Thursday, April 19, 2018

But Wait, There's More...

I did not file our taxes early as I bragged that I would... and my husband is gloating that he knew I wouldn't. No records were broken, no lightning strikes, and Hell did not freeze over...  BUT, mind you, I did complete the tax return several days early. 

What was I thinking with all that talk about filing a few days early?!? We fixed it up years ago to avoid withholding, so we keep our money in our pocket. Why let the government draw interest on our money, right? Since we are paying them, why pay one minute early? We file and pay at the last minute and earn interest all year long!

Disney fans can save big bucks.
But wait, there's more! We pay with our Chase Disney themed credit card which gives nice Disney dollar rewards and discounts. For example, I bought my Annual Pass to Disney World with my Chase reward dollars, and we eat out and buy stuff with the rest of our rewards. It's a great deal. 

We buy everything with rewards based credit cards. But it takes discipline... there is a danger if you don't pay off your balance every month. You can easily slip into a debt cycle that is deadly. You absolutely MUST pay revolving credit off EVERY MONTH!! Beyond that, you must set aside money every month for taxes, too. So, even though we pay the taxes with a credit card, and pay a fee to do it, we pay that off before the due date on the credit card.

But what if you've gotten yourself in a pickle and can't pay the IRS what you owe? They offer a monthly payment plan. Believe me, ('cause I was a professional tax preparer and enrolled agent with the IRS for over 40 years) you do NOT want to fail to file because you can't pay! File your return ON TIME with a request to set up payments. What, not putting it on a credit card? Right. If you can't pay the tax, you can't pay the card right away, either. The government will be charging interest but NOT the outrageous percentage the credit card will hit you with... stay with Uncle Sam.

So, I didn't intend to do a tax/finances lesson blog, but since it just turned out that way, here are a few tips you might benefit from:

• Make a TAX DOCUMENTS FOLDER for each new tax year and put any relevant receipt or document in it as soon as you've entered it into your books. Keep it near your computer, easily accessible.

• Keep BOOKS. Just like a business, keep books of your finances and input your data by hand rather than downloading from your bank and other financial institutions. That way, you become aware of bad spending habits, notice trends, etc. There are several bookkeeping programs for individuals.

• BALANCE your books monthly. You can get your statements electronically or the old fashioned way, but keep them, they are valuable legal documents.

• Create and stick to a BUDGET. Review your income and spending for several months to establish a base line and note trouble spots, then create a budget you can live with. You will need to tweak it as you go, but become serious about staying on a budget.

• Set up an EMERGENCY FUND. Build it with regular installments you have budgeted, then only use it for emergencies.

• INVEST in your future. Even small amounts faithfully invested over the years can create a sizable nest egg. Please note I do not get paid for your hits, ads etc. All advice is just my opinion. I was a Registered Independent Investment Adviser, qualified through the SEC for over 20 years. Here are some ways to get started: 
   • Buy little pieces of high end stocks, see a video here.
   • Buy no-load or very low load Mutual Funds. A load is a fee when buying the investment. Here is a chart of some funds with low minimums.
Note: This is a graphic. Links don't work, sorry.
• GIVE to those in need, you will be better off for it. If you are a person of faith, pay your tithing as well! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tax Time Reform

Normally, I file our tax returns a few minutes before midnight on the due date. Now and then it's a few minutes after the deadline. I'm proud to say, I expect to break a record and file a day or two early this year. Okay, those who know me well are shaking their heads and rolling their eyes in disbelief. They know I'm an inveterate procrastinator, an incurable optimist, and a total failure at time management. They have all heard me make wonderful promises I can't keep.
Reviewing 2016 and starting 2017... Yippee!

Several years ago, I promised to actually write my "memoirs," and have written bits and pieces here and there. But I've gotten completely bogged down as to how to get them in a readable form that's easy to add to and correct, and also easy to publish and store. Hence they are not progressing at all.

And then there is the BLOG, or should I say blogS since I have had several. One is still out there but I can't get access, another was written as a part of a church communication/website, and there was one as part of my own domain, which is no more. and finally this one which is an on-again-off again affair I have abandoned for months at a time.

Okay, so I am doing the taxes... And writing a blog post in the midst of that! And I shared a bit of a memoir on Facebook. How awesome am I?
I wonder if anyone ever actually wrote their memoirs all on Facebook...

Yep, getting things done!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Song of Celebration

David Bills 1962 - 2017
Oh, sing a song of celebration
Lift up a shout of praise
For the Bridegroom will come
The glorious one
And oh we will look on His face
We'll go to a much better place

And dance with all your might
Lift up your hands and clap for joy
The time's drawing near
When He will appear
And oh we will stand by His side
A strong pure and spotless bride

We will dance on the streets that are golden
The glorious bride and the great Son of Man
Let every tongue and tribe and nation
Rejoice in the song of the Lamb

We will dance on the streets that are golden
The glorious bride and the great Son of Man
Let every tongue and tribe and nation
Rejoice in the song of the Lamb
by David Ruis

Our son David breathed his last this morning after a valiant battle with cancer. I had travelled to Utah to see him twice recently and we had fairly accurate predictions from his doctors and nurses. But yet news of his death still came as somewhat a shock... Too much to wrap my mind around.

David's doctor, Dr. Cox called a little bit ago. He has become a personal friend of sorts, calling periodically to inform me about our son's condition and boost my spirits as we face the pall of a terminal cancer diagnosis. So, when his call came, I thought he was calling to offer comfort and condolences, but no, he had not yet heard of David's death. He felt a need to call me, tried to put it off until tomorrow, but something nagged at him to do it now. My G-D using a phone call from a compassionate doctor/friend to reach out and comfort me. A reminder that I am not alone and the King of the Universe cares. His Word says He gathers my tears in a bottle for they are precious to Him. It is that G-D who welcomed David to the Streets that are Golden this morning. One day, I will dance there, too.

David age 6
David was born with a shock of white hair and made our lives interesting and exciting with his curious mind and unstoppable spirit of adventure. Although he was never mean, he sometimes did things that could be dangerous.  He knew no fear, and that can be scary for others. Finally, teachers contacted social services and the state insisted he be tested by psychologists. They came up with a diagnosis of autism (I never believed that) and the court system committed him to the Utah State Hospital... a little boy! 

His natural father was allowed to take him to California to live but they would not release him if he was going to stay in Utah. But it wasn't long before there were problems again and David was once more a ward of the state. We don't know much about his life in California. The authorities there would not share info with us.

David, Norman and Scott
Once he grew up and went out on his own, he wandered the country. He joined the Army for a time but found it really wasn't for him. He travelled all over, doing odd jobs and became a street clown which seemed to suit him well. He made marvelous balloon flowers, animals, starships... Dogs and kids loved him and he loved them back in a unique and wonderful way. He came to visit us through the years but was often gone for months on end when we did not hear from him. He was married for a time but later divorced.

He was in New Orleans when warnings to evacuate were given as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the region in 2005. He followed instructions and left the day before the major storm overwhelmed the city. As part of an aid program to retrain and relocate Katrina refugees, David went to truck driving school and excelled. He continued in that career the rest of his life.

Pictured here are three of our four sons. Richard went home to the L-RD in 1992. All three of these boys grew up to be truck drivers. I am so proud of that for I was a truck driver, too, among other things, as was my dad. David's two older brothers really rallied around him and did a great deal to carry him through the ordeal of metastatic cancer. Norman's whole family has been caring for David in their home. Scott and his family have driven several times from Colorado to help with care and paperwork, etc.

The photo on the right was taken in California when David was in high school. I don't have much information on those years.

Wedding to Bree July 7, 1996 New Orleans, LA
We attended David's wedding but never knew Bree's last name. The marriage seemed good while it lasted, and the parting was without rancor that I knew of. 

Pictured at a 1997 wedding: David, Bree, Stephanie, Chani, Rio (head down) Tia, and Richard A. Norman in front.
David loved dogs and had one with him most of his life. This was taken in Dothan, AL in 2002

David enjoyed family and loved weddings. During my two last visits to Utah, he and I talked of how touched he was that the whole family had been so supportive. He was so amazed that people came so far. In the picture below, you see Taunya who along with Candy has been so involved in David's day-to-day care.
Daisy, David and Taunya at Tia and Eddie's wedding in Nov, 2004

The photos below have no dates. Any help in finding out when they were taken would be a blessing.
David and Richard in New Orleans

David in a Tux. I wish I knew when and where.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Home to Roost (for now)

After four years of traveling this amazing nation and volunteering at national parks and forests all over the country, we have come home to roost in Orlando, at least for a while.

During the time we were away, my blog posts were sporadic. I have numerous excuses for that: Life was too fun and full of adventure... We had poor signals and could not use the internet... I had some health problems... but the bottom line is simply that I lack discipline. Will I be any better this time around? Who knows, but I'll have fun trying and hopefully you'll have fun reading, and we will just see what happens.
Bingo and I lack discipline. I'm retired, he's just lazy.

Gloria holding a Lulav during Sukkoth.
We left off blogging in July, 2015, working on choosing our next assignment. As it turned out, we signed up for duty at Mitchell's Landing, deep in the Everglades and part of the Big Cyprus Preserve. Our duties were not to start until December, but we were to finish up our work at the Osceola Nat'l Forest October first. We needed a place to park our rig for two months, but uppermost in our combined mind was Sukkot, The Feast of Tabernacles, which began September 27. As planned, we set up our rig at Kol HaMashiach Messianic Congregation for the amazing eight day celebration and worship. 
Davidic dance.
We have received a special blessing.
These warm and loving people graciously offered to let us stay on until we needed to leave for South Florida. Incredibly, they had full RV hook-ups, so we parked there and commuted for the few days we had to work at Osceola. During that time, we saw some lovely insects... The Creator has filled the universe with beauty!

You would think that sitting around for two months with nothing to do would be boring, but our lives are never boring. There were some really big doings in Colorado, so we made the trip by car and left our disgruntled cat with Bingo's groomer. I'll tell you about all the excitement in my next post.

In addition to the big trek out west, we made a snap decision to buy a new (to us) rig. I'll fill you in on that, too, during the next blog post. It will be sooner than you might expect since I am planning to be more disciplined.

But before I close now, I must let you know where we are. We've rented a pad in an RV park out in the boonies as far as we could find and still have an easy commute to Walt Disney World where Richard has gone back to work.... yeah, you guessed it, I'll tell you why later.
Our home for now. Shady with a lake out back of the patio.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Where, Oh Where Will We Go Now?

Yes, it's time to choose a new place to live and volunteer. We've been here almost a year and we had planned to stay no longer than six months. We long to return to our loved ones in Las Vegas, and we'd love to spend a season near cherished souls in Orlando, Dothan, Colorado and California... There are endless choices, so we're glad we don't have to make the decision all alone. We will go anywhere G-d sends us, but we don't expect Him to appear at our picnic table and point to a place on the map or lead us to some wilderness with a pillar of fire, smoke or cloud.
Not exactly a pillar?
Like all volunteers, our options are limited to places needing our services. There are few workamper or live-on-site opportunities near most large cities, and they are usually booked years in advance. Of course, finances also play a part in choosing our next gig. The IRS and ongoing medical expense have taken a big bite out of our coffers, so we will not be considering anywhere far away... not this season, anyway. 
Time to move on... What new duties will we have?
So, how to go about securing just the right place? First, we pray, and keep on talking this over with the Almighty as we scroll through the listings at, jotting down openings that make us smile or quicken the pulse. We keep the search to nearby states. As of this writing, all are in Florida and Mississippi. The list is short, only five places... The final choice is in G-d's hands.
In reality, we're all pretty laid about it all.
Next, we pray again and call each place and get a feel for the position plus let them get to know us a bit. We also simultaneously send a brief cover letter and skeletal resume. We do not follow the web site directions to fill out the on-line application until and unless they ask for it. Usually, they don't ask for the application after they have seen what we have sent and visited with us on the phone because they now have all they need.
We'll miss fellow volunteer John and Kenny and the gang at Osceola NF
This is an exciting time and, with only two more months left here, we are preparing our hearts for saying Goodbye to dear friends we have grown to love... We are also wondering about what challenges our new assignment will bring. Will we be close to a Congregation? A Moose Lodge (We are Mooses? Meese? hehe)? Will we have phone and Mifi signals? We'll need to organize and pack it all up, then set up in the new digs. We always loose or break a few things in this process. That's part of the adventure of it all.
Setting up and taking down, all part of the fun!
Yes, of course, we consider these factors when we search for openings, but really never make a true issue of them if it is clear G-d is leading us to a place. How do we know? For sure? It is a matter of faith and circumstance. In each move, we really made no choice. I mean things fell in place in odd and unexpected ways so that we were both convinced we should follow the lead. Perhaps, after all, it is like the ancient Israelites following the pillar...
Following the Cloud?
So, now we wait to see where and how the pillar leads. We'll keep you posted when we have a Mifi signal.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How Long Should We Stay?

We've been in the Osceola National Forest since last October, but we began duties over here at Olustee in February and are now the only volunteers serving here... again. The other volunteer couple, who have only been here matter of weeks, left Sunday morning. They weren't here long enough to fully enjoy the local culture and color. They were still tourists, visitors. And perhaps they preferred it that way.

We began duties at Olusrwee Beach in Feb, 2015
When we first began wandering and volunteering we thought we'd want to be on the road, rolling one place to another most of the time... six week volunteer posts would be plenty long. Well, there aren't many of those short term posts and, as it turned out, we wanted an assignment near our granddaughter in Las Vegas and that meant a six month commitment. That's when we learned an important lesson... at least for us.

Richard and I enjoy Peach at Kol HaMashiach
To some degree, like most folks, we have a need for "community." We want to belong, build bonds, no matter how casual... think of the old sit com Cheers, "where everybody knows your name." We find ourselves to be like that. We like to get to know the local culture and people, but we still have the wanderlust.
We felt like family at KHM's home style Pesach (Passover) Seder. Note Richard on the far left top.
For example, for us, Passover is a big deal and sharing the special meal, the Seder, is extremely important to us. How nice it was to have been worshipping and fellowshipping at KHM long enough to not be "visitors" any more. We've been here seven months and feel truly bonded with these blessed folks.

Six months is a good length for us, but how do you go about getting well connected in that time? Church or synagog is certainly one way. Being Messianic believers, we have a harder time finding like believers locally. In Vermont, we made a 260 mile round trip for Shabbat Torah studies. There was not really a traditional Shabbat service.

Of course, most volunteers build relationships with the people they work with and for and the campers they serve. Volunteers come in all sorts of styles... the loners, the partiers, the organizers, the servants, the closed and the open books. The same is true of park and forest employees, but they also have roots, whereas the volunteers tend more to float.

Getting to know the community and becoming a part of it in six months requires a conscious effort and a deep love and acceptance of other people. But before you build a rapport with folks, you need to get out there amongst them. 
VFW Bingo, a larger post and crowd than we usually visit.
One of our methods is Bingo. We go play at as many places as we can find. Bingo is a common fund raiser and they welcome walk-ins. We play at Moose Lodges, Grange halls, the VFW and the American Legion. We play at the "over 55" mobile home parks, Catholic churches... it's not high dollar, but warm and friendly folks are there who are intrigued by our lifestyle and my impressive collection of sparkly Bingo daubers.

We also eat out a lot, seeking small mom and pop eateries where we can get to know the regular diners and the staff. We drop in on car shows, city park gatherings and attend local plays and concerts by local performers. 

We're out and about and because we talk to strangers and smile a lot, people notice and remember us. True, part of that is because we have a distinctive look that people remember. I have long hair and wear a kippah (Skull cap) and tzitziot (tassels), and Richard is tall and has a uniquely charming face and voice. We love people and perhaps that shows. Sure hope so! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Love Passing Through

Is it time to go, yet?
We worked today but left early because our youngest was on her back from military duties far away. She serves our country in places and ways we can't speak of, and like three of her sisters, has given many years to full time National Guard service. All five daughters are amazing, bold ladies and world travelers, four in the military, one in academia. 

I'm ready to go.
Yes, she's brave, adventuresome and independent, a capable soldier in all kinds of situations, what modern folks would call a "kick butt woman"... but she's still our baby. And we haven't seen our baby in a long while, so we were holding our breath until time to close up shop and head for Jacksonville Naval Air Station where Crystal's plane would land.

Our GPS took us right to the base and they have a convenient lot for folks awaiting incoming planes or meeting military personnel. We didn't have to wait very long.
Our beautiful Crystal back on American soil!
We won't have long to enjoy time with Crystal. She is only on leave and must return to her post in just eight days, so her stop here is just that, a layover on her way home to her hubby and children.
Father and daughter, so happy together! 
It seemed we never stopped smiling, even during our meal...
Crystal looks so good, so healthy and happy.
So we only had a few hours to have a nice dinner together and talk of happenings old and new. So many things we take for granted. For example, the ability to practice our faith. Where Crystal is, there are only a handful of Jews and keeping G-d's dietary laws is difficult. It is also a problem celebrating the Feasts and holidays such as Passover, Shavuot, Purim, etc. 

Crystal has been working hard within the military structure there and through chain of command to provide religious needs for all manner of Jews. She has rallied the Jews, who often shun Messianic Jews, so this is a real breakthrough. She was able to arrange a Hanukkah and a Purim observance and is trying to get a Rabbi for Pasach (Passover). So proud of her.
Crystal's meal

She could not discuss the details of her living situation other than to say it was primitive and to talk about the food and how she was able to reasonably keep Kosher. She was SO HAPPY to eat her meal here... a nice, but not gourmet repast, but to her, it was heaven! Only Richard could eat his whole meal, but that's what "doggie bags" are for.
I'm standing on the curb and Crystal in the gutter.
All to soon, it was time to drop Crystal off at the commercial airport for the rest of her journey home. She'll travel back this way again at the end of her leave as she resumes her duties of protecting our freedoms.
We sure love this girl!
Is it proper for parents to brag? Who cares, we're so blessed to have this loving, honorable, wonderful, wholesome, happy and capable woman as our daughter, we just can't help but talk about it. Come to think about it, we feel that way about all our kids... bet you feel the same about yours.
So long, Crystal, See ya on the backstroke.