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  • Traveling COVID 19 Style - Yellowstone National Park

    Not too many people are doing any leisure travel with all of the concern over contracting COVID-19.  However, that doesn’t mean we can’t see other parts of the county or the world for that matter.  I have been writing a novel where my characters went on a cruise.  I wanted the story to be credible, so I researched each destination on the internet and described the experience as seen through the eyes and cameras of others. I feel like I have been to those places, every bit as much as those I have actually travelled to over the years.

    I decided it would be fun to take you all traveling with me to somewhere I have always wanted to go.  This time, we’re going to Yellowstone National Park.  The National Parks website, NPS.GOV has a variety of visual resources that allow you to explore the park virtually.  The easiest to navigate are the video walks which are simply a photographer, walking along the path to a specific feature or destination while filming the scenery.  This trip is highly educational but still allows for plenty of recreation.

    The first video walk I explored and recommend is the Upper Terrace parking lot to Canary Spring at Mammoth Hot Spring.  The path is easy, it’s a boardwalk which keeps the visitor to the site as well as the landscape protected. The link to this walk is:

    The Canary Spring walk is the longest of the video walks; about 10 minutes.  It is a beautiful day under partly cloudy skies and the photographer seems to take one short rest break along the way.  At the end of the walk, the Canary, Dryad Spring offers a stunning view of the Travertine terraces enhanced by the diverse Thermophilic Bacteria.

    Uncle Tom’s parking area to the overlook of the Upper Falls is the subject of the next video walk.  This path is paved in asphalt and an easy 1 minute 11 second walk. It was filmed while the ground was covered in snow, but the path is clear. The Link is:

    Dragons Mouth Spring at Mud Volcano is another easy walk along a boardwalk.  As you approach the end of the path, you clearly see the steam rising into the air from the crevasse in the rocks at the edge of the spring. The link is:

    This walk takes a duration of less than two minutes, but the view is spectacular.

    Lookout Point is the next destination with the purpose of viewing the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River.  The path is again paved in asphalt.  Even virtually, you’re thankful for the metal railings that protect visitors from falling from the steep ravine along which the path travels. The link is:

    One of the rewards for completing this two-minute virtual walk is a view of the falls with the colors of the rainbow visual within the falling water. 

    Once you complete the easy virtual walks, the site offers map-based tours with links to discover many aspects of each section of the park.  The tours will take anywhere from a few moments to many hours depending on how many of the embedded links you follow as you explore.  To begin the first of the map-based tours, follow this link:

    You are taken to a map with it’s own embedded links treating you at a variety of experiences.

    1. Mammoth Hot Springs
    2. Norris Geyser Basin
    3. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River
    4. Mud Volcano
    5. Fountain Paint Pot
    6. Upper Geyser Basin
    7. Yellowstone in 3-D

    As you or your children explore Yellowstone National Park virtually from the links supplied by the National Parks Service, you may want to answer some easy questions to make sure you are getting the best experience possible.  I have complied a few for you to test your comprehension of the basic information that is available to you on the site. These can be answered by taking the map-based tours at the initial level.  However, you will get the most enjoyment out of clicking every link and exploring deeper into the site. The Answers follow the questions.

    1. What is the name of the limestone-based rock which forms the terraces of Mammoth Hot


    1. What causes the soil in the Norris Geyser Basin to be yellow?
    2. What colorful insect is commonly found in the North Geyser Basin?
    3. What species of bird are you likely to see in Spring the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone area?
    4. What is considered a safe distance from the Bison commonly viewed near the Mud Volcano?
    5. What does the paint consist of in the Fountain Paint Pot?
    6. What is the PH (Neutral) of Blood?
    7. Why was Fort Yellowstone Founded?

    Answers: 1. Travertine, 2. Sulfur, 3. Dragonflies, 4. Osprey, 5. 25 yards or more, 6. Mud, 7. 7.4, 8. To increase the army presence and protect the parks natural resources.


  • COVID 19 Stimulus Payments

    COVID 19 Stimulus Payments

    Simple Tax Advice, Volume 4

    Many of us received payments of $1200 or more to help stimulate the economy during the 2020 pandemic. Being on the front lines in a tax office, I heard a lot of questions from clients as to what happens next. Most feared that they would have to pay tax on the payments when they filed their 2020 returns:

    This is not the case. The payment amount received for the economic stimulus is not added to taxable income.  However, you will need to know what you received in order to reconcile your 2020 return when you file in 2021. 

    The other question I heard over and over is: What happens if I was qualified to receive a payment but didn’t?

    Most taxpayers are qualified to receive all or part of the stimulus payment.  The Income limit is $75,000 for a single individual, $112,500 for someone who files head of household, and $150,000 if married filing joint.  The payment doesn’t go away at the limit, but it is reduced by $50 for each $1000 over. This is actually stated as a 5% reduction of the amount of your AGI which exceeds the limit.

    As an example, if you are a married couple, filing joint and your adjusted gross income is $154,000 you will receive $2,400 less ($4,000 x 5%) $200. Your payment will be $2,200. If you are a married couple filing joint and your AGI is $198,000, you will receive $2,400 less ($48,000 x 5%) $2,400. Your payment will be $0. As you can see, in the case of a married couple filing joint, it is at $198,000 that the payment phases out completely

    If you were qualified to receive a payment but did not for any reason other than unpaid child support, you will receive your payment as a credit on your 2020 tax return.  This ensures that all persons who are qualified to receive a payment do so. For those of you that do not file income tax returns because you have no taxable income or some other non-filer requirement, the IRS has tools on the website to help you get the information submitted to receive your stimulus payment.

    The next question is this: What if I received more money in my stimulus payment than I was entitled to based on my AGI for 2020.  Will I need to pay it back?

    The answer here is again, no.  Taxpayers received stimulus payments based on their 2018 or 2019 returns.  My understanding from the IRS website and my company’s training is this; If the taxpayer received too much money, they would not have to pay it back.  In order for the IRS to require the taxpayer to return an overpayment, it would have been written into the law that authorized the payments in the first place.  It is not in the law; therefore, recipients will not have to return any overpayment.  

    The answer to the final question is more good news. The question being asked is what if I was not paid enough money based on my 2018 or 2019 return?

    Once again, if the taxpayer did not receive enough money, and it was not reduced or held because of unpaid child support, they will receive the difference as a credit on their 2020 rturn.

  • Do The Right Thing

    I’m a registered Independent, not affiliated with any political party.  I have listened to the news every day since COVID 19 appeared on our radar.  At first, I was only worried about a team member that was visiting family in China. Is she in danger of contracting the disease? Would she be able to come home?  How long will she need to quarantine when she returns? This was back in February.  She returned home to the US and was able to return to work after a self-quarantine of two weeks.  She did, however, choose to voluntarily talk a leave of absence for the rest of the tax season over fears of contracting the virus here in the US. 

    I continued to work throughout tax season and to the end of the extended season (July 15).  I only stopped working to take a mandatory two-month furlough required by my employer.  If it were up to me, I would continue to work, not because I need the money, but because I have worked since I was 15 years old and I feel out of sorts when I’m home every day, especially now since I can’t really get out of the house except for essential shopping and doctor appointments and stuff.  I am careful when dealing with others because I would rather not contract COVID 19.  However, I am not scared.  I know that we need to protect our Seniors and others who are immune compromised, but this is nothing new.  There are other diseases such as the ever-evolving flu virus they must be protected from.  Where the rest of us will get ill and recover, chances are, they will not. They could die.

    My family has been extremely lucky to not have any loss of jobs or wages during the current “crisis”.  We received the stimulus payment but didn’t need it.  We are fine.  Other families have been hit hard and need help.  The best way we can help them is to let them get back to work.  However, this is not the point of this article.  The point of this article is, whatever political party we are affiliated with, we need to be able to trust our news agencies to tell us the truth.  We need to be able to hear and read all news from the beginning to the end.  We do not need censorship to do the right thing.  We need truth.  We need to be informed, not brainwashed.  We are, for the most part, intelligent human beings and need to be able to make our own decisions and have our own opinions. 

    My advice to you, my readers, during this pandemic and this election year, is to get your news from multiple sources. When you feel there is a discrepancy in what you are being told, research, research, research.  If they don’t tell the truth, discover it for yourself.  Do not trust everything you hear from a network television reporter or a cable network reporter, just because you have been listening to that person for years.  Everyone in this political climate seems to have an agenda.  The only agenda you need to listen to is yours.  I’ll say it again.  Research, research, research.  The internet is a wonderful thing.  Search and read everything you can find on a specific subject.  Find out what stories are being censored and read them. What do they not want us to know?  Why do they not want us to know it?  What is the truth?

    Once you know the truth, research all of the candidates to determine who shares the most opinions with you.  Who is most likely to do what you think they should do.  Who is most likely to work for the people of this county and not for some political agenda that you may or may not agree with.  Do the right thing. Vote for the person who is most likely to do the right thing.  Of course, the right thing, is just an opinion.  Even if it is your opinion and not my opinion, it is still the right thing.  We all have different goals and challenges in life.  Thankfully, when most of us agree, its typically good for our county.  We are happier and we thrive. 


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