Sunday, October 26, 2008

Of Daughters, and Dancing, and Liberation

Almost two years ago, our then just 13 year old sat at our dinner table one early spring night and told us that she was "done" with public school. Done. Her grades were fine, she was involved in sports, the play, and student leadership. But she was weary from the effort, and wanted something different - and not just another four years at South Pasadena High School.

Wait. Done? We moved to our town 20 years ago because of the great public schools! What about those property taxes I grudgingly pay each year? THAT was what was supposed to secure a good education for my girls. Older Daughter was seemingly happy in a good public school system, and likely college bound. What was going on here? Private school? What tha...? This was not in The Plan.

You know The Plan. That's the script we all write for ourselves in our heads, whether we admit it or not. We are all fiction writers, planning out our lives in minute detail; the friends we will keep, the places we will live, the comforts we will have, the lack of pain, complete health, laughter, no troubles. Even the wonderful, trouble free public schools our kids will attend.

That was my Plan, this is my reality. Private school.

And so, we are now in a private parochial school, and an all girls school to boot. All girls, no boys. And after just a short time, all I can say, is, for our daughter, thank you Jesus, for a choice.

Now mind you, I am very aware that my daughter is going to a school for Very Privileged Young Ladies. She is spending time in an elite class of girls for whom there is very little need, or what. This will be something we will need to keep constantly in focus, given that we live in a world crying with need.

However, this past week I got to be a part of two events that were very helpful in my understanding of where our daughter might be going on this journey of high school and beyond.

Wednesday night was the annual Father Daughter Dance. For most high school girls, this event might have the potential to be massively embarrassing. You know, something on the scale of Cinderella goes to the Ball with Quasimodo. Or Dwight Shrute. But not this school, and not these girls. This was an evening of unbridled fun; dinner, conversation, and of course, dancing. Watching girls dance with their Dad's was a study in unbridled joy. This was not your Father's Father Daughter dance, either. This was a wonderful celebration of being a girl. And us Dad's were privileged to participate. Submitted below is grainy video evidence of a fun time:

My favorite - the Father Daughter Dance Contest. Needless to say, we did not make the finals.

And then, on Saturday night, I showed up at school for a ComedySportz event at school. Without too much explanation, this is all about comedy improv, and its all girls, no boys.

As I sat in the dark, in the midst of my middle age and raising teenage girls, I thought to myself how good it is there are still such things as private, religious girls schools. These girls making jokes and doing skits up on the stage are being liberated from a society that would like them to fit in little girl-shaped boxes.

This, my friends, is a good thing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sick of Politics, Try John Adams

The Problem
I don't know about you, but I am just about fed up with this election.

Recently, I wrote a note to a friend via Facebook and this is what I said:

"Right now, I am fed up with both sides in this election. Really. And its politics as usual in DC, in the midst of the greatest financial crisis in 50 years, those turds on the Hill passed a bail out bill ( needed, at its core) laden with something like $50 - $100 Billion in more pork. I could scream. Enough blame on BOTH sides of the isle. See my recent blog post quoting Peggy Noonan, she nailed it.

Anyway, here is my choice come Nov. 4th:

One one side - Old guy, veteran, patriot, who made a risky and really quite dense VP pick (she can see Alaska from her house!) He has an angry streak in his personality that is scary. Sometimes I wonder if he gets what is going on. I respect him greatly, but do not feel comfortable with his ability to lead from the center. I am completely disappointed, but I may have to vote this way out of fear of........

The Other Guy. Young handsome guy that talks....a LOT in vague generalities, and has very little experience, save "community organizing". He is a good speaker, but not our Savior, which, I fear many think he actually is. I fear his near complete incompetency in things financial and foreign. Feels like Jimmy Carter all over again. Lets hold hands and talk to Iran. Please. This worries me greatly.

I really do not know what to do. I voted for Bush twice too. I think Bush is looking more like nearly clueless daily, his lack of leadership during the Wall Street Meltdown was stunning. BUT I know differently from good friends, who spent an extended period of time with him just recently, that he is a good and decent man. He is not evil.

Neither are either of these candidates. I cannot tolerate the talking heads on TV, and the wave of negative ads. It makes me sick.

God help us, every one."

The Anecdote
We have recently rented the HBO series "John Adams" on DVD. In a time in which cynicism about politics is everywhere, I can think of nothing more moving than taking the time to remember the intelligence, tenacity, courage and patriotism of our Founding Fathers.

Watch this series, and you will very likely agree with me - the founding of our nation was a miracle. What a long way down and away from that beginning we have decended.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

We interrupt the financial crisis to think about something of great importance.

different kind of Christmas. Only 70 more days to think about this.

Think about it, and watch the video below. I am thinking, and praying.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Abyss, The Decline, and Our Souls

Kyrie eleison!
Lord, have mercy upon us!

Christe eleison!
Christ have mercy upon us!

These are the opening words to
"Missa Solemnis"
, Beethoven's Mass in D Minor. In this majestic piece, the choir and soloists seem to nearly burst out of their collective souls in the opening chorus. This is a moment of stunning musical surprise; and it leaves you with a glimpse of something from beyond our world. Something grand, and ominous, and massive.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

Over the past several weeks, I have often felt like we have been witnessing something grand, ominous, and far beyond our control. The complete turmoil in world financial markets has felt like a massive earthquake that seems not to stop. This is large, it is beyond the futile attempts of we little people to contain.

After some thought, I think I might know part of what it is that feels so large, and oppressive, and frightening about the financial shock. There is a sound that accompanies all of this; the sound of something overwhelmingly large being dropped from a great height. A massive Dull Thud.

That dull thud is the sound of our own greed finally hitting bottom. It has come back to haunt us, with a vengeance. For the past decade or so we have built our housing economy on two things; vacuous promises from greedy lenders (enabled by ethically confused politicians in DC), and our own sense of entitlement to the American Dream - even if we could not afford it. And painfully, many of us could not. And our souls hurt as a result.

I have a good friend who lives on a modest income, and does the best he knows how to be a good steward with the money he has been entrusted with. Several years ago, his family bought a home in the suburbs of Los Angeles - now the epicenter of the mortgage melt down. At the time he was getting his loan, the Loan Officer (from Countywide!), offered him an Adjustable Rate Mortgage, saying to him, "Man, your family NEEDS this!" My friend sought the counsel of family and friends, all who told him to avoid this form of mortgage. That was his experience with the Greedy Lenders.

My friend choose not to take the ARM loan, and instead went with a boring 30 year fixed loan. Higher rate, higher payments, no vacuous promises of a happy future that he could not afford. This friend avoided the other half of the mess in which we find ourselves. This good friend did not feel entitled to the American Dream. He was willing to forego instant satisfaction, and end up with a house he could actually afford. He was wise. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Americans were not.

And now, we are living with the results of our greed, and need for instant gratification. This will take a long time to work out. And, hopefully, this experience will help us reset our moral compass. That is my prayer.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflections on the Trauma

Here is something from, again, the Wall Street Journal, that is very worthy of consideration:

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Truth about the Decline

From Peggy Noonan, in today's Wall Street Journal:

Here is the truth, spoken by the increasingly impressive Sen. Tom Coburn: "The root of the problem is political greed in Congress. Members . . . from both parties wanted short-term political credit for promoting homeownership even though they were putting our entire economy at risk by encouraging people to buy homes they couldn't afford. Then, instead of conducting thorough oversight and correcting obvious problems with unstable entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, members of Congress chose to . . . distract themselves with unprecedented amounts of pork-barrel spending." That is the truth.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Grand Decline

I had a good friend call me last week, and leave me a voice mail. His question was "Whats it all worth, man!?"

This has been
an amazing ride, these past several weeks.

World financial markets have been in near complete turmoil, and most experts think the bad news is not completely over. Not even close. The foundations of financial markets have been shaken to their very core.

Can you spell Recession, with a capital "R"?

The casualty list is really amazing. Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Smith Barney, WAMU, Wachovia, and many others; perhaps more big ones to come. How did we get here, and where are we going to go?

And now, we have The TARP Bailout.

If the entire Credit Crisis were to be viewed as a football game, where were my seats, as a small business person, during this game (and it really was a game)?

I was watching, but likely from the very top row of the cheap seats, or maybe from a hillside above the game, like they do at Berkeley.

Over the next couple of days (ok, maybe a week or so, I have a job and a life, I do not
blog all day in my PJs) I hope to offer some of my thoughts and reflections from Tightwad Hill.

Also, the most informative thing I have seen about all this is the Charlie Rose interview with Warren Buffet. I see Warren as the FDR we Americans need in a time of crisis, since our existing President seems pretty much Deer in The Headlights over the past couple of weeks.
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