Travel – Know Before You Go

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​It may be the aspect of traveling with children, but I have always found that planning for a vacation is practically a full time job, and if you already have a full time job, whether that’s out of the house or in the house, it’s even worse. I have also found that it doesn’t matter if the vacation is a weekend, a long weekend, or a week long holiday. It still takes the same amount of work for the preparation of a short time away or a long rest.

Some items may seem obvious, but we’ve all gotten halfway to our destination and wondered about leaving the stove on, and that thought continues over the entire course of the vacation regardless of how many times we absolutely, positively know that we turned off the oven. One way my family avoids this is that we get our coffee and morning drinks out of the house. NO COOKING! No oven, no stove top, no toaster, no coffee maker. No argument.

Our last three vacations have been to foreign countries (twice to Canada and once to the United Kingdom) and those take on slightly more planning prior to leaving. I’m including those details to eliminate missing items. As you read this (and other writings that I have on traveling), you’ll weed out what you don’t need or will not use, and hopefully you’ll comment on things that you did need that I haven’t included. I love the community we have here online so we can collaborate and advise each other. We are in a wonderful time, and we should embrace to positive aspects of it. This networking and sharing is one of those positive things.

We have three children and the youngest are teenagers. While they are certainly [th] more independent [th] and actually better able to help with packing than they were during their elementary years and younger, it is almost more work to get them ready for a vacation. They never think they need as much as we parents think they’ll need…like underwear and socks. Some people do laundry on vacation; I do not. I prefer my vacations to be vacations.

Where to start?

1. The first thing is to use timers for lights so they go on. Many of them can be set to go on and off randomly. Another option is to set one to turn one off in one room and then turn the light on in another room, so you’re showing movement as well as the lights aren’t in a set pattern.

2. Hold your mail. Do not let your mail pile up on your front porch or in the mailbox. You could have your neighbor collect it for you or you can go to your local post office or set it up online to stop your mail until you return. They will deliver it on the day you request. Go to usps.com, click on Quick Tools, and then click Hold Mail.

3. Same for your newspaper delivery.

4. Unplug your toaster oven and your other electronics that aren’t quite off when they’re “off”. Some of those items are computers, wifi routers, remote control televisions (who doesn’t have these?), chargers that are not being used. Mentally walk through your house and figure out which plugs need to be unplugged.

5. Set your thermostat higher. We usually set it for 79/80F in the summer and lower it to 65F in the winter.

6. Do you have pets? Will they be coming with you? Will you be kennelling them?

7. I go to Starbucks on a regular basis, and have their card. Will I be able to use it in Canada? I couldn’t use it in the UK, so I left it home. A small thing, but I still need to find out.

8. Will you be driving? Even in the UK, we rented a car and drove. Will we be using the rental company’s insurance or your own? We couldn’t use our own in the UK, but we can use it driving in Canada, including using a rental car. However, we did need a special insurance identification card for use in Canada (Canada Non-Resident Inter-Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card). This can be obtained from your insurance company.
9. Cell phone service. The last time we went to Canada (2015), we were in Niagara Falls and for the most part, our phone calls and texts bounced off the Buffalo cell towers so we didn’t pay roaming charges. Now, for the most part, roaming charges don’t exist in North America; at least with Verizon Wireless, Canada and Mexico are included in our regular wireless plan, so no roaming, no long distance, no fees. Check with your carrier.

10. Call your bank about using your credit and debit cards. You will be able to use them, but you’ll have to notify most banks so they don’t flag your cards as stolen. This is important even if you don’t leave the country. If you live in New York, and you’re visiting San Francisco, your card will be flagged and if it’s the weekend it will take time to sort out. There may also be usage fees. Again, check with your bank.

11. Currency Exchanges can be done at airports, most large banks, and AAA offices. Often, however, they need to be ordered and will take a few days to receive. There are more than likely fees.

Harriet Tubman – Reflection and Opinion (Cash Value: $20)

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Harriet Tubman postage stamp, 1978. Public Domain. (c)2019

I had intended to share a post about my attendance at the new Tubman-Seward statue dedication in upstate New York, and I will do that later in the week. But then with the announcement that the Tubman twenty dollar bill was postponed, I wanted ot share some of my thoughts o that, and that will follow, however these last two weeks have been noting short of coincidences if there really are such things.

Harriet Tubman was one of those historical figures remembered from childhood, the elementary grade lesson watered down and never addressed again.

When I saw the opportunity to attend the statue dedication, I took it, and I was moved beyond what I could have expected. So much so that the next day, I drove my family there. While we were there we met a woman and I got to share some information with her about Harriet and William Seward. She in turn told us about a food truck gathering with proceeds going to ARC. We went over, had a good lunch, and helped a great coase.

Then, yesterday I attended the last of a four week series at a retreat center. This one was called A Dreamer’s Mind, and the presenter began with the story of Harriet Tubman! I leaned even more than I’d learned at the dedication, and after all of these meetings with Harriet throughout the last few weeks, I know quite a bit more and I feel as though I’m carrying a small piece of her with me. Not a bad companion.

This was what I wrote at the first reflective time:

“Well, well, well, we meet again! LOL!

She’s everywhere for me recently. I have two blog posts that I’m preparing for and having just been to her statue at the library, she’s on my mind quite a lot in the last two weeks.”

And I think this is why when the decision to put Harriet on the $20 was reversed, or postponed or whatever the Secretary of the Treasury called it, it hit me a little harder than it normally would have. In fact, Harriet’s appearance on the $20 bill came up in the group conversation, and no one else had heard about the postponement except for me. It isn’t the same as others’, but sometimes I feel as though being so aware of what’s going on in the world is my cross to bear. It’s one anyway. A topic comes up, and I know something. Do I speak out? Or stay quiet as if this public information is a secret because I’m the only one in the room who’s heard it?

In this case, I spoke up. I usually speak up. I will admit to being snarky and just a little petty where the President’s involvement was concerned, and I apologized to the two women I was speaking to (although they didn’t disagree with my sentiment) and was able to say what I wanted to in a more diplomatic, all audience inclusive way.

I think the President’s a racist; at a minimum a bigot who believes every negative stereotype about minorities. I also think that since the President admires Andrew Jackson, he doesn’t want to replace him with a black woman. It’s really that simple. He could have taken the high road and said, ‘you know what, I didn’t make this decision, it was already set in motion, let it continue,’ but this President’s pettiness knows no bounds.

It’s not just that President Jackson was also a racist or even that he wasn’t a great president or stand out human being, but the fact that he perpetuated the genocide of millions of Native Americans by force marching them west, and not providing for them as promised in the treaties of the Grant Administration should be enough to keep him off the bill in the first place. White Europeans took this land. }That is our legacy. It doesn’t determine our future, but we need to acknowledge it, and at the same time acknowledge the Native Americans, not as a collective, but as individual tribes with different cultural and religious practices. They were here first, and it is our obligation as Americans to never forget their sacrifice. Despite being involuntary, it was still a sacrifice that every American should know.

What does this have to do with Harriet Tubman?

We acknowledge her existence in the way we water down what we deem too controversial. I’ve learned things in the past two weeks that I’ve never heard of about her, and she is taught in every school in America. She lived and died and is buried in my home state of New York. How did I not know these details of her life?

One thing that Harriet Tubman’s face on our money is a step towards recognizing who built this country. Our monies, for the most part represent our founding; our history. We need and should know our history, and having it represented on our money is wholly appropriate. But slaves also built this country. They sacrificed their families and their lives. Once freed, they build their lives from nothing. The pioneered the west. The raised crops. They’ve done everything free Europeans did except they did it under much worse conditions that are still seen in many ways today.

I look forward to Harriet Tubman (and other women and people of color) being included in our country’s public representation, on money, naming streets and buildings, and other ways we express our gratitude for our historical counterparts.

I want to share this conversation on Nicolle Wallace’s show, Deadline: White House about the change in the status of the $20 bill.

For anyone who wishes to have their own (legal tender) Tubman Twenty, here is a link for the stamp. I have not ordered one, so I do not know anything about this seller.

Where Are My Bootstraps?

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​Unless you live in Massachusetts where it’s Patriot Day, today is Tax Day. If you’re just filing your taxes now, you’ve realized just how much the Republican Tax Scam screwed you over. Sure they raised the standard deduction, but they’ve taken away most of your itemizations through limits. We somehow managed to do okay despite our taxes rising by over one thousand dollars. In fact, married filing joint is only $100 less tax due than a single person making nearly the same amount. I believe the only reason we didn’t owe was because we were already having too much withheld. Our motto is live on less, so we can repair our house and car in the spring.

We reached our health insurance’s maximum out of pocket in 2018, and we still couldn’t deduct our medical. Or our taxes, mortgage interest, or the little we give to charity. Good thing we don’t give to charity for the tax deduction; we give because it’s the right thing to do when you have more than someone else (even if it’s not that much more).

We have two kids at home and in school and one out on his own, and while he’s been pitching in with his own expenses for quite some time now, his moving out didn’t lower our expenses. He is still on our phone plan, our automatic toll payments, our AAA, our health insurance, and we don’t begrudge or judge him for any of those things. One, it’s cheaper for all of us, and two, it’s what a family does. One day I’m sure I’ll be on his phone plan.

The main point isn’t that I don’t want to pay taxes; I do. It’s my responsibility as an American citizen to pay my share. What I don’t understand is how we allow the wealthy to avoid paying their taxes. I don’t understand how teacher are not allowed to claim school supplies on their taxes, but if you have a private jet, the gas is deductible. It’s absurd that we continue to allow this to happen.

So that’s my rant. Despite it, my taxes were mailed last week, and with no savings, now we’ll struggle until our refund comes and I can pay back the private loan I took out, maybe I can get a pair of glasses that I’ve needed for over a year, pay for half of my hearing aids before they decide to send those to collection, but there will be no new roof (again, this is year 3 of waiting), no smooth driveway (which isn’t as luxurious as it seems – the more it sinks, the muddier it gets, the icier in the winter), no toilet in our upstairs bathroom (a necessity in a family of five), no oven for another six months to a year, no fridge which should have been replaced when we moved in and were lied to about its age.

We have it good, but it still hurts to say no to your kids for something as innocuous as a trip to McDonald’s or a candy bar for no special occasion. I don’t want to spoil them with European vacations, but it might be nice to take a long weekend to Niagara Falls or Washington, DC.

I truly am grateful for what we do have, and appreciate how lucky we are, but sometimes it’s important to let the people who don’t understand “real life” know what is going on in most of America – your neighbors, your friends, your kids’ classmates. I wish the Republicans in Congress would see this, but I’m not sure they’d care to be honest.

I’d like to close this with a link to a 2014 article that is still relevant today about how the realities of living inn bootstrap America and how most daily annoyances are catastrophic for many people living paycheck to paycheck.

No Car

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​We are on Day 39* without a car. Our car’s engine died the third week of January. Our trusted mechanic told us it wouldn’t be worth putting in a new engine with the body our 2002 minivan had; just too much rust. We knew this day was coming, but it still left us in a numb kind of shock. It’s been our only car for several years now, and we just can’t afford a car payment. There were also some new payroll deductions so for now our salary has been reduced, significantly, and we’re not really sure how we’ll get through that. However, that is one too many problems for this discussion.

Day 39. Continue reading

Giving Tuesday

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In this time of holiday joy and generosity, please do what you can to support those organizations who help throughout the year.

ACLU

Planned Parenthood

RAICES

Random Acts

Where I Give My Support (list not inclusive)

Scroll down to the Stands links for a collection of worthy charities, all of whom do good works.

Add your own recommendations in the comments with how to reach them with donations and what their organization does. 

Book News – House – Fraud?

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​What exactly is fraud?

What’s the difference between wanting your house to be in the best saleable condition and defrauding the buyer?

Some of the problems we had did have to do with our “professional” buyer’s agent. By the time we looked at the house we ended up buying, I could tell that she was a little done with us. We had only looked at three houses, so I don’t know if she thought we’d take the first one and she’d be out with her commission or if she was having a bad day or if we were just too needy. I don’t know. I can definitely be needy, especially on something as big as buying a house. Continue reading

Book News

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​This update was supposed to appear at the end of last week. Unfortunately, chaos happened. Taking down the tree, planning my daughter’s sleepover birthday party, avoiding politics and failing all contributed to not completing my writing the way I wanted it to.

I did manage in the days before the chaos to get some introductions and background info on both House and Wales. They are by no means complete, and they’re barely first drafts, but they are something and I plan on continuing little by little. These updates not only get the job done, it gets it started and it gives me something to post on those biweekly Fridays.

Stay on track and Accountability.

Continue reading