Saturday, September 4, 2010

Yesterday I entertained the tax man. We'd had this thing going on, a misunderstanding. A clerical error, really. One of those situations that resulted from me entering some seemingly insignificant, yet erroneous, information on an online form which, according to the IRS is a stone tablet, so we're all going to hell. You get that this has happened before. It was basically a typo gone horribly wrong, except the more I tried to correct the mistake, the more my explanations seemed like the pathological ramblings of a woman about to be carried away on a stretcher, calling out for her 27 cats and Elvis. After months of letters and phone calls, though, the situation came to a head and the wolf was at the door.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I was given a five-minute warning from my husband who called to say that Tax Man was at the greenhouse, needed to speak with me, and was on HIS WAY RIGHT NOW.

If my life were a movie, this is when the hilariously touching music montage would begin, complete with scenes of me frowning in the mirror at my bedraggled bed-head, stowing dirty dishes in the oven,  shoving the children's toys in the closet and leaning up against the door to keep it shut--an act which would later result in an equally hilariously touching avalanche upon Tax Man himself, an archetypal Obstructive Bureaucrat I'd later win over with my Girl Next Door Charm.

Instead, I did what felt right at the time, which was leave the house alone and work on the bod. I took the stairs two-at-a-time and in five minutes, emerged from the bathroom with a full face of makeup. Don't judge me, I applied a Daytime Look.

I made it downstairs in time to greet them, my husband and TM, and I was quite nervous, even though I felt confident we'd be able to put this whole misunderstanding behind us. The first thing I did was offer him a place to sit, along with a glass of strawberry lemonade; then made a comment about the weather, which we could all agree on was positively disgusting. Next, I explained the reason for the kitchen being a little disheveled, how I'd been in the middle of making cookies, etc. And then, because I'm Special, I proceeded to lapse into Oversharing Mode, something I do when I'm either a) nervous or b)afraid I'm going to die, which I guess we could just lump in with the "nervous" category. I don't know why this happens, but I've learned I can't fight it. So, with the three of us in the kitchen, smack dab in the middle of a pause, I asked Mr. Tax if he'd ever seen Stranger Than Fiction, and promised that even though I was baking and he was a Tax Professional, that he shouldn't worry about me trying to win him over since I was already married.

At this point, my husband left the room to engage in some silent screaming in the loo, and the Tax Man looked like he was about to, as one author puts it, burp up a baby chick.

We sat down and dug into a pile of papers from which I was able (miraculously!) to produce the needed paperwork, letting my previous comment go untouched. My better half emerged from the bathroom, on his face a look of resignation. He married an Oversharer who loves to have company, who wants you to have cake and coffee and really anything you want in her house, but who also needs you to know that once, in second grade, she threw up all over her cake, just as she was passing it out to her classmates on her birthday. And speaking of cake, she'll say, I once bought a piece of cake from a man in the shoe department of Goodwill and you know it was just incredible--do you want his number? Poor, sweet husband. But isn't that why you fell in love with me? My human-ness, right out there for the world to see?

In the end, it was so easy: he was really gracious, and understanding, and helpful. He was the polar opposite of who I thought the Tax Man would be: fully human. Before he left, he reassured me that all would be well, and the error would be corrected as early as the next day. Then he shook my hand. I was reminded of the time I learned how certain passport agencies are able to "rush" passports through processing. Aside from the several hundred extra dollars it costs, the upgrade is really just a gesture. "You go like this", the owner of one such shop told me, and she took a file from the bottom of the stack and placed it on the top.  "That's all."

One gesture. After all my paperwork ramblings, this face-to face welcome was all it took. And, of course the fact that I really didn't owe anybody anything. That always helps. Along with a couple coats of mascara. Thank you, Maybelline and thank you, Tax Man.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A couple of months ago, before the big move (westward, ho! except it was north), I went through a little phase I like to call Wasting Time Playing Simulation Games on My iPhone. Yes, I know I could have done some more things with that name creatively, but in my new life, I'm not creative. I'm stodgy, to-the-point, and I wear sensible shoes. Anyway, as I was saying, for many weeks, this spring, I'd gotten into the terrible habit of moonlighting as a game addict. First it was innocent-a little Tap Word to tire my eyes before bed. But then, out of nowhere, I'd added new games--it happened so fast--and before long was hiding under the covers till all hours of the night, playing, of all things, Sally's Salon. It's true: in a little air pocket I'd made so I wouldn't suffocate, I traded in my real-world troubles for the exciting career of virtual hairstylist. I was a sassy redhead with busy scissors, managing my shop, mastering all the trendy cuts, colors, and blow-outs my fussy customers desired. It was intense -- and oddly satisfying --even when tiny little storm-clouds of anger appeared over their virtual heads and they stormed out. "GOSH", I'd say to myself in my air pocket."SO impatient. People like just can't make them happy."

Then, I leveled out. I got so good there was nowhere to go in the game but back to the beginning. And I thought: wow that was a comPLETE waste of time. For a moment, I'd wished I'd been gambling or something. For real money. I wished I'd been engaged in something non-virtual; like sleeping, or reading a novel. Yes, fiction is an escape, but at least the book is real. It's something to hold. All of those extra-comfy salon chairs I bought for my choosy clientele? They're just fragments in space. They're little particles of nothingness in the airwaves. Or something. Clearly, I'm not a web developer.

At the time, though, I must've wanted an escape from not knowing how my actual life was going to unfold. Either that or I just have a super-addictive personality and powering through the game's stages was like powering through the last of the Easter candy. I have to kill it-you know, for everyone's protection.

Anyway, here I am, in my bona-fide life. It's quite a bit different than it was even three months ago. There's less time for cultivating make-believe fun, but maybe, if you've got the time, you'd like to pretend to be me for a while?

First, the outfit. You don't have very many choices, but that's okay because above all else, you want to stay cool. You'll notice that I have chosen my sister-in-law Valerie's swimsuit coverup as my official farming outfit. She let me borrow it on our trip out to Harrisburg and I liked it so much that I have almost never taken it off.  It is very thin-almost wispy. I can tie it in knot to make a kind-of romper, which comes in handy for blackberry picking, but more importantly, this dress affords me countless opportunities to go behind the greenhouse and flash the corn, which is basically my version of Amish air conditioning.  In the footwear department I have chosen big-a** boots, mostly to protect my feet and legs from chiggers and other vermin. I didn't think I'd need to explain the hat, but apparently I might because some little girls (by which I mean teenagers), the other day, said "nice hat" and then snickered. My reply should have been something like, "Call me when your face looks like a leather handbag, maybe then you'll want my hat." But I just said thank you and walked away.

Next, your neighbors. Just like in pretend Farmville, you compare your plot with the one next door to see how you measure up. Mine is seven acres and this guy's is a thousand. You can imagine how I feel about that. INCREDIBLY RELIEVED.  Once, we burned a bunch of brush and dead branches in our trash pile and with the way the wind was blowing, I guess we smoked him out. I took over an apple pie  to make amends. Next time, to avoid any superfluous baking, I'll be sure to lick a finger and hold it in the air to see which way the wind's blowing, along with dispatching a stand-by fire truck in case I'm wrong.

And now: food. The previous owner planted 56 heads of cabbage in this garden, but I'm just not that into saurkraut. We let things get out of control this year, so there's really no structure at all to what used to be fairly tidy rows of edibles. The berries are all still there, but you have to climb through a mosh pit of weeds and overgrown what-nots to get to them. It's like a midwestern safari, or an Amish ghetto. You never know what could be lurking in that stinging nettle! Really, though-they're delicious, nothing at all like what you get in the grocery store. The day I picked these beauties, a huge storm was headed our way, and there I was in the blackberry patch, trying to be Mrs. Tough Guy in my makeshift romper. At one point, as the clouds, noise, and lightning edged closer, I saw my neighbor hop off his tractor and high-tail it inside. I thought rather smugly, that he probably just wanted to watch the Price Is Right--but then a thunderclap erupted with a sound loud enough to beat the band and I ran like heck for the barn, holding on to my hat and crying for my momma like an actual tornado was nipping at my heels. Good thing I didn't drop my basket, because it was a long, hard, rain, and I was bored as all in the barn with nothing else to do but stuff myself silly with garden produce.