eleven years (and a day) ago…

When you’re the second child, not only do you not have a baby book, but your mom posts your birthday tribute a day late.

Eleven years (and a day) ago, I was so very pregnant and ready to kick you out of my body. You teased me, sending me into labor in the middle of the night and then cooling your heels. But your hurry up and wait approach to birth gave time for Jaxon’s mom to drive down from Philadelphia to video your arrival, secret footage you may never want to watch.

I’m not sure how it came to be that eleven years (and a day) passed with the blink of an eye. I wish I had rocked you more and spent more time breathing in your baby scent. I wish I hadn’t been in such a working mom hurry for you to get “easier” to raise by joining your brother in meeting all the major milestones: eating solid foods, sleeping through the night, using the bathroom, playing by yourself, etc. etc. etc. I never considered that every age you’ve been was the last time I got to experience that age as a parent.

I was under the impression parenting got easier as your children grew older, but nothing could be farther from the truth. No, you can’t have a Twitter account. (Though I’m curious to read what you’d post, I’ll let you date before I grant you permission to get on social media, and that includes Instagram.) No, I can’t help with your math homework because they changed the math rules between the time I learned math and now. And I’m sorry, but the big kids get to sit in the back of the bus even if you get there first. It’s not fair now but it will be when you’re their age.

The good news is I won’t always make up the rules. When you have your own house, you can stock your shelves with Oreos, Lucky Charms, Cheetos and apple cider, which you can drink any time you want, day or night. You can stay up late and have sleepovers whenever your heart desires. I just fear that day will be upon us too fast. And before I know it, I’ll be sitting on the porch in my rocking chair, gin and tonic in hand, watching the video of your birth and wondering how that tiny, smart, funny, thoughtful baby grew up so very fast into the big, smart, funny, thoughtful man I know you’re going to be.

a match almost made in wegmans

He had me at his tagline: Internet dating: because I haven’t met the perfect woman at the grocery store. And then he proceeded to list Wegmans as one of his favorite things. Wegmans? I love Wegmans too! And not just that, but he read my favorite book of 2014. We were meant to be perfect for each other.

I reached out first, sending that bold initial message. “Oh, you’re cute and smart and funny,” he wrote back. “I’d totally make up an excuse to talk to you in the produce department if I saw you at my grocery store.” We spent a few days swapping messages through our online arbiter, moving to real life text over the weekend to arrange the plan. We had a small hiccup; our kid custody schedules are not aligned. He panicked. “Hey,” I wrote. “Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s see if we like each other. Schedules can always be changed.” 

But apparently he’s the complicated type because tonight I got the text of doom. Not only did the kid schedule bother him, but the thirty miles of parkway separating his town and mine turned out to be a deal breaker. Date off.

I presume I dodged a bullet. A guy so worried about two relatively insignificant factors this early is probably not the grounded guy I’m looking for. Hell, maybe he’s married, and his wife found his online profile. That’s the thing about this whole online dating process. You don’t really know what motivates people, and not just WegmansLover (handle changed to protect the innocent) but SnugglePuppy3348, ClickHereToDate, RealMan345, WildPig10, Ready2LoveAgain too.

So back to combing through profiles I go, weeding out the guys who capitalize the word lady – make that, use the word lady. Full Stop.

true love at last

In the last 48 hours, I found my true love.

Just kidding… deep, meaningful love only happens that fast on the Bachelor.

I continue to be astonished with the so-called matches that come my way. ZipperRipper aside, let’s talk for a minute about usernames. I know it’s potentially perilous that I actually incorporated my first name in mine. But “your name + s + waiting” is not a good user name. Nor is anything paired with awesome, handsome, sexy, foxy or the number 69 (even if it is your birth year). TriGuy appears in many different iterations, leading me to believe that the majority of single men in the DC metro area are triathletes. If that’s true, when do they have time to date?

The profile photos people choose to post amuse me too. This is the first impression you’re making on someone. I guess maybe the pink cowboy hat says everything I need to know about you, as does the pirate costume. The dude wearing camo looked intense, to say the least. I made that assessment before I noticed the subsequent picture of him emerged in open water wielding an automatic weapon like he was storming a beach. To scuba_addict I ask, “why are all your pictures taken underwater?” (That’s internal dialogue. I didn’t really strike up communication.) And it’s worth repeating: if all your pictures are obviously selfies, my conclusion is you don’t have friends. At least get a tourist on the Mall to snap your shot. Or someone from the office. Your sister, perhaps? A waiter?

Abundance of dad jeans aside, I’m not totally cynical. I’ve read some interesting profiles and even reached out to a few men who caught my attention. It might sound odd that this process makes me feel vulnerable given I write a blog where I’m open about some intense experiences, but I’m trying not to take rejection personally. Just as I’m making knee jerk reactions about people, so are they about me. “I mean really, what’s with the Dr Zhivago hat?” I’m sure more than one man has said under his breath. “A Boston Red Sox fan? Pass.”

I press ahead. At worst, I have new material to write about and at best, I make a friend or two.

a match made in cyberspace

A few years ago, I tried the online dating thing for a very brief period of time. And by brief, I mean a few hours after signing up for Match, I called customer service, crying hysterically, and asked to get out of my six-month contract. I stuck with e-harmony a little longer because the limited ability to browse through profiles (or rather, have my profile browsed through) provided an added layer of protection, but I went on exactly zero dates, so I eventually canceled that contract too.

I’ve never been tempted to venture back into the cyber dating fold, but over Valentine’s dinner and the many glasses of wine that accompanied, I got talked into giving Match another try. “Come on,” my friend coaxed. “I just signed up and we can go through it together.”

I agreed to join her quest. I probably could have read a book in the amount of time I spent not only creating my own profile but going through those the love algorithms chose as my perfect pairs. And are they perfect. Perfectly wrong. For example, handle name Zipper Ripper (I’m NOT making this up) is a 94% match with me, but his profile picture looks like it belongs in the serial killer hall of fame. Pass. All sorts of photo-less guys have sent me chat requests. None of them live within a 200-mile radius. “Hey gorgeous. Let’s talk.” Um, no thanks. A self-processed “handsome catch” details he only dates women with a BMI of nineteen, max, and he’s hardcore about it because he mentions it twice, along with the caveat that “skinny girls need love.”

Hey, I get it. I’m judging too. If you wear sunglasses in every picture, I assume you’re hiding something. I don’t even click on you if your profile photo is a bathroom or car selfie. If you indicate you don’t have time to read, I don’t have time to get to know you. Good grammar is a must. Forget your thoughts on politics, kids or religion; use of emoticons is a deal-breaker. And I know it’s DC, but I’m not impressed when your photo gallery is filled with shots of you posing with famous people.

I have to admit I’m not well-versed on the etiquette of Match. Winking is too forward of an action for me to take. How do you favorite someone you’ve never met? Do people really respond to messages? I mean, I haven’t responded to any I’ve received in my eight hours of experience. How do you express interest without being creepy?

In spite of all this, I don’t yet feel the urge to call and cancel my subscription. There have to be single, wine-loving, age-appropriate book nerds out there who don’t want new babies. Now if only the cyber gods will match us up.

 

 

a tale from the H&R Block cubicle

Preparing my taxes has been much less warm and fuzzy since my former accountant-slash-dear friend gave up her CPA certification in order to focus full time on her writing career. For tax year 2013, with a little help from Turbo Tax, I filed an hour before the deadline. But I knew 2014 would be a different beast.

I spent some time gathering accountant recommendations from other small business owners but decided yesterday afternoon that I preferred the anonymity of H&R Block. Plus, they could offer me an appointment for this morning, and I was highly motivated to get my taxes done.

In case you haven’t been to an H&R Block recently, the interior is not painted any remote shade of cheerful. Lifeless brown walls with putrid orange accents contrast against gray office dividers. Fluorescent lighting sets the atmosphere to grim. When my turn came, I took a seat, hugging my folder of 1099s, mortgage interest statements and deductions tightly to my chest.

“What have we here?” asked the woman auto-assigned to my case when I made the appointment online. I plopped down my heavy folder and proceeded to cry. These were not the kind of tears that roll prettily down my face and turn my eyes green. Ugly sobs shook my body and stole my breath.

The accountant took my hands in hers. “Breathe in the light,” she directed me. “Release the dark. Exhale out the bad. Inhale only good.”

I tried my best to comply. But all the breath work and yoga training of the last six months eluded me.

“Whatever it is,” she assured me. “It’s just money.”

Yeah, just that. I tried to regulate my breath, still coming in sharp, shallow waves. She held onto my hands until she was satisfied I had calmed down. A reminder, we hadn’t even began tabulating my tab to Uncle Sam.

“Honey, whatever it is, I can tell you I’ve seen worse than whatever you’ve got there in your little folder.”

Then she quietly and efficiently got to work. I may be a mess but I’m an organized mess so I had pretty much everything she needed to tick my tax bill down as low as she could get it. The business side of my income was low, truth be told, but I did a naughty thing and took some early retirement disbursements. The government doesn’t really like it when you do that, which I knew at the time, but in typical Chelsea fashion, I figured I’d deal with the consequences later.

And here it is, later. I owe the IRS $17k. That’s on top of the $5k left in installments from 2013 and doesn’t include my debt to the state. My total tax bill (federal + state, 2013 + 2014) hovers around the $30k mark. I’ve spent the day feeling a little like George Bailey when the bank examiner comes and thanks to Uncle Billy, he’s ten grand in the hole. Except in my rendition of the story, there’s no tax fairy to get me out of this self-imposed mess.

“It’s just money,” said my new best friend-slash-accountant, who coincidentally is my neighbor, which means I’m going to see her all the time. So much for the anonymity of H&R Block.

But it’s better to know my fate than not to know, and now I can make a plan. I don’t know what that plan will look like except that it involves being financially honest with myself.

the fine print

I have to admit I’m one of those people who never looks at her phone bill. I’ve long had my wireless packaged together with my wifi, landline and cable (the triple play in Verizon parlance) and that universal bill is auto-deducted from my bank account each month. I went paperless way back when but rarely check my itemized bill online because I can never remember my login information.

Then I read this article: 12 Things You Need to Stop Paying For. The top item on the list, books, is a non-starter. I line my walls, my floors, my office with them. I don’t consider money spent on books to be a waste. In fact, I hope someday other like-minded people buy my books in high volume. I don’t own any original art not created by my children, but I do have lots of books. They are works of art, and in some cases, serve as a makeshift side table.

However, the second item on the list caught my attention: Cable TV.

We have hundreds of channels even though the kids only flip between three stations, and I have even fewer I routinely watch. While I can fall into the couch cushions like any other slug, it’s more important to me to read. I have a couple friends who use Apple TV, and that seems like a more streamlined approach to rotting the brain. So I ordered an Apple TV device and promptly called Verizon this morning to discuss my account.

I was fully prepared for the hard sell. “Stay with us and we will x, y, z your plan.” But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did the customer service rep help me downgrade to a double play (wifi and phone) package, she found me other savings. I was paying for unlimited games on the computer? My computer is off limits to games. A phone protection plan? That dates back to the 90s. It isn’t even offered anymore, but I was grandfathered in to pay it. Virus protection? Isn’t that why I have a Mac? All in all, the Verizon rep with a midwest accent helped me trim nearly one hundred dollars off my monthly bill. Then I went over to Verizon Wireless where they saved me an additional forty-five bucks by switching me to a smaller data plan (I wasn’t coming close to using the plan I had) and eliminating some nebulous line access charge I was being pinged $15/month for.

I can’t believe I waited this long to make these budget friendly moves, but I tend to default to sticking with what I know.  My communications bill should not cost more than my health insurance, and with these changes, it no longer will. The lesson: read the fine print. Know what you’re paying for. Change is scary, but it’s empowering to make informed choices.