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Gilda Radner, We Miss You

Some months I sat down to write to you and found myself all excited and thinking, “Oh, boy! I’ve got wisdom to share and funny stories to wrap around it!” Other months, it is, “I am a complete dope and don’t understand anything – I got nothin’ to say worth hearing.” Last month was a dope/nothin’ month. I am not sure where we are this month. Read on for a bit, and perhaps we’ll find out together.

A little review of the first third of the year brings good news and bad news. 

In the good news department, my oldest daughter finally bought herself a house despite the high cost of the brick, mortar, and dirt, as well as the mortgage that came along with it. I told her that, in most cases, young adults can never afford a house until they buy it. I have little to no patience with the protestation, “Yeah, but it’s different now.” Yeah, it is different because your perspective is different. In my more disagreeable moments, I tell people that protest “it” is different this time, to go read a book. I don’t make a lot of friends that way, but I like to live in the fantasy that I am enriching the world with knowledge.

To offer an example of the unchanging world, I offer a paraphrased text I received from my daughter a few days after she signed her closing document and took possession of the keys: “Dad, I’m going to Boston for the weekend. If you get time and feel like it, there are four ceiling fans to be hung, the TV needs to be wall-mounted, and there are two porch lights in boxes by the front door. “Note to daughter: No one “gets” time in that sense. As Yoda said, “There is only do.”

I gotta tell ya, though, I had a great time running through that task list in the days she was gone. It was straightforward physical work that required a little thought to get the wiring connected without cooking myself, and best of all … I had no help! No one gave advice or looked over my shoulder. I was by myself, on an aluminum ladder (yeah, I know, I promised not to climb any more ladders several years ago), in Florida, on a tile floor, working with electricity.  What could have possibly gone wrong?  Whatever it was, it didn’t. I survived, and all fans, TVs, and porch lights work. My shoulders not as much. Reaching over my head for long hours is another thing that is going on my “I’m done with that” list right after not climbing ladders.

In the interest of full disclosure, I need to confess that on the third fan I stopped referring to the printed directions every two minutes. This enabled me to skip step 3, wherein the installer was supposed to have actually connected the wires from the ceiling to those in the fan. Oops. Maybe having a little help is helpful after all. Humble pie is always beneficial as well.

Perhaps of even more interest to you, I assume you noticed that we all had fun watching the stock market and associated account balances for the first quarter of the year.

April?  Not so much. Perhaps the stock market got a bit ahead of itself (like that never happens!), anticipating happy days are here again. Chairman Powell (to his credit) has been cautiously optimistic but cautionary in his outlook. You should be, too. Cautiously optimistic should be our emotional home base in life, methinks.

Then came higher-than-expected inflation numbers in April and lower-than-expected GDP numbers. If this continues for a month or two, you will certainly hear someone say, “stagflation.” The correct response, in that moment, is for you is to remove at least one shoe and throw it at them. Given that our philosophy of life and investing is centered around planning, however, perhaps you should begin (if you aren’t way ahead of me already) to pack an extra shoe or two in your daily go-bag in case retrieving your thrown shoe should be problematic in an often hostile world.

In other news from April, I made several (it’s never just one, is it?) spontaneous purchases and put myself in a less-than-optimal short-term cash position.

Then came the bills from the January hospital stay from the folks we never see face-to-face: pathology, labs, radiologists, and more. Amidst that onslaught of bills came my homeowner’s insurance – a mere 17% over last year’s amount, which was 20% over that in 2022. Since I own my house outright, maybe I should cancel my homeowner’s insurance. I live in Florida, on a lake, surrounded by oak trees, and forecasts are for a “busier than normal” hurricane season. What could go wrong?  Note to self: Don’t be stupid.

I will take a moment to let you scold me for making less than carefully planned purchases last month. I would certainly be (verbally) beating you about the head and shoulders were the roles reversed. There. Feel better? Nope, me neither.

My point is, and I do have one, that we have seen this before. As the author of Ecclesiastes wrote 3000 years ago (or perhaps 2000ish if you’re of that school of thought), “There is nothing new under the sun.” If that isn’t ancient enough for you, he or she (gasp, heresy!) likely copied it from elsewhere. And you thought The Byrds came up with that in 1965. Wrong again. Pete Seger wrote Turn, Turn, Turn in 1959, and it was recorded by the Limeliters three years later. Where would we be without the internet? Perhaps on my dock overlooking the lake and reading a book, but again, that’s just speculation.

I hope you’re taking notes. There will be a test later. 

So, if you are fretting over the economy and/or the state of the world, the elections, or the culture wars, relax a little. If you are already relaxed, relax a little more. We’ve been here before. Those breathing and stretching exercises are going to make us both live a little longer and a little better, too. Reflect on the words of Roseann Rosanna Danna, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another thing.” If she didn’t make you laugh at the absurdities of life, see your medicine man (or woman). Yer broke.

Then, reflect on Grandma’s wisdom, too:  “Don’t sweat the small stuff. The older you get, the more you see. It’s all small stuff.”

I hope you enjoyed the read… or the ride… this month. I’m feeling pretty good about it. We will see what tomorrow brings. Right now, I have to go see the dentist. My 20-year-old bridge broke last week, and I look more like Alfred E. Neuman than usual. It’s no big deal. Dollars and Lidocaine will get me through this, too.

May 2024

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