Friday, November 23, 2012

A Very Thankful Video Friday

As I sit hear on the day after Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on the holiday which has just past. Truly, I have a very blessed life. I have a beautiful wife and a happy healthy growing boy. Even though I am one of the few people who had to show up to the office to day, I am very grateful for this job. It defnitely has been an answer to prayer. I am healthy and able to get out and enjoy being active. Whether its going out for a short run or hiking with the family, there are so many reasons to be thankful for being able to enjoy getting outside.

I came across a short blog post this morning, and I enjoyed it. So I'm going to share it. I grabbed it from here, just to give credit where credit is due.

Being Thankful

by Annie Leonard

Annie_leonard"If you ask people what they’re most thankful for in life, three things nearly always come out on top. Not their car (even if it’s a hybrid), their shiny new ultrathin laptop or a 700-fill-power goose down ski jacket. Surveys consistently find we’re most thankful for friends and loved ones, good health and the wonders of nature. What’s more, clinical studies show that gratitude is good for us. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives and better able to cope with problems. Being thankful even helps us sleep better.

It’s a good time, then, to ask: Why don’t we walk the talk?

The main reason, of course, is the blitzkreig of commercial advertising and marketing we’re bombarded with 24/7, which peaks at this time each year. Many of us respond by spending too much time and energy chasing more Stuff and not enough on the things we say we’re most thankful for. To put it in marketplace terms, we’re underinvesting in the things that pay the most dividends, while we overinvest in Stuff that actually threatens the things we profess to value. We have more and cooler Stuff than our grandparents ever imagined, but we pay the price – more time spent working and shopping and maintaining our stuff, much less time spent in leisure, recreation, community service and with friends.

As a nation, this imbalance is not making us happy campers. In the latest Happy Planet Index, the United States ranks 14th out of 143 countries. Costa Rica, where the Gross Domestic Product per person is about a fourth of the U.S., ranked first. (In a group of 20 rich countries, however, we are number one in poverty, income inequality, spending on health care and people who can’t afford health care, infant mortality, obesity and climate change pollution.)

What can we do to reset the balance? Here’s a start: this holiday season, choose family over frenzy. The day after Thanksgiving – so called Black Friday – is a perfect time to opt out of the consumer frenzy and focus on those things we’re really thankful for.

Revisionist history aside, Thanksgiving is a great holiday. Two full days when most Americans are liberated from work and school to gather around a table, break bread and share conversation with those we love. We get the chance to spend two days pausing, recharging, looking into the faces of loved ones rather than into our computer screens.

Instead, the day after Thanksgiving, many Americans will rise at dawn, drive to a mall and spend the day searching for sales on products we don’t really need and which don’t ultimately make us happy. This year, let’s instead focus on the things that make us most thankful. Stay home, unplug the computer and the TV, bring out the board games, play touch football, walk the dog, take a hike – do anything but join the shopping frenzy. You’ll be thankful you did."
I would suggest taking some time today and thinking about what the Thanksgiving holiday is truly about, because you weren't likely very thankful yesterday watching the Lions lose. Come up with a list of things you are REALLY thankful for. Most likely, the new flatscreen that you waited in line for days to get probably won't make the list.
So I'm going to share something that I am truly thankful for: Michigan Winters. Now for all you complainers, you can just move to a different state. Because if you live in Michigan, you should really learn to love snow, otherwise you are just missing out. And the best part about this year is that I should actually be able to get out and enjoy it. There are so many fun and exciting things to do in winter in this great state of ours. And here are just a few.

Now look at that, I start writing about snow, and a few flakes start falling.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Carrying the Kid

The first "kid related" item that Jamie and I bought when we found out that she was pregnant was a Kelty Kid Carrier. We bought this because one it was a really good deal on The Clymb and two because I knew I wanted my kid to grow up hiking and spending time in the woods.

But once we got the kid carrier, it just ended sitting in the basement because Jonah hadn't even been born yet. Even after Jonah was born, it still sat in the basement because a kid has to be so big to be able to ride in it.

Though finally, after sitting in the basement for about a year, we were finally able to put it to some good use and take Jonah on a hike.

On Saturday, I got up decent on time to get my daily quota of studying out of the way. I finished the review questions for a chapter by about 10, went for a quick two and a half mile run, and got everything ready to go.

We went to a local state park that has some decent trails and put the Kelty to work.

**I am going to go through a quick product plug for the Kelty FC 2.0 Kid Carrier here. This is a great product. It is built extremely well, very high quality. The shoulder and waste straps fit very comfortably, with lots of adjustment possibilities. It has a ton of storage compartments, so you can bring everything that goes along with toting a kid around. And as you can see, it even has a kick stand, which proves very handy. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to hike with young children.

Some times I wonder what Jonah thinks about all the things we put him through.

Here he looks like he isn't too sure about riding in this thing. Anyways, once we got him snuggly strapped in, we were off.

I couldn't really see him, but Jamie said his head was bobbing up and down alot. Though, from the picture below, it looks like Jonah enjoyed himself.

I guess having Dad carry you around is tiring, because it didn't take long for Jonah to fall asleep.

That doesn't look very comfortable to me. Ha.

Overall, it was a great day. And to finish it off, we ended the day with a large pizza from the Trestle Stop. That definitely hit the spot.

That's all for now. Have a great Thanksgiving everybody.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Half Way There; Living on a Prayer

So back on Saturday October 13, around 3 in the afternoon, I stepped into a testing center once again to take a section of the CPA exam. This was the 2nd of 4 sections that I need to pass to get those 3 letters behind my name. This time, I was slated to take Regulation. For those of you who don't speak accountant, this test basically boiled down to two main areas, business law and taxes, with the majority of the points based on taxes.

Now anyone who has ever asked me about my profession probably has heard this, "I really don't like taxes." Because I really don't like taxes. Honestly I find the entire tax system arbitrary. At least with Auditing and Financial Reporting, you can reason out an answer. In the world of taxes, the logical answer is most likely the wrong answer. At least that's the way I see it. Anyways, I had a "fun" three months cramming tax rules, business structures, etc into my head.

So back to the test. I got to the testing center about a half hour early. This time though, there was no wait. I was immediately ushered into the "staging" area. Here they fingerprint you, photograph you, verify your two forms of identification, wand you with a metal detector, and make you turn your pockets inside out. Yep, these testing centers make you go through about as much security as an international flight. They obviously take the potential of cheating very very seriously.

After "clearing security", I was led to my chair. Now for some reason, I thought I was going to have four hours for the test. So I was thrown slightly for a loop when I found out I was going to only have three hours. But what can you do, so I just started plunking away one question at a time.

Despite the shorter time limit, I had plenty of time. I finished the multiple choice section in under two hours, leaving over an hour for the simulations. Which was good, because I needed about 45 minutes to come up with a respectible solution to an AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) Question. That's right, our tax system is that lame where basically if you aren't paying enough tax under the regular tax code you could have to pay more under AMT. If they don't get you one way, they'll get you another.

Now people always asked me how I felt I did after I was finished with the test. Now most tests you take in your life, you can usually tell how you did. But the CPA is a different animal. They word the questions in such a backwards way that sometimes it is hard to read it as discernible English. After you muddle your way through to determine what you think they are asking, you try to narrow your answers down. Now some answers are obviously wrong. But others are technically right. But one is "more right" than the other. So you have to try to pick between to perfectly valid answers. The whole thing just messes with your mind. After walking out of the building, you feel like you were just mentally abused.

Once done with the test, I had an enjoyable 1 day break from studying. My open window for testing ends at the end of November. So I have to study like mad before my 3rd test, which I have about half as much time to prepare for as my first two.

A week or two after the test, I received an email telling me that I should get my results on the 5th of November (Remember Remember the 5th of November). Then the weekend before, I got an email saying the the score release date was pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy (stinking hurricane). Later, I was told that I would get my score on Monday the 13th. So I was more than surprised when I came back from a meeting today with an email saying "Score Release." I got immediately nervous, almost to the point of shaking. I held my breath as the file downloaded.

Result: PASS

I kind of freaked out for a second there when I saw that it said PASS. I could hardly believe it. I am so stinking relieved. I can now move forward and completely focus on the next section without worrying that I might have to go back and restudy a section that I already studied for.

So that is what I get to do. Move forward and study for the next section. Study till it all oozes out of my head. Or at least that's how it feels sometimes.