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My Friend, the IRS

I am being audited. Again. I was last year, the year before as well.

The letter looks innocent enough, until you open it. I called the number on the bottom to talk to my friend, the IRS. A young man, ready for a fight, picked up the phone.

"Name!"

"Wuh?"

"Name!"

"Having a rough day?" (For the record, it was 9 a.m.)

Now I meant this as a sincere question, but it was not taken well. I'll skip his next line.

"Easy now," That's me again. "Jonathan Friesen. You're auditing me. Are you Tim?"

"No."

"Cause Tim audited me last year and I wondered if you sort of kept the relationship going."

"No, we don't."

"Don't what?" I asked.

Long pause here.

"Why'd you call?" he asked.

"Why'd you write?"

"Listen, do you have a question or not?" It sounds gruff, but he was actually softening.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Steve."

"Last name?"

I will leave this part out for everyone's benefit.

"Okay, great," I said. "And what's your phone number and job title?"

He told me. "I'm a revenue examiner."

"Been doing that long?"

No answer.

"Okay," I said, "I think I have all the info I need. No wait. I need the last four digits of your social to verify who you are."

I actually thought I heard a number here, but Steve caught himself.

"So you don't need anything?" he asked.

"Nope, I got it. I'm excited about working with you on this project."

"You are?" he asked.

"Oh yeah. All the kids are on the line. They get to listen and learn about taxation." This was not true. I flat out lied to the IRS. I confess.

"Okay," he said quietly. "Call back if you have any questions."

"You too," I said. "Don't be a stranger."

We both hung up.

I do not have any of the supporting documents I need, I will lose money. I will lose time. But somehow, just hearing the confused voice of the IRS answering MY questions makes me feel a little better. 

Sitting Moms

Do you have a mother? Bet you do, or did. They come in all shapes and sizes and I think that's great. I have one, a mom, that is. A great mom. Know what I like best? 

I like my sitting mom. 

I am now nearing forty-four, but to a mom, this doesn't matter too much. Along with the sibs, I am still likely worried about and wondered about and prayed for and in twenty years I reckon this will still be the case. Momness doesn't go away.

I like Momness. It means food will be plentiful when I pop in at my folks, and if it isn't, Momness means my mother will move quickly to be sure one of my favorites is on the way. Momness equals little gifts, little thoughts. It plants newspaper clippings in noticeable places–something read made her think of me. Now that the computer has come, Momness keeps my inbox sprinkled with forwarded messages: dangers to avoid. (Do not use your cell phone while pumping gas!) Helpful hints. (Do you know fifteen alternate uses for a fabric softener square? I do.)

Momness also means holidays will happen, birthdays will be remembered (goodness knows the rest of us would forget). Christmas Momness ensures new socks, new gloves–all the things needed to stay comfortable and safe. Probably some almonds. Definitely a pastry shaped like a fish–all Christmas certainties because Mom is mom.

While I dig all of that, the best part of Momness, the part that fills the heart and not just the stomach, is when she sits down. Yep, a sitting Mom. An I-am-dropping-all-the-things-I-want-to-do-for-you-and-instead-will-just-be-with-you Mom. When Mom sits, the entire house stills, and so can I. It's quite a gift when Mom sits.

It's a gift because I think, oh Moms of the world, that it goes against your grain. So when you do slow, it is really quite heroic, much more so than when I slow (that is, after all, my normal speed).

So here's to sitting Moms everywhere! And here's to my sitting Mom. Sitting or moving, I love you. I love your Momness.

And not just today.

j

Contests

I love contests. I won the first one I ever entered. I had to draw "Cubby," this cute little bear from the TV guide. Yep, I won $25, which in 1973 bought a lot of baseball cards.

The draw Cubby people said I had a future in the visual arts. I don't know about that. I do know writing has worked out pretty well. So here's the deal, Zonderkidz is sponsoring another contest in conjunction with the release of THE LAST MARTIN.

Some of you can stop reading right now. 
Do you live in Fiji? Sorry. Residents of the United States only. Next time we'll reach across the pond.

Are you sixteen? Whoops. Just a wee bit too old, Fourteen is the age limit.

Do you insist on writing thousands of words? Nope. Here we want two hundred words or less. Brevity rules!

Is your last name Friesen? Sorry darling, you can't enter your dad's contest!

But for the rest of you . . . here is your chance to meet me, and snag the eyes of Zondervan big shots! (And score some awesome books in the process.)

So, calling all US residents, fourteen and under, willing to limit themselves to 200 words, and who aren't named Friesen. This contest is for YOU!! 

Rules are on my website. Best Wishes to you all!

What Could be Worse?

What could be worse than enduring a bad soccer game . . .

Watching a good game in which your son is playing well . . .

And living ninety minutes away from every practice . . .

And having him play on multiple teams . . .

And watching gas hit 3.79 while you barely clear 25 mpg . . .

And handing the gas station guy your last twenty, knowing tomorrow you'll be right back here, watching him grin and snatch more money while you drive to soccer . . .

And having your boy love the game so much you know you won't be saving money anytime soon . . .

Even though your next book IS due soon . . .

And you are spending tons of time speaking . . .

And at each engagement you are offered decadent and tempting foods (see last post) . . .

And then you come home exhausted, to an empty tank, just in time for the next soccer practice . . .

What could be worse than that . . . 

Lots.

 

The Vegan Slide

A few days ago, my son and I were on our way back from soccer, and we were famished. We passed by a Jimmy Johns. I'd never been to a Jimmy Johns.

We stopped in and ordered the Vegetarian. I took a bite. WOW. Was it good. Too good. I picked inside. Cheese. Lots of cheese. For eight years I've been carefully picking out the stuff. Not this day. I ate it. I enjoyed it. The Slide began.

Three days ago, a tuna sandwich. Two days ago, cheese pizza. Yesterday, more cheese pizza. I'm out of control! I'm falling off the wagon. I'm reciting the twelve steps, but it's doing no good.

Hi, I'm Jonathan, and I'm a carnivore . . .

Ugh. I need a support group. I need to get off the road. I need a cheese . . . see? It's that bad.

I'm dreaming of sloppy, juicy reubens.  I've entered The Vegan Slide. 

THE LAST MARTIN Top 10

The top ten reasons THE LAST MARTIN should be the very next book you read:

10. It may well be the strangest book you'll read, which makes it perfect for April Fool's Day. (If you cannot remember your last belly laugh, the book is especially important medicine.)

9. No radiation leaks have been detected from any portion of the book.

8. You get two stories in one, making it a virtual lock that you'll love at least one of them.

7. If every person in Libya set down their guns and simultaneously read this book cover to cover, for three hours there would be no reason for a no-fly zone. Must be powerful stuff, eh?

6. Oprah did not pick it as a book pick. Though she did pick a book by Jonathan Franzen, and that's really close to Jonathan Friesen. (Okay, yeah, I'm still miffed about the overlook.)

5. You know you are a little obsessive–Martin will make you feel a whole lot better about yourself!

4. The book weighs 16 oz, none of which are fluid ounces, so it's perfectly safe to take aboard airplane flights.

3. The cover jacket is printed to create a 3-D effect, giving you something to look at with those cheap 3-D glasses you have lying around in your junk drawer.

2. Uncle Landis and the deer story. One-third the way in. Priceless. 

1. You'll close the book feeling grateful and with a smile on your face.

There you are!! Enjoy!

THE LAST MARTIN has arrived!

Martin. If you have not met him yet, this is your chance. Don't expect him to say hello. His mouth would open and you might sneeze and we all know where that would lead. Don't expect him to shake your hand either. The bacteria count of the average palm is staggering. Plan on inviting him to play catch? Forget it. Those old gloves are filled with microbes. Cuticle rot, you know.

People are just too germy for his liking. And germy means sick. And sick means dead. And Martin isn't about to lose one day of his miserable life on account of your hand infestation.

Of course, he's in danger of losing much more than a day. Curses will do that, you know. But don't tell him he's cursed. He doesn't know and it's best that way . . . oh, just read it and find out the whole deal!

Yeehaw! Martin's here! 

Skiing Cats

We have female cats. Who cares, right? The male cats do. So we have lots of kittens. Yeah, I know, get them "taken care of"–but that takes money.

We do a lot of kitten-giving. We gave a handsome male to a friend. The friend couldn't take it. The cat was too cotton-pickin' friendly. Always underfoot. Never mousing. So we took the cat back, thinking he exaggerated. 

He did not. This dumb cat is everywhere. In the car. In the house. In the barn. This cat loves people.

We had a big ski race up here. 58K, I believe. That's a long race. 2,000 folks come from across the globe to ski this thing . . . which happens to cross the river just off our property. It's fun to watch. Skier after skier huffing and gliding down the hill, across the frozen ice, then up the far hill to the finish line.

My kids wanted to get a closer look, so they skied down to the river's edge.

My people cat went too.

My people cat watched for a while, then it became too much. That dumb thing raced onto the ice and back and forthed as exhausted skiers from Norway whisked down the hill, then bit it to avoid the dumb cat. 

That's the thing about people cats. Even if you hate'm, it's really hard to resign yourself to running them over. 

So to the fifteen or twenty skiers who lost the race because of my cat, I apologize. Though it was really fun to watch. 

Most Improved

In high school I won the most improved cross-country skier award. The reason? By the end of the season, I had enough stamina to complete the girls' distance of 5K.

That's right. Most improved. I finished last at that distance. Susans and Julies and Rachels all flew by me. But I thought to myself, I may be pokey, but I'm most improved. None of these super-fast ski babes are most improved.

Few others seemed to understand the importance of my award. When I pulled up to the finish line, they had removed it–the whole line! The timer was gone, my team was loaded on the bus, and the trail lights were off. 

But I was most improved.

An award like that goes a long way. Tonight our family went skiing, It was time to show off, to show the kids a thing or two from Dad's glory days. My kids skate ski. I stay in the groomed tracks. My kids go fast, I barely move.

My kids fell. I did not.

They completed the course and were waiting at the van. My wife had the old dog running, the kids were eager to get home.

"Most improved," I huffed, again and again. "I'm most improved."

I arrived at the van, exhausted. "I still got it! Zero falls for the big guy!"

Then I tried to step out of my skies. I clicked easily out of the first one. Twenty minutes later I'm still jabbing my pole at the release on number two.

"Come on, Dad!"

"Honey, it's getting late!"

Fine, I one skied over to the car and swung into my seat, my ski hanging out. I buckled and grabbed the door. "Drive."

"There are other ways to do this, just slip out of your–"

"Just drive, please."

I skied home. One foot zipping over the highway. Yes, it was illegal. No, it was not a good example for the kids. But doggone, I skied far more than 10K.

Definitely, most improved. 

Big News

So I have this Big News. It's good. It's really good. And it's big.

Big News. I have been sworn to secrecy. This is irritating. Do not give me BIG NEWS then swear me to secrecy. You keep your BIG NEWS to yourself, then tell me when I can tell the world.

This protocol was not followed. So I am left to blog about BIG NEWS, without sharing my BIG NEWS.

On the other hand, wow, just think what it MIGHT be! It COULD be ANYTHING! I can't even tell you what it is NOT. That would limit the options.

And don't you try to wriggle it out of my wife. No sir. I haven't even told her! Yep! That's right. She doesn't know. Not that she can't keep a secret, but she likes to tell ONE PERSON. Not this time. I bear the burden of this great, big, wonderful news all on my own shoulders.

So I think I'll stop there. But when you think of me, just think BIG NEWS! Yep. Jonathan BIG NEWS Friesen.