Sleepwalking Stories

I’m a sleepwalker. I don’t remember when it started, but I haven’t grown out of it yet. Over the years, it has created quite a few interesting stories. Most of the time it just results in my pillow and/or sheets ending in a weird place or me walking around the room mumbling, but there were a couple times that it was quite a bit more involved:

The first one happened freshman year of college. I was at dinner with a bunch of guys from the floor and one of them said, “Hey Ben, thanks for yelling at Sarah last night.” I don’t remember if her name was really Sarah, but we’ll call her that for this story. It was the girlfriend of a guy on the floor and she was a VERY loud talker. My roommate started laughing when I looked confused and said, “Huh?” “You don’t remember?” My roommate filled in the missing details. Apparently the escapade had started with me getting out of bed in the middle of the night. That’s no small feat. We had loft beds. The only way to get up was to do a pull up on the cross bar and hoist yourself up. Getting down was the reverse: grab the cross bar and swing down to the ground. So I swung down in my sleep, unlocked the door, stuck my head out in the hall way and yelled, “BE QUIET! IT’S QUIET HOURS!” Then I walked back in the room, pulled myself up to bed and went back to sleep (except I was sleeping the whole time so I don’t know what you call it.)

The second one that sticks out was also in college. We were on a ski trip in Michigan. It was a big group but I only knew one or two of the guys there. We were all sleeping on the floor of somebody’s house. Apparently in the middle of the night, I got up, took my blanket over to the window, covered it up and yelled about blocking the aliens from coming in the window. You can imagine the ribbing I took from doing that in a room full of a dozen guys. The aliens through the window bit was a popular one for me. I did it in a hotel room with my family one time too.

I still haven’t figured out what triggers it. Being in unfamiliar locations can do it sometimes but not always. Lately it’s usually just talking in my sleep or thinking there is a spider in the bed, but the other morning I did wake up to find my pillow in the bathtub.

It’s kind of fun because I never know what I’ll find when I wake up.

Shop Reorganization

The past couple weekends, I’ve made some pretty big changes to my work shop (a.k.a the third bay of our garage.) The completion of the shop vac cart opened up some new possibilities.

  • I moved my table saw over by the garage door. That lets me save a little space because if I have a long board, I can just open up the garage door.
  • The shop vac cart is placed by the table saw, the assembly table and the miter saw. Those are the places that it gets used the most so it’s convenient to swap out the hose connection to the right tool. I also have easy access to electric plugs on different circuits so that I can confidently power the tool and the shop vac at the same time.
  • The band saw moved up to a previously unused spot by the work bench. I still have space to feed through most boards there but if not, it’s on a rolling base so I can move it.
  • One change not in this picture is that I moved my TV onto the same wall as the peg board. That lets me see it a little easier when I’m standing at the assembly table and it also frees up more space for shelves/cabinets that I plan to build at some point.

I’ll probably change it around at some point, but it’s really nice having everything on wheels so I can make these changes quickly.


The Day The Music Died

I signed up to play some preservice music on the piano at church before the service on Sunday. Whenever I play in church, I always remember a story that I just realized isn’t on my blog. Time to share it with the world…

When I lived in Jersey, my church in King of Prussia had a very consistent organist named Eunice. She was there every Sunday and she was good. But then… she went on vacation. For two weeks! Somehow the search for a replacement organist came around to me. They were really scraping the bottom of the barrel because I only played the piano and had barely ever sat at an organ. I did write about this briefly before. Here’s a quote from that post:

I definitely offered my own rendition of a couple hymns. As one guy put it, “I leaned over to my wife and said, ‘Wow Eunice is really having a bad day.’ Then my wife told me that Eunice was on vacation.”

That post must have been after the first week. The second week was even worse. Pastor wanted to use a special settings on the organ for one verse of a hymn. He got it all set up and said “Just press this button to switch to the special setting in between verses.” Easy enough? I bumbled my way through the hymn, pressed the button in between verses, pressed the keys and …. NOTHING. There was no sound coming out of the organ and I had no clue why. The congregation awkwardly started singing a cappella. I rebooted the organ to try and reset it to the default settings. That worked but it made big clunking sounds as it turned off an back on.

Strangely enough, after those two weeks of mistakes, they never asked me again. In retrospect, I either should have declined the request, or I should have just sucked up my pride and played one finger. Playing an organ is a LOT different than a piano even if you ignore the pedals because there is no sustain pedal. That difference is no ingrained in my brain.

Survival Rations

We recently had another bi-annual Survival Sunday. I feel compelled to do less checking for the spring one than the fall one since we generally lose power in the fall, but we did do a few key things like changing out our stored gas and removing food items that were near expiration.

We’re slowly refining the types of foods that we keep in the survival rations box. Here are a few of the considerations:

  1. Canned items generally last longer. I don’t like to buy things unless they’re good for another 1-1.5 years. Otherwise we just keep replacing them over and over again.
  2. Don’t go overboard. In all but the most extreme cases, you’ll still be able to access the normal food that’s in your house and I bet you can coast a long time just on that even if the power is out.
  3. Stock up on water. A family of three will use ~1.5 gallons a day just for drinking. Our goal is to have enough on hand for 3-5 days. Our emergency rations are largely made up of water jugs!
  4. Buy food that you’re willing to eat in a normal situation. We don’t like to toss the food so if it’s not going to last until the next Survival Sunday, we put it in the pantry and eat it.

Everybody has their own comfort level with this stuff so find your own and plan accordingly. I feel good about the extra level of backup we get from a few hours of work per year, but I also know that we are almost certainly never going to dig into these supplies for a real emergency.

Tax Season

Tyla and I are done with our taxes for 2016. This was our 11th year getting our taxes done by the same tax pro. I realized that I’ve never blogged about her so I figured I’d give her a plug this year.

We use H&R Block. I always feel inclined to defend that because we all know that many of the people at these tax preparation employees are not trained much better than you or I would be if we had a tax application on our computer. The very first year I moved here, I had a very complicated return so I decided to give H&R Block a try. Hearing that it was going to be complex, they scheduled me with their “best tax professional.” I would later find out that her name is Kelly Hall and she has not only been doing this for more than 25 years, but she also does a lot of the training in this part of the country.

Each year she happily plows through my mountain of paperwork in a one hour appointment. Along the way, she provides me with a wealth of suggestions of ways to save more money next year and tells me which kinds of records to keep to claim various deductions. Many of the years she even catches errors in the tax forms that I receive.

I walk out smiling because it only took one hour and because I’m confident that they were done right. I’m not leaving money on the table. There’s no way to prove this, but I’m sure that a lot of the money I pay in preparation fees is recovered by the additional ways she finds to save me money.

I also walk out thinking, “She made that look so easy. I should just use this as a model and do it myself next year.” And then inevitably there is some new complexity in my finances and I’m thankful to know that Kelly can take care of it for me.

The cost of tax preparation varies widely depending on the complexity of your taxes. Ours are fairly complex and we end up paying around $340. I have great respect for the many of you that I know do your own taxes. I’ve done my own before too and it makes me stress out too much for fear that I’m doing it wrong or missing large amounts of deductions. I’ve learned that paying the tax preparation bill is less painful than doing it myself. If your ratio works the other way then kudos to you!

If you want to try H&R Block for the first time, let me know. I have a referral coupon that will get us both some money.

P.S. Ok, since we’re talking about federal taxes, I also can’t resist urging you to make sure you understand how much money you actually paid in taxes. I’m not talking about the money the government might be returning to you, but the actual money that was withheld and kept by the government. If you know what you paid, at least you’ll be making more of an educated choice the next time you make a vote related to taxes. I would wager that 90% of our population has no idea how much they pay in income taxes.