Sunday, December 21, 2014

Santa Is Not The Only One Who Can Give Presents

I remember hearing a story about a young family. It was Christmas morning and Mom and Dad had spent hundreds of dollars on presents for the child. The child eagerly jumped in to open and exclaim over all of the presents from Santa. After opening a bunch of packages the child looked around and said, "Mommy and Daddy, did you not get me a present?"

I can not even imagine the chagrin those young parents must have felt. They had worked so hard and spent so much money and in the end, all of the credit went to Santa. A fact that would probably have been fine except the child thought Mommy and Daddy had not bothered.

Ever since I heard this story, I have thought that every parent should save the very best present--the one that the child has been salivating over--and don't have that one be from Santa. Take the number one gift and write out the tag to say it is from Mommy or Daddy or whatever your child calls you. I know the point of Christmas presents is to make your child happy but why does that mean you can't get some of the credit and the joy yourself? You worked hard. Go ahead and put your name on it.

Why should Santa get all of the credit? Why shouldn't your child get a gift that they know came from you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Things Every Goddess Should Know. . . On Sale US and UK

Things Every Goddess Should Know and We Are All Goddesses is on sale in the US and UK for a limited time.
 
For the next 2 days, 99 cents will get you the e-book in the US (67% off) and then it will be available for $1.99 for 4 days. It is also on sale in the UK for the next 5 days, it is 99 at Amazon UK then it goes back to full price.

You can also order the paperback as a gift and get a free copy of the e-book for yourself.

http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B00HJEAWLM in the US

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HJEAWLM in the UK

Saturday, November 1, 2014

National Novel Writing Month-November

Today is November 1st. Today marks the official start of the annual National Novel Writing Month; affectionately known as nanowrimo.  Every November thousands of people set out to write a novel in one month.  

You have from November 1st through November 30th to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. The novel must be an entire story with a beginning, middle and an ending.  If you reach 50,000 words and your hero is till half way through the big battle, you are not done.

I have done the challenge 5 times. I have completed 3 of them.

The point is not to write the best thing you have ever written. The point is to write. Period.  Sit down and start writing and see where the story and the characters take you. Tell that little voice in your head to shut up; you know your grammar was off there and you know that is not the best name for that character. You can fix those things on the second draft. This is all about getting the first draft down.

Ever wanted to write a novel or just like challenges?  Give it a try. Visit www.nanowrimo.org for more information and to sign up.  It is free. It is mind boggling and when it is done, you get bragging rights.

50,000 words comes down to about 1,667 words per day. If you fall behind one day, you can make it up the next. If you are ahead, keep going anyways as you may find mid month you need the word count help.

Don't worry about having a plot laid out or characters. Take some small spark of an idea and just sit down and write. Half the fun is seeing where your brain takes you.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ridiculously Easy Slow Cooker Recipes

Using a slow cooker is a good way to spend a few minutes throwing together a meal that you can then ignore until dinner time. Sometimes, though, the recipes for slow cooker meals get so complicated that you spend as much time prepping as if you just cooked a meal yourself!

In that spirit, here are some ridiculously easy things I make in my slow cooker.

Spare Ribs

Take a package of thawed spare ribs and throw them in your slow cooker. Dump a bottle of bbq sauce on top and leave it on low for 8 hours. (My husband loves this one.)

Pulled Pork

Put a thawed pork shoulder in your slow cooker. Dump a bottle of bbq sauce on it. Put it on low for 8 hours. When it is done, use two forks to shred the pork into ragged pieces. Put them on a roll or hamburger bun and you have pulled pork sandwiches.  You can also substitute a bottle of root beer for the bbq sauce to give it a sweeter flavor.

Shredded Chicken

Do the same as above but substitute thawed, boneless chicken breasts for the pork shoulder.

Salsa Chicken

Put thawed skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Dump a bottle of salsa on it. Let cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Shred with 2 forks and serve on a tortilla shell.


Slightly More Complicated

Pot Roast

I wash and chop a few potatoes and large carrots. (Some people include onions as well.) I put them on the bottom of the slow cooker and put a thawed pot roast on top. (As you are slow cooking it, you can use a cheap cut of meat and still have it come out well.) I sprinkle it with a package of onion soup mix and pour one cup of water or beef broth on top. I like to let this one cook for hours and hours. It will be done after 8 but it just gets more tender as you leave it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I Refuse To Be Ashamed Of Good Financial Sense

A recently had a situation where I needed to say to multiple people that before I could commit to spending $150 on an outing, I needed to talk to my husband. I casually mentioned that it was over the $100 limit that I could spend without talking to him about it first.

I received an assortment of reactions. One looked at me with what could only be called pity and said, "You need your husband's permission?"   One got very indignant on my behalf and told me that I should not have to ask permission to spend my own money. He would never put up with that. The third looked confused and asked, "Why would you need to do that?"

Overwhelmingly, their responses suggested that I should feel ashamed by the idea that I could not just write a check for $150.


Except this is not a rule that my husband instituted or that only applies to me. I was an active participant in making of the family rule that neither of us can spend over $100 on something without discussing it with the other.

We each have our own jobs; each make our own money.  We have a joint account that we have regular amounts transferred in to pay bills and the remains belong to each of us individually. This money is ours to do with as we please. The regular transfers account for monthly bills plus extra for savings and the maintenance fund.  If something extreme happens, we may need to transfer some additional funds but otherwise this is our own money.

That does not mean that we should spend it wildly. It does not mean that we should be absolved of all reason or spend it like it is just extra money. The $100 rule means that if either of us starts spending large sums of money, the other is aware of it. It keeps us from having any hidden vices that may surprise the other.   We do not want to treat our money like it is Monopoly money.

Every one needs their own money that they can spend on silly things or things that are only important to them. It is important as an adult to feel like you can make your own financial choices. But we are still part of a couple and money is still an important part of our future and we make the major decisions together. Even if it occasionally means that I have to explain the rule.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Follow Your Curiosity

I like to follow the chain of my curiosity.

I was listening to Blink by Malcolm Gladwell on audio book last week and he mentioned a study done by Dr. Gottman. Dr. Gottman had couples come in and asked them to discuss a tense issue in their marriage. He had them talk for 15 minutes and filmed it. He later went back and went over the footage frame by frame. He was able to predict with 94% accuracy which couples would end up divorced.  This was after only 15 minutes of observing them.

Well that sounded fascinating so off I went to the library and requested, Why Marriages Fail and How Yours Can Succeed by Dr. John Gottman.

This got me thinking about how often I find myself reading books or reading articles online or listening to audio books because I ended up there from somewhere else.

I think it is a common enough practice online. You are on Facebook and someone has posted an Upworthy article. You click on the link and read that article. Off to the side, there are several more articles.  Next thing you know you are looking at slam poetry videos on Youtube and wondering how you got there.

While I sometimes end up in places I do not want to be or viewing or reading things that annoy me, I have to say overall, I think this is a good thing.

It is important to exercise your brain; to follow your curiosity.   Go ahead and check out that next topic; that next video.

Curiosity may have killed the cat but satisfaction brought him back.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why Did They Feel The Need To Cheat On Their Own Test?

A few years back, I took the Pepsi Challenge at a music festival. Pepsi was not handling it themselves but rather had hired a marketing firm to do it for them. The challenge, if you have not heard of it, is to blind taste test Pepsi vs Coke.  

It was a hot summer day; probably in the 90s. I got in line for the challenge simply because I wanted a cold drink and the drink lines were long. 

When I got to the front, the man went to a little fridge plugged into a long extension cord and pulled out a frosty can. The label was covered but the can was obviously cold. He then turned around and pulled another can out of a cardboard box sitting in the heat. This label, too, was covered.

He poured me a little sip size cup of each. I knew right away the first one was Pepsi for two reasons.

1) Pepsi has a burst of citrus-like taste to it when you first sip it.

and

2) It was frosty cold while the second one was beyond warm. This was, after all, the Pepsi Challenge.

The second cup contained the overly warm and therefore, not at all appetizing, Coke.

In those circumstances, I had to say, "Yes, I preferred the first one." and low and behold, he took the sleeve off the can and it was revealed as Pepsi.

I did not walk away from that thinking, "Wow, I should switch to Pepsi." I walked away thinking, "They had to cheat to beat Coke." Now as I said, this was not Pepsi themselves, but rather an outside firm. I'm sure they simply wanted to give their customer data that made them look good but to me it was a cheat.

I am reminded of this now because I am reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and in it, he talks about how Coke did their own blind taste test and found it was true. Based on just one sip, people preferred Pepsi. It is when drinking a full can or bottle that people tend to prefer Coke. Pepsi, Gladwell says, is sweeter and therefore, people prefer it when drinking small amounts but tend to prefer Coke when drinking large amounts.

So Pepsi tended to win the sip challenge and yet this company still felt the need to cheat. I guess they did not have a lot of faith in their own test. It's too bad. If nothing else, we should be able to have faith in our own plans. Plus the thought that they had cheated just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Top 10 Things To Know About Getting Solar (My Head Is Swimming With Sunshine)

Last night we attended a Solar Challenge Kick-Off meeting for our town to encourage people to try out solar power PV systems.  (PV being photovoltaic.) Dozens of facts about solar power for homes and businesses are dancing around my head so I am going to share some of them.

This information comes from the Mass Clean Energy Center. They graciously had a spokesperson there to give us what they called the Solar 101 speech. Here is their website if you would like to look further into it. http://www.masscec.com/


1) The best site for solar power collection is a south facing roof with little in the way of obstructions such as large trees. They said you should never cut down a tree as the trade off is not worth it in terms of increased costs of cooling without the shade but you may want to trim some back.  East or west facing roofs have potential as well so don't rule solar completely out.

2) If your roof will not work, you may be able to put a stand alone system in your yard.

3) Solar power can be shared amongst multiple buildings on the same lot. In some cases, you may be able to share it between multiple properties you own in the same area such as home and business.

4) Solar power will give you a credit towards your electricity bill. It will not provide you with a check in your pocket from the electric company; just a credit towards future bills.

5) If you lose power, your solar system will go down as well as it uses a small amount of electricity from the power grid to power the safety feature in the inverter that keeps people from getting shocked. Battery back ups are available but they stated they were prohibitively expensive. If you are truly worried, a generator may serve you better.

6) They said that the average home would get a 5kw system which translates into 5 kilowatts or 5000 watts. If you have an electric car, you may need the 8k system instead.

7) The federal government is giving 30% of the cost of the system as a tax credit through 2016.  You can spread the credit out over multiple years or take it all at once.

8) The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is offering a 15% credit; up to $1000. Mass Clean Energy Center is currently offering incentives as well but they are phasing them out.

9) Your system will generate Solar Renewable Energy Credits of somewhere between 3 and 8 per year. You can sell these back to the electric companies. The current going rate is between $183 and $250 per SREC. Your solar installer should be able to set you up with a broker to handle this. They take a fee of between 3% and 7%.

10) The average system right now pays for itself in 5 to 8 years depending on your site and how much sun you get. The panels are warrantied for 20 to 25 years. The inverter is covered for 10 years. You will need to replace the fan in the inverter in about 12 to 15 years. The current cost depending on your area is about $1500 to $3000.

Bonus Tip: In many cases, adding the solar panels to your home insurance is as simple as increasing your building coverage. Check with your agent but in my area the increase is less then $75 for the year.

Hopefully that answers a lot of your questions. Feel free to comment with any more and I will answer as best I can.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Solar Roadways

You have probably heard by now about a group that is working on solar roadways. If you have not, let me be the first to tell you that these panels seem amazing. These solar panels would replace regular parking lots or roads with panels that use the sun to power them. They have built in lights.

This allows the roads to have signs such as Stop Ahead or Left Turn Only or even simple painted lines right on them. Signs that can be easily changed.   I am so in awe of this concept that I participated in a recent crowd funding event to get them the money to built full size parking lots for testing and development.  They sent me a lovely thank you video--see below.

video

The panels would be self heating so snow and ice would melt off them. They would be heavy duty so that large trucks could run over them.  They will be able to warn a driver if something is crossing the road ahead because all of the panels would be interconnected and be able to communicate with each other.

I sincerely hope this idea grows and develops into a viable option to repair our failing roads here in the US.  I know right now it seems like a long shot but if we could even just use it for new development, it would make a difference. I am not the only one who thinks so.  Here is a link to a video with a lot more information and a pretty excited narrator. Check out "Solar Freakin Roadways".



Sunday, July 27, 2014

33% off Thurs, Fri and Sat only: Things Every Goddess Should Know

Things Every Goddess Should Know . . . And We Are All Goddesses is on sale for the next 3 days (7/28, 7/29 and 7/30) for 67% off on ebook at Amazon. 

Update:  TEGSK is on sale for 33% off 7/31, 8/1 and 8/2 on ebook at Amazon. It goes back to full price on 8/3. (Amazon only gives us a limited number of sales and this is my last one. )

http://amzn.com/B00HJEAWLM

This is you chance to own it for less then the cost of a cup of coffee.  

Have you ever read Greek mythology? Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite were just some of the goddesses. They were incredibly powerful, beautiful and often petty and mistake prone. They were still goddesses.

I have long believed that being a woman means we have the potential to be a force of nature. You are beautiful. You are strong in ways that most men do not even understand. You are a goddess in training.

Full of advice and hints covering a variety of topics including self improvement, love, money, relationships and many more. Because being a goddess is not about being perfect . . .

Order now in ebook and start reading instantly or in paperback and use the Kindle Match Book to get a free copy of the ebook while you wait for the paperback.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

5 More Youtube Videos Worth Seeing

Teaser for upcoming Nightwing Series.

This is a fan made miniseries that is going straight to Youtube. Filming has finished and they are working on the special effects. I love Nightwing as a character and I love the passion and effort that went into making this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvvvEK_6_fk


Two Cellos play Smooth Criminal

Two very enthusiastic cellists demonstrate what happens when you let go and have a little fun with your playing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx0xCI1jaUM


Shots of Awe  "Love is the Greatest Pain"

This is a very short video; only 2 or 3 minutes. It has beautiful imagery and in the end makes me a little sad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYwrkzNtlgI

Pandas Learning How To Use A Slide

What else is there to say? Adorable pandas learning the joy of using the slide.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=863000880396701

Epic Rap Battles of History  (Newton vs Nye)

If Sir Isaac Newton and Bill Nye the Science Guy met and used rap to decide who was the better scientist. I would recommend checking out other rap battles as well such as Key and Peele's Ghandi vs Martin Luther King Jr.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yis7GzlXNM

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

10 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner


I didn't have to stay. When I was younger, I felt trapped in a mess that I did not make. I know now that I did not have to stay. I deserved better.

I should trust my gut/intuition/sixth sense. My gut said to go but I rationalized it away. I often find myself fighting my first initial instinct. I should trust myself more.

I am not responsible for the actions of others; even those close to me.   People often expected me to apologize for the actions of a relative. I would feel guilty and apologize but now that I am older I realize that I was not responsible. People should not have tried to make me be responsible for her.

I don't have to live to the expectations of others. My mother wanted me to be a lawyer. I wanted to be an writer. I ended up in insurance. It is only a couple of years ago that I started considering doing what I wanted to do.

Too much worrying is bad for my health and my heart.  Worry keeps you up nights. It causes ulcers and ruins your mood. It is unhealthy and generally unproductive as the things I worry about rarely come to pass. 

Fear of the unknown is fear of nothing. I have failed to try things. Failed to go places. Failed to change because of what might happen.  What about what I might miss?

Someone will love me for me and someone will hate me for no reason. I have met people who hated me on sight and people who loved me on sight. The important people--the ones that mattered--that ultimately shaped me and supported me, were the ones who got to know me and liked me for what I am.

Equal is not the same as fair.  My mother had many children and she kept things simple by giving us the same bed time; the same rules. This was not fair. We were different ages; we were different people.  I have seen this repeated through out my life in other places; other reasons. I do not try so hard to be equal. I try to be fair.

People die. This is something I knew in abstract but it is completely different when someone you love dies. It cuts into you and leaves a hole. I do not want to look back and wonder if someone knew I loved them. It is better to make sure they know. On a practical note, it is better to plan as well--life insurance, a will, etc. Who will take your kids?

Time does not heal all wounds fully; some leave scars.  I will never get over the death of my sisters. I will forever think of my father. But time does mute the edges. The hole shrinks. It never closes completely but the edges don't cut so badly. I can think of good memories and smile. Some times I still cry though.  Wounds fade. Scars remain.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Top 5 Favorite Youtube Videos

Because in life it is important to have fun and be informed, here are some of my favorite Youtube videos.

1) Literal Music Video-- Total Eclipse of the Heart
What if music videos told us what was actually going on?  I love this one because it embraces the randomness of music videos and runs with it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsgWUq0fdKk

2) Brian Williams from NBC Nightly News raps "Baby Got Back"

I can't help but think the people at the Late Show have too much time on their hands but I love what they did with it. They pasted together clips from NBC Nightly News until Brian Williams is rapping.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpd2VaFt5iY

3) Solar Freakin Roadways

What if the roads we travelled on were also our source of energy? I love the idea of roads that we don't have to plow. Roads that make energy.  And the announcer gets so excited that it is fun to watch.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlTA3rnpgzU

4) My Body Belongs To Me

A video for kids to help warn them about sexual abuse. I do not love this one the way I love the other videos but I love that some one made it and I hope it is helping kids.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-5mdt9YN6I

5) Dumb Ways To Die

This is a train safety video but it makes me laugh. I had no idea that cute little cartoon characters could find so many dumb ways to die.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJNR2EpS0jw

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Remembering To Remember And To Forget

Today is the anniversary of my sister's death. It's funny but some years the day passes and I do not even realize it and other years, it seems like this big shadow looming over me.

For what ever reason, this year is harder than last year. I have no idea why. I can not point to any one thing that makes her be in my mind. She just is.

Losing some one you love is one of the hardest things you have to face as a human being. It is one of the great defining moments; an unforgettable road mark on the map of my life.  When I am trying to remember when an event occurred, I often think, "Well, it was before J died but after L . . ." or some version of it.

Time dulls the edges; makes it easier to remember with a smile and less with tears but the tears are never completely gone.

When she first died, I would forget sometimes. I would hear a song and think I should play it for her or see a movie trailer and think I should take her to it.  Then I would remember and it was like getting a sudden punch in the gut.

I like remembering her though. I like telling stories of antics from younger years like the time she was a toddler and climbed to the top of the Christmas tree sending it crashing down to the living room floor. Ornaments every where; presents that had to be re wrapped.  Or the time I saw My Big Fat Greek Wedding and it was so funny that I went back the next weekend just so she could see it.

When Star Wars was re-released in theaters, we went and saw all 3 together. Those memories make me smile. 

The ones of her lying in a hospital bed half out of it, fading away, do not.

I need to remember to remember the good memories and I need to remember to forget the bad because I would not trade the time I had with her on this Earth even to avoid the pain.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Cows With Names Give More Milk

Lessons for Managers from Those They Manage

Remember your employees names. We are vital parts of your company’s every day function. You literally could not run without us. The building needs to be cleaned, the reports need to be typed, the customers need to be helped and the shelves need to be stocked. More importantly, we are human beings who need to be recognized. There could be no upper management without the service staff.
The customer is Not always right. No one is always right—not the customer, not the manager and not the staff.
Support your employees. Do not automatically assume they are in the wrong. Find out what is going on before you come down on someone. And think about your employees—if a customer says someone was swearing at them and you have never heard this person use a swear word in 10 years take that into account. Did they really start yelling, "F***  You", when the worst they ever say is crap?
If you have to break up a disagreement or assuage a customer, don’t assume the person yelling is the one who is right. Some people yell because they are frustrated and legitimately right and some people yell because they are lying and trying to distract you. Some people default to yelling without even realizing they are doing it.
Employee morale is always going to be an issue you need to work on. Improving it or keeping it up; it is an ongoing battle. Morale can be vastly improved by a kind word. I once worked for a boss that every time I said good night, he said, “Good night. Thank you.” I will always remember him and that feeling of appreciation went a long way towards keeping me going when a lot of other things were bad there.
Every one has a bad day now and then; be willing to overlook the small things if they don’t matter. Understand when they do.
An employee should respect your authority. If you tell her that her outfit is not appropriate, she should never wear it again. If she does, sit her down and find out what is going on. Then send her home to change and count it as her sick time. If it happens again, send them home with no pay or write them up.
Never yell at your employees. And absolutely never yell in front of any one else. It is demoralizing.
A happy employee will always provide better service than a sullen one.
You owe your employees something and I don’t mean money. Having said that, you do owe them money as well, so always pay your employees on schedule.
Have a way to keep track of time off and make sure you don’t over or under schedule. It is OK to expect them to find coverage for their shift if they ask for time off at the last minute but if they ask for the time off in advance then it is your responsibility to find the proper coverage.
Take the time to learn the basics about your employees. You don’t need to know the name of every one they have ever dated but you should know if they are married or have kids (Just do not ask in the interview.)
A study of milk producing cows showed that overwhelmingly cows with names give more milk. The cows that received personal attention were the ones that produced the best. We aren't cows and do not want to be treated as though we were, but there is still something to be learned here.
Its all about recognition respect and attention
REFERENCE: "Exploring Stock Managers' Perceptions of the Human-Animal Relationship on Dairy Farms and an Association with Milk Production," Catherine Bertenshaw [Douglas] and Peter Rowlinson,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The 10% Rule

I've read that 70% of lottery jackpot winners have spent all of the money in five years.  Five years.   Can you imagine someone winning a $300 million lottery price and being broke in five years?  It seems to be all too easy if 7 out of 10 people do it.

Whenever I come into some extra money, I have a 10% rule. 10% of it can be spent on what ever I want. No questions asked; no justifications. That 10% is pure fun money.

The remaining 90% though, has to be spent in a more practical manner. I've never won the lottery but I believe the same principle, if applied, would keep that 70% of people from being broke.

This rule lets me have some fun when I get unexpected money while still maintaining a control over my financial future.   In most cases, the extra money would go on the mortgage or into the car fund but maybe we will decide to refinish the floors or fix something instead.

The point is to look at the windfall with an eye to the future and not just blowing all of the money.

Whether you come into $300 or $300 million, you should first stop and think before spending a dime of it.  Alternately, you could take that 10% and have some fun and then settle down and take stock before going any further. Do not spend more than the 10% without having a plan!

Keep in mind, the government generally gets its share.  Plan to give the tax man 40%; plan on 10% for yourself. You now have 50% of the money gone; just like that.

If you have any debts, pay those first. Next, set up a nice retirement account for yourself. Preferably something that you absolutely can not take the money out of the account early.

If you take the yearly payments, do not borrow against future payments. Spend it only as you get it.

You probably will immediately think about buying a house and a car.  You may want to just buy the biggest house or most expensive car. Check if that is really what you want though. Does your family of four need a 10 bedroom house? Probably not. You will most likely be better off buying a nice 4 bedroom house in a nice neighborhood.

Do not start giving money to anyone until you have set up your financial plan. If you win the lottery, you will immediately get calls from people you barely remember saying they need money. It is tempting to help them out and it would be a great thing to do for those in need but you need to get your own financial house in order first. There will be plenty of time to give money to charity.

Also, don't be surprised if people lie to you about needing the money because they think you now have plenty to share. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Buy Some Art

Buy some art. I don't mean spend all of your money on Picasso paintings. I mean have something around you that is beautiful or thought provoking or makes you cry or scares you.  You get to decide what is beautiful; what makes you think.

Get it from flea markets or yard sales. Pick up sculptures or paintings at art schools.  Find things on Ebay or at Target. If you don't have the money, spend the time.  Only pick things that speak to you.

Do not try to pick based on what you think would look nice on the wall or table. Do not pick what is sophisticated or grown up. Hang a Star Trek collage on your wall or a Monet. As long as it speaks to you.

If you are artistic, make it yourself.

It is not about the cost of the item. I'm not talking about making an investment in your financial future. I am talking about making an investment in your soul.

Your soul needs beauty. It needs something that provokes a reaction. It needs to feel something.  Art is the best way to do that.

It can be one incredible piece that grabs you every time you see it or it can be a series of pieces. It can be something that sparks a story or a memory in your mind.

The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai is one of my favorites. I have a tribute painted by an artist I know upstairs right now.

I have a print of a Chinese landscape painting. I spent $5 on it at a yard sale and $20 to get it matted and framed. It hung on my bedroom door for years.  My husband's favorite painting is an oil that we bought already framed for $8 at a yard sale. 

Do not let money stop you from finding what speaks to you. If you have the money, spend it or don't but if you do not have much money, do not let that stop you from finding something that touches your heart and soul.







Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Your Home Insurance vs Acts Of God

There seems to be this ongoing myth that "acts of God" are not covered by your home insurance policy. This is not true. Acts of God are not automatically excluded from your policy.


Your home insurance policy either has a set list of things it will cover (also known as Basic or Broad coverage) or else it says it will cover everything that is not excluded (also known as Special.)

Basic Coverage:
Fire, Lightning, Explosion, Smoke, Wind/Hail, Riot/Civil Commotion, Aircraft, Vehicles, Vandalism/Malicious Mischief, Sprinkler Leakage and sometimes Sinkhole collapse and Volcanic Action (depending where you live).

Broad Coverage:
All of the above plus
Falling Objects (such as a tree falling on your house), Weight of Ice and Snow, Water Damage except flood or ground water.

Special Coverage:
Covers everything that is not specifically excluded. Typical exclusions include flood/ground water, wear and tear, pest and vermin infestation, acts of war, earthquake and ground movement, nuclear war, government seizure. Check your policy or call your agent for more information.

In other words, you have coverage for fire, whether of the wildfire or household variety. You have coverage for wind, hail, hurricanes and tornadoes unless you live in an area that has a lot of them in which case check with your insurance agent to make sure it is not excluded.

You probably have coverage for lightening, for burst pipes, for vandalism, for theft, for a tree falling on your house. The average home policy has coverage if a vehicle or an aircraft hits it; although it may exclude a vehicle owned by you.

You almost certainly do Not have coverage for earthquake, flood and ground water, pest and vermin infestation (such as termites or mice) or anything that can be chocked up to plain old age or wear and tear.

When something happens, I suggest you contact your insurance agent to make sure you know if it is or is not covered. It is generally a few minutes on the phone that costs you nothing. Do not be afraid to call and ask if something is covered before you assume that it is just an act of God.

While you are at it, you may want to check if your home policy provides debris removal and ordinance & law coverage. Debris removal is what pays to remove the rubble that was your house after a covered loss. It is not automatically or fully covered. Ordinance & Law coverage is what pays the extra costs if the town comes along and forces you to build differently because of some law or ordinance that came into affect since you built your home. Your policy is based on the cost to rebuild your house just as it was without regard to any changes you may be forced to make or extra costs to remove what was there. These are two important coverages. Do not wait until after a loss to find out that you do not have these very important coverages.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Is It Time To Try Something New?

My husband would very much like me to quit my day job and work on following my passion instead. I am much too practical to drop a steady paying job--even if it sometimes drives me crazy--for something that is unlikely to provide any immediate income. In fact, doing this would cut our household income about 40%.

The problem is, with my full time job, my almost hour each way commute and maintaining a house, yard and exercise, I don't have a lot of energy left--mental or physical--to dedicate to trying to turn my writing hobby into a career.  I think it would be fair at this point to call me more of a dabbler.

I won't do my current employer the disservice of complaining. That is not the point anyways. The point is that my husband wants me to take a giant leap of faith and hope the money follows and I've never been one for blind leaps. I am the practical type. The kind of person who looks for the stairs or the parachute before making that jump. But am I doing myself a disservice? 

He is absolutely right that my job absorbs most of my time and energy right now; that I have been known to come home horribly stressed out. Does it necessarily follow though, that the lack of that job would mean I would get more done and success would follow? I might end up sitting around for hours getting nothing done through sheer inertia. Ever heard the saying, "If you want something done, ask a busy person?" Ever found yourself spending hours doing nothing knowing full well you have things to do? 

So when is it time to try something new?  When it makes sense financially? When I have more time? When I am mentally prepared?  If we only used those benchmarks, a lot of things would never get tried; never get done. A lot of babies would never be born.

When it comes down to it, I am just not prepared to make that leap at this time. I have started towards my goal. I have some books out and several more waiting for some serious editing. I have taken some baby steps.

I need to take some adult sized ones.

However, I am just not ready to take that giant leap.  Maybe I'm wrong to wait, to try to do it in pieces, but that is who I am.  I'm a practical dreamer. I just hope I am not being so practical that I forget the dreamer part.




Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Regrets

Our pasts shape us. They shape us by what we have done, what we have not done and how we feel about it. Regret is one such feeling.

Do you look back at your life and regret?  Do you regret things you did, such as hurting someone? Or things you did not do, such as going to the prom or learning to ski?

What we regret can define us. 

Don't spend your future looking back and regretting your past.

Think about your regrets. Is it too late to change them?  If you regret the things you did not do, then can you do them now?  Can you take those piano lessons or that trip?

If you regret the hurt you have caused, can you make up for it?  You could track down the person and apologize. Maybe you stole some money. Can you return it now?

If you can not make it up to the person you hurt, maybe you can do something else.  You say you stole money as a child from someone who could not afford to lose it? Maybe you could give time or money to a charity now. If you can not pay your debt to some one directly, there are ways to make the world a better place. Pay it forward if you can not pay it back.

Maybe all you need to do to get past the regret is to forgive yourself. Think about what you did. Really look at it. Do not make excuses. Do not try to justify it. Examine it. Accept it. Do what you can to change it or make up for it. Then forgive yourself. 

It may take you a few tries to get it right but letting go of regret can be like removing a heavy coat after a long winter.  Enjoy the spring.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I Love My Local Library

My town has a pretty darn good library. It has books, DVDs, cds, blu-rays, audio books, digital downloads, newspapers, magazines and even yes, some VHS and cassette tapes.   They even have a website that lets me download some digital content like putting audio books on my mp3 player.  I can log into the website and access major databases like HeritageQuest if I decide to check out my ancestors or Mango if I want to try my hand at learning to speak another language.

When I hear a movie is coming out on DVD/Bluray, I go to the library website and reserve it. They send me an email (calling is also an option), and let me know it is in. I pop over, pick it up and have the choice of regular check out or going through the quick automated self checkout.

I have saved literally hundreds of dollars by getting movies at the library instead of renting them; by getting books instead of buying them. I am able to check out authors I have never heard of without having to spend money on them.

If I stumble upon a topic that sounds interesting, I can grab several books on the subject on the library. If I like it, great. If not, well, I didn't waste any money on it. 

My library doesn't have the money or the space to get every movie or book that comes out. Libraries have found a way around that these days too. Multiple libraries will join a network such as CW Mars or MinuteMan.  You can then request a book, DVD, audio book, etc from another library in the network. They will courier it over to your library and you pick up and return it there.  It becomes your own personal database to pick and choose what you want.

Give it a try. If you don't already have a library card, visit your local library and get one. They usually are free or only a couple of dollars. All you need is proof you reside in that town such as a license or a utility bill in your name. If you already have a library card, dust it off. Go to your favorite search engine and type in the name of your town followed by "library"and the website will pop up.  

The library will give you a card or receipt with the due date or you can always look it up (or renew it) online.  

Give them a try! This is not your grandmother's library.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Making Choices

Ursula the Sea Witch in Disney's Little Mermaid rather sarcastically says to Ariel, "Life is full of difficult choices. Isn't it?"   She is not wrong.  Life is full of choices. You make hundreds of little choices every day. Some by your actions and some by your inaction. Some of those choices are relatively easy such as whether to watch your favorite show. Some are hard such as whether or not to break up with the person that being with, breaks your heart.

Doing nothing is as much a choice as doing something.

Say you have to submit an application by Friday at noon and 1 PM comes and you say, "Oops, too late." You made the choice to ignore the deadline even if you did not sit down and say, "I think I will miss the deadline."  Choosing to procrastinate is making a choice. 

Sitting around waiting for someone else to make the decision for you is no less a decision.

Making decisions can be very hard. They can be gut wrenching. Sometimes it just feels easier to wait and see what happens.  Do not mistake. You still chose. You chose to give up control and wait, perhaps because you feared the decision, perhaps to be able to say you didn't make the choice.

You did. You chose.

Putting off something unpleasant is a choice. Rushing into something without stopping to evaluate the situation is a choice. If you become paralyzed by indecision because you feel you have too many choices, then try sitting down and eliminating them a few at a time.

Even when you feel like you have no choice, you have one. But all choices have consequences and sometimes the consequence or cost of the choice is so horrible or so expensive that you tell yourself you have no choice. You do have a choice. It is just a lousy one.

Choice is one of the greatest aspects of your personal power. The choices you make define you. They shape your future. Do not abdicate your power by passively waiting for whatever happens. Look at your life. Embrace your choices and find your power. Even when it's hard.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wasting Blame


"I suffer: someone must be to blame." Friedrich Nietzsche.

Every single day something will probably go wrong. You sprain an ankle in your exercise class. You get a run in your stocking. Your purse is stolen. You forget your lunch. Life is full of problems and issues.  It is very common to try to find a person to blame for it.

Just because something happened does not mean someone has to be blamed.

If someone steals your purse, yes, you can point to a particular person and event and lay blame. That is easy and obvious.  What about tripping on a curb? Some people shake their heads at their own clumsiness and pick themselves back up. Others try to sue the city for not painting the curb fluorescent orange so they would be sure to see it even though they were texting.

When a tree blows over in a hurricane, some people go next door and demand that their neighbor pay to have the tree removed because the roots are on the neighbor's land. Is the neighbor to blame because the tree fell?  Probably not unless they blatantly left a rotted out tree standing but it's hard to collect money from the wind that was to blame. So we blame our neighbors for having let the tree grow at all and expect them to handle it for us. (By the way, if you have home owner's insurance, you probably have coverage there if the tree hits a building.)

I'm not saying people are always blameless. I am just saying not to assume that someone is to blame just because something happened. Accidents happen. Mistakes happen. Unless there was a mistake that was grievous, it may not be anyone's fault that something happened. 

The same is true of yourself. Do not assume that every bad thing that happens to you is your fault. Do not drive yourself crazy blaming yourself for not being quicker or smarter or better. Sometimes it's not your fault; it's just your turn.

Save the time you would have spent looking for someone to blame and go straight to using that time to think about how to fix the situation. It's a lot more productive.




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your Net Worth

Your net worth is your total assets minus your total liabilities. In other words, your net worth is everything you own minus your everything you owe.

Why should every goddess know her net worth?  Because it gives you a simple picture of your financial health. It lets you make informed decisions about where you stand financially. It helps you plan for your financial future by showing you what you need to work on and what you have with which to work. It can be easy to lose track of how much you owe or how much you have. This gives you a simple number to sum it up.
I compute our net worth about once a year around this time so I can see how we are doing year to year.

How to compute your net worth.

Basically you add up everything of value and subtract what you owe. There are computer programs you can use to plug it in; just search net worth calculator for some examples.

You could also make a list of all of your accounts and add them together. Examples include:

Savings accounts
Checking accounts
Retirement accounts (401k, IRA, etc)
Stocks and bonds
Mutual Funds
CDs (certificates of deposit)
Value of your home
Value of your car

You could also include any valuable jewelry or artwork you may own.

This is your total assets.

Then list all of your liabilities aka debts and add them together. Examples include:

Balance on your mortgage
Home equity loan
Car loan
Student loan
Credit card debt
Personal loans

This is your total liability.

Now take your total asset amount and subtract your total liability. This is your net worth. Hopefully it is a positive number. If not, it shows you what you need to work on.   More importantly, it gives you a number to focus on. If nothing else, it is knowledge and knowledge of your financial health can only help.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

You Deserve A Vacation Or A Chance To Rest

A lot of women tend to work themselves into exhaustion trying to help everyone; trying to accomplish everything. Maybe you work full time outside the home, then you come home and take care of the house and the kids. It seems to be a common issue amongst women that we try to accomplish 80 hours worth of work in 60 hours.  This may mean staying up too late or getting up too early. Sacrificing your sleep, your health and your peace of mind to help everyone.

You deserve to rest. You deserve a break. It is OK to take some time for yourself.

The number one cause of death for a woman is a heart attack. Some of the leading causes of heart attacks are stress and not taking care of your body.  I know the kids need feeding and the dishes need doing. It may feel like a waste of time or a betrayal to take 20 minutes for yourself. It is not.

Would you want your kids working themselves to death? Would you want them overdoing it and causing themselves stress and health problems?  Then don't do it to yourself.

If the problem is a lack of help from your spouse or kids, then talk to them. Make sure you do not act as though it is a confrontation; that will just make them feel attacked and not inclined to help. Ask them to do things and praise them when they do. Everyone wants to feel as though they are being helpful.  And yes, chances are you are doing a lot more and not getting praised, but this is one of those cases where it is a small investment that will make everyone feel better in the end. You will get more help and they will feel appreciated.

Also, do not be afraid to use paper plates sometimes so you can save that time you would have spent doing dishes. If sometimes the dinner dishes wait until after dinner the next night so you can sit down and rest for 10 minutes than so be it. If you have to use your slow cooker a few nights a week so you can do 20 minutes of yoga, by all means.

Remember that you being around 10 years from now is a lot more important to your kids continued health and well being than whether or not the dish washer got unloaded. Take some time for yourself. It will make you healthier and happier and that makes your whole family better off. Plus you deserve it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse

One of the things every goddess should know is how to survive. The first most important thing is a good attitude. Tell yourself you will survive. You can do this. Yes, there has been a terrible outbreak and many of your neighbors have turned into some kind of hideous zombie, but you can survive this. You have to believe it.


When dealing with zombies, it is very important that you determine what kind of zombie you are facing.   Are they intelligent or brain dead? Are they fast or slow?  This information will be very important to your survival plan.  If they behave like complete idiots, then you may be able to out think them or scare them off with flaming torches. Perhaps you can thwart them by climbing stairs. If they are intelligent, you have to be more cautious.

If you are lucky, they will be slow shambling dumb zombies. Congratulations! These kinds of zombies can often be outrun. You can build fortifications to keep them out.  Their constant moaning, while annoying, makes a great early warning system. If you are not so lucky, they will be fast. If you are extremely unlucky, they will be fast and intelligent. These are the most dangerous forms of zombies. Avoid them at all costs!

I recommend finding an easily defensible area of your home. In our house, I would go for the basement. We have a partially finished side that could be used as a living space and the unfinished side has an assortment of tools including saws and axes.   We have fire wood and lumber down there that we could nail over those small basement windows and over the door leading down stairs.  It gives us a defensible choke point if the enemy comes down.

You will want to stockpile as much canned food and water as you can as soon as you realize there is a problem. If you wait, most of the food may be gone. Make sure you take a manual can opener with you into your safe area. You don't want to have food but no way to open it if the power goes out. Be cautious about hunting fresh game. Always check to make sure the animal has not been zombified first. You don't want to be infected by eating zombie rabbit meat.

Eat perishable items first and then eat the food in order of what is going to expire first. I know this is an upsetting time emotionally but now is not the time to revert to emotional eating choices. Practical choices must be made. Limit your calories and eat what is available so you can stay healthy.   Spend the time you are confined exercising so you can be stronger and faster. You may want to take the opportunity to practice such as swing an axe or striking targets with your available weapons. This will come in handy if some zombies do find you, especially if they are the fast kind. 

Make sure you know what counts as a kill shot. Do you need to take out the head? The heart?  Will cutting off a limb stop them?  Avoid getting bit or scratched as these are going to be your most likely sources of contamination.  Grab anything in your home that might be a good weapon--guns, of course, but also baseball bats, broom handles, butcher knives, my husband's Japanese sword (sorry honey!).  Try grabbing chemicals such as bleach and seeing if the zombies react to it--preferably thrown on them from a safe distance.

You will also want to stockpile medical supplies. I would not go too overboard on these. Chances are any wound that would require bandaging is going to be one that turns you into a zombie anyways so why waste the shelf space that could be used for important things like food and toilet paper?  Decide early how you will handle latrine issues. If you use a bucket system, be careful of where you dump it. You could be leaving a smelly trail right to your hiding place.

If you can manage to hole up, be cautious and practical, chances are the zombie infection will run its course in a few weeks to months or the government will come in and shoot them all down anyways. Be patient, be careful and you can survive this. Just don't poke your head out when you hear gun fire. You don't want to have survived this long to get shot down by friendly fire.  Good luck and good hunting.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I'd Rather Be Safe Than Polite

When I was a teenager, I was out waiting at a bus stop one day. A car with 3 guys in it drove up and offered me a ride. I smiled and said, "No thank you."  The guy in the back of the car leaned out, sneered at me and said in a voice dripping with contempt, "It's not like we're going to rape you or anything."  I continued to smile and again said, "No thank you."  They squealed away from the curb and I never saw them again.

There was nothing that seemed particularly wrong with these guys. I just simply was not going to take the chance. What ever fun they thought we would have was not worth the risk.  They do, however, illustrate a common problem.  I was a young girl by myself. No one knew precisely where I was. These guys tried to make me feel bad for being cautious. They tried to embarrass and shame me by insinuating that I was crazy to consider that they could be up to no good.

Let's assume they meant no harm whatsoever. Do you think if they are all grown up now with daughters of their own, that they would want their daughters to get in that car?  I certainly hope not.

Never let anyone make you feel stupid for being safe. If we could tell the rapists, muggers and murderers at a glance, no one would ever get hurt.

When it comes to your personal safety, it is better to offend that complete stranger than take the chance that they mean you harm.   Making you feel stupid for being cautious is one of the best tricks in a rapist's arsenal. So go ahead and be safe; be cautious. 

I would rather feel a little stupid for being overly cautious. I know I can survive that.

And if your instincts are telling you something is wrong? Above all, listen to that little voice in the back of your head that says tread lightly.  Do not let trying to be helpful or trying to be polite, put you in a dangerous situation. You can always leave and go call for someone to go help them if they are truly stranded.

Your safety comes first. If a voice in your head tells you something is wrong, listen to it and get away.  There is only one you and I would rather you be around in twenty years to have the opportunity to feel silly about not taking that ride. But then, I don't feel silly about it at all.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How Old Is Your Smoke Detector?

Three people recently died and another was injured in Plaistow, NH from carbon monoxide poisoning. They had a carbon monoxide detector in the house. Sadly, the unit did not have functioning batteries in it.

Do you have a smoke detector where you are living? A carbon monoxide detector?  Here in Massachusetts you are required by law to have both. Other states have their own rules but this is something small that you can do to help keep you and your family safe.

Have smoke detectors on every floor. Have carbon monoxide detectors.  You can even get one combined unit that does both. Change the batteries twice a year even if you don't think it is necessary. Yes the units beep when the battery starts to fail but what if you were away for a couple of days and never heard it?

We have combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in our house. There is one on every floor and extras upstairs in the bedrooms. In the hallway outside our bedroom, we just installed a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector that has a built in battery designed to last for ten years. This way if I happen to miss the regular changing of the batteries, I still have the one outside of our room that I do not have to worry about. It was more expensive than the battery operated units but it brings literally years of peace of mind.

I make the changing of the batteries correspond with a holiday weekend so I will remember to do it twice a year. Our batteries get changed Memorial Day weekend and Thanksgiving weekend. It is not exactly six months but it is a lot easier for me to remember than some random days of the year.

If you do not have detectors, get them now. If you can not remember the last time you changed those batteries, go ahead and change them now. Then pick out a couple of holidays and start making a point to change them. You could also schedule it on your smartphone or email to remind you. You can also press the test button to tell if they are still functioning. Always press the test button after installing new batteries to make sure the unit is functioning properly. (You may want to cover your ears as it can be loud.)

The units start out pretty cheap and it is a simple step to keep your family safe. Do it now so that if your furnace starts spitting out carbon monoxide fumes, you will be ready and safe.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Don't Point Out Your Flaws

Have you ever noticed something suddenly after not noticing it for ages?  It could have been weeks or months or years. Suddenly someone points it out and you can't imagine how you missed it?  Maybe you can not stop noticing it now.

Or maybe you have a significant other that just does not seem to notice those dirty dishes or socks until you point them out?   The human brain is inundated with a lot of information every second and is constantly picking and choosing what to acknowledge.  Calling attention to the item makes the brain stop and pay attention to that item.  So why call attention to your flaws?

Maybe you think your belly is too fat or your legs too short. Maybe you have a crooked tooth or an odd laugh. It may bother you terribly.  Does that mean it bothers others or that they have even noticed it?  No it does not.

Do not tell your significant other that an outfit makes you look fat. To them, you probably look adorable. After all they are with you aren't they?    So stop trying to reinforce the idea that you are fat or your tooth is crooked.  If they have noticed, they either do not care or find it cute.  Why go to so much trouble to convince them otherwise?  If you succeed, you will just make everyone unhappy.  

I'm not saying you can never talk about your flaws. Acknowledging them to your self is a good way to work on fixing them. But endlessly talking about them to your significant other is just trying to convince them to agree with you and why would you want that? Or maybe you just want them to keep saying no, its not true. That just sounds tiring for everyone. Plus at some point they do not disagree fast enough and now your feelings are needlessly hurt and the two of you are fighting.

Talk to your family. Talk to your friends. Do not go pointing out your flaws to your lover. There is nothing sexy about talking about being too fat or funny looking. Insecurity is the enemy of confidence and confidence is always sexier. Besides, once you point it out, they may not be able to stop noticing it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shopping Online? Do You Have A Discount Code?

If you are shopping online, take a few minutes and search for a discount code. Just go to your favorite search engine such as google.com and type in the name of the website you are using and a phrase such as "discount code" or "promo code" or "coupon".  Spend 5 to 10 minutes and you can often find some great deals.

My car just hit 60,000 miles, taking with it my warranty and my free roadside service. Since I no longer have roadside service but I do have an aging vehicle, I decided to join AAA.   A visit to AAA.com for my area, said the cost to join for me and my husband would be $100.   (Enrollment fee of $15 for me plus $52 for the membership for the year. Another $5 enrollment fee for my husband and $28 for the year for him.) 

I could have stopped at the $100; just paid it and been done.

Instead I tried requesting information from AAA. They mailed me an enrollment form with a code to waive the enrollment fees. Suddenly my $100 membership is down to $80.  That still sounded like too much to me. I was sure I could get it at least under $75.  Well it was my lucky day. 

I went to google.com and searched "aaa new england discount code".  The second link listed was to save "$33 off" with code 4950.   I went back to AAA's website and punched in the code and it knocked the price down to $66 for both of us.

By spending 5 minutes searching, I saved $34 off what I would have spent if I just went to AAA and joined online.  I saved $14 off the offer from AAA themselves.  Not too shabby for a few minutes work. 

Most discounts won't be that dramatic but it is worth spending  a few minutes of your time to get the best deal you can get. You may want to change the search terms to limit search results to ones from the last month or so in order to reduce the instances of outdated promo codes.  On google.com, you enter your search and once the search results come up, over on the right you will see "search tools". Click on that and then click on "any time" and take your pick of week, month, year, etc.

You can also search for coupons to print out and take to stores with you. I searched "jif coupon" today and found a contest being run by Jif peanut butter to win free jars of peanut butter. A search for "barilla pasta coupons" found me four different coupon choices I could print and take to the grocery store.

I don't have the time or patience to run coupon searches for everything I buy so I am less apt to do it for small items. However, anytime I am spending a significant amount of money online, I always search for a promo code. Try it. It won't hurt and it just might help!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Do You Know Your Tax Bracket? Part 2, Married Filing Jointly

Last week I talked about tax brackets if you are filing as Single. This week I am going to go over the same thing for Married Filing Jointly.

Though it is 2014 now, you are about to file your 2013 taxes. Let's say that Alexis and John got married in 2013. Congratulations!  But Alexis' taxes are going to change a little now that she is no longer single. For our example, she still does not have any kids or a mortgage or rent to deduct.

It is not as simple as saying Alexis and John made a combined $120,000 so they are in the 25% tax bracket and their tax is $30,000. The IRS charges 10% of the first tax bracket, 15% of the second, 25% of the third etc but it is not 25% of their full $120,000 in earnings.

First there are your standard deductions just for being a person. It is $12,200 for a married couple and the personal exemption is $7,800 for the two of them. This brings their taxable income down from $120,000 to $100,000. $100,000 is in the bracket marked 25%. This might seem to mean that their tax would be 25% of that or $25,000.  That is not the case. Their taxes are $16,858.

Here are the tax brackets for Married, Filing Jointly:

Taxable income between 0 and $17,850 is charged based on 10%.
Taxable income between $17,851 and $72,500 is charged based on 15%.
Taxable income between $72,501and $146,400 is charged based on 25%.
Taxable income between $146,401 and $223,050 is charged based on 28%.

So Alexis and John are not charged based on 25% of their $120,000 income or even the $100,000 income after their deductions. Instead they are charged 10% of the first $17,850, 15% of the next $54,649 ($72,500 - $17,851) and 25% of the remaining $27,500 ($100,000 -$72,500).

That means $1,785.00 is charged for the first bracket and
                    $8197.35 is charged for the second bracket and
                    $6875.00 for the third bracket
that equals $16857.35  and the IRS rounds it up to $16,858.

If you are worried about your tax bracket, you can always look at extra deductions such as charitable contributions or putting more money into your retirement account. I recommend you consult a tax professional or use a reputable tax software.

The most important point to remember is that you are not charged a flat percentage of your total income so going up a tax bracket is not as bad as it sounds. You do not suddenly owe 28% of your whole income because you and your spouse made $146,401 and the end of the 25% bracket is $146,400. You only owe 28% on that last dollar.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Do You Know Your Tax Bracket? Part 1, Filing Single

It is coming up on W-2 time here in the USA. If you do not already have it, you will soon be getting that piece of paper that says how much you earned last year.  This leads to the inevitable filing of taxes.   Do you understand your tax bracket?

To make it simple, I am just going to look at Single status this week and Married Filing Jointly status next week.  I have put a link at the bottom to a Forbes.com article on tax brackets that lists several other categories as well if you would like to check it out.

Though it is 2014 now, you are about to file your 2013 taxes.  It is not as simple as saying you made $50,000 so you are in the 25% tax bracket and your tax is $12,500.  The IRS charges 10% of the first tax bracket, 15% of the second, 25% of the third etc but it is not 25% of your full $50,000 in earnings.

For example, lets make up a single woman named Alexis.  Alexis made $50,000 in 2013. Alexis has no kids or mortgage so she will be using the standard deduction. That means she does not have to count the first $6100 of her income.  Now she is down to $43,900.  The personal exemption is $3,900. Now she is down to being considered to have made $40,000 for 2013.  If she is in the 25% tax bracket that means she owes $10,000 right?  No, fortunately for Alexis, it does not. She only owes $5,929.

This is because the full amount of your income is not charged for the tax bracket you end in. Rather you are charged based on percentage for each tax bracket you go through to get to your final bracket.

Here are the tax brackets for this year:

Taxable income between 0 and $8925 is charged based on 10%.
Taxable income between $8926 and $36,250 is charged based on 15%.
Taxable income between $36, 251 and $87,850 is charged based on 25%.
Taxable income between $87,851 and $183,250 is charged based on 28%.

So Alexis is not charged based on 25% of her $50,000 income or even the $40,000 income after her deductions. Instead she is charged 10% of the first $8925. 15% of the next $27,324 ($36,250 - $8925) and 25% of the remaining $3751 ($40,000-$36,250).

That means $892.50 is charged for the first bracket and
                  $4098.75 for the second bracket and
                    $937.50 for the third bracket
that equals $5928.75 and the IRS rounds it up to $5929.

The most important point to remember is that you are not charged a flat percentage of your total income so going up a tax bracket is not as bad as it sounds. You do not suddenly owe 28% of your whole income because you made $87,852 and the end of the 25% bracket is $87,851. You only owe 28% on that last dollar.

Next week I will go over the same charts based on Married Filing Jointly.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/01/15/irs-announces-2013-tax-rates-standard-deduction-amounts-and-more/

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Should Get More Exercise

I should get more exercise. I could give you plenty of reasons and excuses why I don't. I have a knee that is missing tendons on one side. I have a shoulder that was dislocated as a child that still bothers me sometimes and I have fairly severe joint damage to one ankle.  All of these things are true. The ankle in particular bothers me fairly often. 

They are not, however, the real reason why I do not exercise enough.  Having a bad ankle would not stop me from doing sit ups or any number of abdominal exercises.  Having a knee that acts up when the weather is bad does not keep me from using hand weights to pump up my muscles.  No; the real reason I do not get as much exercise as I should is that it is not as easy as not exercising.

If you have a car, you probably know that your car will run better with regular oil changes. Your tires wear more evenly if you rotate them from one side of the car to another on a regular basis. Having a tune up can prevent costly repairs down the road.  Your body is the same.

Your body is a machine. It runs better and lasts longer and is much less likely to have major long term problems if you treat it right. This includes regular exercise.

My older sister was disabled. In my entire life, I never saw her walk. She was bound to a wheelchair and to a bed.  This did not mean she never got any exercise.  We used to do what we would call chair dance. She would sit in her wheelchair and I would sit in a kitchen chair and we would turn up the music and move just our upper bodies.  Sometimes she would just push her hand against mine to try to strength her arms.  She did the small things she could. 

So it is ridiculous to even try to tell myself that I could not exercise more than I do.   Maybe I can't run with my busted up ankle and most days my dance video games only get about 2 to 3 songs out of me before I am limping away. This does not mean I can not get more exercise. It just means I can't do that particular exercise. So I need to focus on the things I can do and make more effort to do them.  That seems like the kind of thing a goddess should do.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frozen Pipes--How to Prevent and How to Deal

We are having a serious cold snap up here in the Northeast.  I have heard talk of reaching record breaking lows for this time of the year.  Serious cold can lead to serious problems with your pipes. 

There are a few things you can do to try to prevent frozen pipes.

1-Keep your heat turned up. Never let the temperature drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and when it is particularly cold, you may want it even higher.

2-Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to allow air to circulate around the pipes.

3-Make sure you have plenty of insulation around any pipes located in crawl spaces on the outside wall. This area gets cold faster than you may realize.

4-Let a little bit of water drip out through faucets and shower heads if you know it is going to be particularly cold. Running water is less likely to freeze than standing water.

5-Turn off the water valve to outside water sources such as a hose before it gets cold. They should have their own valve or handle separate from the rest of the water supply.

If your pipe does freeze, here are a few tips.

1-Turn up the heat.  Let it get fairly hot in the hopes that it will melt the blockage in the pipe before there is a problem.

2-Use an infrared space heater. Have it face directly at the wall where the pipes are located. Make sure the heater is at least three feet from anything that might catch fire.

3-Use a hair dryer to try to gently increase the heat on the pipe so that it melts gradually. Do not put the hair dryer directly against the pipe.

4-Never use an open flame to try to defrost your pipes. There is too much risk of fire.

5-Do what you can to keep it from happening again. This could be wrapping your pipes in pipe insulation or having insulation put in around the pipes. If you are unsure what to do, consult a professional.

If you are lucky, your pipe will thaw out and work just fine. If you are not so lucky, a thawing pipe can often turn into a burst pipe. This would mean gallons upon gallons of water rushing through your walls or ceiling.

If the pipe bursts,

1-Immediately turn off the water. Find your water shut off valve and turn off the water.

2-Call a plumber. Try to make sure they are licensed and insured.

3-Open the faucet a little so the water in there can drain out.

4-Put a bucket under any water dripping through your ceiling to catch as much as possible. Use rags or towels to wipe up as much water as you can to minimize damage.

5-If there is enough damage,  you may be able to put in a home insurance claim. Consult your insurance agent.

Good luck.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Start As You Mean To Go On

Start as you mean to go on.  It is something my father said to me once.  My father was not a big talker. He rarely used 3 words if 2 would do but every once in awhile he would get a little philosophical. I'm not sure if this was one of those times for him or just for me but the phrase has stuck with me all these years later.

Start as you mean to go on. What better time to think about that phrase then now as we are starting a new year? 

It means to begin something in the same spirit in which you want to end it.  If you want the new year to be happier and healthier then behave that way from the start. If you want to be treated well, act like you should be from the start.  Don't start the day yelling if you don't want to spend the day yelling.

It is simple advice but I think it is powerfully so.  Start as you mean to go on.  Well I mean to go on into 2014 eating healthier and not letting obnoxious people get me down.   So deep breaths, and here we go.