Saving For A Rainy Day

IMG_0800For the first time in a long while, we have been getting rain here in Sedona.  It is much needed and appreciated, I might add.  Allowing an atmosphere for quiet and reflective in my thoughts, I was  propelled backwards in time, and recalled a saying my dad emphasized on numerous occasions.  “Save for a rainy day” he would advise.  Financial planning was something in which he excelled.

Dad took me to the bank when I was about 10 or 11 in order to open my first savings account.  Excitement was evident in both of us.  Me, because it signaled that I was a “big” girl now and would have my own money, and Dad, because he was teaching me something of value.  The savings book was navy blue and the woman behind the counter typed into it the amount of my deposit.  (This was before computers, on-line banking and credit cards.)  She handed it to me and I was in awe!  There were about a dozen pages that could be filled with deposit and withdrawal transactions and I was going to use every one of those pages!

Over time I accumulated what was considered a good amount of money for someone my age in the 1960’s.  I had babysitting jobs, an allowance and my first job at the age of sixteen.  I monitored the ebb and flow of the sum of numbers in that book, always focusing on making them grow.   I was learning lessons about planning for the future.

When I first became a teacher, there was a payment plan option that allowed you to have less money in your checks throughout the school year.  The district would take that money and then pay you in what was called a “balloon” check as your last check before summer began.  It sounded reasonable at the time, so I chose that option.  I happened to mention it to my dad sometime during that school year and he was stunned!  He informed me that by doing this, I was not using my money wisely.  If I took that same amount of money and invested it, I could make money on it and end up with more.  Additionally, he believed the idea of letting the organization have my money was to their benefit and why would I even consider doing that?  As a result, I chose the option of getting every penny I earned up front during the next school year and every year afterward.  It went right into the bank to earn interest!

Years later, when my dad was ill and couldn’t leave the house, I would visit him every day. During these visits I was educated about the stock market and investing and techniques to make my money grow.  Saving wasn’t enough, I needed to have my investments working for me.  One purchase I made under my dads guidance was Walt Disney stock.  Years later it has grown dramatically and I have tapped into that amount it when necessary.  The majority is still in my investment account as a reminder of my dad’s wisdom.  I also knew he wouldn’t be around forever, so with his encouragement, I sought out a financial advisor/planner who has been with my husband and I now for many years.

Dad taught me to invest for my future and never spend more than you have.  When it was necessary to spend I was a always instructed to ask myself, “is it a want or a need?”  If it was a need, then I had the savings to spend and if it was a want I had to decide if I wanted to part with the money.  I know too many people who are in debt up to their eyeballs.  They buy at whim and do not plan for the future.  They cannot afford basic essentials or health care, yet they purchase clothes, expensive technology and eat out all of the time, amassing gigantic credit card debt.

Not me!  Suffice it to say the words “save for a rainy day” paid off.  Retired and enjoying the rain of Sedona and other blessings at a relatively young age, I am fortunate that my dad instilled the values of financial security and planning within me.

Happy Fathers Day

If you have read any of my blogs, it is rather obvious that I loved my dad in extreme abundance. To say he was my hero is an understatement.  His was the model of parenting that held the perfect balance of unconditional love, discipline, fairness and respect.  There was nothing I wouldn’t do for my dad.

In his later years my dad wasn’t well.  He had emphysema from a smoking habit which began when he was in high school and accelerated while serving in World War II.  We all tried to get him to stop.  Hiding cigarettes, blowing out the matches, putting pins in the filters were many of our unsuccessful techniques.  He quit so many times, I cannot even count them all.  By the time he did quit, he was on oxygen and could not do very much, physically.  It pained me to watch the effort it took him to breathe and accomplish the small things he once never gave any thought to.  But we made the best of it.

I was a teacher and my summers were unburdened by a strict schedule.  As a result, I would go to the house and we would spend hours playing gin rummy, watching the stock market and discussing the issues of life.  I would win the rummy championship of Green Hill Road, he would capture it for the State of Connecticut, I would reclaim it for the United States  and eventually he would win for the entire universe.  You get the picture.  During these times, I might share some problem from my work and we would hash it out, me taking advantage of the benefit of his guidance and wisdom.  His financial advice was always welcome and he would explain how stocks and bonds worked, what good investing was about and how to be wise with my money.  These were his best moments near the end.  When he felt important and had something to teach, he felt useful and I always thought that he seemed physically better.  I would lecture that he had to do a little more exercise and he would promise, although I knew he wouldn’t.  It was just so hard for him.

My dad passed away from complications associated with his emphysema in June of 1989 at the young age of 68.  It was, without question, the most emotionally crushing day of my life.  However, there was nothing left unsaid between us and he left this realm knowing how much I live him and me knowing the same.  That is how it is supposed to be.

So Happy Fathers Day daddy.  Your little/big girl misses you so much every single day.  Thank you for being my dad, although I guess you didn’t have much choice.  I am richly blessed for having you in my heart always.  I love you.

Worms, Teddy and Worms – It’s The Little Things

wormsI haven’t written for a little while.  Not sure why, except that I haven’t felt the urge.  Today I find myself thinking of a plentitude of small things that I remember about my dad.  None of them fit into an entire story, but lumped together I believe they make a point.  It’s the little things that count!

So many memories of my childhood involve my dad and each one put together form a jigsaw puzzle of love, care and respect.  Humor also played a big role in his interactions with me and others.  One such memory is the time I inquired about worms in the rain.  Where we lived, whenever it rained hard, huge amounts of worms flooded the driveway and street.  Being a lover of all creatures, I was concerned.  I asked my dad why the worms appeared only when it rained.  His reply was serious and well thought out, or at least I thought so.  He told me that the worms thought the patter of the rain on the ground was the bird’s feet and beak pecking. The worms believed  was their duty to come out and feed the birds.  Made sense to me.  Many years later, I realized the truth, but I will always secretly believe what my dad told me and smile each time I think about it.

We lived in New Jersey when I was 5 years old and drove to a distant location for lunch.  When we got home, I was looking for “Teddy”, my favorite stuffed animal.  Oh no!  I had left him at the restaurant and I was inconsolable.  What happened?  My dad got in the car and drove back to get him.  He didn’t get angry or complain that he wasted his free time going back to get my best friend, he just did it!  Tell me that is not something to remember always.

My studies were important to me, but my memory was short and if I tried to study at night I would fall asleep and be unable to recall what I needed to the next day.  Dad was a morning person.  Always up at 4 am for coffee and a cigarette, we experimented with him waking me up to study in the AM.  He would come into my room and tickle my inner ear.  Subsequent to my stirring, he would make a tiny bugle with his hand and trumpet revelee into my ear.   Then, singing to the tune “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning I would have to awaken.  What I wouldn’t give today to hear that at least once.  My dad turned me into a morning person as a result of these experiences.  He always said “the early bird catches the worm.”  Must be something about worms – lol!

The message I provide for the dads of today is this.  Little things add up to be big things!  Please don’t shy away from doing something that you may not feel is uniquely valuable or earth shattering.  It really is the little moments that stay with your daughter and define and shape your relationship.  Especially during more difficult times, I find that if I can recall one or two of these moments of so many, it helps me to deal with what is in front of me with a smile.

I Guess That’s Why We Aren’t Democrats!

Moonshine_the_donkeyI don’t have any recollection of this incident… I only know the story as my parents tell it.  However, I distinctly remember the place from pictures we have.  A little farm/petting zoo exists somewhere in Connecticut and that is where this particular situation took place.

Memories of running around with my dad, throwing pebbles into the water, chasing ducks, feeding chickens and uproarious laughter reside in my brain and soul.  Although I was only four or five years old, because it was so much fun, I guess those memories are genuine.  As was explained to me, we were walking along the perimeter of the zoo where there were farm animals in a makeshift fenced in area.  Included in this group of animals was Mr. Donkey.  It is said that I had a real fascination with him and wanted to go up and pet him.  Dad escorted me by the hand as we approached the railing.  But before I could get close enough,  the donkey got aggressive and bit my dad on the hand!  Apparently, the dumb ass became kooky enough that my dad had to hoist me onto his shoulders and run to get away.

It is funny how many times throughout my life he told that story.  As I said, I don’t remember much of it, but the message behind it has always meant the world to me.  My dad protected me from bodily harm by taking the bite from that donkey.  Every time he told the story, he never mentioned that, but it was the only lesson that I gleaned from it.  My dad would never let anyone or anything hurt me …. not ever!  Being able to count on him for this from the time I was very small is not something to be taken lightly.  Daughters always need a champion.

Suffice it to say, donkeys were never very popular in our household… hmmm…. I guess that is why we were never Democrats – funny!  Politics aside, dads need to protect their daughters when necessary.  Instill in them the knowledge that you will always be there.  In my dads doing so, I learned to stand on my own two feet and so will your daughter.

Scarf Juice

philadelphiaoutsiderboonesfarmIt was the day of my Senior Prom and in the closet sat a bottle of Boone’s Farm Apple Wine.  I am not sure what made me broach the question, but I did.  “Dad, can I take the bottle of Boone’s Farm with me to the prom?”  Wow, I wasn’t even sure that came out of my mouth!*#  To my utter amazement, he said yes!  My mom was appalled.  She let it be known that she thought it was a stupid and irresponsible decision, but my dad knew otherwise.  He was measured in what he allowed me to do, but he seemed to always weigh the benefits against the risks.  In doing this he made reasonable choices that held me accountable.  The trust he placed in me that evening was impactful for my entire life.

There were eight of us at the table sharing this wine.  Keeping it hidden from the chaperones was the challenge while we attempted to distribute it to everyone.  My date, Syd, suggested I wrap the bottle in my white shawl and people pass their glasses to us.  We could then pour it into the glasses under the table.   We were such criminals and giddy at the thought of pulling this off.  I don’t even think we realized that we would each only net about a half of a glass of what was probably the worlds worst wine.  As I poured nervously looking around for the adults, some of the wine sloshed onto my shawl.  We became overly silly and Syd labeled the wine “scarf juice” forever more.  What a great memory.

What did my dad know that allowed him to say yes to his precious daughter?  My theory has numerous layers.  First of all, he knew all of us were good kids and he had a level of trust in me that had been borne out in my actions.  Secondly, he probably knew that if we wanted alcohol, we could procure some and it would be better that he control what we had.  Finally, he and my mom were getting up at 3 am to cook breakfast for my circle of friends before we left for the beach.  Dad knew that with all of those elements in place it would be extremely difficult for any of us,but mostly me, to get drunk and out of control.

So there we were at 3 am in our kitchen, eating pancakes, bacon, and other assorted goodies.  The breakfast was cooked with TLC (tender loving care as dad termed it) by my exhausted parents.  I think back on it now with deep satisfaction and gratefulness that my dad trusted me enough to say yes and that his faith in me remained intact.

Syd and I stay in touch and we often recall the “scarf juice story” with fondness.  Dads, opportunities to demonstrate responsibility abound in your daughters lives.  Take advantage of them and she will grow from those experiences.   Invent your own “scarf juice” experience!

God Bless America

american-flag-2a2On this Memorial Day I am truly blessed that I was born to my Dad.  He was a World War II Veteran who served as a Lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps.  He fought overseas in numerous assignments.  However, his greatest memory was the taking of the Bridge at Remagen.  While seriously ill and in intensive care right before he died, Dad would recount his time there proudly and repetitively.  His patriotism and love of the United States was true and stayed with him until his last breath.

I distinctly remember his telling me over and over that there was no country as great as the United States.  The strength of spirit and emotion the enveloped him as a patriot was contagious.  Dad traveled a lot and upon his return he would always be so thankful to be home.  His sacrifice and others like him during World War II made our lives richer and we owe a great debt of gratitude to his generation.

This was instilled in me every single day.  Active and vigilant, he payed attention to politics and the world scene.  We would get into pretty intense discussions as my young ideals started out different from his.  As I matured, though, I realized his ethics and morals were well grounded.  Work hard, don’t take our freedom for granted and stand up for what is right even if you are standing alone.  I learned to model these principles and was better for it.  He used to say that nothing is free and you have to earn your way through life.

No message could be more important today for young women.  Fathers, you can either instill these values in you daughters or live within a fictionalized view that the United States is no better than any other country.While we have our faults, we are still the great and most generous nation in the world.  Dad used to say that freedom is a fragile thing.  If we do not work to protect it, it will disappear.  It is up to us to make sure that his generations efforts do not go to waste.

Thank you to all who have served this great country proudly.  But my undying love, adoration and respect goes to my Dad!

The Baseball Bat

Baseball_batI must admit, I thought I was pretty grotesque as a kid.  I had buck teeth, was skinny as a rail and had stringy, baby fine hair with short bangs.  We had a last name that was a bully’s dream = Krumm = which begged for us to be tormented!  That combined with the fact that we apparently moved into a house in which the neighborhood bully wanted his friend to move in to set us up for some tough times.

My brother and I were called names, teased, chased home, ostracized and belittled.  Making matters worse was that my mom took it all personally and in an attempt to defend us, ended up making it much, much worse. She garnered the name “Old Sea Hag” from the leader of the gang because she came out of the house to yell at the kids.  Yikes what a mess!

Over time it died down and improved.  The reasons were varied.  Most of the kids got to know us and despite the leader of the gang continuing his behavior, the others gave it a rest.  I also began to stand up to them making it known that I would be my brother’s protector and wouldn’t take any garbage.  Additionally, over time, my dad decided to have a talk with the gang leader.  He softened measurably after talking with my dad.  I understand why because my dad was rational, reasonable and always searching for positive solutions.

However, while it was better, my self esteem was still in the toilet.  Over time I still had buck teeth, had no figure and compared to other girlfriends my age looked about twelve when they were passing for much older.  I tried everything I could to make myself look older and prettier.  Even stuffing tissues in my bra had no effect.  I was depressed!

Finally the process of getting braces on my teeth began. I began to mature physically, but was still way behind all of my friends.  There must have been a day in particular when I was extremely upset.  While I forget why, I will remember what my dad said to me for the remainder of my life.  He looked at me with all sincerity and said, “Lauren, when those braces come off I will have to beat away all of the boys with a baseball bat.”  That got a reply of “Daddy!” , but you know I believed him deep down inside.  He was my hero and he had never lied to me.  I was somehow transformed that day.

Fathers, it is vital that you to support your daughters.  You will never know when one sentence can impact their feelings as my dad’s did.  Supply strength and compassion for them in all that they feel and it will make a difference!

Unconditional Love

I’m not too sure that many people experience unconditional love in their lifetime.  It is a blessed thing and if you are lucky enough to receive it, you carry it in your soul.  Toby, my dog, loves unconditionally because it is in his nature.  However, human unconditional love is extremely rare.  I imagine it is because as humans we have a lot of built up insecurities and faults that result in our inability to forgive or separate the deed from the person.

I did a stupid thing when I was about 12 years old.  Peer pressure took its toll and I succumbed to it, letting a friend convince me to let her wrap up my leg in bandages and chicken wire.  She then ran down the street to tell my dad that I had fallen out of a tree and broken my leg.  As I lay in an open field, it didn’t even occur to me that I was nowhere near a tree.  But, I guess that didn’t matter to my dad.  Upon his panicked approach I lay there completely terrorized by the worry on his face.  It didn’t quite register yet how absurdly cruel this was, but as he closed in on me I knew I had to end the charade.  Just as he bent over to pick me up, I yelled out “only kidding.”   Oh boy, I was in for it.  Dad was not a happy camper.

After removing all of the bandaging and wire, we walked home.  Yes, I received a stern talking to and got grounded, but that wasn’t the worst part.  My dad shared his feelings of disappointment in me and discussed how thoughtless I was.  He had been terrified and worried that he could not get to me fast enough.  To then find out it was all a stupid prank, hurt him very much.  And that is what made me feel so awful and guilty.  My dad, who loved me without fail, had been put through a traumatic experience just for our enjoyment.  Dad expressed that it was the behavior that was hurtful and although he didn’t like the behavior, he still loved me.  That made the entire act that much worse.  Boy was I an idiot.

Throughout the years, I reflect back on that day.  I believe it was the only time I ever really hurt him.  However, I know I did things that made him furious with me.  Each time he made sure to differentiate between the deed and the emotion.  I can still hear him -” I don’t like what you did, but I still love you.” This was the bond in our relationship.  I watched my step because I idolized and adored him, never wanting to disappointment him.  He loved me unconditionally.  That is still in my soul.

Unconditional love is a difficult thing to give, but a precious gift to receive.  Fathers MUST do this for their daughters.  If given, it will be paid forward and live on for a lifetime.

“I Would Have Been Older But I Was Sick For A While” Part 2

The Band Chicago

While driving to an appointment today I was considering my next blog and it suddenly hit me.  I understand now what the above “Larry” quote means.  All these years of thinking he was just ridiculously silly and now I realize that my Dad was on to something.  It is also is extremely poetic that the thought came to me in the car while listening to a song by Chicago.  You see Chicago was my very first concert and I went with my dad, yep I did.  How many women can say that?  Anyway, back to the music in the car for a minute before I tell that story.  Whenever we went anywhere the radio was always on.  If it was my mom driving, what we labeled “la-dee-da music” was always playing, you know the slow, OLD stuff.  However, when my dad was in control we listened to the cool music i.e.. Beatles, Rolling Stones, Chicago, Beach Boys, etc.  You get the idea – my brother and I loved it when dad drove.  I still remember him anxiously waiting with us the night The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show for the very first time.  He sang right along with us while making jokes about the screaming girls.

Now, to my first concert.  It was the sixties! I was only 14 and couldn’t date, couldn’t drive, couldn’t go anywhere by myself.  (so unfair!)  My younger brother played the Chicago album until the grooves wore out and my Dad loved their music.  Chicago was arriving in concert, at the Yale Bowl, just 30 minutes from our house.  We had been there to watch a football game so we were familiar with the venue and wanted to go.  “Please, just drop us off, we won’t get into any trouble” was our selling point.  Well no way that was going to happen, BUT dad said he would take us and even more incredibly, we could each invite a friend.  How “fab” was that?

Well despite the fact that the concert was packed with older kids and the air around us was a smoky gray with reefer smells and clouds, we had a “far out and groovy” time with my dad.  He never once commented about the pot and enjoyed himself thoroughly.

So how does this help me understand what his saying “I would have been older, but I was sick for a while” meant?  The way I see it, life was hard when he was younger.  He experienced the Depression, fought in World War II, came home with Hepatitis A, and lived on the beach for 6 months while he studied in order to facilitate getting accepted into a college.  He was relatively older by the time he went to Stevens Institute of Technology and 33 years old when I was born.  A good chunk of his youth had been spent in life situations that our generation do not really grasp – scraping just to get by and not getting everything you want.  I glean that this time was what he referred to as “being sick for a while.”  He never really got to be carefree and enjoy the things most 20 year olds get to play at.  Therefore he was still young, mentally anyway, and wanted to grab life with gusto.  And the best part was that he shared that attitude with me.

So once again fathers of girls, the message appears before you.  Experience life with your daughters.  Enjoy, laugh, be active together, find a mutual interest and share it.  In this you will be building a deeper relationship and a bond that will last forever!



Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day

My dad was huge on keeping your word.  Making a promise, keeping it and following through was something not to be taken lightly in our household.  The last promise I made to him was when he was in the hospital before he passed away.  Dad asked me to make sure I watched over my mom.  He was only 68 years old when he died and had prepared for it in numerous ways. (Other stories to come)  However, he was worried about my mom and although he had seen to it that she was financially secure, there were so many other things to monitor.  I gave him my word, and while my mom and I have our battles, I work every day to be there for her and overlook our sometimes rocky history.

So today is about Mother’s Day and the hope that my dad would be proud of us.  Happy Mother’s Day mom.  I admire how you picked up the pieces and carried on for the last 26 years without Daddy.  You have always been there for me and while sometimes I don’t show my appreciation, I am truly thankful for all that you have done for me.  I am aware that I was strong willed and stubborn while growing up and on occasion did my best to push your buttons.  Weathering the storm, you stuck with me like gum on a shoe even when it wasn’t easy.  My love for you is unwavering and constant and I am thankful every day for the mom that you are.

My message today to all dads is that you instill in your daughters the importance of a promise.  Even when they are difficult to keep, if you make one you follow through. It is a commitment not only to someone who is important to you, but also to yourself.