Dear Kindly IRS Agent,

Dear Kindly IRS Agent,

I’m writing to present my case for a silent and all-too-common flaw in the U.S. tax code, causing thousands of dollars of misrepresented fiscal reporting and threatening the livelihoods of many a responsible taxpayer: namely, the failure to recognize horses as dependents.

Before you object, allow me to explain.

My horse clearly meets all of the legal tests for dependency.

Dependent Taxpayer Test: All good there. Just because you turned down my offer to pay for my taxes with natural organic fertilizer last year doesn’t change that. I’m still on my own–by the skin of my teeth.

Joint Return Test: He’s definitely unmarried. Despite his overtures to the mares next door.

Citizen or Resident Test: Born in Canada, permanent resident of the U.S. He can confirm–he has no intention of going anywhere on that terrifying monster of a trailer. Check.

Relationship Test: Considering that I pay more for his education than I did for my own, I think we can safely call him my adopted child. If not, see Member of Household.

Age Test: Under age 19: check. Also younger than me, as I have aged prematurely over the course of our relationship.

Residency / Member of Household Test: Mucking, watering, dressing wounds, very occasionally riding, cleaning hooves, soaking feet, repairing blankets…yep, if you tally up all the hours I’ve spent in my second home (a.k.a., “his stall”), he has absolutely lived with me for more than half the year. Just ask my friends and family.

Support Test: I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT HE HAS NOT PROVIDED MORE THAN HALF OF HIS OWN SUPPORT.

[deep breath]

Moving on.

So, you can see, dear kindly IRS agent, the only barrier between me and an accurate representation of my financial straits is that teensy, tiny word “person.”

Wouldn’t you agree that it’s time for an edit?

One Harried (and One Hairy) Citizen,

Jen (and Court Verdict)

P.S. In lieu of editing the tax code, please revisit the aforementioned offer of alternative payment methods. Craptocurrency is the finance of the future. -J

A Harried Citizen Horse-Owner

How COVID Stole Christmas

Very little about COVID is funny. And yet, to quote Georgette Heyer, an author I’ve never read but think was onto something: “In real life tragedy and comedy are so intermingled that when one is most wretched ridiculous things happen to make one laugh in spite of oneself.” I hope you’ll enjoy this bit of humor and wordplay about the crazy season we’re in, and be able to laugh in spite of yourself.

*Politics is inescapable.

**Captions added, although it’s obviously better with my dulcet tones.

***Scientific errors are for the sake of puns, and I do not apologize.

The Magic Resisted

When the muggles are taken from us, all that is left is for the wizards to unite.*

Day 31

Very aware of my surroundings.

Released a baby mandrake from a water orb. I know how the poor little guy feels. We’re all screaming inside.

Fought off a boggart to free Ron.

The magic resisted.

Found myself wanting to hug Ron.

Practiced the recanto meteorolojinx spell.

The magic resisted.

Still raining.

Made potions. All day. I’m stocked.

Ran out of dragon’s blood. There are no delivery slots this week.

Spell energy is depleted.

All the Inns are closed.

It’s official. My potions are better than my cooking. Looks like Baruffio’s Brain Elixir for dinner again.

Had to fight a werewolf and an erkling. They weren’t practicing social distancing.

The magic resisted.

Ran out of erumpent horn again.

Returned a troll music box to Romilda Vane in a no-touch delivery.

Practiced aguamenti charm. Wand movement has gotten sloppy.

The magic resisted.

Walked around the house to unlock a portkey.

77 steps to walk through every room.

I’ll save the back deck for tomorrow.

 

*For those who are not familiar, Wizards Unite is an augmented reality app/game (similar to Pokémon Go) based on the Harry Potter universe. It’s fun. You know, for pandemics.

Parts in Your World

Tomorrow, I say goodbye to my faithful car of 14 years, a 2002 Honda Civic named Sylvie. It seems only fair to commemorate her quirky humor and adventurous spirit in song—her own special anthem. I bet you can sing along.

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Parts in Your World

Look at this plate
Isn’t it neat?
Wouldn’t you think my transmission’s complete?
Wouldn’t you think I’m the car,
The car who has everything?
Look at this well
Treasures untold
How many scratches can one paint job hold?
Lookin’ around here you’d think
(Sure) she’s got everything

I’ve got small dents and sweat stains aplenty
I’ve got oil leaks and cracked glass galore
(You want manual parts?
I’ve got twenty)
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more

I want to be where the salvage yards are
I want to see
Want to see ‘em crushin’
Stackin’ the steel on that
(Whad’ya call it?) oh – press
Rollin’ your wheels you just work too hard
Blocks are required for sittin’, sunnin’
Shreddin’ your tires with the
(What’s that word again?) scrap

Up where they pile
Up where they smash
Up where they stay until they are trash
Careless and free
Wish I could be
Parts in that world

What would I give
If I could live
Outta these driveways?
What would I pay
To spend a day
Recycling?
Betcha as junk
They like your trunk
Bet they don’t fuss about the AC
So we lost keys?
Our exhaust pleads
Ready to rust

And ready to know what the pigeons know,
Ask ‘em my questions
And get some answers
What’s a Tesla, and why is it
(What’s the word?) green?

When’s it my scene?
Wouldn’t I love,
Love to explore that heap up above?
Out for a fee,
Wish I could be
Parts in that world.

RIP, Sylvie. 2002-2019
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Deathly Cute Hallows

1328C126-4285-4F16-883C-AF0C35E102B3Happy Halloween! Today, instead of feverishly assembling a quirky costume, I’m pondering something a little different.

What would it look like to prepare for death on Halloween, in keeping with the holiday’s historical roots (read more)?

Hang with me.

I will admit: the thought first crossed my mind this morning as I puked in an airport bathroom. Thanks, food poisoning. Yay, vacation!

And still, I don’t write this in a spirit of despair, even if it is more serious than my typical fare.

Here are a few things I would like to add to my Halloween traditions,* from surface to deep dive:

Surface—settle debts. Pay off your credit cards. PayPal your team captain for those tournament fees. They haven’t actually forgotten.

Surface—clear away clutter. Imagine someone needed to clean out your house. Do you really need four pairs of black heels? Donate that extra set of children’s classics and toss that dusty box of DVDs. Two words: Christmas. Sweaters.

Deep—reflect on loved ones lost. Take time to remember the funny thing grandpa said last Thanksgiving or what your friend’s mom used to make for birthdays.

Deeper—restore/rebuild/reinforce relationships. Tell your mom thank you for the sacrifices she made. Make amends where needed. Reach out to that friend you haven’t heard from in a while. 

Deepest—do some soul-searching. Whether spiritual or not, examine how your life reflects your values today and how to close those gaps.

522CF61E-CF8F-48BA-BEA3-90053E4BC4E6I’m all for the candy and adorable costumes, don’t get me wrong, but I also think there’s a lot to be gained from occasionally paying attention to our mortality… something beyond the dozen-and-one identical country songs.

*Things NOT on my list: puking in airport bathrooms. May that be a once-in-a-lifetime joy. Please and thank you, amen.

On Both Sides

There’s wisdom on both sides. In a few months there will be wisdom on neither side.

On December 13, well into my thirties, I will be losing the four emblems of wisdom that fought their way out of my gums more than ten years ago.

On the other hand, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and cut them out of your life.

They stopped being considerate of their neighbors, started holding on to little irritants like kale from yesterday’s dinner that stuck beneath the surface and grated on others’ nerves.

Getting to the root of the problem is the real issue.

Ignoring the situation only made it worse. Patching up the cavities that appeared was a temporary solution, and the rot kept coming back, costing more time and effort to remove.

But it’s all face-numbingly stupid.

You’re just trying to eat, drink, and live—why can’t they let you be happy looking at pictures of kittens and babies? Why keep reminding you about (mostly distant) pain?

That was the last straw. Please stop sucking.

Now, in addition to surgery, you have to reverse decades-old thinking about how to heal and what to avoid. Pour salt water on the wounds but don’t spit? Come on.

Does dentistry ever remind you of politics?

No? Just me. Okay. Don’t mind me.

I’ll just be over here with my swollen face, not talking, through the holidays.

And scene.

C5D87964-FC9F-40B2-BBB9-A45AB2A9192DImage source: https://www.albanyoms.com/blog/fun-facts-about-wisdom-teeth/

10 Statements in Error

…at an autumn wedding

  1. “It was summer yesterday, so it will feel like summer at 9pm tomorrow.”
  2. “Taking this dark shortcut to cut off a corner of the highway is a good idea.”
  3. “They won’t mind if we use this back entrance.”
  4. “I already got my ID back from the hotel clerk.”
  5. “I can carry this takeaway cup of coffee on the disc golf course.”
  6. “The best throw is between those two trees.”
  7. “Wedge heels.”
  8. “I can step over this chain in a dress.”
  9. “I should harmonize with this kazoo.”
  10. “Nope, not going to cry.”

xoxo, A & I

Gratuitous

There are a lot of people seeing red these days. Apart from the ugliness in the news, I seem to be allergic to my house—either that, or my frustration with politics is literally beginning to change my eye color. It’s not a fun situation, and it may require me to move yet again if it doesn’t improve.

And yet, this week I scrubbed mold off the back deck.

I raked leaves off the driveway.

I bought a mum for the front porch.

I finally invested in a fine art print for the living room wall.

A few weeks ago, I planted bulbs in the back yard.

Why? If I might not get to stay, aren’t these expenses silly, if not downright wasteful? Moving is expensive, and this summer’s resentfully tall tomatoes were the last plants I intend to stuff in the backseat of my car.

I took that spartan approach for several weeks, but I was pretty miserable, and not just because of my inability to breathe normally.

My breakthrough moment came from a book called Culture Care, by an artist named Makoto Fujimura. He writes that a healthy culture needs things that are inherently gratuitous. I typically use that word only in reference to my own futile (and, let’s be honest, often accidental) layouts on the Ultimate field. Fujimura uses the word gratuity “to speak of intentionality, and even forcefulness” (28) —OK, that part sorta fits— “not necessary to our daily survival” (51)—yup, counter to it, in fact— that “points beyond itself, beyond survival to satisfaction” (52). Hmm.

Beauty, he says, “is expansive, generous, abundant, connected, and expressive.”

(Fine. My layouts are not.)

The point is, I’ve realized that I need the gratuitousness of small, beautiful, impractical things in my life. They may not stop my eyes from itching, keep me from laying out for a disc I have no chance of catching, or prevent me from seeing red when I turn on the news, but they certainly alleviate the blues.

Two-lane Roads Diverged

Driving through Virginia this week, I’m pretty sure I discovered why so many rural Americans voted for President Trump: it’s because they have had to follow two slow-as vehicles on a two-lane road.

One you can handle. Two just make you long for anarchy. Everything feels stagnant, and any kind of change would be welcome.

In that realization, an entire language unraveled before my eyes.

  • “Political correctness” really means the second car out in front, but for whom you would be able to pass the dually with a good burst of speed.
  • “Snowflakes” are really the flimsy tires on your mid-sized sedan, which would pop if you tried to off-road.
  • “The right-wing news media” is the tricksy curve in the road that makes it impossible to pass safely.
  • “Illegal immigration” is the way the wide hubs of a dually truck overlap the left lane and keep you from seeing when it’s safe to pass.

It all makes sense now.

When I hit the highway again, I realized that passing lanes can give you a whole new hope for America.

The threat of dead house plant

Geronimo is a big, beautiful, waxy green spathiphyllum* who is 3.5 feet tall and at least that wide. After some initial hesitation at his sheer size, I have grown to appreciate his presence in my tiny apartment. These plants are known to be easy care, long living, and helpful in purifying the air.

The problem is, I am not good at keeping things alive, and when Geronimo dies, there will be a lot of dead house plant draped over my living room.

That’s one reason I avoid owning plants. Or being angry.

(Was that transition too abrupt? I’ve been told I do that sometimes. Don’t be mad.)

Recently, I was telling a story about something predictable yet frustrating. It was the kind of story that ends when you snort and roll your eyes and shake your head. It usually ends with, “Go figure. Moving on.”

But twenty minutes later, I was pacing around my apartment, restless, still thinking about it. It took me another twenty minutes of pacing to realize that I was angry.

Huh.

I held up the emotion and just studied it, like a creature I hadn’t seen in a long time–like a big gnarly house plant with glitter on its leaves. My thoughts, in order:

“That’s interesting.”

“This is weird.”

“I hate glitter.”

“What now?”

Anger is not unlike Geronimo, the way I see it. Anger may be popular, normal, even healthy in the average American life, but you eventually have to figure out what to do with it when it gets too big or starts to smell.

My typically solution is to avoid admitting anger, but that means I miss out on the healthy role it plays in clearing the air.

That was two weeks ago.

Today, I’m getting used to having a plant in the house. I’m aware of it, but it doesn’t get in the way as much as I thought it might. I keep an eye out for rotting leaves, and I might have to prune it back at some point, but it adds a pop of color to an otherwise sparse decorating scheme.

And I’m glad to have a bit of anger in my life now and then. It doesn’t get in the way as much as I think it will. I keep an eye out for self-destructive anger, and I might have to apologize for it now and then, but it keeps me honest, and I’m definitely glad it’s less than 3.5 feet tall.

Geronimo, just stay away from the glitter, and I think we’ll be fine.

The end.

*And yes, I recognize the irony of personifying anger as a peace lily.