by Gale Davidson

Editor’s Note:  Is your life on track or completely off the rails? Do you have a simple concern that cropped up last week or an issue that feels like it has dogged you for a lifetime?
Go Ask Gale. Send your concerns in 125 words or less to: readerswrite@carrollmagazine.com.

I’m 34 and really, truly still undecided as to whether I want to have kids. I am married, have a reasonably stable job – there’s nothing obvious holding me back and I’m starting to feel anxious about time running out. How can I make a decision I know I won’t regret later? If we were talking about dessert, I’d say go for it. Dessert is always enjoyable and comes with few surprises. We’re talking about assuming responsibility for another human, though, which is decidedly not always enjoyable and – at least the first time around – is nothing but surprises. You don’t sound like a person who likes surprises, or the unknown. And, if time just sort of crept up on you and now you find yourself panicked at the thought of making this decision, then you must not have been very interested before now. I want to be clear: It is perfectly ok not to have children, not to want children, and not to think about children.  If you don’t feel like there’s something missing from your family, then there probably isn’t. I don’t think “nothing obvious holding me back,” or “time running out” are convincing enough reasons to have kids. They’re not even convincing enough reasons to adopt a cat. Feeling ambivalent means you’ll be fine, either way. If you do feel regret later, you can always adopt – a child, a cat, or a dog.

My grandmother is turning 100 years old this month, and the family is throwing her a big party. While I love my grandmother and want to celebrate her, I’m nervous about the prospect of interacting with a lot of the rest of my family, to whom I haven’t really spoken since the election. Tips or strategies for navigating a political landmine graciously? First: Show no fear. Second: Create a diversion, I say. No one is going to pick a fight with the person who made the birthday slideshow or who hand-decorated the three-tier cake. Further, no one is going to choose to bicker when presented with the opportunity to talk about himself. So, after the cake is gone and the slideshow is over, if your uncle still has that combative glint in his eye – become very interested in his job, what he’s watching on Netflix these days, his new car, who cuts his hair – whatever. Or, just leave. The cake is gone, after all.

If there is one thing that sits at the bottom of my To Do list for way too long, it is tackling my taxes. Do you have any tax advice? I do! You should file your taxes. If you own anything – a house, a car, a business, etc. – you should probably pay someone else to file your taxes. To be clear, you should pay someone who is an accountant, not just, like, Frank from around the corner (I know he’s nice, but still). I hear (from my accountant) that tax codes can change year to year, so you could be eligible for more deductions than you know — especially if you had any new major expenses (car, home, medical) in 2016.

And: Now’s the time to clear out your closets and haul stuff to the local thrift shop. That’s deductible. Did you make any charitable donations in 2016? That’s deductible. Are you a teacher? $250 of supplies you bought for your classroom (I know you spent more than that, but sorry) is deductible. Lastly, go in with reasonable expectations. You shouldn’t be getting a huge refund; if you are, or if you owe, get thee to an HR rep and change your withholdings ASAP.

My oldest son is a senior in college and wants to pursue acting. I think it would be a mistake for him to move directly from his dorm to Los Angeles, but I can’t convince him of that – can I? You have to hand it to these creative types. They dare to dream! You said yourself that there’s no convincing him. So, what’s your question? If your son is at all susceptible to suggestion, talk to him about starting out in a theater city (as opposed to a film city) – New York or Chicago, perhaps – where even if he’s not getting leading roles, he can at least work on his craft with other actors in an improv group, or something. That seems a lot more productive than going from audition to audition alone and getting turned down for most — if not all — of them.

Also, talk to him about setting realistic goals, e.g. almost any paying gig. If he’s ill-prepared for L.A. and goes anyway, the best you can do is offer him a soft place to land.

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