You CAN fight city hall

moneyhoney

Last fall while my mother and my mother-in-law were both undergoing cancer treatments and I was working like crazy at my former company to integrate acquired accounts after the partial buy-out of another company, things fell apart at home. I was relieved that most of my bills were paid online because the last thing I was thinking about was the incoming mail, most of which is junk. So it wasn’t until three days after the deadline to appeal that I took a minute to look at my property taxes and realized that the county had assessed some $25,000 of “improvements” onto the value of my home and that my taxes went up over 33%. While I wish we had been able to afford $25,000 of improvements on our aging home, the tax increase hit us hard and completely ate up the savings we’d just established on our mortgage after a refi just months before. It hit us doubly hard when I realized that the automatic payments I had set up through my bank were not adequate, which I didn’t realize until we were assessed a whole mess of late fees because instead of at least making partial payments towards our mortgage with the inadequate payments, the mortgage company just kept shuffling our mortgage payments into a separate fund for “undetermined funds.” Whatever.

I tried to appeal anyway was was met with a goose chase and no sympathy from the county assessors office. I thought about all the people who are arbitrarily hit with similarly unjustified tax increases but don’t know how to fight back. I thought how the government should have to justify such unjustified tax increases rather than putting the burden of proof on the homeowner. And I contacted my state senator, who, though we no longer see eye to eye politically, has always been respectful and responsive. She gave me an email of a VIP at the county and I emailed him. No response. I emailed him again. No response. I emailed him a third time. No response.

Figuring I just had to hold my peace until I could fight city hall, or, as it were, the county assessor, I coughed up the hundreds of extra dollars and waited until this fall. At which time I contacted a friend of mine who is in the know about these things and had her do some comps for me. And I took my appeal to the county. I noticed upon second look that an adjustment had been made, so the VIP must have at least received and acted upon my emails even though he never bothered to respond. But the adjustment was not entirely adequate and I figured the county had robbed me of a good $400+ last year, so I did not want to give them another extra penny.

The significance of the county’s response, another adjustment lowering my property value to the amount determined by the comps, wasn’t fully realized until I got an escrow account disclosure statement yesterday. I knew property taxes were going up this year anyway, but I still figured my mortgage should go down. Yet I failed to anticipate there would be a surplus this year already once my taxes were paid this month and that my mortgage company would be sending me a reimbursement check.

Oh happy day. The timing couldn’t be better, as December hits us hard and we generally only recover in time to be hit hard again come April 15th.

And this is why you can, and you should, fight city hall. Or at least the county assessor.

working lunch

Some of the old gang gathered for lunch today. My former boss, a former coworker who is now a current coworker in my new job, and another of our former coworkers. The one who made it big. Back in the day we were in at the beginning of something unusual and special. Transitioning a 100-year-old company into the digital age. (Oddly enough, at the same time I–a 17-year SAHM–was transitioning into the digital age.) Aside from my boss, who started at the company right out of high school and is now the brains and the heart of the business as well as a top-level executive too humble to accept a title along with her responsibilities, the rest of us came on as temps.

I was in the second training group, and I almost quit, on principle, during the first week of training. But a voice in my heart, the same voice that told me to apply to the rather vague help-wanted ad in the first place, told me to stop mid sentence. Within just a couple of months of getting hired, our temp jobs turned more permanent and one by one the three of us coworkers became supervisors. The other two, along with most of our crew, were college-age kids. I know they saw me as the old lady, but one of the secrets of growing older is that you are merely the sum of all the ages you used to be. So from my point of view I was just another kid.

All the players in this story are private and would prefer their names be kept out of it, and I’m not inclined to make up pseudonyms, so let’s just say the first one of the group to become a supervisor and I did not see eye to eye. In fact, we bumped heads, locked antlers, what have you. We did not even pretend to like each other. As my supervisor, he critiqued my work one day. The next day, I went back to him and successfully argued every point of the four points he questioned. Our respect for one another grew. Looking back, I believe one of the reasons we were so successful at what we did is because the culture created in our budding department encouraged this kind of give and take. It can be a little awkward at first, but it helps you grow.

I was made supervisor in the next round. I hadn’t been there but four months. Within a couple of weeks of being made supervisor, with a total of four responsibilities on the list of my new job responsibilities, the company moved an entire department’s work to our office. And we grew some more. Our other friend, the one with whom I again work only for a different company, became a supervisor shortly after. We worked hard. Worked hard to build a new department and worked hard to build bridges with other teams within the company who’d once seen themselves as adversaries. To this day, those are some of the people I miss the most at that company, even though I’ve never met any of them face-to-face.

The four of us–our boss and the three of us supervisors–became good friends. Like family. For me at least, that feeling of family extended to a good number of our coworkers. I drove one of the girls to the hospital when her husband was injured in an industrial accident. I drove a few people home when they were sick or without a ride. I drove another kid home when he was just having a really bad no good awful day. But the bond was closest among us four.

Most of the students moved on to bigger and better things once they graduated. I already had my degree, but like what I was doing, loved the people I was doing it with, and liked the way the flexibility my job allowed let me maintain my family as my first priority. Almost every year the one who made it big (I’d love to tell you how big, but then he’d have to kill me–I’m only mostly kidding about that) comes “home” for the holidays and we meet for lunch. We meet at the Olive Garden. Which is funny, really. He travels all over the world and Italy is his second favorite place. So he knows better, but picks it anyway.

Almost every time he says that of all the places he’s worked, he loves our team the best. It was the best of times. Today we finally articulated for the first time just how special it was. It never made headlines. The company didn’t go public. We didn’t get paid the big bucks. But it was special and amazing and wonderful nonetheless. I credit my boss mostly, for not micromanaging and for giving us the space and the autonomy to discover and develop our respective talents. It made us better individuals and it made us a better team.

give us this day our daily bread

As some of you may know, I’ve been baking pies since I was a teenager. Give me some decent flour (I’ve had some difficult flour to work with a time or two) and I can almost make pie crust in my sleep. I actually have made pie crust in the dark before (I’d link you to the post wherein I explain how we taught the Activity Day girls how to make pies during a power outage, but remember when my blog died? It never got fully restored). In any case, yes, pies are good and all that, but I truly stink at bread making. I have a couple of recipes that turn out ok, but I’ve always wanted to arrive at ohmygoshthisisdeliciousmayIhavetherecipe.

Enter Zack, who told me a few weeks back he wanted to learn how to make artisan bread. I wanted to learn how to make artisan bread too, so I was up for it. So we splurged on some King Arthur flour and tackled this recipe. We learned a few things the hard way. Zack did most of the work, but I advised when necessary and had his back when his hands were elbow deep in sticky bread dough. And look at the results! He make several baguettes and one stuffed baguette and it was all delicious. Crisp on the outside, perfectly soft on the inside. I’m pretty impresses.

stuff baguette

baguettes

Mindbending tacos

tacos without rulesI’m kind of fond of places that use rules loosely

A couple of weekends ago I was out of town with Lindsay when I got a random text from Zack:

Zack: Have you been to 180 Tacos?

Me: No.

Zack: One of the best places I’ve ever eaten.

The conversation continued when I got back in town the next day, because Zack was still raving about that meal. He went there with one of his former mission companions, Dave. In the past the three of us have enjoyed talking about good places to eat around town when I had a great time introducing them to a couple of new places that popped up while they were serving in England. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Dave–maybe almost a year even. Zack told me today that the funniest part was when Dave pulled up to meet him at 180 tacos the first thing Dave said,

Why didn’t you bring your mom?

I love that.

So today when I was picking Zack up to come hang out with us for the day (he does that, isn’t that fun?), I mentioned I was hungry and he asked if I wanted to go to 180 Tacos. I did. We got there early, which was great, because Zack said it’s usually really busy. It was good because I had time to take a look at the menu and figure out where to start. The menu is organized by a handful of different “genres” of tacos, if you will. I decided to go for one of each. (They’re street tacos, so plan on trying at least 3.) You have your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Then you choose which of about three different tacos per genre. I chose the steak asada, the chile orange shrimp, and the mojo roasted pork. As I placed my order I was already thinking about which ones I want to try next (the answer is you always get at least one chile orange shrimp and I really, really want to try the salted cod fritters). Oh, and when they ask you what you want on your taco, the answer is always, “Everything.”

The service was friendly and quick. Everything about this place is simply all about the food, and I can live with that. Because the tacos I tried were delicious in every way. The ingredients are fresh. The flavors and simple. The variety and mix of flavors is original and, well, mindbending. And you should go eat at 180tacos.

tacosTop to bottom: steak asada, chile orange shrimp, roasted pork mojo

Thanks Zack!

It’s about that time

spiral jetty

You know. Time for my annual giveaway for the dear and faithful readers who bear with me through Nablopoblahblahblah. I just tried a new scent tonight. Gingerbread. That one won’t be ready for four weeks, but I think I’m in love. In the past couple of weeks I’ve also made Applejack Peel, Pumpkin, Green Tea Lemongrass (with a pomegranate kick), Peppermint, and Winter Grapefruit.

In any case, you know the drill. Leave me a comment for the chance to win two bars of my homemade soap. You have till Midnight on Monday, November 25th.

GO!

On becoming a dementor

A friend of mine is dealing with the beginnings of dementia in one of her parents. My experience with dementia is limited to brief periods of dementia in both of my grandparents. My grandfather’s was fairly constant but it was only shortly before he passed away. Disturbing nonetheless. My grandmother’s seemed to come and go depending on how well her health was. It was still unsettling when she was confused or somewhere else, but at least she always knew who I was. I don’t know much about the medical condition, just that the thought of it puts fear in my heart. I’ve had friends who’ve taken their parents in only to have to deal with their parents, who are not at all themselves, treat my friends’ children horribly. The heartbreak in this aside from the hurting kids, is knowing that hurting children is the last thing the aging grandparents would want to do.

My heart has been heavy with sorry and worry for my friend and her mother, for I love her mother, too. And I’ve been mindful of the challenges and complexity inherent in caring for aging parents. Because every time you see it you know it’s what’s around the corner for you–becoming old and ill and crazy and having your kids perplexed over how best to care for you, most likely when you’re still holding desperately on to the delusion that you’re perfectly fine. My memory has never been particularly sound, so I’ve always been afraid of becoming demented (because when I do, if I’m aware at all of what’s happening to me, that’s what I’m going to call it).

So I was rather startled the other day when a sister working in the temple gently grabbed my arm and said to me, “Don’t ever get dementia.”

Three happy things

Can we just make this (almost) Wordless Wednesday? Because these three things need little explanation.

Rachiel This girl is home. When she saw me she said, “You cut your hair!” And I said to her, “You grew your hair out!” What I love most is that when her parents told her she was getting released tonight at 6pm she grabbed her name badge with both hands and said, “I don’t want to.” And how she sang her favorite hymn to her father oh so sweetly in Spanish while curled up under his arm. And also that she said she wants to come hang out at our house because she will be so bored without anything else to do. Welcome home Hermana Asay!

flowers
May I remind you that it is November 20th in Utah? There were rows of these still blooming on 5th South in downtown SLC right next to the dried and fallen fall leaves. They were so lovely and unexpected I had to pull over and capture them.

joejoes
It goes without saying…

Don’t bother me, I’m reading

I’ve been putting off reading Ender’s Game. You know, because everybody’s read it already. It’s on my to-read list. I was just saving it for later. But now there’s a movie coming out I need to hurry up and read it already. Except that there is no time. I’ve had it since last week but I couldn’t start it because I was involved in a ginormous project at work and knew better than to start it before the deadline. Then I needed to scrub toilets and wash clothes and towels and clean the kitchen sink.

And stuff.

So I started it last night. Zack, remembering all the Harry Potter books I read in a day, said, “I’ll bet you’ll finish it by morning. But I had a meeting with the big boss today and wanted to be at least semi-conscious for it so I did not stay up all night. I didn’t even read it the three times I woke up in the middle of the night because that would have required light and also would have defeated my purpose of at least pretending I was sleeping. So I thought I would read it this morning. At least a little. But then everybody needs stuff. Like a ride to school. Then a ride home from school because I’m sick. And then something to eat which I can’t fix myself because I’m sick. And then my backpack which I left at home when I came home to do my own laundry thankyouverymuch. Normally it might be toobadsosad on the backpack except that I support students who study and work hard at school. So I drove the backpack up to BYU only to have my kid tell me the backpack I brought was his brother’s (the one who came home from school sick). And by the time that was all over it was time to get ready for work.

It’s only 7:50 and I’m so tired I’ll likely fall asleep, but you’ll have to excuse me. I’m off to read anyway..

If I had a minion or twenty

HAHAHAHAHA! In the midst of laundry and dishes I sit down to write tonight and I’m totally stuck. No memories tugging at my head. Tired of writing about myself, but when I thought about writing about any one of the number of people in my life I often feel like writing about I couldn’t start for fear I’d have to write about everyone and I didn’t want to leave anyone out.

I finally got desperate enough to go to Blogher for a prompt and the website is down! I think it’s a sign. Speaking of signs, I found a minion in my fridge tonight as I was rotating the milk. I thought about taking a photo of it stuck down in the bottom right corner between the shelf and the back of the fridge. But then I knew you would know how dirty was my fridge, so I did not.

But then, after Blogher stood me up, I went to a bookmark I have for a post that listed 5 Best Writing Prompts. To be honest, at least one of them–the one that interested me the most, of course–is no longer in service either. But I clicked on one of the links and this is my prompt:

Screen shot 2013-11-18 at 9.40.53 PMprompt and photo courtesy of http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/

If I got a set of minions for a week the very first thing I’d do is take a picture of them and post it on Instagram. Then I would–obviously–get them to clean my fridge. I’m not quite sure they would be effective at that or even very cooperative, as from what I understand minions prefer evil villain masters to fifty-year-old mothers of four who work part time. In any case, I would also take them to work for a day because several of my coworkers are awfully fond of minions.

I tried to think of some dastardly deed to have them do, but I like my family and I like my neighbors and I like my friends. So what I’d probably do is try to spin my to-do list into something full of evil and foreboding and see if I could trick them into putting my laundry room in order and handling all my stacks of mail to be sorted and shredded. Those two things alone would rock my world.

Finally I would probably make them clean my children’s bedrooms for spite. Not sure whose spite, really, but spite sounds like a powerful motivation for a minion, so maybe I could talk them into it.

What would you do if you got a set of minions for a week?