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My musical response to a bureaucratic mess

At the end of February, 2015, the city of Newton mailed excise tax bills for our cars.    About a week later, my dad died in Florida.  I left town for two weeks, and after I got back it was another week before I could bring myself to deal with the pile of backlogged mail on my desk.   When I did, I found that I was almost two weeks overdue on the excise tax bills.  So I got online and paid them immediately, along with the three or four dollars of interest that had accrued because of the late payment.  I got an email from the City confirming receipt of payment in full of everything that was due; I printed it, filed it, and promptly forgot about it.

Until three months later, when a warrant arrived, demanding payment of these same excise taxes, along with a whole host of fees and penalties.   I called the City, and they said that the warrant had been sent in error; my account was current, and I should just ignore it.  So I did.

Three months later a second bill arrived, also disavowed by the City.   When the third warrant arrived I arranged a conference call between the warrant officers and the City of Newton Treasury staff person, in which everyone on the line agreed that the continued warrants were in error and that they would clear them from the system.   That was in January of this year.   I haven't thought about the incident since.

Until Friday, when a notice arrived from the Massachusetts Registry of Vehicles, saying that they would not be renewing my car registration because......of unpaid excise taxes to the city of Newton.

Now, as anyone who has visited this website knows, I have long been in the habit of dealing with life's vicissitudes by capturing them in song.   This little bureaucratic morass, I think, deserves not just a song, but a music video all its own.  So midlifemomsongs is proud to present:

The Ballad of the Excise Tax Fiasco

Please forward it to your favorite bureaucrat.

 

Multicultural incompetence

I have recently returned from a two-week trip to Spain -- and yes, it was as delightful as it sounds.   There were impossibly charming mountain villages:

Roman ruins by the sea:

Sidewalk vending machines selling uncooked hamburger patties:

And best of all, there was laundry:

Riding shotgun

Yesterday, the younger of my two children passed her road test.  She is now a licensed driver.  Naturally, this is a major rite of passage in her young life:  it means that her mother is no longer legally obligated to ride shotgun.

My daughter is a fine driver (my definition of good driving is paying attention to what is going on around you, while maintaining a healthy humility about the gravity of what it is you're doing every time you get behind the wheel of a car).   I have no qualms about handing over the keys to the car.   But I am really bad at being a parent-passenger.  I'm jumpy and nervous, fully aware how unhelpful this is, and yet totally powerless to stop myself.   I'm sure my daughter will be thrilled to pull out of the driveway and leave me behind.

I confessed this to my own mother yesterday.  "I know," she said.  "My teeth are still clenched from your brother."   The only reason her teeth are not still clenched from teaching me to drive is that by the time I came of age, she'd figured out how to outsource the whole process:  to a lovely man named Mr. Carr (no kidding) who had taught our entire town how to drive in his enormous yellow '72 Ford. 

I told my mom that I'm finally beginning to relax a bit with my older daughter (who, at 23, has owned her car for a year and has driven more or less all over the country).

"That's pretty good," she said.  "I began to relax with you when you were 45."

In any event, here's what I have to say (or rather, sing) about that:

Teaching Susie to Drive (from "Don't Check the Box")

 

Graduation Honors

The Merton Benzinger Prize is awarded to the graduating senior who most exemplifies the indomitable spirit of Merton Benzinger, an exemplary scholar-athlete.   During his four years on the track and field team, Merton broke records in five different events, three of which (the Cookie Toss, the Swing Jump, and the Troll Vault) he had invented himself. Merton was not only a stellar athlete, he was also a straight-A student and more importantly, a straight-A human being.  Merton’s friends used to joke that he was so generous, he’d give his right arm for a buddy.   In his senior year Merton proved them right, when he insisted on becoming an arm donor to help a fellow javelin-thrower who had been sidelined by tendonitis.   Tragically, Merton never regained consciousness after the amputation.    In honor of his memory, we present the Benzinger prize to the student who, in the judgement of our faculty, best captures Merton’s brilliance, athleticism, and profligate generosity with his body parts.

L.A. Yoga

Last week I was away for a full seven days, most of it in downtown Los Angeles.   The trip, alas, threatened to wreak havoc with my yoga practice.

I have been doing a ton of yoga for the past couple of years.  When I'm home, I go to class three, four, occasionally five times a week.   For Women of a Certain Demographic, yoga is the prescribed way to navigate one’s way through a host of life stresses and transitions.   It’s a great alternative to meditation for those of us who are congenitally unable to sit still.  Plus, my back hurts way less than it used to.   And I'm stretching parts of my person that I didn't even know were capable of bending.

But yoga is not about getting into shape!  Or relieving pain!   Or any of that crap!   Yoga is About the Journey.  It is Not About the Destination.

Thing is, it is way easier to keep your attention on the Journey when you are surrounded by other yogis of a similar demographic.  This is my absolute favorite pose -- I could do it all day:

This, too, is a favorite:

Rejection Season

It is college admissions season, and I am the parent of a high school senior.   So we are deeply enmeshed in the daily drama of emails from colleges and Facebook proclamations from friends.   So far, things are going OK in our part of the world – returns are not yet fully in, but thus far our senior has been accepted at two wonderful schools that were at the very top of her list.

Of course, it is not all wine – ahem; grape juice – and roses; along with the acceptances have come a certain number of waitlists and we’re-sorry-to-inform-you’s.   And it is clear that even with plenty of love coming from her favorite places, those rejections still sting.

As a parent, I try to model balanced reactions to the situation.   I remind my daughter that she can only go to one school, after all, and that she has fabulous options; that she should be glad that she is not taking an admissions slot from some other kid at a school she is not likely to select; and that she needs to find her sense of self-worth from within, and not from a tally of schools that do or do not admit her. 

Nah, maturity is overrated.  Here is my typical response to a text from my daughter about a school’s (clearly misguided) decision to turn her down:

A New Dawn

I have been traveling like a crazy person:   just got back from my sixth trip in five weeks, and I leave tomorrow for the seventh.   I've had tons of work, and in between some busted plumbing, a terribly sad memorial service, a colonoscopy...Really, it's been nonstop, and I haven't had a minute to myself.

Until last night, when I was finally alone for the evening.   I went to a lovely yoga class, made myself a late dinner, and settled in with a cup of tea, with time, at last, to sit and contemplate the important things in life.

So naturally, my thoughts turned to Tony Orlando and Dawn.

 

Dad's onion

This is my dad's onion.

My mom bought this onion shortly before my father died.   And about a year later, it is still here.

Whether my dad actually died a year ago depends on who you ask.   He passed away on March 3, 2015.   According to the Hebrew calendar, though, the one year anniversary is tomorrow, which means that it officially starts at sundown tonight, February 21.   Because the Jews, apparently, are not very good at math.

 

Toaster Child

Last week it was my birthday.    So I decided to treat myself to a new toaster.

The old toaster was really a dud.  

Ringtones in the Mourning

Two nights ago I went to a shivah minyan.  In case you don't know, a shivah minyan is an observance at the home of  Jew who has lost an immediate family member, a chance for friends and community members to offer comfort, support, and coffee cake.   This minyan was at the home of a not-particularly-intimate friend from my synagogue, after the passing of his 90-year-old mother.

After our household's end-of-the-day rush I was a bit late to arrive at this gathering, and the prayer service was already underway.  The living room was mobbed with a tight circle of family and friends.  The rabbi encouraged us latecomers to make our way to the few empty chairs at the back of the crowd on the other side of the room -- a journey that involved climbing over a couch-full of the bereaved and stepping over a dozen or so laps and sets of legs..  Looking at the obstacle course and then at my huge purse, I thought the better of it and left my bag in the vestibule, under my coat, before wading my way across to a discreet spot in the rear.

So we sing some songs (“life is like a very narrow bridge, and the important thing is to cross without fear”), and we have some sensitive Marge Piercy readings; and I am musing about mortality, and about the loss of my own father last winter, and about how precious is it for a community to come together to support each other in times of sadness.

And then I remember that my phone is on.  What is worse, I turned the ringer up to full volume while cooking dinner earlier in the evening so that if anyone called, I'd hear it over the noise of frying onions.

In case you’re wondering why I was worried, here’s my current ringtone:

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