Archive for the 'financial support' Category


September 19, 2013

I complain about people writing scripts for others — in effect, telling the other person what the writer thinks they should say and do (and think).  Outside of the context of consciously writing a play to be put on stage or filmed, I am uncomfortable with the idea of writing scripts.  I object to the kind of script-writing in which one family member tells another how to react or in which a pundit tells a politician what to say, for example.

So I am amused that I found myself writing someone else a script.

My mother actually asked for this script.  She needed to call a brokerage firm and sell shares in a mutual fund.  We had taken all the preceding steps together — ascertaining, in consultation with her team of professionals, this was a good move for her, determining the cost basis (no easy feat under the circumstances), etc.  All she needed to do was to give the sell order.  It seemed to me not a good use of time and energy to put either me or her financial adviser on the account just to sell it, and although my mother had trepidation at the outset of this project that she could do it herself, once she saw how we could work through the determination of the basis, she became more confident that she could accomplish this objective.  And she knew I was there in the background as needed.  (The account had been in her name for years, but my father had managed it.)

So she agreed she would do it, and when I started explaining how such a conversation typically unfolds, she started taking notes and asking me to put my descriptions into examples of words to say.  So I did, and by the end of the conversation, she happily announced that she had a script now, and that that was what she needed in order to feel comfortable undertaking the transaction.

She accomplished the transaction yesterday, informed me that she had a confirmation number and insisted on giving it to me.  She repeated how important it was to her to have had a script.  (She understood the transaction conceptually and wanted it done, she just was concerned she didn’t know what to say — kind of like, for some people, not being sure of how to order in a French restaurant — which is, actually, not an issue for my mother, as her French is quite good.)

I am so glad I found a context in which scripting someone else’s conversation seems to have been a helpful thing.


Good lines

May 5, 2013

I have been spending a fair amount of time and energy trying to help my mother with her finances and trying to line up some professional help to manage them.  I am glad this work is producing some memorable lines, since the work itself can be kind of trying.

One line was the opening line from a phone call from a potential financial manager who had just reviewed some documents:  “Your father must have been a very smart man.”

Yes, he was.

Another line came from my mother’s reaction to hearing some numbers from a balance sheet compiled by another potential manager (neither she nor I had ever tried to put it all together):  “Well, then why do I have weeds in my lawn?”

My mother can be droll and feisty.


Who’s raising the child

April 17, 2013

With the current Supreme Court case about who should raise a child of an Indian father in the news, I was thinking of other cases (some legal cases, some only social worker cases) I’ve known about that seem to fit a similar pattern.  I don’t know all the facts to all the cases, including this one, but I am curious about whether people are taking into account that as an emotional matter, there is a difference for some people between having the biological mother of their child raise the child, or even their extended family, and placing the child with “strangers.” I would say that if and when a mother decides to place a child for adoption, the parental rights of the biological father are revisited and he either consents to the adoption and relinquishes his rights anew, or he takes responsibility for the child’s care in some way.

And there is a difference between asking a father about terminating his parental rights in the context of asking for financial support from him and asking him as a general matter whether he wishes to sever his ties to the child.  We can have laws that predicate parental rights on certain kinds of behavior, but this will not change emotional structures — a man may flee from financial responsibility without changing his sense of connection with his offspring.  We can disapprove of this til the cows come home, but not dealing with it realistically apparently produces fathers reappearing and inserting themselves into proceedings at inconvenient times.  Fathers know of cases in which by continuing their parental rights they end up with lots of (financial) burden and not the benefit of actual involvement in the child’s life — a new boyfriend of the mother, her mother, some other relative of hers may help her push him out of the picture, to use the system to curtail his rights, especially if she has more social resources to do this than he.  And I know of cases in which it seemed pretty clear that the biological mother had been a part of orchestrating a situation in which the father could disrupt an adoptive placement she had had second thoughts about.

I guess my thought is that to resolve these situations, we need changes in social working more than we need fine legal distinctions and interpretations by sophisticated jurists.


March 3, 2012

In addition to introducing me to the work of Robert Graves, my high school Latin teacher introduced me to the discipline and approach(es) of anthropology (I think he was getting a master’s degree in it at the time).

I used to try to apply anthropological analysis to classical and medieval law and history.  I liked it the way it allowed me to make sense of things that hadn’t looked sensible before — like finding that there were patterns in succession to the Visigothic throne, that “morbus gothorum” did not do justice to what was going on (it was part of, and the impetus for, my original dissertation topic, which I chickened out of, in favor of one that had originality built into it but for which I didn’t have much enthusiasm — that one had to do with 14th-century dower in England, and I wrote a paper on Livy’s telling of the story of Lucretia and the validity of coerced consent in Roman law, instead).

I was thinking this morning about the Republican race for president, about conservative thinking on moral decay and strengthening the family, and about the factor of religion in the primaries.  One of the things that passed through my mind was how Mormonism, I think, sees itself as trying to make good on Christianity’s promise, and how its sometime embrace of polygamy might fit into whatever project of reform it is engaged in.  From another angle, I was thinking about kinship groups other than the nuclear family and the roles they sometimes play in social and economic networks.

So, what came out of this mixture of thoughts was the idea that maybe our insistence in our current culture of relying on a nuclear family is a point at which we might intervene when we try to identify what’s not working in our society and how to address those ills.  I forget why we came to live as nuclear families either in fact or in terms of an ideal that then influences our expectations.

Maybe work is already done in this regard, about what might be a more natural living arrangement for groups of people of different generations, genders, abilities to contribute to the unit either through caretaking or through bringing in resources like income, in our current society.  If it is, maybe we could please hear more about it in those places in the media in which we hear what the psychologists, sociologists, biologists, neuroscientists, and other favorites are doing.

Amateur Hour

September 23, 2011

I am cognizant of the fact that people have to make a living, but there is a tension between engaging in spiritual work and receiving money for it, I think.  Discussion of the issue of whether college athletes should be paid and what it means, or has meant, to be an amateur, may be kind of illuminating on this subject.

The idea, in the context of amateur sports, that “[t]he amateur ideal was a restraining code that emphasized fair play and honor” (David Brooks in his column today in the NYTimes, which is what I linked to above) recalls to my mind that there is a different dynamic in spiritual work when one’s means of support comes from elsewhere.  Maybe it’s that we are more of the non-material world if that work remains unconnected to receiving money in return, and that we can understand and hence communicate better to others what we hear.  I don’t know for sure, and since there’s no convent that is affiliated with my somewhat idiosyncratic set of spiritual beliefs for me to apply to, I’ve basically muddled along on my own.  I am respectful of the fact that others have a different sense of how to strike a balance in their own lives between their spiritual work and their earning a living, and I believe that they are in the best position to know what that is for them.  But what I have always heard for myself has been to keep the two realms (work for pay and spiritual work) separate, and I’m thinking today that maybe it has to do with helping keep accessible to me whatever “restraining code” I am supposed to be internalizing and modeling through my own life.