D.R. Part I

TGIF's menu - Kid's Fingers for dinner anyone? (top, middle)

This is a typical street. There are lines in the road, I swear. It's just that they don't matter. If you think your car will fit, you make it fit. The timid driver gets nowhere in the Dominican Republic.

One form of public transportation - always with one or two people hanging out the doors. The other form is a regular car, called a "public car" where for about $.50, you can ride as far as you want, in a straight line. There are typically from 6-10 people smooshed in this type of car. ewwww.

Very common sight - trash heaps along the sides of the road. Infrastructure is not their strong suit.

Also a very common sight - unfinished buildings everywhere. Some people just build a little whenever they have some money, others just start building, run out of money and abandon the building.

Let me tell you - this country was pretty eye-opening to us little old sheltered and clearly spoiled Americans.

send prayers, please

This is a sure-fire way to put me away in the nut house. I can imagine the horror, and I imagine that what I imagine is only a fraction of the horror felt by those involved. My heart cries out for them and my prayers will be heading eastward as well. Maybe if we get LOTS of prayers heading their way, something good could happen. Sometimes I hate reading the news.


Tax Fun

This has made the rounds for more than 10 years, but especially on 4/15, I like to be reminded about my lovely deductions.

Dear Sirs:

I am responding to your letter denying the deduction for two of the three dependents I claimed on my 1994 Federal Tax return. Thank you!

I have questioned whether or not these are my children for years. They are evil and expensive. It's only fair that, since they are minors and no longer my responsibility, the government should know something about them and what to expect over the next year. Please do not try to reassign them to me next year and reinstate the deduction. They are yours!

The oldest, Kristen, is now 17. She is brilliant. Ask her! I suggest you put her to work in your office where she can answer people's questions about their returns. While she has no formal training, it has not seemed to hamper her mastery of any subject you can name. Taxes should be a breeze. Next year she is going to college. I think it's wonderful that you will now be responsible for that little expense. While you mull that over, keep in mind that she has a truck. It doesn't run at the moment, so you have the choice of appropriating some Department of Defense funds to fix the vehicle, or getting up early to drive her to school. Kristen also has a boyfriend. Oh joy! While she possesses all of the wisdom of the universe, her alleged mother and I have felt it best to occasionally remind her of the virtues of abstinence, or in the face of overwhelming passion, safe sex. This is always uncomfortable, and I am quite relieved you will be handling this in the future. May I suggest that you reinstate Dr. Jocelyn Elders who had a rather good handle on the problem.

Patrick is 14. I've had my suspicions about this one. His eyes are a little closer together than those of normal people. He may be a tax examiner himself
one day, if he is not incarcerated first. In February, I was awakened at three in the morning by a police officer who was bringing Pat home. He and his
friends were TP'ing houses. In the future, would you like him delivered to the local IRS office, or to Ogden, UT? Kids at 14 will do almost anything on a
dare. His hair is purple. Permanent dye, temporary dye, what's the big deal? Learn to deal with it. You'll have plenty of time, as he is sitting out a few
days of school after instigating a food fight in the cafeteria. I'll take care of filing your phone number with the vice-principal. Oh yes, he and all of his friends have raging hormones. This is the house of testosterone and it will be much more peaceful when he lives in your home. DO NOT leave him or his
friends unsupervised with girls, explosives, inflammables, inflatables, vehicles, or telephones. (They find telephones a source of unimaginable amusement. Be sure to lock out the 900 and 976 numbers!)

Heather is an alien. She slid through a time warp and appeared as if by magic one year. I'm sure this one is yours. She is 10 going on 21. She came from a bad trip in the sixties. She wears tie-dyed clothes, beads, sandals, and hair that looks like Tiny Tim's. Fortunately you will be raising my taxes to help offset the pinch of her remedial reading courses. "Hooked On Phonics" is expensive, so the schools dropped it. But here's the good news! You can buy it yourself for half the amount of the deduction that you are denying me! It's quite obvious that we were terrible parents (ask the other two). She cannot speak English. Most people under twenty understand the curious patois she fashioned out of valley girls/boys in the hood/reggae/yuppie/political double speak. The school sends her to a speech pathologist who has her roll her "r's". It added a refreshing Mexican/Irish touch to her voice. She wears hats backwards, baggy pants, and wants one of her ears pierced four more times. There is a fascination with tattoos that worries me, but I am sure that you can handle it. Bring a truck when you come to get her, she sort of "nests" in her room and I think that it would be easier to move the entire thing than find out what it is really made of.

You denied two of the three exemptions, so it is only fair that you get to pick which two you will take. I prefer that you take the youngest two, I will still
go bankrupt with Kristen's college, but then I am free! If you take the two oldest, then I still have time for counseling before Heather becomes a teenager. If you take the two girls, then I won't feel so bad about putting Patrick in a military academy. Please let me know of your decision as soon as possible, as I have already increased the withholding on my W-4 to cover the $395 in additional tax and made a down payment on an airplane.

Yours truly,

*Copied this time from basicjokes.com

Happy Tax day - we just had to write checks for 1/2 our current bank balance. Better get back to work!


Look for the Silver Lining

Look for the silver lining
When e'er a cloud appears in the blue.
Remember somewhere, the sun is shining
And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you.

As you might have guessed, I did not come back from the Dominican Republic a mother-in-law. I did not even come back from the D.R. liking it very much. But the food was GREAT! (silver lining, aka SL)

Given the track record of my son and his "projects", I fully expected to get out there and have to arrange for flowers, food, or whatever. I came out armed with birth certificate, baptism, confirmation - you name it, I had it. Just in case.

Day 0 - work/school/finish packing/errands/get to airport for 9pm flight. Try to sleep on plane. Get to New York 5am EDT (2am for us); stay awake for 4 hour layover. Back on plane; try to sleep again. zzzzzzz

Day 1 - needing more zzzzz's. At dinner - chat about plans for wedding. It's still on the beach. No minister or anyone to do vows with them. Oh and by the way, it won't be legal in the U.S. unless they go over to Puerto Rico and go to the courthouse there. It only costs about $300 or so each to do that. No extra beds in this place, but we're going to the mountains tomorrow so no worries. We blow up some beach rafts (yes - I said BEACH RAFTS), BK and I take a couple of couches and we snuggle in for the night. Luckily, I was so exhausted the couch didn't matter even a little. Can't say the same for DH who was on a raft.

Day 2 - drive to the "mountains". It's beautiful, if not exactly what I consider mountains. We're going with a friend whose family has homes all around the island. He directs me by saying "get to your right. Now go straight all the way" Then he pulls a "get to your left" or a "turn here" now and then just to keep me on my toes.
[off track] Road rules in D.R. = none. There are lines painted on the road. These don't matter. There are traffic lights at some intersections. These don't matter either. If you can go, you go. You honk to let someone know you're there. I honked a lot, but not as much as BK wanted me to.
We have to stop at a Burger King twice b/c M's fiance (M2)is hungry. We also stop at a nice little bakery to sample some local goods. Good stuff. Visited local river. Garbage everywhere, not preventing the locals from swimming in it. (No swim suits - just skivvies) Kids on horses trying to sell us horse rides. Dinner in Santiago - very nice (silver lining). Entertainment = singer with karaoke machine in background. Pretty square in the middle of town with LOUD music and political signs everywhere. We couldn't stay long because M2 is tired and doesn't feel like she can walk.
House = little, on hill, great place for dogs to run (SL). Beds are somewhere around 45+ years old. And they look and feel it. We grab the room with two full beds. We start out with two people in each. Then LK joins us. I have approx 3 inches of space between person and wall. I get up and climb in with BK. He is a bed hog and I end up with a small triangular spot near the top of the bed. I get off and arrange some chair pads on the floor and try to make a mattress of sorts. Pay back for having the couch the night before, I figure. Oh yeah - and there are roosters who don't just crow at daylight to welcome the morning. They crow all the time. ALL THE TIME.

Day 3 - must drive back because oh by the way, we're moving today and have to get the keys from the landlord. We get back early afternoon, but it takes until about 6pm for any moving to take place. I don't know why moving in the dark was a good idea. But this place does have beds. We pull the mattress from the "Maid's quarters" into one of the bedrooms so BK and LK each have their own beds. Electricity goes on and off randomly. Tension is still thick. I sit M down and ask him how he's doing. What's up. He let's me know that they are "probably not going to get married on Saturday". This is M-speak for "it ain't happening, dude". They have "things to work out first". Darn tootin', they do. We're not disappointed in this rare moment of clarity. It only took a little over a day for us to figure out this might really not be the most compatible couple ever. However, when we find out they've been reconsidering for 2-3 weeks, we're a little bothered - it would have been good information to have 2 weeks ago! Prior to the $5k trip and all the other stuff we rescheduled. Would have much rather paid the $50 to reschedule the trip, but hey. we're here, we're gonna vacation anyway. Wake up to very loud birds and very loud street noise many times during night.

Day 4 - clean up rest of stuff left at old apartment. Take tepid showers b/c water heater is teeny tiny, and must be turned on to work. Sometimes it doesn't work. Maid makes lunch of rice and beans with meat mixed in. Food so far, is very good (SL) M needs to do some errands for new apt - get internet service etc. so he guides us to the local mall where we wander for a few hours finding nothing to buy and wondering why the movie theaters aren't open. Finally give up and try to find our way back to new apt. More D.R. driving. We consider leaving early and manage to find out it would cost us another $1K to change the return tickets now. Still debating. And why do people have to have their radios on and motors revving all night long? And why do those blasted birds squawk ALL FREAKING NIGHT?

Day 5 - We drive to a beautiful beach and wander through some resorts, which apparently we're not supposed to do, but no one seems to mind. The beach is beautiful, and everyone enjoys the swimming time (SL). Guys try to sell me jewelry, paintings and coconuts as well as cigars. I tried to talk the guy out of smoking in broken spanish. Told him it was very bad for your lungs. I'm sure he thought I was crazy, but he left me alone after that. Got some pizza to eat on the way home. Great Italian "cracker crust" style. We all decided we need to learn to make that.(SL) Also decide we will figure out some way to survive until our planned departure.

Day 6 - Rain rain rain rain rain. Read read read read read. Watch more movies.

Day 7 - Same as before. M & M2 go out on occasion to return movies or get something from store. Plan to be back in 1/2 hour. Return more than 3 hours later. Aggravates the dad who bought and made ribs for dinner for everyone.

Day 8 - See day 6. We go to beach anyway, driving through torrential downpour. Get about 2 hours of no rain. Beach is ok. Wonderful for finding shells (SL). We're going to make a few picture frames with the shells we found. We can make many picture frames with the shells we found. Many. Many. frames. yes.

Day 9 - can we go yet? We want to go to the beach because it's the only place where there is fun to be had that we can see. Also, we like the pizza (SL). M&M2 will join us there later (they don't), and we will go from there to a friend's ranch where we can ride a horse. We finally hear from friend and by the time we get to the ranch (you don't even want to hear about the drive there), it's dark. We take some very quick rides on a horse and enjoy the dogs and cows and get the heck out of there.

Day 10 - Pack and leave. Spend 13 hours in airports and airplanes and LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT! Get into our very own car, drive in lanes where people stay in their own lanes (well, most of the time) and sleep in our own beds.

This trip goes down in the annals as one of the absolute worst trips ever, for so many reasons, but there is always a silver lining. We absolutely appreciate every little thing we have here. The abject poverty in the third world countries is still such an eye-opener. I'm glad my kids got a chance to understand just how privileged we are living the way we do, and living where we live.

We're happy the big kids decided to wait until things were more stable for them before taking a step as big as marriage.

Look for the silver lining. It's there. Somewhere. Sometimes it's just kinda hard to find.