Thursday, December 27, 2018

Good Investments

Aiden can find the way with his new compass!
We don’t play the stock market. Our family “portfolio” is a tattered manila folder containing a couple of savings bonds the kids were gifted with at their baptisms, along with a few random warranties and receipts that made their way in there over the years. I can picture a broker, getting a gander at our finances, and keeling over in shock. Our 401? Not ‘K!

What we HAVE played, much too often, is the toy market. We spent the equivalent of their college educations on Beanie Babies and Brio trains and stuff by Nintendo. We usually bought when prices were highest—like at Christmas time, when supply was limited. I recall the year A #1 big sister Rose spent her baking business money on an elusive Game Boy Color for young PJ. There had been a typhoon near the factory in Japan and shipments were basically halted, just before Yuletide. When she at last found one on eBay, what should have cost less than $50, ended up being (ahem) several hundred hard-earned bucks. Another quest was for the royal purple Princess Diana Beanie Baby. Along with half the parents in America, I stalked every Beanie-selling emporium at holiday time, praying that a Di would suddenly pop up somewhere. Never got one, but did nab another few "valuable" Beanies. Everyone said they were all collector’s items and would be worth a mint someday! Needless to say, our stuffed friends' tags were soon torn off by one child or another, and their perceived value plummeted. I think you can find them now for about five bucks.

Well, now I am living with two parents who do not play the toy market, Sheridan and Ya-Jhu. While my instinct is to overindulge Aiden and Peter, they are quick to rein me in. And guess what? They are two very happy, well-adjusted, non-acquisitive little boys. Aiden’s Santa list this year (which was actually a random scribbling of letters all over the page) was translated by my grandson as, “I love you, Santa.”

On Christmas morning, our small guys got a modest haul—but the point is, they loved every item because there weren’t too many of them. Aiden’s compass from Julie and Gil, Peter’s woolen hat shaped like a shark, from Patrick and Meg—BIG hits. Both kids love a show on Netflix called “Octonauts”, a cartoon featuring undersea animal explorers that is actually quite educational, as well as cute. So the major item from Santa Seyfried was an Octonaut play set, complete with creatures and Octopod. Aiden has played with it nonstop for the past 48 hours, no exaggeration. That and their few other, well-chosen toys, will keep them happily occupied for months.

Do I wish for a parenting do-over, with more Dow Jones and less Mattel? Not really, I guess. Our major investment has always been our family, and while that will never buy us a retirement yacht (or even rowboat), when it comes to love, Steve and I both feel like millionaires.

Patrick's prize present, circa 1999

Friday, November 30, 2018

The View From the 30th Blog Post

Taipei skyline (photo by Julie)
Up here, in the Kingdom of Completed Goals, all is peaceful and serene. I am basking in that good old mission accomplished feeling, and for the next few hours at least, I will be proud of myself. After that, of course, my evil brain gnomes will whisper that my “accomplishment” ain’t all that much compared to, say, curing cancer. If my entire blog oeuvre were to suddenly go “poof,” they will say, only my diehard followers would be sad. Hush, evil gnomes! I am trying to have a moment here!

I was at writer’s group this morning, and my friend Joyce asked me what I had learned through all the writing this past month. I didn’t answer her very coherently, but I will try to do so now.

I learned that I really don’t seem to have all that much to write about anything that exceeds 500 words. I know so many writers who just can’t keep their essays to under 2000 words. 2000!!! By 1200 words, I am padding my pieces with random verbal flotsam and jetsam. I make use of lots of extra verbiage to describe, for example, someone’s long, flowing brown hair. Her hair was flowing, like a river would flow, if a river were made of long, flowing brown hair. 15 extra words right there! A 2000 word assignment, for me, would be like Death by Thesaurus.

Another insight: I’m not big on polishing/editing. I say that with shame to Joyce, who is a great editor. But by the time I finish a post, and find photos to accompany it, I’m so done. The beauty part of a blog marathon? Unless you can afford to spend hours writing each day, speed is all. I will, of course, correct the most egregious flaws (what would I do without the squiggly red line that appears beneath my computer errors?), but a lot of other goofs just slide by.

Epiphany #3: I enjoyed titling my posts more than writing the posts themselves! I prided myself on clever names for my pieces. Imagine my chagrin when, in my personal essay class this summer, I was told to write simple and clear titles that would quickly tell the reader the subject of the essays. Where’s the fun in that? Sigh.

Finally, I learned that I am not the same writer on November 30th as I was at the launch of this blog-fest. I am becoming something else, hopefully something more. I was lucky enough to be at Michelle Obama’s book tour appearance last night. She talked about “becoming,” and said that as long as we live and breathe, we are always becoming something new (or should be). If “becoming” is inevitable, what (who) is it we want to become? Because we have choices. This month, I chose to exercise my writing muscles, and now I’ve become a writer with 30 new pieces under her belt.

Which, as I look out over the vista that is November, 2018, feels pretty darn good.