Sunday, July 18, 2010

Let’s Hear It for the Mom

My mother Betty Ake passed away on July 9 at the age of 88. While she was alive I would have said she had no connection to this blog. However, you see so many things looking backward that unfortunately you don’t see in the present.

Here are some influences my mother and her father (my grandfather) have had on me (and this blog):

Good Writers are Made, Not Born

Good writers start out as good readers. I grew up in a home that subscribed to two newspapers, seven days a week. The newspapers were read front page to back every day. My mother read books her entire life and read her Akron Beacon Journal to the very end. Therefore, it is no surprise that I developed a love of reading, a thirst for knowledge, and strong writing skills.

The Stock Market Can Be a Source of Great Wealth

Many grandparents buy their grandchildren savings bonds. My maternal grandfather was a superb stock picker. I’m not sure he bought a savings bond in his entire life. When I was born he bought me a small amount of stock in three companies. Two of the three stocks (the lesson of diversification) did very well. The stock growth (including splits) and the dividends invested in a savings account were enough to pay for my college education 18 years later.

However, my father was determined to pay for my college education himself and did so. The stock money was used to assume a very favorable mortgage on my first house. The low interest rate allowed me to both save more money and build more equity in the house. This simple act of giving me stock resulted in a tremendous start to building wealth. In addition because I was already a stock owner, I was motivated to learn about and become interested in the stock market. I am not anywhere near the stock picker my grandfather was, but I think he would be very proud of the Model T.

Money is Important – Manage it With Care

My parents taught me how to manage money. My mother managed her money very well and passed those values down to me. After my mother suffered a heart attack two and one half years ago, I had to manage all her finances. She was never totally comfortable with this situation. What she didn’t realize is her influence and guidance had assured that her money was in very capable hands.

You are Responsible for Your Decisions

My mother was big on personal responsibility. When I failed to achieve something growing up, excuses were not tolerated. So when making financial decisions I try to understand the investment and the risk, because the outcome is my responsibility and I have to live with the results.

Hard Work Is Expected and Enjoyed

My mother began working in her uncle’s grocery store at age seven. She later worked in her father’s grocery store and then took an additional job as a school secretary. So for many years she worked two jobs, until a quick romance turned into to an unexpected marriage and subsequent pregnancy. (See a video clip of the story here). As I write this I realized that my mother gave up a career (two jobs) she loved, to raise me.

Moving Forward

At a time when newspaper readership is down, I subscribe to two newspapers, seven days a week. The newspapers are read front page to back every day. I have always worked two jobs including leading projects at church, my stint as a stand-up comedian and my current work teaching college classes. That doesn’t include my third job of managing my mother’s business affairs, a job that unfortunately I have just recently successfully completed. I doubt that I will ever be able to pick stocks as well as my grandfather, but that doesn’t mean I will quit trying.
Here is another video clip from my eulogy for my mother.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A Tale of the Honey Dippers

Once upon a time there was a land called Nectarinia. It was a land flowing with vast amounts of honey. (Yes, there was also some milk, but this wasn’t the Promised Land.)

The people actually had to work to harvest the honey, but they loved producing great amounts of honey and the freedom to enjoy it as they choose. The people also understood that they needed to contribute some of their hard-earned honey for the common good of Nectarinia. This honey would be used to pay for public goods, such as guards to protect the land from outside honey raiders.

The people’s honey was sent to a special location called the District of Nectar and placed in a big honey pot. The inhabitants of Nectarinia selected certain people to go to D.N. to manage the honey pot and distribute the honey to where best it was needed.

For a while everything was wonderful, but over time things began to change. The selected “honey dippers” were mesmerized by having access to so much delicious honey. Also, they were captivated by the power they gained by deciding who in the land would receive special honey from the honey pot.

So they kept asking the people to provide more and more honey for the honey pot. “We need more honey please. We can do so many wonderful things, if we can just have some more of your sweet honey”, they would say. The people would sometimes object, but the honey dippers did say they would do wonderful things. So the amount of honey flowing into D.N. greatly increased. Bigger and bigger honey pots were built to contain all this delicious honey. The honey dippers relished being able to control more and more honey and found creative ways to enjoy some of the honey themselves.

The honey dippers gained so much power and influence that they gained many friends who just wanted to get close to and have access to the honey pot. Honey making organizations sent gifts of honey to the honey dippers to gain favors and hopefully gain some more scrumptious honey from the honey pot. So called “honey diggers” were also attracted to the honey dippers because of their honey and power; some even were motivated to shake their honey makers to gain their favor. This made being a honey dipper a highly desirous job. They weren’t really working but they were getting honey for nothing (and the chicks for free).

At some point the honey dippers became totally obsessed with honey and power. They craved the honey and became addicted to it. They ate it, they drank it, and they rolled around nude in it. They knew it was the dipping and giving of the honey that created the intoxicating honey power. So they started dipping so much that they soon ran out of honey. They extracted more from the people, but that wasn’t even enough. They began borrowing more honey to dip. That worked great so they borrowed some more. They even started dipping into the large pot that held the honey collected so the older people in the land would have some honey in retirement. They said they would replace it someday, but they were so obsessed with dipping the honey that they never did.

The people of Nectarania tried to replace the obsessed honey dippers with new ones, but this was very difficult to do. Some of the dippers had been dipping so long that people just accepted their honey addiction as normal and were consigned to providing them with greater amounts of honey. In other instances, new dippers were sent to D.N. and were better for a while, but the longer they were there the more they too became enamored with the honey pots.

Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, the people choose a pooh bear as their next leader. They knew pooh bears loved honey, but this pooh bear promised the most wonderful things the people had ever heard. And this pooh bear was so full of it, that sweet honey literally dripped from his lips. Even though the production of honey was temporarily receding in Nectarania, the pooh bear dipped honey like crazy. While some people complained that he was dipping too much honey, the pooh bear reasoned that after this slow time was over that he could come up with many new ways to extract more honey from the people. The people of Nectarania began to fear that this great pooh bear would squeeze them harder than ever before.

The people of Nectarania consulted their history books and read that at one time a king ruled the land and controlled all the honey. This king was deposed when the people decided that they wanted the freedom to control their own honey. But now it seemed that the king had been replaced by many little kings led by a grand pooh bear who at times seemed to want all the honey he could get his paws on.