(not the teenage kind)

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Two High School English Teachers

This excellent Op-Ed piece was published in the L.A. Times yesterday. The writer, Barry Smolin, was two years behind me at Fairfax High School and my sister was friends with his sister. It is an ode to George Schoenman, a long-time English teacher at Fairfax, and tangentially talks about Richard Battaglia, another English teacher, as well.

Please read the article. Both of those teachers influenced me as hugely as they did Barry and he describes them well. Mr. Battaglia was my teacher for pretty much every semester I was at Fairfax. He taught me how to write. He exposed us to films that I still think about ("Blow-up," "I Never Sang for My Father," and "The Pawnbroker" being three examples.) He offered an independent studies Shakespeare class where we read the plays,went to see the movies at The Royal Theater and then wrote papers and analyzed. He encouraged us to be adventurous. He sponsored me in my own self created independent studies class and gave me a note authorizing me to leave campus during that period so I could study while eating chocolate chip sweet rolls and french fries at Cantor's deli. I was his teacher's aide - he called me "Radar" after Radar O'Reilly from Mash - and working for him was the first indication that I was really good at all things organizational. He carried all his papers and paraphernalia in a banker's box that became very worn. I tore off a piece of the box at the end of the school year and had him autograph it. I will not say how long I held on to that particular souvenir. Just before graduation, Mr. Battaglia took me out for a thank-you breakfast at The Melting Pot restaurant on La Cienega and Melrose. We drove there in his BMW. Did I mention he looked like Sam Elliott in "The Lifeguard?"

Mr. Schoenman was different. He taught us how to analyze great literature and exposed us to existentialism. The summer after I took Mr. Schoenman's class I visited my piano teacher in Santa Barbara. We were building sand castles on the beach and she asked me to describe my idea of the perfect man. Mr. Schoenman was on my mind and I described someone of his temperament. I must not have done as good a job as Barry does in his article because my piano teacher looked mortified and said, "Oh no, you don't want someone so introspective. You'll never know what he's thinking!" But she was married to a fairly well known and gregarious Hungarian cellist who may have had an eye for the ladies - so there.

When he was my homeroom teacher, Mr. Schoenman offered some words of wisdom which had nothing to do with literature. He told us that, when using the girls' restroom, we should avoid putting our purses on the ground as there had been incidences of theft. Though this warning says much about how things were at Fairfax High School in the 1970's, I think of this advice every time I enter a ladies room stall and always make sure my purse is elevated even when there is no hook. It has served me well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Organized Year In Review

Almost a year ago I wrote this post which describes how great it felt to clean out my house and get things in order. The great purge of 2006 included eliminating 26 bags of clothing, hiring a company to come and shred documents, some going as far back as the '80's, and actually displaying and using things I liked that I had kept hidden away because I liked them too much to use.

For 2007, I continued getting organized in other ways and I am feeling really good about it right now so this post is all about me giving myself a big pat on the back.

The first thing I did was switch financial planners to a fee-based advisor who worked with me to accomplish several things:

1. We consolidated all my money under one administrator, Fidelity. My old advisor was unfortunately with LPL and my big complaint about them (which I found out through one of my mutual fund clients is known throughout the industry) was that for me, the client, it was not easy to transverse their website and their general administration was not very good. I could do very little on-line. Through Fidelity, both my advisor and I can conduct transactions which is great because some things I really like doing on my own and when I screw them up my advisor can just swoop in and fix things (yeah, this really happens. Just helping my advisor earn his fee!) Also, LPL could not consolidate their paperwork so that I had three different accounts from them and three different statements. Fidelity is just one consolidated statement. So much paper saved. And less time with the adding machine.

2. We developed a financial plan. I now know exactly how much money I need to save every year in order to retire when I want to retire. I also know that, if I want to buy my dream vacation home in Palm Springs, I can afford to do that.

3. I worked with a lawyer to set up a trust and the lawyer and my financial advisor moved all my assets into the trust.

4. My advisor and I met with an insurance broker to discuss whether I need long term disability and long term care insurance. I am still mulling over everything I learned and it is on the list for 2008 to make a decision.

Other things I did that make me feel more organized:

1. Though I track my business expenses in Quicken, I was using the same credit card for both business and personal expenses. I finally got a business credit card which has my business name and which I use for all business transactions. It's platinum so it will impress all those clients I take out to big fancy lunches (kidding!)

2. I set up a monthly budget for 2008 so I can really see where my money is going. I know all the big stuff but don't have a handle on all the small stuff that adds up.

3. I fired a client that was using up way too much time for way too little money and banished their file to the garage. It felt really good getting that thick, annoying file out of my filing cabinet.

4. The catalogs I receive have gotten out of hand. All my dad's mail is forwarded to me and he was a catalog junkie. I also accidentally didn't opt out of something when I bought a birthday gift for my niece and nephew online and, since then, I get about three children's catalogs a week (not kidding!) Yesterday, I heard about www.catalogchoice.org and I have signed up for both me and my dad. They say it takes about two or three months for it all to stop but I can decline all catalogs I currently receive though this site. I think the catalog reduction is going to be life changing.

5. I called up my phone companies, landlines and cell, and negotiated better rates. When my car and home insurance come up early next year, I plan to do some major comparison shopping.

So now that I've put this all in writing and see how much I've accomplished I think I won't be as hard on myself as I was going to be for neglecting this blog. Writing more is, however, on my list for 2008.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's just frightening, isn't it?

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