Tag Archives: Molly Rossiter

“All representatives are busy helping other customers. Please remain on the line …”

dT8xa6GTeIt really shouldn’t be so hard to give the Internal Revenue Service my money.

I mean, if they don’t want it, I’m more than happy to hold onto it. But I know they do want it, and if I don’t move heaven and earth to get it to them I have no doubt they’ll move a few firewalls from my bank account to take it themselves.

Let me explain first by saying this: I am not a tax evader. I pay taxes with every paycheck – even a little more than is required – and file my taxes diligently before April 15 every year. Every. Year.

What I am, though, is a single mom (even though the “kids” are now young adults and one lives on his own) living on a single person’s budget (child support ended when The Youngest turned 18, college or no) and someone who can generally find a place to put any extra income that comes my way.

That said, in 2009, 2010 and 2011 I ghost-wrote or co-wrote three books, and received healthy advances for each of them. Those checks were very nice to get, especially since I still had two teenagers in high school for the first two of those years. Those checks helped with school expenses, clothing, car expenses as the kids got older, and just bills in general.

They were very, very nice to get.

What those checks didn’t do was pay their own taxes. There were no taxes taken out of them (think “contract worker”) and I failed to set anything aside. With any of them.

To say I took a beating when it came time to file taxes was an understatement.

I set up a payment plan the first year, and it was so easy that when I forgot/neglected to set anything aside with the second book, I extended my plan. By the third book extending the plan just seemed like the right thing to do.

The payment plan wasn’t a big deal, just a set amount paid every month. The IRS sends me a ticket stub, I send it back with a check. Easy peasy.

Easy, that is, until you’re late. The IRS doesn’t like you to be late.

What happens when you’re late – even a day late, I’ve since learned – is that you only get so many of those before the IRS determines you’re in default. When you’re in default, they stop sending you the payment tickets. When they stop sending you the payment tickets, you have no real address to forward your payment, and you can’t go online to set up a payment plan or pay on your existing plan because, well, you’re in default.

So … I was in default. And I didn’t want to be. I wanted to pay the IRS the money I owed, and I really, really, REALLY didn’t want them just taking it out of my paycheck or my bank account.

I scoured the website for a contact number. I called the local office only to be told, via message, that that office doesn’t offer live telephone help. I scoured the website again. And again. Finally I found a toll-free number (well, it’s the IRS, so I’m sure it’s only kind of free) and called. After going through six (or was it seven?) prompts to get me to where I needed to be, I received a message telling me my expected wait time is “15 to 30 minutes.”

Yeah. Right. This is the federal government, after all.

A mere 57 minutes later, I heard a click on the other end of my phone (“Oh, God, no, please don’t disconnect!”) and then a ringing. Then Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ, came on the line to see what he could do to help.

“I just want to give you money, but I don’t know how to do it,” I said.

I highly doubt he gets many of those calls.

In less than 20 minutes, Brian or Mike or Steve, Badge No. XYZ had me set up with an online payment plan, an extended due date and a free pass for October (“… although you’re certainly welcome to make any kind of payment you want in October, if you’d like.”).

It really shouldn’t be that hard to give the IRS my money …

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The thing about breakups …

Note: This is not a quest for sympathy or well-wishes. I greatly appreciate your thoughts, but one of the reasons I put this post off for so long is because I made it through the hard part. – Molly

Let’s face it, breakups suck. No matter how amicable, how cordial or how mutual they are, they still suck. Injured heart

Sometimes, as with my recent breakup, the more amicable they are, the more they suck. Rather than having that anger/distrust/rejection/fury that comes with a cheat or a liar, you have … nothing. Hurt and sadness. As we were putting an end to our 2 1/2-year relationship as a couple, we were still telling each other how much we loved each other. We made the obligatory “let’s be friends” promise, but unlike most times those words are spoken, I think we actually meant it. We severed our romantic ties a little more than two weeks ago, but we still chat often.

That’s probably because we really are friends. In the 29 months that we were together, there were no fights – no angry words, no yelling, no arguments. There was one topic on which we disagreed, but conversation – although tears were involved – was just that: conversation. What we did do in that time frame was build a great friendship.

Still, the breakup – like any – still sucks.

Breakups suck because of unfulfilled plans. There are so many little things we were going to do – go to the Quad Cities to see a ball game, go to his favorite breakfast joint before it closed, have the first Christmas in his new place, get all the kids together on Christmas Day to see the final installment of “The Hobbit.” Then there are the bigger things: next summer’s vacation (sadly, the breakup came just two weeks after we had a fabulous vacation in Denver); a “someday” trip to Ireland; trips out east and out west. Many of those I can still do on my own, if I want, and some of them I will. Most, though, I probably won’t.

Breakups suck because, as adults, they’re not just between two people. Two whole families broke up. My daughter created close bonds with his daughters and their children. My son became good friends with the guys in his family. We met and loved each others’ friends. I felt like we were one big family – I loved his kids and grandkids and enjoyed all the time we spent with them. I had a great relationship with his mother, and my parents loved him like they never loved anyone else I’d been with.

Breakups suck because, eventually, you begin to see the holes, the places that the relationship wasn’t as “perfect” as you thought it was. I knew we weren’t perfect, but I honestly thought we’d be riding off into the sunset together.

And breakups suck because the landscape has forever changed. Where once there may have been a clean slate, there is now a “record.” A broken heart mars the playing field.

But breakups are also a time of growth. I don’t regret having given him that chunk of my life – despite the one issue that persisted, it was a very joyous time of my life, where I felt loved and cared for and comfortable. Incredible new people are now a part of my life, in some big or small way, because of him. I learned things and went places I’d never known before. And I pushed myself because of him – not because he asked me to, but because I wanted to be a better person for him, and for me.

And for those things, I will always be grateful.

* * *

Note: Snark will return with the next post. I promise.

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Still recovering from vacation

20140803_145557I have a vacation hangover.

True, getting away for a week to the beauty of the Rockies and the “newness” of Denver (my first visit to the city that lasted longer than a 2-hour airport layover) was, literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air. I needed that vacation, more than I even realized. It had been six years since my last vacation, and that was a whirlwind weekend in Phoenix where I stayed with a friend/cousin. There have been overnight getaways but nothing like this, where I actually had the opportunity to unpack things and leave them for several days before rounding them up again.

We’ve been back for a little more than a week now and I still haven’t gotten this blog written or posted. When I’m not at work, sleep always seems to get in the way.

But here it is – a bit more on the wonderful trip to Denver.

Our first full day in Colorado we went to the mountains, driving to Mount Evans. Although I’d spent seven years in Alaska growing up – Dad’s uncle helped built the Alcan Highway and told great stories to his nieces and nephews, making my dad determined to live there one day – I still found myself caught up in the peace and the beauty of everything the mountains had to offer.

Young mountain sheep

Young longhorn sheep

We drove to the summit of Mount Evans – 14 miles up (the highest paved road in North America, according to the website) and 14,000 feet above sea level. On our way we had to stop for young longhorn sheep, and a mountain goat (yes, there’s a difference) met us at the top.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

The drive up was interesting: I remember once we left Alaska my dad would tell stories of the mountain roads we had to take to get to our hiking destinations – long, winding roads barely wide enough for two vehicles, with steep mountain going up on one side and going straight down on the other.

I didn’t remember the roads being as treacherous as he made them seem, and I do my dad is a bit of a storyteller (blarney runs deep in our blood), so I just dismissed it at a bit of an exaggeration.

Then we drove up to the summit parking lot at Mount Evans. Mountains straight up on one side, straight down on the other, and despite the steady speed of about 25 mph, there were many curves on which we slowed down considerably.

Ummm ... don't look down.

Ummm … don’t look down.

I drove us up, Mark (thankfully) drove us down.

Once we got to the top, I found myself experiencing a bit of altitude sickness. I got a little dizzy and had a hard time drawing a deep breath at first. My speech was slurred, almost like I was drunk, and I just fell a little … off. I sat down and took some breaths and started to feel better – until I realized how cold I was. The outside temperature at the base of the mountain was 85 degrees; at the peak, it was 50.

Our second full day, Monday, was a trip to the Denver Zoo. It was hot and there was little breeze, so many of the big animals weren’t out. Mondays must also be the day zoo staff clean the cages, so to speak, so in some exhibits we saw humans instead of the lions or bears we were hoping to see.

The last night in Denver, Tuesday, included a Rockies-Cubs game with club level seats Mark’s daughter and son-in-law had won at an auction. There were a couple of firsts that night: I’d never seen the Cubs play live, and I’ve never sat in club level seating in a baseball stadium.

One of the things that was most striking about our vacation was that we traveled nearly 800 miles from home to learn just what a small world it really is. Either Mark or Nate, his son-in-law, was almost always in some kind of Hawkeye gear and that drew the attention of many people in our hotel and in the places we visited – not because they were interested in learning more about our state but because they were from our state. There were at least a half-dozen families from Iowa staying in our hotel at the same time we were there, most of them from Eastern Iowa. One of the ushers was originally from West Branch and still has family there. The restaurant we went to on game day, Stadium Club, was first opened in Iowa City, and a customer at a nearby table grew up in Iowa and moved to Denver just five years ago. Even the owners of the marijuana shop we visited (we were in Colorado where it’s legal – the curious cat in me had to go in just to see what it was like) were from Iowa – one was a University of Iowa business school graduate.

It’s always a nice reminder that, no matter how far you travel, you’re never too far from home.

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What kind of writer doesn’t take a laptop – or even paper – on vacation??

20140803_111838I really wish I was back in the mountains.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be home. Home is, after all, where the heart is. And where my dogs are. And my job, my bank, my son (since he didn’t go with us) and the rest of the family.

But the mountains … oh, those beautiful mountains.

We – my daughter, boyfriend, and his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter – went for a five-day vacation in Colorado (well, four in Colorado, one in Nebraska) and it was heavenly. Not only because it was the first real “vacation” I’ve had in many years, but because of the locale, the scenery, the company and just the time away.

But those mountains … there was just something magical there.

We spent one entire day leaving Denver proper and heading out to the mountain range – first to Red Rocks Amphitheater (a must see if you head that way) then to the summit of Mount Evans. I spent several years growing up in Alaska, so I’m no stranger to the beauty a mountain view provides – but it’s been 30+ years since we left and I’ve not been up-close and personal with the mountains since.

I had been in the mountain air for mere minutes when I first thought, “I should have brought my computer. I should be blogging this.” Then we climbed to the amphitheater seating at Red Rocks and saw people running the trail, running the seats, doing yoga, jumping from bench to bench doing squat jumps – even football players running the stairs carrying a teammate on their backs. Then came the sound checks for a concert later that evening. Again – “I should be blogging this.”

It was a common theme: The young longhorn sheep that made us stop on our ascent to the summit of Mount Evans. The dizziness I felt from being up 14,000 feet above sea level. The mountain goat that greeted us at the peak. The sometimes-scary 14-mile drive up the mountain. The zoo. The Cubs game (my first-ever time seeing the Cubs live and it was in Denver!). Even the trip to the “weed store” just to say I did.

At one point Mark even said out loud just what I’d been thinking: “What a great place for a writer – sit up in the mountains, write a chapter and then go pour a cup of coffee to get ready for the next.”

Yep.

I couldn't resist getting out of the car and joining them on the hillside - just to see if they'd let me. They did!

I couldn’t resist getting out of the car and joining them on the hillside – just to see if they’d let me. They did!

The blog ideas were flooding my brain, just waiting to get out, and I didn’t even bring a notebook to write them down the old-fashioned way. I went to three different convenience stores to see if they had a small notebook – nope. Not a one.

Once we left Denver and stayed overnight in a hotel in Lincoln, Neb. – we were going to visit the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland the next day – the lady at the front desk loaned me a notebook.

About 15 minutes later, Mark found a notebook in the trunk of my car, under all of the suitcases. Figures.

Now I’m home and am thankful to that lady at the hotel in Lincoln – as much as the blog ideas were flooding my brain in the mountain air, they seem to have dissipated back in the humidity of Iowa. That notebook allowed me to write some of the highlights, so I can still get that one written. Kind of.

But I guarantee it would have been better if I’d had my laptop with me when the thoughts were fresh.

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August 9, 2014 · 6:01 pm

Superman’s got nothing on ‘my girls’

Superman may be the Man of Steel, able to leap tall buildings, blah blah blah … But when it comes to spreading strength and giving power, nothing compares to a woman and her besties.

I’m always amazed at how strong I feel when I’ve spent some time with any of my best friends. I don’t consider myself a “weak” person overall, but like anyone else I have my weak moments – those time when I doubt myself, don’t think I’m good enough for this or that or generally just feel insecure. Whether we admit it or not, we all have those moments.

(Don't judge me - I'm a writer, not an artist.)

(Don’t judge me – I’m a writer, not an artist.)

And sometimes we get caught up in those moments. Sometimes it seems there are more of those moments than any other kind of moments. No matter how much we know we have it good – I’ve got amazing kids, a wonderful extended family, am seeing a great man, have a great job and am, for the most part, really, really happy – those moments can take over and make us feel weak and insignificant.

But just like our body reacts when we’re thirsty or hungry by going after food and drink, my “being” tends to reach out to those I know can fill me with strength, just by being by my side.

This winter gave me a lot of those “weak” moments. I started physical therapy last fall for IT Band Syndrome in my right leg, followed that up with wearing a brace on my right knee because ITBS had pulled my kneecap off-center, then had my right foot in a boot. Christmas just didn’t feel “Christmas-y” enough, and then the snow just kept coming and coming and coming … it seemed winter would never end.

Then about three weeks ago I reached out to one of my girls. A week later, I had dinner with another one on a Friday and went and spent time with yet another that Sunday. The following weekend I met another one at her daughter’s softball tournament, and  later that week I had dinner with yet another one. Three weeks, five of my besties.

There was some chatter about things that might be going wrong in different parts of our lives, but really about 95 percent of the conversation – if not more – was just about life. Kids, work, catching up, laughing (lots and lots of laughing) and promises to do this more often.

And then something happened. Those “moments” began to disappear. The self-doubt went away, and took a heaping handful of insecurity with it. I felt stronger. More confident. Ready to take on the world.

(OK, I meant that kind of not-so-literally, so my health scare and my daughter’s pneumonia almost knocked me off my foundation, but I recovered quickly!)

The point is, my girls make me stronger. Not by saying or doing anything special – just by being “my girls.” Knowing I have that base – and I’m assuming each of them has their own base, as well – and reconnecting to that base does more for me than any energy drink or hour at the gym ever could.

 

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I saw it on Facebook …

Anyone who knows me at all knows my life is pretty much an open book. Ask me a question and chances are pretty good I’ll answer it, no matter how personal or private the subject. (Note I said, “… chances are pretty good.” There are some things I still hold sacred.)

Social media has made it even easier to share things – or harder to keep things to myself, however you want to look at it. Follow me on Facebook for just a few days and you’re going to know more about me than you may have ever wanted to know. I went to a cousin’s birthday party a few years ago and, at separate times, her mother, brother and father all commented about how all of Facebook would know what was happening at the party because I was there.

This was my view for the nearly seven hours I was hooked up to a heart monitor and on oxygen at UI Hospitals and Clinics earlier this week.

This was my view for the nearly seven hours I was hooked up to a heart monitor and on oxygen at UI Hospitals and Clinics earlier this week.

Facebook has made it easier to share.

For all it’s benefits, though, there are some downsides to social media, too. While I personally think it’s great to share some things – including an endless supply of snark and sarcasm – with my friends and family, there are some things that have always been private, and always will be. If I have a personal disagreement with someone I care about, you won’t know about it by reading my Facebook timeline. I won’t make vague posts about my unhappiness with someone close to me, or use Facebook as my personal aresenal to call names to or belittle any of my friends.

There are some things, however, where the line is kind of blurred – more specifically, health issues. Don’t get me wrong, I have no trouble posting when I do something stupid that results in a doctor’s appointment or a splint or a rehab boot – like breaking my pinky toe while putting on my pajamas, or hurting my knee when Mia the Newfoundland head-butted me to sway me in her direction. I post about my migraines, the flu, stupid head colds and achy bones.

But the big stuff? How do you handle that? The kind of stuff where you know it’s serious, you know there are people who should know what’s going on, but you don’t want to post it on Facebook and look like you’re trying to get attention. The I-went-to-the-hospital kind of stuff? It’s not that I wouldn’t post it – God knows I would – but when do you put it up for public consumption?

I faced this very issue earlier this week when I went to the emergency room following a “minor cardiac event.” We’re still not sure what it ended up being, but emergency room doctors told me I had all the indications of a minor attack, but a CT scan of my heart showed no damage and no clogged arteries.

The “event” happened while I was at work – and luck would have it that I work in the best hospital in the area. I was sitting at my desk working – nothing stressful, just writing, because that’s what I do, I write. Suddenly I had this searing pain under my left breast, kind of like that side ache we used to get as kids when we’d run too much or too fast or for too long – kind of like that, but worse, and higher. It lasted for a good 8-10 minutes before it even started to subside. I tried doubling over, bending to the side, even standing up to make the pain go away and nothing worked. Once it finally did stop I was left with a pain in the back of my neck and in my left jaw.

The jaw pain was what stopped the 24-hour nurse from asking questions. Once I got to that, she told me to head to the ER immediately. So I did. When you go to the ER with complaints of chest pain, you get to go to the front of the line. No waiting in the waiting room, you get an EKG and then sent to a room. Not long into my stay they told me I’d be staying overnight for observation (that changed with the clean CT scan, but not until right at the last minute).

My first thoughts were to wait and see how everything came out before I told anyone, but I was already texting Mark about regular “stuff” when I got sent to a room, so I shot him an, “Oh, by the way, I’m in the ER getting my heart checked out” text. Classy, I know.

The more I chatted with Mark, the more I knew there were some people who had to know where I was. My kids. My parents. My list grew, but then the doubt started setting in: Do I tell others now, while I’m still here, or wait until I go home? Or at least until I get out of the ER and up to the room I thought I was going to be in? Do I post it on Facebook? No, I know I’d catch holy hell from quite a few people if that’s where they first heard about it. If I tell people now, will it seem odd, like I’m an attention-seeker, or do I tell them now because they’ll want to know? Who do I tell immediately, and who finds out on social media?

I don’t know that I know the right answer even now. There were a handful of people who knew I was in the hospital on Monday, but most everyone found out later. Today, in fact, in an email I sent to some letting them know what happened so they’d hear it from me before reading about it in this blog or on Facebook.

So if you’re offended because you’re just hearing about this now, and this way, I’m sorry. I guess I’m still learning.

(The heart issue came out OK, no overnight stay – just orders to follow up and reduce stress. Ha! Yeah, right …)

 

 

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I think you’ve got the wrong number …

When your cell phone number spells out something profane, chances are pretty good you’re going to get a few prank calls.

Trust me on this – I speak from experience.

I was selling real estate 10-11 years ago, with a business partner/boyfriend, when we both switched cell phone carriers and received new numbers. Neither of us thought anything of our numbers until we saw other Realtors who had personalized their phone numbers: 319-SELL-IOWA or 319-SHE-SELLS. Something like that.

BoyWrongNumber001We quick pulled out our phones and looked at the number pad to see what our own numbers spelled out. Mark #1 (or more commonly, “Bad Mark,” because my new boyfriend is also a Mark) shook his head, his numbers spelled out gibberish. I looked at my own numbers a bit, then raised my head, grinned a little, and said, “Ah, shit.”

He thought I meant my numbers spelled gibberish, too.

Actually, they spell out, “AH_-SHIT.”

Not exactly the kind of thing you want on your business card. It didn’t work so well when I stopped selling real estate and became the faith and values reporter at The Gazette in Cedar Rapids. You don’t really want to hand a card to a minister with a shortcut like that.

It wasn’t long after I got the new number that I started getting prank phone calls, usually from someone drunk, most often between 1 and 3 a.m. “Hey, do you know you’re shit?” “Awwww, shit.” “Can I have your number? I want shit.”

And so it went. I even had one co-worker ask me to let him know if I ever wanted to change my number – he wanted to take it over.

I never did get rid of the number; I guess it just got too easy to tell people if they wanted to remember my number, there was a really easy way. And somehow, the prank calls stopped. Apparently it became less funny to be drunk and look at your phone to see what kind of obscene telephone numbers were out there, and who really had them.

Now with the popularity of texting, the wrong numbers are much more humorous – and maybe a little frightening.

A few months ago I received a text from a man telling me he’d changed his mind, he was willing to give it a shot and could I meet him somewhere to deliver the package. Me being me, I texted him back that he’d gotten the wrong number but “good luck with the package.”

He then felt the need to tell me he had changed his mind on giving up women and that the package was a new sex toy designed for men who didn’t like women. But hey, “while I’ve got you, you could try to help me change my mind again.”

Um … no.

Then there was rant I received a few days ago from a guy who swore we’d been in a heated argument the night before.

“No,” I texted back, “you’ve got the wrong number.”

“No, I don’t. Quit being an ass.”

He then sent me three screen shots of the heated text argument he’d been in – complete with the other phone number, the one that was close to mine, but wasn’t mine.

I pointed that out to him.

“Oh, I have the wrong number.”

“Ya think?”

It may be time to consider a new number …

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