FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
|“The Five Stages of Grief”||
|By: Ron Brounes||
As if people don’t have enough to worry about these days…I cannot apologize enough for the length of time that has lapsed since the last issue of FWIW. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me over the past few months, asking if they had been accidently removed from the distribution list. (Actually, I can…thanks for your concern, Mom.) In truth, I have sat down at the computer on a number of occasions with a fresh topic in mind, only to have a new one seem even more timely just a few days later. You see, the world has changed dramatically since we last compared notes about Sex and the City. (I wonder if Mr. Big was a Madoff investor?)
Months ago, I was going to write about Emmy starting pre-school. How our little girl was quite the chip off the old block, crying hysterically for the first few sessions before finally settling into her routine. (My mom claims that my tears lasted more like two years.) Then Hurricane Ike blew through town and I planned to detail the near impossible trials and tribulations Houstonians were forced to endure. Our lives were literally turned upside down as we “heroically” faced the unforgiving heat and humidity of the Houston summer without electricity (or cable). Then the financial crisis made an unwelcome appearance (and still hasn’t left) as businesses closed, jobs were eliminated, wealth was lost as the stock market plummeted, and our lives were again turned upside down (only this time we could barely even afford to turn on the electricity).
In reality, I found some commonality in these three topics. Rather than dwell on the events themselves that have been covered in depth throughout the press (anyone catch the New York Times exposé on Em’s early school experiences?), I thought I would explain the raw emotions we felt over the past few months; the hardships we endured; the character building pain and suffering we continue to struggle with every day. In each case, the parties that be (Emmy, Houstonians, all of us) have experienced some form of the “five stages of grief” (often all in the same day).
EMMY GOES TO SCHOOL
August 26, 2008 began just like any other day for Emily Brounes. She woke up with a soaked diaper (that potty training is going a tad slowly), announced she would have the Eggo waffles for breakfast (she ate half of one), and watched an episode of Diego the Animal Rescuer (that we had seen about 15 times already). While she may have had visions of the neighborhood park or a morning play date, Emmy soon found herself holding a new Dora the Explorer backpack as she was forced to pose for countless photos so early in the morning. She was then thrown into the back of the car and taken to the school she remembered so fondly from Mommy and Me classes the year before. Only, this time, Mom and Dad said some quick (and tearful) goodbyes and suddenly she was left in a room full of strangers (old and young alike).
Denial…Hey, Mommy and Daddy, where did you go? Surely you will not leave me at this scary place by myself? Anger…I am not at all happy about this. You think I am crying now, just wait until you see my tantrums at home. It will not be pretty. Bargaining…Please let me go back home to Emmy’s house. I promise to start eating my peas and carrots (like you do, Mom). I won’t cry when you turn off the TV (like you do, Dad). Just let me go back home to be with my GaGa (Gloria our nanny). Depression…OK, I’ll stay, but I will mope around the whole time. The other kids can play on the swings and slides, but I will just sit on the grass with my stuffed Froggie and not talk to anyone. I will not eat that stupid snack either. What are raisins, anyway? Acceptance…You know what, this place ain’t half bad (except when they correct me for saying ain’t). The kids are fun; the toys are great; we sing songs in Hebrew. I get to eat goldfish all day and Challah on Fridays. It’s a shame I only get to go twice a week.
I (DON’T) LIKE IKE
Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston, Texas on Friday September 12, 2008 and set its direct course to Houston. Confident we would be spared again, most Houstonians merely scoffed at the threats and made weekend plans as normal (I still have some good Texans/Ravens tickets for sale). While my wife and child comfortably slept the storm away in the master closet, I sat in the dark (in the fetal position), frightened by the wind, rain, and thunder that accompanied this massive hurricane. Hours later (when Em and Barb woke up), we had multiple tree branches down, debris covering our yard, a little standing water in our entry way (someone forgot to seal the mail slot…sorry, honey), and no electricity (a hardship that lasted two weeks to the day).
Denial…Yeah, right. Those weathermen are a bunch of alarmists. Storms always veer at the last minute. During Rita, I was stuck in traffic for days and it never even rained in Houston. I’m not stupid enough to get caught up in another ill-conceived evacuation plan. Anger…So Doppler 20000 actually got one right for once? How can hardware stores run out of flashlights and batteries? Didn’t they know this was coming? The energy company is a bunch of morons. Bargaining…Talk about price gouging. I refuse to pay more than $2,500 for a generator. Fine, I’ll go $3,000 tops. Please tell me this is covered by my homeowners policy? Depression…I can’t take this anymore. The heat; the humidity; the darkness. Those few minutes a day I leave my hotel room and go home are excruciating. When is Pappasitos going to open again with a full menu? I just want my old life back. Acceptance…It is what it is. I am just happy that we were not hurt. We can surely live with some minor inconveniences for a few days. (What do you mean it may be two to three weeks?) Thanks Levinsons for opening up your home.
The stock market collapse has been like a bad train wreck from which we simply cannot look away. We follow the “expert” insight of the financial pundits on cable TV, blogs, and websites (without even knowing about their credentials). We gather around the water coolers at work (those with jobs), sharing horror stories, and casting doubt on that one officemate who claims to have sold everything at Dow 14,000. We log into our online accounts multiple times throughout the day, hoping that the prior calculations had been made in error. We have trouble sleeping and find ourselves watching CNBC-Asia at 3:00 a.m. to predict how the U.S. markets will open.
Denial…Heck no, the market isn’t overpriced; each selloff represents a great buying opportunity. Dow 20k, here we come! Anger…How did my advisor not warn me about this? He/she was taking way too much risk and those greedy Wall Streeters and politicos ruined it for mainstream Main Street folks like me. Bargaining…If only this market would settle down, I promise not to speculate on securities I don’t understand ever again. Yes, I said that after the dot.com meltdown, but I really mean it this time. Depression…I can’t quit staring at my recent brokerage statement. I can’t work; I can’t eat; I can’t reach my broker to fire him/her. Should I liquidate everything? Acceptance…OK, it happened and there is nothing we can do about it. No use crying over spilt milk. Moving forward, is my portfolio allocated in the most appropriate manner for me and my family? (By the way, are there any good bargains out there in the market carnage?)
Oh well…Emmy survived school; Houstonians survived Ike; somehow we will survive this economy and the markets as well. (After all, you guys survived months without a new FWIW.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH is a publication of Brounes & Associates focusing on not much of anything other than personal anecdotes, musings, and mindless thoughts about life. Please call Ron at 713-962-9986 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for questions and/or comments, and check out www.ronbrounes.com for earlier issues and for financially-oriented pieces as well. Over the past months, we have tackled new beginnings; endured storms along the way; and have been challenged financially and emotionally by factors beyond our control. Here’s hoping we move past the current “grief” soon and face a period of prosperity (heck, normalcy will do).