"The broker said the stock was "poised to move". Silly me! I thought he meant up." - Randy Thurman
From whom do you want to get your financial advice? Some lucky financial guru like Warren Buffet who has the Midas touch or someone who has been educated at the school of hard knocks? Warren Buffet wasn’t available to write this blog and my financial advisor told me that I am not quite bankrupt; so I feel eminently qualified to provide timely commentary on investing and spending.
My qualifications, you ask? I consider myself a Baby Boomer even though I predate the boomer generation by a couple years. Baby Boomers - folks born between 1946 and 1964 - are the wealthiest generation in history. Apparently, depending upon whom you choose to believe, "Boomers" collectively have between 11 trillion and 30 trillion dollars - that is TRILLION with a giant T - which they will be transferring to their heirs. That's a massive pile of cash. No wonder. Boomers had a multitude of opportunities to get rich. We should consider ourselves lucky to have been offered the many get-rich-quick schemes boomers were so fortunate to have. And being magnanimous, charitable folks we should share our wealth generating secrets so that every generation can be as wealthy as we are.
I am referring here to the foolproof money making schemes advertised in comic books in the 1950's and 1960's. The very astute among us invested in our own printing presses just printing money as we needed it. The more energetic individuals raised chinchillas in their basements or back yards for fun and for profit.
The ads intrigued me, but not being completely gullible, I went in another direction.
I considered the stock markets. Unfortunately, what I didn't know is that they resemble a casino - or maybe a Sotheby's auction (sky high) when we want to buy - and almost identical to a garage sale (dirt cheap) when we want to sell. The little guys - that's you and me - get in at the wrong time and don't know when to get out. If we plunge into the stock market we personify buying high and selling low. By the time euphoria is at its peak we are just starting to catch wind of the terrific gains to be made in the market, so we step in with both feet just when the expert traders are taking their profits and abandoning the market.
I had a plan to outsmart the wolves of Wall Street. I thought, “Canadian banks are reasonably stable investments.” With that in mind, in the 1980’s I researched some shares in Northland Bank, an Alberta based Canadian bank. The shares were down significantly, encouraging me to dream of tripling or quadrupling my money as well as collecting dividends while holding the stock. I bought some shares and my dream turned into a nightmare. Very shortly after my purchase the bank became insolvent.
I still own shares in this now defunct Northland Bank. The original cost was about $3000. The share certificate may now be used as valuable toilet paper. I could have used that toilet paper when Northland Bank bit the dust. I had quite a bowel movement that day. But I'm not sure I ever made it to the bathroom in time to deposit my dividends, if you know what I mean.
I shouldn’t complain too bitterly though. I am the proud owner of a $3000 piece of memorabilia – it is a collectors’ item and a bitter reminder of the perils of the stock market. One of the features of many old stock certificates is that they were quite artistic, including engravings of erotic, scantily clad men and women. Occasionally I just take out this stock certificate and sneak a quick peek.
On second thought, you might not want to get your investment advice from a "boomer", particularly from me. But, if nothing else, I can always serve as a bad example.
Whether you are a boomer or not, best wishes for wealth, health and happiness. Gerald M. Sliva
The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself. - Oscar Wilde
Sometimes don't you wish that you could tell certain world leaders how to do a better job of running the world? Me too! When I first envisioned writing Barking From the Front Porch I pictured a cranky old fellow waving his cane, chasing kids off his front lawn. Then I saw him sitting at his desk composing letters of advice to those who appear to be in charge of world affairs.
With that in mind, I wrote letters to Pope Francis, Barack Obama, George Bush, Vladimir Putin and Stephen Harper. I even wrote a letter to our four-legged canine friends - they might run the world better than some who are now in charge. Many of the letters I wrote are now obsolete and some of these world leaders have come and gone, but now that I have a blog, available around the world, perhaps some of my rantings will reach those who have the power to make this world a better place. So, here I share my open letter of free advice to Pope Francis.
Dear Pope Francis,
Peace be with you!
I was going to phone you and ask for an audience for me and my coffee buddies but I understand you are a busy man so I’ll try to make this short. Our group of four, and sometimes five or six members, gathers several times a week to discuss both weighty and trivial matters over a cup of coffee. We have tackled everything from politics, sex, homosexuality and religion to world peace, love, war, famine, race relations, crime and gun control. Occasionally we even delve into the mysterious secrets of the golf swing.
We are not experts at any of these topics, but we offer free advice and probing questions for many of the world’s leaders, including you. There are absolutely dozens of topics we would love to discuss with you, one being the issue of priestly celibacy.
This issue perplexes us to no end. We certainly agree that celibacy may be an admirable state of life for an occasional priest, or maybe even a lay person. Sex does divert one’s attention from prayer and contemplation yet the release of sexual tensions also frees one to concentrate on loftier matters, matters not of the flesh, but of the spirit. However, we understand that sex is a gift from God and a blessing when consummated within a loving, committed relationship.
There is a growing shortage of Catholic priests, particularly in North America. We know that thousands of Catholic priests have left the priesthood to get married. Many of these married priests were fine pastors, distinguished speakers and respected Church leaders. Many would eagerly return to their priestly duties were they permitted to do so, and many would be eagerly welcomed back by their congregations.
We are not biblical scholars and we are certainly not experts on Church law, but we know that there are married priests in certain rites or branches of the Catholic Church. We also know that in the United States of America certain Episcopalian parishes with married priests have been permitted to become full members of the Catholic faith.
Priests have not always been celibate. The twelve apostles were not all celibate. Over the course of history there have been marriages of priests permitted. Certainly, celibacy has been a long tradition in the Catholic Church. In the Bible, the Pharisees were known for upholding traditions and concentrating on those traditions and rituals rather than on matters of the spirit. Jesus sometimes had some harsh words for Pharisees. So is priestly celibacy a necessary tradition?
What would Jesus do?
What will Pope Francis do?
The Church has long needed a leader who reflects Jesus’ message of love. It is a tough job, but in the brief time you have been the leader we have seen forgiveness rather than judgement, love rather than suspicion and reconciliation rather than division.
Thank you, Your Holiness, for listening.
Peace be with you.
Gerald M. Sliva
Click on the image of Pope Francis for more .
“You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” -- George Bernard Shaw
I love old buildings. I love their character, texture, individuality. The same may be said of old people, old wine, old paintings and well aged whiskey. Each becomes more cherished, more unique and more special the older it becomes. We ourselves need to age so that we can really appreciate the depth of character that aging brings to our lives.
Some people have yearned to be young forever, and have searched for the Fountain of Youth. Not me. I've been there and done that. In all likelihood if I had an opportunity to be young again, particularly if I could not benefit from the experience of aging and maturity, I would be as impetuous, foolhardy and reckless as I was the first time around.
Of course, there will come a time for all of us, if we live long enough, that we might drool, mumble, grumble and moan about getting old. But while we have some friends, some family and some health as well as our wits about us, let us enjoy our aging process, laughing at our foibles and failings. Let us grow old gracefully, maturing as a fine wine, a premium whisky or a treasured piece of art.
My wish for you is for a long life filled with peace, love and laughter.
Gerald M. Sliva
P.S. If, like me, you enjoy old buildings, please click on the photo of the old doorway to take you to Bob Derksen's website filled with photos of old barns. Enjoy!
"People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges" - Joseph F. Newton
In the throes of heated, confrontational, rude and sometimes downright hateful political campaigns we see candidates attempting to score political points, not by proposing sensible legislation for the good of society, but rather by bashing whomever they deem to be their opposition. Relationships, trust and simple courtesy are annihilated in an effort to become elected, with rhetoric intended to destroy rather than to construct. Then, when the election is over, the electorate is supposed to swallow the fantastic myth that these same candidates will cooperate somehow, to find solutions to the myriad ills of society. Good luck!
In government and elections, as in any relationship, we can not simply turn off respect, courtesy and cooperation to find that they will magically reappear when we need them.
Prior to my father's death he offered his children a choice of several simple mementos of him and my mother. One which I chose, and which now sits on my bedroom dresser is a little framed essay entitled, "The Art of Marriage". I know not who wrote it, but many parts of it can apply to any relationship. I share it now for your consideration.
The Art of Marriage
A good marriage must be created. In the art of marriage the little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say, "I love you." at least once each day. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is standing together facing the world.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is speaking kind words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is in never going to sleep angry. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is finding room for the things of the spirit. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is not only marrying the right partner. It is being the right partner.
It would not be sensible to ask political candidates to declare their love for one another in spite of the fact that they protest that they are devout Christians. And doubtful they will hold hands! They will likely go on serving as a bad example while we try to teach our school children not to be bullies.
Good relationships have to start somewhere. How about at home? When did I last tell someone that I love them and that they are important to me?
Gerald M. Sliva
Friends are the most important part of your life. Treasure the tears, treasure the laughter, but most importantly, treasure the memories. – David Brenner
God has blessed this planet with some remarkable minds labouring unceasingly to arrive at solutions to the problems plaguing the human race. Take the actors in The Big Bang Theory for example. Brilliant minds, but put to minimal use. All theory; no practice.
On the other hand Marcel, Moe, Brian and I – four awesome minds - assemble for coffee three or four times a week for the good of all humanity. That is three or four hours a week devoted almost exclusively to finding solutions to the grave problems that elude the think tanks, politicians and tacticians of the world. When we are in sync our minds are like well oiled machines. While hardly batting an eye or exerting a brain cell we tackle problems and propose resolutions to all that ails society in the twenty-first century. Yet, unlike the scholars on The Big Bang Theory, we never ask for a penny in compensation. This is our gift to the planet. We do all this strictly as a public service. When I look around our usual coffee hangout I see other seniors gathered in groups of three, four or five individuals, in all likelihood some of them tackling the same problems as we do, but I doubt that putting all these other groups together would result in anything near the intelligence, tenacity and devotion to task that we exhibit.
Occasionally, however, we will take a day off from our labours, rest our minds and challenge our bodies with fellowship on the golf course. Such an outing was planned for August 27, 2014. It was the annual Knights of Columbus Manitoba best ball tournament to be held at Larters at St. Andrews Golf and Country Club near Winnipeg, Manitoba. We entered a team and, as was our habit, we decided to gather for coffee the day before the tournament to strategize and agree on our travel arrangements for the thirty-five minute drive to the golf course. Marcel volunteered to do the driving and someone suggested we should take a camera along and take a few photos. I said I would do that, but just to ensure I remembered to pack the camera when I got home I said I would set the alarm on my cell phone for 4:00 p.m. to remind me to charge the camera battery and put the camera in my golf bag.
Marcel had the audacity to comment that when the alarm rang I would probably forget the reason it was ringing. The guys had a good laugh about that; we concluded our strategies and headed home with the agreement to meet at ten the next morning to travel to the tournament.
Some thirty-five minutes later I'm sitting in front of my laptop checking emails and my damned cell phone alarm rings. I knew right away it was to remind me to do something, something to do with golf the next day, but for the life of me I could not recall what it was. I checked my "birdie flask", and sure enough, it was filled with our favourite beverage; I checked my golf bag to be sure I had balls, tees and a little snack. As I did the circle check Marcel's words haunted me, "The alarm will ring but you'll forget what it was for." Well, I might have a bit of short term memory loss, but I haven't lost any pride. I knew that if I phoned Marcel he could tell me what I had forgotten to do, but then he would have another chuckle at my expense and I was determined not to let that happen.
As the afternoon and early evening wore on, Cecilia and I ate our evening meal, did the dishes, went for a walk and watched a little TV, all the while an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind. I knew that I had to remember to do something, but it just wouldn't come to me. Finally, it was about 10:30 in the evening, time for old folks to get to bed.
In bed over the previous six weeks or so I had been reading the old Herman cartoons. We have eight of the books entitled the “Herman Treasuries” and they are absolutely hilarious, especially when I hadn't looked at them in several years. I had finished the Herman books and enjoyed them so much as bedtime entertainment that I had picked up a few old books of Far Side cartoons and had been revelling in them each evening. I was just into The Far Side Gallery 2 by Gary Larson. Finally at about 10:45 P.M. I came across a real "far out" cartoon - I guess that's why they are called Far Side - of a pack of hyenas, all hungrily devouring the carcass of some dead animal, all except for one hyena who looks up at another hyena in the background who has a camera pointed at the whole scene. That hyena, looking up, says, "For crying out loud, Doris ..... You gotta drag that thing out every time we all get together?"
Thank God and thank Gary Larson! I immediately realized that I was Doris, I was to bring my camera to the tournament, and I had better get at it. Springing into action I jumped out of bed, located my camera, charged the battery overnight and was fully prepared for photographic action at the tournament the next day and my pride was intact.
The next day arrived: warm, sunny and absolutely ideal for the event. I have some great photos to prove it. However, when it comes to golf our skills are inferior to our intellectual prowess. Needless to say, we did not win the tournament, but if our objective was to rest our minds from the daily grind of solving humanities' many problems, in that we were successful.
There are only three questions remaining. First, how did Marcel know that I would forget why my cell phone alarm was ringing? I guess he is either psychic or he knows that seniors’ short term memory is somehow vanished. The second question is “Do I ever admit to the guys that I almost didn't bring the camera because I couldn't remember why my cell phone alarm was ringing?” Well, I fessed up! At our next coffee gathering I confessed that Marcel was right. The guys had a good chuckle at my expense and we moved on to solving the world’s problems. The third question is - uh - sorry, I forgot the third question. Maybe there were only two questions.
Gerald M. Sliva
"The greatest thing about golf, there's no end to it unless you're dead. You just go from here to the Senior Tour." - Fuzzy Zoeller
Family traditions are terrific. Most families who are really close carry on some traditions from the family of their birth, then form some new traditions with the new family into which they marry or with whom they form strong family relationships. The Sliva brothers – Don, Jim, John and I have developed a new tradition which binds us closer together as we age. The four of us make a natural, but certainly not professional golf foursome. We all live in different parts of Canada, but once a year we plan a Sliva Brothers Annual Golf Classic. Anyone watching us might think labeling it as "golf" is doing an injustice to a terrific game. However, it is "annual" and it is becoming "classic". We started our annual golf gatherings in 2007 and have continued them yearly since then, with a rotating host between Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina with occasional side trips to Saskatoon where our wonderful sister hosts our extravaganza.
The first year we had our tournament we didn’t have a tradition; so we just decided to have a best ball tourney with the older brothers, Don and me against the younger brothers, Jim and John. Our brother Jim is a fun-loving master of the pun, an inveterate story teller and a generous person. The second year of what was to become a great family tradition was 2008. That year my brother Jim bought us great team golf shirts with the following embroidered in gold on the front of each “Sliva Brothers 2nd Annual Golf Classic”. On the left sleeve of the older brothers’ team shirts he had embroidered “Team Old and Decrepit” and on the left sleeve of the younger brothers’ team shirts he had embroidered “Team Fat Bastards”. From that moment on we were christened and we instituted a terrific tradition which I hope we continue until the day we die – then carry it on in the Great Beyond. I guess that is the Senior Tour Fuzzy was talking about.
Gerald M. Sliva
"In show business, if you make a mistake, you can do it over again." - Bobby Sherman
"The same can not be said of golf." - Gerald M. Sliva
Well, you can actually do it over again, and again, and again, and again, and sometimes even once more. But it keeps costing you strokes - unless you cheat. Golf can be one of the most frustrating, agonizing and *@#?&*+& pastimes invented. It can simultaneously be an obsession, a curse and a joy. The ball has a mind of its own. It always ends up in the hole - eventually. Ernie Els and Jordan Spieth, two amazing pro golfers proved that to us at this year's Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. Ernie Els, with his six-putt quintuple bogey on the first hole, and Jordan Spieth, with his flame-out quadruple bogey on the 12th hole par three proved that even seasoned professionals can miscue.
When I saw their misery I said, "I've been there! I can do that!" Actually, I've done that, and worse. No golfer alive can deny doing the same. Our consolation is that we didn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line; and we didn't have millions of people watching us.
With that in mind, I have decided to devote this blog and two more to the game that gives us fresh air, green fairways, great companionship and teaches us that there are four letter words besides "golf". When you head out to the links this summer, remember to swing hard, lift your head to see where the ball is going, and then swing hard a second time because you missed the ball with your first attempt.
Finally, remember that we golf for fun, not profit.
Gerald M. Sliva
P.S. You may share in Ernie Els misery by clicking on the image of the damaged golf ball to take you to a video of his heartbreak.
What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul --- Jewish Proverb
I’ve been thinking about crying. Not engaging in the act of crying – at least not at the moment, but rather thinking about what a blessing the act of crying is for human beings. I doubt that anyone ever plans to cry; that is why crying is so terrific. It catches us by surprise and releases our pent-up emotions. Have you had a really good cry recently? If not, you are missing out on life. All the really profound moments of our existence are perfect opportunities for crying: births, weddings, terrific jokes, and wonderful surprises, feelings of great loss and sadness, death, grave illness, deep disappointment, true patriotic feelings, love and pride. If you haven’t shed a tear or two you’ve been missing out on some of the most memorable moments of being human.
Certainly we don’t want to drag out our crying towel on a daily basis or even weekly or monthly, but occasional crying is mandatory for humanity. That is not to say we yearn for death, illness or great loss, only that when these events enter our lives, as sooner or later they must, the act of crying helps us to reach a state of equilibrium once more. Just as we cannot live in a state of perpetual ecstasy, we cannot live in a state of perpetual grief. Eventually we must return to normalcy or equilibrium. Crying helps us to find that balance in our lives.
When was your last sincere cathartic sobbing? Maybe it's time to shed a tear! One such occasion for me was an occasion of pure gratitude and joy. It was a special occasion, but I was completely unaware. As usual, Cecilia and I were at Quail Run RV Park in Arizona on Groundhog Day, February 2, 2014, my seventieth birthday. It was a routine birthday in all respects as far as I knew. Receiving birthday wishes from several friends and neighbours in the RV Park, I felt the day brought little out of the ordinary. In the evening Cecilia and I went to the recreation centre with some friends for the Saturday night dance.
As we entered the hall looking for a seat, the Needham Twins were on stage preparing to provide us with dance music and entertainment. We like to sit near the back of the hall where the music is not as loud and it is easier to slide in and out of one’s seat to go dancing, but to my annoyance someone had plunked a “Reserved” sign on the back table forcing us to take the next table. The band was ready to go and still no one was occupying the “Reserved” table. We settled in next to that table, visiting with our friends, when suddenly the RV Park manager made an announcement that there were some special guests coming to the dance. Would we please welcome them? To my absolute shock and amazement, through the front door walked my sister and her husband, one brother and his wife, another brother and finally our son. I could not believe my eyes. To hugs, kisses and tears of welcome they entered the hall. Unbelievably, the “Reserved” sign was for me and all my relatives. A few minutes later when I was just regaining my composure an old school chum and his wife entered to join the celebration. My friends and relatives had traveled from their homes in various parts of Canada all the way to Arizona to help me celebrate my seventieth birthday. They brought tequila, rum, rye whiskey, beer, munchies and a huge birthday cake which we shared with the hundred or so people in the hall. My relatives had rented a large four bedroom house near the RV Park, were set to party for the weekend and party we did. After the dance, we all crowded into our very small park model trailer where there was another huge surprise and more tears. My other sister and her husband, whose flight from Canada had been delayed, suddenly showed up at our doorstep.
My brother Jim was the instigator and my wife Cecilia was the co-conspirator of the whole event, keeping the surprise a secret from me for months. Every time that weekend when I considered the thoughtfulness and kindness of my relatives and friends, as well as the huge expense they incurred to help me celebrate my seventieth birthday, tears of joy and gratitude welled up in me, and remembering it now gives me a repeat performance. Thank you dear people!
Sadly there are times when our lives are filled with other tears, tears of sadness, loss, grief and sorrow. The death of my Granny and my Mother were two of these moments, but there were others, perhaps not as tragic to me but still tugging at the floodgates of my heart.
One such occasion, which neither Cecilia nor I will ever forget was in October 1983. At the time, we lived in Regina, Saskatchewan with our son Greg who was attending the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus, taking Honors Chemistry through the co-operative work study program. To his credit, Greg had secured a four month work-study job at the RCMP Crime Lab in Winnipeg. But when it came time for him to leave home, Cecilia and I had such intense feelings of sadness, emptiness and loss that we literally cried upon his departure and many more times over the next two days. His temporary departure was like a death to us. Who knows why? We had just lived together eating, laughing, vacationing and fighting together for eighteen years. What was the loss? He was just our only living baby leaving us forever!
So for two days we sulked as we aimlessly roamed around the house quietly mourning our loss, wondering if life would ever be the same. On the second day of our “wake” Cecilia decided to try to distract herself from her grief by raking the front lawn, but as she raked, the tears streamed down her face. At that moment an older neighbour walking his dog chanced upon her sorrow, and noting her sadness, he asked her the cause of her tears. Sobbing, she told him of the temporary departure of our son and our profound sorrow at our loss. His response was simply that he understood her feelings. He and his wife had four grown children and he intimated that with the departure of each youngster they both cried as though their best friend had died.
When Cecilia came back into the house, she told me of her encounter with the neighbour. We both had a hearty laugh, more tears and that was the end of it. After that initial sorrowful departure and eventual return, Greg left us on many occasions for jobs in various places, but never again did we grieve. We celebrated his departures and his returns as beautiful parts of our lives.
So, I’ve seen sunshine and I’ve seen rain; I’ve experienced great joy and profound grief. They weave an amazing tapestry, our lives of tears. May your tears be joyful!
Go back and click on the teary eye to listen to "Tears in Heaven".
Gerald M. Sliva
Still Barking! Blog of