Weekend Reads #83

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This was a week of Adulting with a capital A. If you follow my Instagram Stories you know last week I was struggling with healthcare. Thanks to the Affordable Healthcare Act (AKA Obamacare), since I no longer work for a company, I am able to get my family insurance through Maryland's healthcare exchange. Last year we chose what we thought was a plan similar to what I had in Corporate America. It ended up a decent plan, but really expensive for how little we used it. This year we decided to switch to one that costs less but has an HSA (health spending account where you can sock money tax-free for medical costs, prescriptions, OTC medication and more) and a higher deductible. We plan to put the monthly difference from last year's plan to this year's into the HSA to cover costs until we meet the deductible. Switching plans during the open enrollment period should be easy, but it wasn't. I had used the site before but it wasn't processing my request correctly. We called for help, and the person on the phone ended up creating a second account for us and deleted my husband and daughter from our current plan. The double usage of my social security number caused both accounts to be locked. She didn't know what to do, had no manager on duty at that time that could help, and told us to just call back in the morning. We called again the next day, a different rep said she would escalate the situation and we'd get a call back. When we didn't get a call, we called them again to find it was NOT escalated and they didn't know how to fix it. We started panicking wondering if we still had insurance and would we get on a new plan before the cut-off date so I took to social media.  I sent two Tweets and mentioned them twice in InstagramStories, trying not to be THAT influencer but still getting help. No response. So we found the email address of the top person in charge and I sent a calm, detailed email. That worked and by the end of the following Monday, we were as a family, back in our current plan until the end of the year when our new plan would kick in.

All year I've been dealing with an issue from our 2017 taxes – two quarters of estimated taxes went to my social security number instead of my husband's (it's confusing, I'm the business owner who needs to pay estimated yet he's the primary for our joint filing) and the IRS has been making me jump hoops with certified letters and packets of paper via Priority Mail and monthly phone calls to prove I am a real human being so they could put those two payments towards our taxes. In fact Wednesday morning I mailed yet another packet to the IRS office in Austin, Texas with another copy of my signed 2017 tax return and another copy of my work W2 and proof of our 2017 filing. I came home from the post office, checked the mailbox, and had a letter from the IRS. Assuming it was about this 2017 debacle, I opened it rolling my eyes.

It was a letter stating they reevaluated my 2018 tax return and decided I owed almost $10,000.00 and it was due within two weeks or they would send me into collections. We had an extension for our 2018 taxes and when we requested it, paid a chunk that my accountant and I assumed would cover what we would eventually owe. When we filed in October, it looked as though I'd get a good bit of it back. I was expecting a refund, not a $10K bill. I was floored and terrified. How did this happen? What was going on? What did I do wrong? I have a great accountant, we went over everything, I thought I did everything correctly. I decided I was a terrible business owner. I should close shop and go back to Corporate America where HR and Finance departments take care of stuff like taxes and insurance.

When Karl came home I freaked out to him and he told me to calm down and call our accountant. I was so panicked I didn't even think of such an obvious next step. Our accountant thought it was because of the 2017 issue and suggested I call the IRS, explain how it looks as though this is a rollover from 2017 and if I could get an extension until 2017 was resolved. I dreaded calling the IRS after all my previous experiences.  Just like with the health exchange, each time I called I would get someone who had no idea how to help and often made things worse. I sat on hold for almost two hours before I was contacted with a representative, getting more and more anxious (though I did finish addressing most of the holiday cards while listening to soft jazz hold music over speakerphone).

It was a holiday miracle, a Ms. Singletary was the rep who answered my call and she couldn't figure out why there was so much rigamarole regarding my 2017 taxes. She looked at my file and clearly see the problem and the solution. While I sat on hold, Ms. Singletary connected my estimated payments to our joint account, which not only resolved the 2018 amount due and closed the 2017 query, she fixed a typo which provided us with a nice refund that she marked as an estimated tax payment for 2019. This was our 8th call to the IRS in 2019 and somehow Ms. Singletary was the only one who could comprehend the issues and resolve them in less than an hour.  She laughed at all my thank yous and wished me a happy New Year.  I am so grateful to her.

Owning my own business has been harder than I could ever imagine because of Adulting with a capital A weeks like this, but I am so glad I decided to do what appeared to many as the un-Adulting thing to quit my job at a company I had been successful at for a decade to pursue this dream.  And I am so glad to be on this Adulting journey with all of you!

Weekend Reads

Sometimes I write places other than Wardrobe Oxygen.  This week I wrote a piece for The Plum inspired by a recent post I shared on Facebook. Women who are critical of other women’s bodies are doing a disservice to themselves, their kids, and their peers. We’re old enough to know better. (The Plum)

How the internet killed feminism – a history of feminist blogs and websites and why almost all in 2019 have shuttered. (Jezebel)

Supposedly these are the four visual trends for 2020 as predicted by Adobe Stock.  If this is true, I feel much better about the next decade. (AdWeek)

No this is not another poorly-thought-out Peleton ad, but if you're looking for a great gift, I can't rave enough about our TRX.  Several years ago we visited my cousin and he had two for some reason and gave us one.  Karl used it for years for resistant training but a few weeks ago when I somehow hurt my back, I too became a fan.  It helped me be able to stretch in ways I couldn't without the straps, and was the only thing that alleviated a week of lower back pain. We also use it at my gym.  It's less than $70 on Amazon with free Prime shipping and a great workout or stretch for beginners and experts alike as it can be slipped over a door in your home and you're only working with your own weight as resistance. It's also great for travel. On YouTube, you can find so many videos for TRX stretches and workouts. 

The electable female candidate. (The New Yorker)

“In other words, it's a guidebook for readers who dream of being more than they've been told they are allowed to be.” On the occasion of its eighth film adaptation, it's time for the 1868 novel Little Women to join the literary canon. (Elle)

Love Lizzo? Great. Now start loving the other fat people in your life, too. (Binderful by Medium)

There’s ample anecdotal evidence to support that shifts toward inclusion in reproductive care ranging from abortion to STI testing to, yes, even the packing on sanitary pads, can have a positive effect on people both trans and cis, queer and straight. But is that “positive effect” quantifiable beyond anecdotal evidence of people being made to feel more comfortable?” (Vox)

I love Rick Owens, and love him even more when he's with his wife Michèle Lamy. So needless to say, this interview with him about style and inspiration and life I found totally enjoyable. (The Cut) And if you are more interested in this creative couple, Karl and I came across this documentary a few years ago.  I can't recall if it was on Netflix or a channel like Vice but we were transfixed. (Vimeo)

Are there any clothes that are both guiltless and desirable? Is it possible to buy fashion that does not imperil the environment? (The Washington Post)

‘I don’t understand the [idea] that it’s un-American to criticize your country,' Rapinoe said in the Sports Illustrated story. ‘That’s what an open democracy is about — civil discourse and being able to protest. Clearly, we are not perfect. Until we address the problems we have, it is not going to be better.'” Just another reason why Megan Rapinoe, Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year (and only the fourth woman chosen alone in history) is awesome. (The Washington Post)

Gucci's Pre-Fall 2020 Lookbook featured Bethann Hardison, model turned diversity in fashion activist and all around badass.  (Fashionista) . If you are unfamiliar with Hardison, this piece shares a bit about her history but also her fabulous apartment. (One Kings Lane)

An estimated 250,000 campaigns for medical bills go up annually on GoFundMe, and a search for the word “cancer” turns up 3,266,000 results.  GoFundMe just promoted six tips for cancer patients raising money and it's another example of how terrifyingly broken the US healthcare system is. (GQ)

“Anna Wintour has her bob and sunglasses. Mark Zuckerberg has his Brunello Cucinelli hoodie. And the first thing many people remember about the late, great performer Elaine Stritch is that she chose to spend much of her long public life clad simply in a white men’s shirt over black tights.”  How Elaine Stritch came to create her iconic uniform. (The Cut)

“What did it mean, I wondered, that I have spent so much of my life attempting to perform well in circumstances where an unaltered female face is aberrant? How had I been changed by an era in which ordinary humans receive daily metrics that appear to quantify how our personalities and our physical selves are performing on the market? What was the logical end of this escalating back-and-forth between digital and physical improvement?” Discussing “Instagram Face;” this was one of the most interesting things I read all week. (The New Yorker)

A couple of years ago I read about the “Squatty Potty” on the blog The Middle Page.  I was like, oh ew, why write about this?  But I was intrigued.  So intrigued that two years later when I finally met Cathy from The Middle Page on a brand trip, it was one of the first things I mentioned to her! In the past few months, I have gone 90% plant-based and noticed a dramatic change in my elimination… for the better.  Things I thought everyone dealt with I no longer experienced; things were so much easier.  And I wondered how I could improve this aspect of my daily life even more.  I bought the cheapest yet legit Squatty Potty I could find on Amazon.  And now I am ruined the way my husband is ruined after buying a weighted blanket.  It's hard to function without it because it just makes things so much better.  I'll leave it at this, but if you have questions and would like more details I am happy to answer by email or in the comments!

For Your Entertainment

It's no secret I'm a Harry Styles fan.  I love his style, I love his music, I love his smile.  And well, I love his latest video for “Adore You,” a song off his latest album, “A Fine Line” that was released yesterday.  The song is lovely, but the video, which is like a mini-movie (and narrated by Rosalía who is also an astounding artist), it a must-watch.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Ugh, the IRS nightmare has happened to me twice, both owing over $10k. One was a tax prep error and got fixed, one was my own (very stupid and obvious, hello 1/2 SE taxes need to be included in quarterly estimated tax payments) error when my husband consulted full-time and we had to pay it all at once. Being self-employed is hella expensive! Thank goodness we had insisted on a huge savings buffer before he tried the self-employed thing. He is back with a company and I can’t begin to imagine the nightmare for people trying to get healthcare marketplace insurance, even though the ACA was badly needed.

    In all sincerity, THANK YOU for the squatty potty rec, I am disabled and on some difficult meds and I could really use something just like that. Thank you so much, no shade <3

    1. I’m so glad that it can prove beneficial for you! It’s not a topic we love discussing but it’s something we all deal with and our health, diet, meds, etc. can really impact it! Happy holidays!

  2. Oh my goodness, thanks for sharing your ACA story! I’m going through a similar hell (not yet resolved).

    In November I proudly quit my job to become self-employed (my husband already is), feeling confident that ACA will enable us to get insurance.

    I went online to apply on the Covered California site (ACA site for CA) and somehow ended up completing an application for 2019 (I swear I clicked on “2020” to start the process!) Anyway, since I put in 2020 figures but the site thought I was applying for 2020, the computer insisted that our family had negative $6,000 of income in 2019 and was eligible for Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid, for low-income people) instead of ACA.

    I spent 4.5 hours on the phone with Covered CA – 2 hours on hold and then 2.5 hours with a very nice man who tried *everything* but couldn’t fix the glitch. The computer wouldn’t let me do a 2020 application as long as that 2019 application existed, but he couldn’t cancel it or correct it.

    He told me I had to call Medi-Cal because only they could fix the problem. The number he gave me for Medi-Cal went nowhere (phone tree and none of the 12 numbers to push related to Medi-Cal) so I finally pushed *** and ####s in frustration and somehow got to Medi-Cal. After multiple transfers a very nice man told me no one on his end could fix it but he tracked down the office my ACA application had been sent to and told me to call them. I called, and they told me to come in in person.

    I went in in person and after finally making understood what had happened, was told that THEY couldn’t fix it either and the only solution was to apply for Medi-Cal so I could be rejected from Medi-Cal so that 2019 application could “process” so I could start a 2020 application.

    I had to gather every piece of ID my family has and bring them to the Medi-Cal office in person the next day. The lady helping me was kind enough to make an actual appointment with me for the first thing in the morning.

    Anyway…long story short, I applied, and she told me it should process by 12/12 (application deadline is 12/15) and … surprise, it didn’t process!!! I called my insurance agent in tears and he informed me Covered CA has extended their deadline to 12/21 due to issues with the system.

    Please wish me luck! As of today it still hasn’t processed and if it doesn’t work by Friday, we’ll have to do COBRA for January and spend $1500 for one month of coverage…I don’t want to think about what happens if it doesn’t process by 12/31–then we will have to choose COBRA for the entire year. . .

    Sorry for the long rant, it’s just nice to know someone else understands! All my friends have corporate jobs and health insurance and just can’t relate. Glad your situation worked out, Allison!

    1. Oh Karin I am so sorry, your story is terrible and I completely feel for you. I saw on Twitter today that many sites had extensions because of ridiculous issues like the ones we have faced. I hope this gets resolved very soon and am sending “ACA get your sh*t together” vibes your way! <3

  3. Growing up, my parents ended up filing bankruptcy due to repeated tax shenanigans. Anything with an IRS logo makes my heart race.
    In November, we got a letter from the IRS while my partner was traveling, stating we owed an additional $3K in taxes from 2018. Looked, and sure enough, the accounting firm we used left a zero off a W-2 entry. We left a message with the firm but were very fortunate to be able to pay the amount due. The accounting firm took four weeks to call us back, and then offered to pay the interest. That was it–oh, if we took the negative review we left down.
    I feel for the IRS folks–as Lynn and Leu2500 pointed out, they’ve basically had the stuffing abused out of them for the past three years. Federal employment used to be such a sought after role, and I think nothing’s safe anymore.

    1. I feel for the IRS people as well. Living in DC, over half the people I know work for the government and it is a very different environment than it was five years ago. I’ve also worked in the service industry and know what it’s like when you don’t have proper training or managerial support. What a difficult job these people have, I feel for them though it’s still scary when you’re informed you have to file for insurance individually or you will be sent to collections. Everyone who manages payroll for a department should be forced to spend at least one year working in the service industry so they get a feel for how hard and important the people below them truly are!

  4. OMG, I got a fat packet in the mail from the IRS some years back and this story made my stomach drop for you. I ended up in phone h*ll like you did, but I was able to correct the paper work and didn’t have to pay the $38,000 (!!!) they said I owed. But I had a few tense days and sleepless nights. Glad it all worked out.

    Have not heard of the Squatty Potty but I am intrigued.

  5. Your candid photos are enormously helpful when I’m buying new clothes, outer and inner, online. Also I think you look beautiful. Thank you for your frankness, courageous response and for a great blog.

  6. Jeez, I felt like crying for you at the end of the IRS saga! I think we have all had some type of experience on the phone trying to solve a problem and getting a different person every time! So, I went phew at the end of the story! What I really HATE is when all you can get is voice mail and never a REAL PERSON to help you. Hope all is fixed now and you can relax and enjoy the holiday! (also, I didn’t see anything wrong with the Pelontin ad every one is complaining about – I just saw it as just crazy advertisting.

    1. Thank you Linda! And I think ads like that get so much flak mainly because we live in a 24-hour news cycle world and everyone wants something to bait clicks and TV views.

  7. RE: IRS
    I, too, have had those conversations with IRS reps as a part of my work life. And occasionally I would have one of those absolutely magical problem-solving conversations that you so beautifully described. It was like Christmas and Birthday and Anniversary and work promotion and new-born baby bliss all rolled into one.

    I always tried to keep in mind that Congress has cut funding to the IRS in a draconian manner, and the IRS is not able to hire the appropriate number of staff, especially to answer the phone. Those people are (mostly) doing the best they can to handle an impossible work load with the mostly cranky, scared, uninformed public. It’s a rotten situation for everyone.

    I applaud your persistence and your courtesy. And yes, it always feels like a Christmas miracle! Enjoy!

    1. Good point.

      Also, they were furloughed about this time last year due to the gov’t shutdown & then were called back to work so as not to impact tax season, but had no idea when they would get paid.

    2. I feel for those who answer the phone, I know they must deal with a lot of angry people who can’t hold back. I think everyone needs to spend at least a year in the service industry, waiting tables or working retail or customer service. It would add so much empathy to our society and likely would make it easier to find quality people for these important and underappreciated positions!

  8. The Plum article was so well expressed. How sad that some people feel the need to shame others for not meeting an unattainable ideal. You are a beautiful woman, and the pictures of you in both posts are lovely and tasteful. It seems that there are battles that we have to fight over and over again.

    The late Kevyn Aucoin said: Today I see beauty everywhere I go, in every face I see, in every single soul.

  9. Good grief, your IRS experience was horrible! So glad you found a helpful employee & have things corrected now.

    On a lighter note, I’ve never heard of Squatty Potty until today. I’m intrigued.

  10. Not to be political, but so many people have left the federal government in the last couple of years and are not being replaced that there are lots of mistakes being made in the bureaucracies. Those that are left simply cannot keep up and are not cross trained. For some agencies it’s about to hit crisis level.

    1. It’s so true, living in DC many of my friends work for the government or a government contractor or subcontractor. I was one at my old job. It’s a very different environment in the past few years!

  11. Since there was so much interest in your post on cashmere, and because there’s a cashmere sweater in your Talbots holiday capsule wardrobe, I just want to pass on a sale that hit my inbox: Talbots has ALL cashmere 50% off this weekend, using code Friends40. (Yes, the code says 40 but when you apply it it takes 50% off. I checked.)

    Glad you got your insurance & tax issues resolved. What a relief that must be.

  12. I could so feel you and was tearing up when that IRS rep fixed everything for you. I would have been in full blown panic about insurance and taxes too! Glad you are entering the new year with everything settled!

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