>Seeing the Light

>This is the time of year when people prepare their taxes and college students (or their parents) fill out annual financial aid forms. I’ve been working on financial aid forms for a long time–the thirteen years I attended college as well as all the years one or more of our children attended college.

You’d think all that experience would make me confident when it comes to this annual financial event, but I’m not. This is one of my biggest stresses. And our tax preparation is additionally complicated by all the information required for filing self-employment taxes.

Last weekend Dave and I worked on tax preparation. Since Beth was home, she and I worked on four scholarship applications and her FAFSA. We usually do the FAFSA online as soon as we get our tax returns. In the past, I’ve noticed a “will file” option instead of the “already filed” option, and thought I wouldn’t stress myself out so much this year by trying to get the taxes prepared before doing the FAFSA.

When we tried to do the FAFSA online, however, we soon realized that we needed to at least have our tax returns in hand in order to correctly fill out the application. I needed to call our tax preparer and get our taxes into the fast track.

Monday morning I spoke to our preparer, who was kind enough to agree to see me that afternoon. Dave and I had our joint information gathered, but I still had to figure out all the self-employment information.

Several pressing work deadlines got pushed to the back burner for the day while I began the process of finding receipts, adding columns, and making reports.

For some inexplicable reason when I entered my office, I happened to glance up at the four-foot flourescent fixture. One end had pulled loose from the ceiling and it was hanging at a precarious angle.

On top of my existing stress and pressing deadline, I had to figure out a way to keep that light from falling on me and my computer. I hauled the step ladder from the garage and stacked cardboard boxes on top of it to prop up the light until my handy husband could determine a more permanent solution.

Each time I had more information determined, I carefully slid into the small amount of space between the ladder and my desk and wriggled into my chair to type it into my report. Once I had finished everything I needed to do on my computer, I did some quick backup. Then I cleared my desk and covered it and my computer with vinyl tablecloths.

After I had submitted our information to our tax preparer and Dave had finished work, we met in Altoona. My office is long and narrow, and the ends have always been a little dark. We decided to replace the fixture with a different one that would provide more light. He finished installing the new fixture at 8:00 last night.

This morning I am thankful for much more light in my office. I am also thankful that I am not cleaning shattered glass out of my keyboard. And–even though the FAFSA still looms–I am thankful that I don’t have to think about tax preparation today.

When my editor asked what I was working on and I wrote him about my almost fixture fiasco, he responded: “I’m glad you saw the light before the light saw you.”

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