Friday, October 26, 2012

Ichabod Crane - I Remember Him Well...

44) Ichabod Crane - I Remember Him Well...

           (A $7.99 + S&H Predictive Halloween Tale)

he Crane family I knew, lived at the corner of my street.  Their property contained a pond with snapping turtles and a ranch-style house with a two-horse stable.  A wooden fence and thick Evergreens surrounded it.

            There were three brothers; I was friendly with Stuart, the youngest.

            Then there was Ichabod.  Poor Ichabod.

            Ichabod always wanted free food, wine, women, and a bed; and everyone knew it.

            In school, we called him 'Icky' because he constantly picked his nose.  And his hair was always unkempt, his fingernails filthy, and his clothes always wrinkled and disheveled; he was generally an unkempt slob.  He was skinny, scraggly, wore glasses, and walked pigeon-toed.  It was hard to move past his outward appearance.

            He moved into town during primary school, after many of our classmates had established 'elementary social circles', and was therefore, shunned.  He was a frequent guest of the Headmaster, who believed, 'spare the rod and spoil the child'.

Poor Ichabod.
            By middle school, he was a loner and quick to lose his temper.  Little did we know he'd also lose his head.

We never conceived he'd become a terrible, monstrous murderer, nor that he'd become infamous, after the newspapers serialized him along with the Revolutionary, Mercenary, Hessian, Headless Horseman who patrolled our woods after dark, making us respectful of our sleepy Hollow.  Yet, I suppose, the writing was on the wall - and the pumpkin shell - a spooky Jack-o’-lantern, was on the ground, across the bridge, poor Icky never to be seen or heard of, again…

            But bad things happen to good people and we just didn't realize what effect our behavior had on others.  Childhood learning and experiences have far-reaching effects and can scar us for a lifetime.  And scare us for a lifetime; to this day, you won’t catch me walking in the Hollows after dark.
(To boot, there was Horrible Hannah, who escaped from the mental asylum when it burned one year, who lived in the woods, came out at night, could run as fast as the wind, and could smell colors, leaving nowhere to hide!  A tale for another time…)

            Poor Icky.  What his youth must have been like.  And we feared he’d someday become a justice of the ten pound court; what would that have meant?

            We are most impressionable in our youth, and that’s our first exposure to money.

Historically money is 'dirty'.  Even Bugs Bunny spanks Babyface Finster for touching the dirty money ('Baby Buggy Bunny').  Parents tell children not to talk about money at the dinner table, and not to repeat things about it outside the home; spouses feel the need to hide or protect money from each other.  Money is hidden rather than explained, taught and integrated, which might lead to a healthy relationship with money. 

Later, as fairytales go, the boys learn business & finance, and go out into the world to ‘find/make their fame & fortunes’.  The girls go to the kitchen and learn homemaking & household budgeting, as they move from ‘Daddy’s House’ to ‘Husband’s House’.
Even fraternity Brothers who study business together and after college talk about their earnings, eventually stop doing so.  In spite of secrecy and loyalty, money becomes taboo and embarrassing - embarrassing about how much you earn and spend - embarrassing about how much you don't earn and can't spend.

            Friends won't invest with friends who are professional money managers due to attached stigmas and the potentially bad consequences.

Yet, in spite of similar privacy restrictions, people will confide in friends who are doctors, lawyers, and clergy, seemingly more intimate relationships.

People will share their secrets about sex, drug use, and health before they will about their money.

At best, having or discussing money is in bad taste; at worst, it’s a curse.

Do you share these values?

            So, if we all keep such secrets, and sow such seeds, teasing others, making ignorant value judgments and poor decisions, unhealthily inculcating our kids, living like greedy, amoral or immoral '1%ers', craving the greener grass on the other side of the fence, or even coveting another's belongings or spouse, do we not deserve what we reap?

            And what of the Grim Reaper?  You can’t take it with you.

Closed minds are more dangerous than closed purses and purposes.

            Money and Morality begin at home.  Their tiny buds can germinate at school, and eventually business and society.  The 'Haves and Have Nots' do not have to be measured in dollars, versus health, happiness, peace, creativity, family, friends, arts & entertainment, hobbies, and intellectual pursuits.  When we say someone is rich, we would need not qualify it by stating that we don’t mean money.  Wouldn't it be wild to have to qualify it as material wealth?

            So I tell my tale of an Icky Halloween.  Alas, poor Ichabod.  ('And what about Naomi?')

            Neighbors, heed well my hallowed warning: the Eve of All Hallows shall outlive your pursuit of currency.  Use your head, or lose it!  Make conscious, deliberate decisions about your quest for wealth; Icky rides this night!

            What's your relationship with money?  Is money a tool?  A prize?  A weapon?  Does it represent safety and security?  Do you use it for good?  Do you use it for evil?  Do you use it ignorantly or frivolously?  Is money, itself, good?  Or is money bad?  (‘The Shadow knows…’)

            What's important about money to you?


Friday, October 19, 2012

Life Stages

43) Life Stages

 have plenty of senior fraternity Brothers, but the eldest of my circle is turning 60.

He helped me obtain my first and only car, my beloved maroon '78 Firebird with Cragers (my 8-Track still works).

            I have another best friend who is already past 60, and as athletes, he can still run and swim circles around me.

            I have other sexagenarian cronies.  One, age 68, walks 17 miles around the Lehman College arboretum per workout, a few times a week, year-round, in between hours of piano practice.

            Their chronological ages amaze me since I do not measure them by years, unless it's the length of our friendships.

            My friends and I have grown up together, literally and figuratively made music together; run organizations together, graduated together, and traveled the world together.

            We've known each other's families, girl/boyfriends & spouses, been in business together, attended each other's weddings, and supported each other through divorce, parental care, disease, disaster, and death.

            We share values, senses of humor, intelligence, sophistication, curiosity, morality, commitment to causes, and support for each other.

            Yet most of us 'march to our own drummers'.  (Henry David Thoreau: "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.")

            I've watched Brothers, classmates, friends, and family buy their first homes; I've watched their kids grow up, and attended Christenings, Communions, and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. 

            We share each other's fortunes - life fortunes, if not financial ones.  Some have been up, some down, some stable, some still unfolding.

            There's always a laugh in the wings, a shoulder to cry on, a bed waiting for me, should I travel somewhere around the world, and a shirt off a back, if I need it.

            I've yet to start a family, or make the financial fortune I desire, but my classmates and Brothers are already speaking of being empty nesters, their kids' careers and with whom their kids date or live.  And they speak of downsizing their homes and retiring to Florida!  We discuss how to care for the thinning ranks of parents, and whether or not to prepay our funerals.

            This retirement to Florida scuttlebutt has me, yet again, realizing another paradigm shift in the personal lives of the group to which I belong, the group that makes up my age-wave.

            I may not be doing the same things they do, nor share the same interests, but I watch and learn.  And I consider myself rich.  My Dad just asked how frequently I gather or speak with Brothers and classmates, and the answer is weekly; I’m not sure what I would do without them.

            I can't really relate to some of what they are doing, they seem so far ahead of me; careers, big houses, autos, kids, retirement savings.

            Yet, others are approaching 60 and have elementary school kids.

Then I hang with younger men and women, and they seem so far behind, in certain ways, still wet behind the ears from college, maybe living at home, single, starting careers, just going out at 11pm.

            So it’s also choices, not just stages.  And it reinforces my decision to march to my own rhythm section and laugh about Don Quixote.

            Long ago I made a conscious, deliberate decision to avoid being caught in the 'keeping up with the Jones' and 'the grass being greener' elsewhere.  I don't believe the universe works that way, especially with the experiences I've had, and my learning from history and others’ mistakes.

            After all, if we cannot learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.  And why not learn from both my own and other's mistakes, rather than having to learn the hard way?  I’m smarter than that, and it seems to me, that the right to a brain, or sentience, implies the responsibility to use it; a responsibility to family, friends, society, and myself.

            So I tend my own garden, I tend my flock, I try to enjoy life each day (even amidst my complaining), and I manage my expectations.  This helps me to be more comfortable with who I am.

I still cannot see the path ahead, or the light at the end of the tunnel, but I generally, now, get to enjoy the journey.  I am responsible for my decisions, my choices, my attitude, and my own happiness.  I am motivated by goals, not fears.  And I have the support and friendship of others.

            I learn from all, respect my elders, and coach those younger.  We give, receive, and enjoy what we each have to offer.  We share each other's fortunes - life fortunes, if not financial ones, albeit financial wealth abounds.

            Although we come from different walks of life and spend our days toiling in diverse vocations and lifestyles, our wealth is not measured so much in dollars, as in friendship.

            Our bonds aren’t based on how much we have, nor lack.  It isn’t based on rubbing shoulders with the 'right' people, or people of the same economic class or political party, or religion.

            I define wealth by fun, relationships, happiness, fulfillment, and hopefully health and peace.

            Financial wealth is secondary, a tool, not an end.  It is a human invention, and fleeting; one cyber attack, nuclear incident, or major sunspot, or meteor, or major hurricane or earthquake, or tsunami, and the rules of society will change - most likely reverting to 'dog-eat-dog'.  Thus, the relationships will outshine the luster of gold.

            I believe relationships are based mostly on shared experience and shared values.  That, along with managing expectations are the keys to the kingdom: wealth and longevity: 'Live long, and prosper’.

            To wit, how do you measure wealth?  How do you steward your money?  Who's in your support circle - or corner?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Power of Apology

42) The Power of Apology

ome people just don't get it.  I fear it's more often men.  People have to be taught the healing, and healthy power of an apology.  An apology goes a long way.

            ”I'm sorry” and, "I apologize" are powerful and important phrases.

            They immediately diffuse a situation; they allow you to move forward, whether it's to walk away, be able to remain in the same room or car, try to grasp your feelings, cry, talk, or have 'make-up' sex, or remain friends, or simply non-violent.

            I believe it has to do with assuming responsibility for your actions, and respecting other people, and their feelings.

            If one can get out of their own way, and be confident enough in themselves, and their personal code of ethics, then one can more easily apologize.

            Apologies prevent war, apologies prevent fights.  Apologies can salvage activities, and relationships.  Apologies help avoid misunderstandings, confrontations, and unnecessary stress.  Apologies maintain familial relationships, allow friendship to foster, marriages to last, groups to thrive, civilizations to flourish, and humanity to evolve.

            Apologies can display empathy, and compassion; they can aid self-esteem, and self-confidence.

            We are a social being; we need others.  Apologies are generally inexpensive, and healthy; they are a life tool, and can aid your moral compass.

            How do you navigate?


Friday, October 5, 2012

41)  Tornadoes in New York!

ornados in New York - again!  Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, early snow, global warming, sun spots, meteors, unchecked deadly  insect, and animal populations, Avian Flu, bio-warfare, cancer, obesity, nuclear meltdowns, terrorism, murder in the streets, murder in the home, auto accidents, accidents in the home, the end of the Mayan calendar; end of the world?!

            Will anyone be surprised if aliens appear?  How about if the Earth opens, and Godzilla or Mothra emerge?  (I venture to guess that many New Yorkers will still just try to make the light and catch their train.)

            Nevertheless, are you prepared?  Have you planned?

            "What's a woman to do?! "

Risk Management, fellow Terrans:

1.    Step 1: Use Common Sense - the least common type.  Extra groceries & water in the house, a  Go-Bag & escape route, computer back-ups, life skills, mental skills, tools, lists, B-plans.

2.    Step 2: Emergency Cents (cash).  Cash to travel, savings for emergencies (& opportunities!), repairs, unemployment, disability; self-insurance.

3.    Step 3: Credit Availability, short-term borrowing, and/or not having to carry too much cash.

4.    Step 4:  Insurance - transference of the cost, of a catastrophic risk, to someone else; OPM (Other People's Money); pay a small amount of money to reserve a large amount of money:

a.    Health Insurance
b.    Disability Insurance
c.    Life Insurance
d.    Homeowner's (incl. Renter's) Insurance
e.    Auto Insurance
f.     Professional Liability Insurance
g.    Other Insurance

            Life is risk; do you manage it?  - Or does it manage you?