dakota. 

I don't understand curling, but if I were forced to participate in an olympic event, this is the one I would dominate. I practice the form and speed weekly when following Cody across the kitchen floor, through the dining room to his side table so he can grab an Angus Journal with boots dropping snow and - stuff - onto our linoleum and carpet. With a curious toddler as my shadow, I work quickly with a Mr. Clean mop to ensure whatever dropped from his Muck boots is not confused for remnants of a chocolate snow cone. 

Cross country skiing seems impressive until you realize most stockman do the same throughout the winter months, while carrying an 80-pound calf and simultaneously opening gates. We don't really think about getting a gold medal during this event, as we're more concerned with getting to the barn before the aggressive momma cow reaches us...and then saving the ears. Add a coyote and a rifle to the event and you've planted yourself smack dab in the middle of a biathlon competition. They should come practice at our place for Beijing 2022. 

Though I make the games seem trivial, I'll admit that we'll probably tune in a couple more times before the winter Olympics are over, just so we sleep better knowing tomorrow is already half over some place in the world. It's easier to get out of a bed on a Monday when you consider that someone is actually making a conscience effort to make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled on a Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

First Camp Out

Caroline and I had our first camp out last week. I guess I had just imagined it to be

The camp out wasn't planned, rather a last-minute change of Thursday evening plans. We were watching the evening news when she made the decision to make a night of it. 

I certainly wasn't prepared, but like the girl scout I never was (Laura was a girl scout, Luke was a cub scout, I was the third child), I learned to adapt to the situation. Real quick like.

Rather than a waterproof tent, we situated ourselves behind the shelter of a shower curtain. Clean up was easier that way. 

There were no ghost stories to give us the shivers, but I repeated these words in an effort to comfort an 18-month old: "You're ok, mommy is here, we'll get through this." That last part was more for my peace of mind.

There were no s'mores, rather Caroline showed me over and over - and over - again what she'd had for lunch that day. I didn't have much of an appetite after that. 

Rather than a sky full of beautiful stars, when we looked up we saw little flecks of paint peeling off the ceiling above the shower. I'd not noticed them so much before, but when you have an all-night camp out in the shower, you have time to observe more than you do in the 5:00 wake-up hour.

There were no hooting owls or coyotes howling in the far off distance to really make us perk up, but rather every time Caroline's little body made a sound I prepared myself for the worst and was usually met with it. 

Unlike most camp outs, when the littlest camper began crying for their parents, I couldn't just make a phone call and send her home; she was already there. 

I did, however, send a brief text to Cody that said, "This is really bad. Wish you were here." 
A minute later, Cody called from some far away place and asked a stupid simple question: 
What can I do to help? 

I answered that question the exact same way I answered it nearly two years ago when he asked the same while I was in labor. It wasn't pretty, kind or worth sharing with all of you.

Our first camp out was in fact the worst camp out, ever. 

But it is over now, and we're operating on all cylinders at the Sankey homestead. It took a whole lot of Lysol and two full loads of laundry to get our home back from something that was supposed to take place in the back yard. I've tried to eliminate the confines of the sick house and gotten Caroline outside more in the last week than in the whole month of January. 

I think next time Caroline mentions a camp out, I'm just going to send her to Grandma and Grandpa Bowman's. It’s a scientific fact that everything is more fun at a grandparent’s house.