Elsewhere

I have a guest post up at Work It, Mom.  It’s all about potty training when your kid is in daycare.  Please go check it out and leave me a comment or 2!

Also, today is my older sister’s birthday.  She gets to spend it on vacation in Hilton Head – lucky girl.  Happy Birthday, Jill!!

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Make Me a Match

I’ve mentioned before that M attends a Jewish-based preschool/daycare although we are not Jewish.  We made this choice for several reasons and she has flourished since she started there almost 2 years ago. 

One of the fantasic side-effects of this choice is that Mark and I are learning a lot about the Jewish faith and culture.  This year we studied up on Hanukkah and lit the candles on the Menorah M made at school.  Last year was my first experince of Purim and we also helped her class decorate their Sukkot.  M has taught us parts of their weekly classroom Shabbat ritual. 

More recently we’ve noticed that M checks out food lables to see if the product is Kosher.  Her school is not fully Kosher but many of the children who attend are, and any class snacks must be marked as such.  Apparently she has picked up on what to look for!

This week her class has been cleaning their room in preperation of Passover.  They have been talking about the story and rituals of the holiday and having practice Seders before the school-wide Seder which was held yesterday. 

A couple of days ago I got an email from daycare while I was at work.  They wanted to share a photo of M and a classmate as they practiced for Passover:

My first thought, after a loud “awww!” escaped from my lips was of Tzeitel and Motel in Fiddler on the Roof

I’m pretty sure there is a Yenta nearby!

On Privilege & Health

This post has been rattling around in my head for days, keeping me up at night.  It took a Canadian to give me the courage to finally put it all in writing.

One year of debate. Over 200 of their amendments added to the bill. 1,003 changes overall. And yet the GOP still cries that this bill was “shoved down their throats” or “pushed through too quickly”. Shouts of “You Lie!” and “Baby Killer” during speeches. 10 states spent tax-payer money in preparation of suing the government before the bill passed into law even though almost all Constitutional lawyers have said those lawsuits will fail.

Like it or not, this is how our government works, and for 8 years half of the country sat, feeling as hopeless as you do now, watching our government get bigger and bigger while we felt our civil liberties were whittled away. I understand where you are coming from, I really do.  But grow up already. The pendulum swings back and forth, so the GOP will get its chance to go back to eroding basic liberties, making the rich richer and messing with the economy again in the future.

Yes, I am liberal; an independent liberal. I vote on issues and platforms, not party…shocking, I know. I research, I think, I question. And I believe my grandfather, a lifetime politician and proud member of the GOP, would be ashamed of what is said and done in the name of his party today.

No, I am not a church-goer. But, I was raised in a conservative, politically-active, church-going family so I have been on both sides of the aisle. I lived in great neighborhoods, attended fantastic public schools, and never had a need go unmet. As far as I know, my parents never lived in abject fear that a slip, accident or unwelcome diagnosis would derail their children’s future.

As an adult I now realize that I was born armed to the teeth with privilege. Wealth, even moderate wealth, brings privilege in the US. Yes, my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents worked very, very hard to provide the next generation with a boost up the ladder of life. Not everyone starts out on the same rung and no matter how hard they work they might not ever reach a comfortable lifestyle. And for all of you shaking your fists and yelling “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps!” I shake and yell back “bullshit! Someone, somewhere gave you a boost along the way”. I am willing to give up a tiny little bit of my privilege to give someone else a boost.

And for all the name calling being thrown around: “Socialism”, “Communism”, “Totalitarian Regime” – I think people need to get out their dictionaries and return to civics class.

We are a long, long way from joining the rest of the industrialized world with universal health care. And if you look at the law itself, and not listen to all the talking heads, you will realize that this law does little to healthcare itself and is aimed mostly at regulating the insurance industry. NOTHING in this law as far as I can tell (other then the abortion language, but that’s a whole other post) specifically directs what a doctor can and cannot do. Don’t worry – insurance companies already do that for you. It doesn’t say who you can see or what for.

What it does is make it accessible and affordable for everyone to have health insurance so that those of us with coverage already will pay less for those who don’t. Because in case you didn’t know it, every hospital has a huge budget set aside for “uncompensated care” and those who have insurance or can afford to pay out of pocket are the ones who feed that budget. More insured = less uncompensated care *should*= less cost for all.

And if you don’t want to opt in? Fine, pay you share into the system and then do your own thing (just like we all do for education).

This law is not perfect. It’s not complete. But it’s a step in the right direction. Sure, I would love it if we lived in a world where “helping each other out when things go wrong because we’re human and we’re all in this together” was the norm. But we don’t so our government is giving us a collective shove in that direction. We live in a big, scary world where one second you’re a young, healthy person in an aerobics class and the next you are not. But now, there is hope that if you survive a crazy incident you won’t be financially ruined as well.

I Hate Rita

The county in which I live is part of a Regional Income Tax Authority (RITA).  This is a collective regional tax that pays for shared services (such as mass transit) but also is a collection agency for municipalities who don’t have the budget/staff to have their own City Tax Office. RITA collects the city income taxes and distributes them back to the city in which you live.  I have no problem at all paying my taxes but this system is insane and I just don’t understand it.

We moved in to the system in December of 2007 and had no idea about RITA.  I just assumed that like at all my previous employers the appropriate local income taxes were taken out of my check.  Fast forward to early 2009 when we got a summons to appear at RITA for back taxes missing from 2007.  Apparently because the county has so many cities and each city has a different tax liability, most large employers don’t take RITA taxes out of your check and leave the responsibility up to you.  We were told this was common. Plus, you pay taxes not only for the city in which you live but the city in which you work.  That means we owed taxes for 3 different cities and what you pay in one city will impact what you owe in another.

We gathered up all the needed paperwork and arrived at the scheduled time.  A RITA representative went over everything, explained what we owed for the 2 ½ weeks we lived here in 2007 and we wrote a check for less then $100.  She said it was all we owed; we were now current and paid in full.  She then told us that she set everything up in the system and we would get quarterly reminders from then on and that since the taxes were paid in arrears all the funds paid in 2009 would be for the 2008 tax year.  When we got them we promptly paid them – each of the bills was only a few hundred dollars. 

Fast forward again to early 2010 when we again receive a summons to appear at RITA for back taxes.  This time I was pissed off – we went last year! We paid every bill they sent! What the heck did we do wrong now? So several weeks ago we both took the morning off work and went through the motions again.  This time, the RITA employee said we owed thousands in back taxes for all of 2008 and 2009.  I showed her all the paperwork from the previous meeting, told her we paid all the bills we received and didn’t understand why we owed so much more.  She plodded away on her lap top, compared my paperwork to her screen and finally told us that the woman who helped us in the previous year entered horribly flawed information which meant that we only paid a tiny fraction of what we really owed.  And to make matters worse, the previous woman flat out lied when she told us the taxes were paid in arrears – they are actually paid for the current year! And we had no recourse…after all it’s our responsibility to know what we owe …and even though their own employee had done the calculations and signed off on them we were left to pay the owed amount (fine) plus interest and a penalty (not fine, but we had no choice).  

So, at the suggestion of this new woman, we wrote a modest check that day then took the paperwork she had helped us fill out and went home register for their on-line reminder and payment services.  She said that when we logged on the full amount we owed would show up and we could pay it on-line.  We could also sign up for email reminders for upcoming quarterly payments since it turns out we were only sent 2 reminders the previous year (a “quirk in the system” we were told).  She suggested we wait a few days so the small payment we made would be deducted from the amount owed, then to pay the full balance shown online and we would be up to date.

We did just that and the numbers online matched the paperwork she gave us.  We paid the full balance and, per her oral and written directions, thought we were finally current on payments for all of 2008, 09 and the 1st quarter of 2010 and would receive the next reminder for 2010 taxes by early March.  Last week we got our reminder, which again says we owe well over a thousand dollars, including new interest and penalties for unpaid 2008 taxes.  WHISKEY. TANGO. FOXTROT?!

I don’t get it.  I don’t understand this system at all.  I understand taxes – I do my own state and federal taxes every year.  But this? I just don’t understand.