Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Remember Karyn Lyndon?

I can say, "I knew her before she was famous. We used to trade blog barbs."

Her blog address is in my sidebar (down a ways on the right -- it's the one called "Who Let the Blogs Out?" )

Anyway, if you'll click on that link you'll see that she has her first book out, called "CurvyKathy31."

Yeah, I know -- weird title. But it makes sense once you read the book.

I think you ought to check it out. Hey, you can buy the PDF or HTML download version for just $6, and I promise it's worth it.

I wrote a review of it for (where only the paperback is for sale; personally, I'd buy it from the publisher's site).

Here's the review. I mean every word.


Author: Karyn Lyndon

It sounded like a stereotypical chick-lit tale with internet chat-room and Instant Message lingo as a hook. I figured it was probably poorly written with lots of sex, little plot, and no characterization.

I was wrong.

Within the first few pages I realized that Kathy was a very smart, introspective, clever heroine. Did I mention capable, imaginative, and sweet? The story has lots to offer besides the romance angle, with enough twists and turns to make you dizzy in a delightful, "Why didn't I see THAT coming?" kind of way.

I promise you'll laugh out loud. (Oops, I mean lol!) And I almost guarantee you'll get tears in parts, unless you're made of granite.

The sex is torrid, the conflicts are real and intense, and the pages almost turn themselves. Within the first 20 pages I was telling myself, "This woman (Lyndon) is really sharp. How does she come up with these?"


"Jeez. No doubt about it. The man gave good Email, especially for a rookie."

". . . his big boat seemed to compensate for his little dinghy."

"My palms were wet and my throat dry . . . Isn't it weird how nervousness can cause two opposite reactions at the very same moment, kind of like the amazing way yogurt can cure both constipation and diarrhea?"

"I was starting to feel like Mrs. Doubtfire, running back and forth between tables at the restaurant. The good news was I didn't have to change clothes."

". . . that was exactly the kind of person I was, always led by my emotions instead of my brain."

(Don't believe this last one! CurvyKathy's brain is her best--if not her biggest--asset.)

This book had everything I love in a novel: catchy humor, an intriguing story line, characters with breadth and depth, and a well-thought-out, satisfying ending. (Just wait `til you read the climax!)

I may not have quite fallen in love with Ms. Lyndon (yet), but I can't wait to catch her next title when it comes out. I'm dying to see if she can top this first effort.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The suicide pilot and the IRS

This week’s story about the man who deliberately flew his small plane into the Austin IRS offices has struck a chord in many. It brought to my mind the true story I wrote about in 2005. I’ve reproduced the story (three separate blog posts) below.

The man in my tale also felt driven to the verge of suicide, but his despair lacked the rage to direct itself at the IRS.

I’m glad.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Dealing with a tax levy.

I hope you never have to.

Fortunately I’ve never had the personal pleasure of much contact with the IRS.

Oh, there was that one time about 16 years ago when they questioned one of my deductions. What made it nerve-wracking was they didn’t choose to tell me in the letter they sent that it was a single charitable contribution they were interested in.

NO, they just sent a “Dear Taxpayer” letter telling me to appear in person with all my records for an “examination” of my 1988 return. They don’t use the word “audit;” it’s an “examination.”

I dutifully loaded up a medium size cardboard carton with all my receipts, records, check stubs, bank statements, and on and on. I showed up in the lobby of the Federal Building feeling like a criminal, and cooled my heels for about 30 minutes past my “appointment” time. Shoot, THEY were in no hurry. They knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

When I walked into the examiner’s office and she informed me that all she wanted was documentation on one contribution, I almost wept in relief. Shoot, I had that! And sure enough, within about ten minutes I was skipping out the door and down the street to where I’d parked the car, feeling like a kid just let out of school for summer vacation!

But I’ve never had to face a tax levy. That only happens if you’re delinquent in your taxes, you’ve set up a good-faith payment schedule, and you then fail to make your scheduled payments.

Trust me; you don’t want to do that. It just happened to one of my employees.

No, they won’t throw you in jail. Why not? You can’t PAY them if you’re in jail. They want you to keep your job, and maybe work a second one as well.

But they will obtain a court order to attach ALL or your wages (except, of course, your taxes, Social Security, and voluntary deductions for such things as health insurance and other benefits) and then they’ll let you take home a minimal, fixed amount based on your filing status (single, married) and your number of exemptions. All the rest, however much it may be, they make your employer send to them.

In the case of my employee who files single with just one exemption, he’s allowed to take home a maximum of (get this)... $158 a week! That’s it.

You say you can’t live on that? They don’t care. You say your home will be repossessed, along with your car? They don’t care. The IRS has no compassion.

And guess what? If you take a second job, they’ll levy those wages too. For how long? Until the entire amount you owe, including interest and penalties, is paid.

As this guy’s employer we’d like to be compassionate and fudge for him. But we can’t. It’s a court order, after all. If we knowingly ignore or violate it, I could go to jail. So, sorry Mr. Q. Have fun on $158 a week.

I hope you never have to experience a run-in with the IRS.

Thursday, October 06, 2005
Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide?

(Martha and the Vandellas, 1965. If you care.)

So what do you do if the IRS levies all your income except $158 a week, and you can’t live on that?

Well, most of you out there who read this are married with family responsibilities. That complicates matters, but it also presents the opportunity for your spouse to go to work, or take a second job to make ends meet. The IRS can’t levy your spouse’s earnings, unless he/she were a party to your non-payment.

Of course, you would also do whatever you could to reduce your weekly expenses. Like car-pool if possible, eat cheaply, and generally live as frugally as you could. You might even sell some things at a garage sale, or trade in that high-payment car for an older cheaper model.

But what if...

You were single with no dependents? You were renting a cheap place by the month because after your divorce your spouse took most of what you had (including the kids) and left you with just the debts and child-support payments?

And what it your car was already an old clunker? And you couldn’t get out from under your debts because of the tax levy and the court-ordered child support — there wasn’t even enough left to set up any long-term payment plans?

And what if there were no way you could borrow any more to help consolidate debts because your credit was already shot? And the only thing tying you to this geographic area was your good-paying job with great benefits — except that now the IRS gets all of your paycheck so the job won’t seem good-paying no matter HOW much you make?

Finally, what if you thought you knew how to get some counterfeit (fake) ID, including a Social Security card?

Would you be tempted to drive your old clunker quietly out of state, set yourself up with a new job somewhere else, and drop out of "the system?”

Sure, the new job would be entry level and low paying, but you’d take home more than $158 a week and you wouldn’t have to worry about all those debts. You wouldn’t be able to marry without your past coming back to haunt you, but you’re not interested in that right now; you’re consumed with fear and anxiety over your hopeless financial situation.

I’m not saying it would be easy. But it wouldn’t be all that hard, either.

It sure is tempting to my employee (see yesterday’s post). I’ve tried to counsel him that “run and hide” is NOT the best option. We’ve discussed the company’s Employee Assistance Program and other “safety net” agencies and programs available locally that might help. He seems dubious.

We’ll see if he stays, or just doesn’t show up for work one of these days. Ever again.

Thursday, December 01, 2005
Follow-up (Somewhat Unbelievable)

Remember my posts about one of my employees with a tax levy from the IRS?

No? Well, for a quick review check out this post and this post from back in early October.

Okay, now that you’re up to speed, here’s the follow up. (Initials have been changed to protect confidentiality.)

Mr. Q tried to live on the $158 per week the IRS allowed him to take home. After a month or two, when doing so (living) became obviously impossible, he petitioned for a reduction in the amount of the levy. He called the same “1-800” number 6 times over a few weeks, but each time was connected to a different IRS office. As you might expect, he received no help at all from some, and conflicting information from others.

He pleaded with me for help, but I had a court-ordered levy to deal with. I couldn’t ignore it, nor could I stop sending the levied amount to the IRS without written instructions from the IRS. I sent him back to the IRS to ask them for something in writing that I could use to reduce his levied amount.

This week he came to me in tears (a bit disconcerting — this is not a man prone to them). A lady in an IRS office in California had told him they only expected us to be sending them $590 per month on his behalf, and we were sending almost $1,800. She didn’t understand why. She had an agreement, signed by a Mrs. C, which stated the $590 number.

Just so you’ll know; Mrs. C is our company’s payroll administrator. She works for me. I asked her about this alleged “agreement,” and she produced a copy of the only thing she had ever signed and sent to the IRS. It was VERY CLEARLY not any kind of agreement. It was simply a cover sheet that went along with the first check we sent them on Mr. Q’s behalf. That first check had been for $590.

This was no “agreement...” but if the IRS thought it was... and accepted it as such... AND (most importantly) if somebody changed his account records in their computer system to show that they HAD such an “agreement”... Well, all would be wonderful.

Apparently that’s exactly what happened.

Today Mr. Q, Mrs. C and I called the 1-800 number from my speakerphone so we could all participate. We were on hold forever, but then were connected to a Mr. White. He listened to the dilemma, checked the computer records, agreed that Mr. Q had an agreement with the IRS, and only owed them $590 per month!

When I explained my need for something in writing to authorize me to amend the current levy, Mr. White agreed again. He kept us on hold for a loooooong time. Twice he came back on to ask us a question, and then we were back on hold.

Then he asked for my fax number, and a minute later I had my signed, written authorization. Since we are processing the current pay period’s payroll today, this allowed me to immediately change the levy and spare Mr. Q another two weeks of extreme hardship.

Now, that would be reason enough to celebrate and marvel that the IRS had made such a goof and it actually benefited a taxpayer. But if you’ve gotten this far, read on a bit.

When I thanked Mr. White for all of his empathetic efforts, and told him that he may have literally saved a life today (Mr. Q told me he was wondering why he should go on living), Mr. White said, “Well, the Lord has me here for some reason, I guess. But I’m just doing my job.” (That from an IRS agent!?)

At that, Mr. Q’s tears began to flow again and he stepped out of my office. He had been on his knees last night in desperation, asking God to intervene. Mrs. C got teary as well. She has prayed about this situation, feeling terrible for Mr. Q. But worse, as the payroll administrator SHE had to arrange for that horrible levy every payday. She had also asked God to intervene.

Now get this: The paper she signed that became this “agreement” that the IRS accepted and then cut the levy by two-thirds, contained the $590 figure in error! In figuring up that first check (it was the first time she had ever done this) she exempted some amounts that were not supposed to have been exempted. From that first erroneous check until now, the amount we’ve had to take out of Mr. Q’s biweekly check has been hundreds higher.

You can easily attribute these events to a government snafu or a comedy of IRS errors that worked out okay for once.

I choose to believe that God answers prayer, and has intervened.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig.

Yes, as reported in my last post, we are home. I have now been to the office to work for 5 consecutive days, getting caught up as is inevitable after an absence.

Actually I’ve accomplished very little, because during my absence our I.T. guys converted my office computer from Windows XP to Windows 7. Oh, don’t misunderstand – Windows 7 is fine! The machine is fast, and I like some of the new bells and whistles that do improve the user’s experience compared to both XP and Vista (which I’m running here at home.)

But with a new OS on the machine, they had to re-install all of the programs I use. Mainly Microsoft Office 2007. And they run pretty much the same, but I had to re-establish all the little settings and preferences that I was used to: default filing areas, email handling, location of the preview pane in Outlook, advanced features in Word and Excel that I use, and so on.

I had been using all those features for so long I’d forgotten HOW to set them up! So I spent most of the week just getting my work station back the way I wanted it.

Meanwhile Carol succeeded in getting all the ski paraphernalia washed and stowed away for next year, all the leftover food either frozen or put up in small portions for meals in the coming days and weeks (yes, we took WAY too much food for dinners), and getting the car and house back in order.

OH, Jack K. asked what books we listened to on the trip. The first was No Safe Place by Richard North Patterson, a political thriller about a candidate in the final week of the primary elections for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Extremely well done. In two separate “scenes” Mr. Patterson built the tension to a level that had me gripping the steering wheel in suspense! I highly recommend it.

The other is Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, a murder mystery with sufficient lurid details and twists of plot to keep anyone enthralled.

Both were good escapist fare, and helped the miles pass quickly.

On long driving trips we generally select books based on the greatest number of CDs (longest books). Often we don’t finish a book before arriving home. In those cases we then sit for about an hour each evening listening together in the living room until we get to the end.

Stories of the trip will come, but not tonight.

Oh, and for those of you not familiar with it, I took the title of this post from the nursery rhyme:

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again, jiggedy-jig.

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again, jiggedy-jog.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Cookies Are All Eaten!

Er . . . Not really. But the ski trip is over (darn it!), and everyone is safely home (thank God!), so that chapter has closed.

Except for the stories I can now tell about it.

(Heh heh heh.)

But that'll have to wait for another post. I have just driven from Denver to Victoria on Saturday and Sunday, arriving home today at about 2:00 pm. We have unloaded the filthy car (its bath will come soon), unpacked the many boxes and suitcases it contained, filled the dirty clothes hamper, and stowed much of the gear that does not need to be washed. The rest of it will be cleaned over the next few days and carefully put away until 2011.

I'm tired.

We listened to a recorded book going and for a few hours on the way home, then listened to most of another on the REST of the way home. We will listen to more of it tonight and plan to retire early. Tomorrow it's back to work for me, and laundry/clean-up time for Carol.

Stories to come!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The cookies are all baked!

. . . and the house smells heavenly!

Not to mention that the cookies taste better than the house smells!

Also, we have staged in the den most of the "stuff" we're hauling to Colorado for skiing with the exception of our suitcases with traveling clothes, toiletries, etc. That happens tomorrow night, after which we load up the car with everything except the food in the freezer and the fridge.

Saturday we hit the road before dawn, hoping to make at least Raton, NM or maybe Trinidad, CO. On Super Sunday we'll arrive, unload, get set up, rent our ski equipment, figure out what we forgot to bring and whether or not we need to replace it, welcome family and friends, and get some rest.

Monday we hit the mountain!

More to come.

Monday, February 01, 2010

I'd seen these before, but I still laughed out loud

The Zen of Sarcasm

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.

2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.

3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

4. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

5. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.

6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.

10 . Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day .

11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.
12 . If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

13. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.

14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

17. Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

18. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

19. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

20. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

21. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

22. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.