Category Archives: Marc’s Personal Blog

“Never, never, never give up.” ~ Winston Churchill

220px-Sir_Winston_S_ChurchillCade and Ella had their regional swim meet on Saturday morning, which they qualified for by swimming in at least two of the regular meets. They were both super nervous. It was not lost on them that this was the biggest meet of the summer (so far), there would be lots and lots of competitors, and lots and lots of spectators.  Their nerves were bristling.

Poor Cade, who has really struggled to finish better than last in almost every race this summer, was resigned to the continuation of that consistency. It broke my heart knowing how hard that was on his ego. It also swelled my heart with pride that, no matter how sure of the inevitability of facing the embarrassment of last place in each and every race, he never hesitated to get up on the blocks and compete. Not once. Nor did he give up when everyone else had touched the wall, climbed out of the pool, and he was still swimming. He finished strong every time and even congratulated his friends who had done well. That display of character from my 9-year-old son provided me another small glimpse into the future, to the kind of man he’ll be. And I couldn’t have been prouder.

Poor Ella, who doesn’t struggle keeping up with others nearly as much as Cade, nevertheless had her own opportunity to come up big in the heart department if not on the medal podium. In her first individual race, the 50-breast stroke, she swam free-style. That’s right, while everyone else was swimming breast she swam free… not on purpose, but rather, because she made a mistake. She got disqualified of course, but the real calamity was the embarrassment of swimming the wrong stroke in front of everyone. She came over after the race and had a mini-meltdown in my arms.

Both Yan and I talked to her about not quitting in the face of adversity. We talked about times we had been embarrassed but kept on going. I went through a list of colloquialisms: falling down seven times and getting up eight; falling off the horse and getting right back in the saddle; not dwelling on the mistakes of the past but correcting them for the future; blah, blah, blah. Ella was unimpressed. In fact, she was inconsolable. There was no way she was going to go back out for the next race, the 50-free. No way, no how. She was mortified at her mistake and would just as soon have drowned as face the crowd again after her very public, very obvious blunder.

So Yan and I weren’t sure how this was going to play out. We knew we were both on the same page even without having to say it to each other. We wanted her to face her fears and get back out there. We knew there was great value for her in that lesson. But the only way she was going to get back out there was if she made that decision herself. We could drag her kicking and screaming to the blocks, but we couldn’t make her dive in – and there’s probably a rule against us pushing her in (or maybe even a law). So we empathized with her, encouraged her, and tried to inspire and empower her to make the choice to get back out there. And finally, just as the race was about to start, she walked over to the starting blocks under her own power. She went slowly and begrudgingly and uncomfortably, but she went.

And it turns out, she got really into the competitive aspect of the meet. She missed placing in the top three of the 50-free and advancing to the next swim meet by only a couple of tenths of a second. And then she forgot all about her error in the earlier race. So although she didn’t win, or even place, that race was a total victory for her. She made the decision to fight, to overcome, and to not give in. I was as proud of her as I was of Cade. My kids both showed a heckofalotta heart and demonstrated what being a champion is really all about. Saturday was a day I’ll never forget. And I hope they never do, either.

Marc Garlett 91024

“Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy RooseveltThis past weekend was a good one. We took Cade and Ella to a swim meet early Saturday morning, then dropped them off at Yan’s parents’ house. Yan and I spent the rest of the day working on renovations at an investment property we recently closed on.

Cade and Ella have protested the swim meets (This summer, Yan signed them up for the Loma Alta Park swim team which competes against other LA County park teams). They don’t mind the practices – they’ve each been taking swimming lessons since they were 2. But neither of them likes the competition. And I mean at all. Ella keeps saying to me, “racing is just not my thing.”

But we’ve pushed them (forced them, really) to stick with it and compete. Not to win, mind you… but to compete. I’ve had very earnest talks with both, “I don’t care if you come in first place or last, as long as you go out there and give it your all.” Besides, there are valuable life lessons one can only learn from losing. It’s hard to watch my kids lose – because I know they feel bad about it (and that’s part of my challenge as a father; to teach them it’s okay to feel bad about losing but that losing shouldn’t make them feel bad about themselves) – yet I also know, from experience, that losing makes you dig deep, find out what you’re made of, and decide how you’re going to respond. Are you going to pick yourself up and take another swing at it or put your tail between your legs and limp away?

Cade came in dead last in his first race and walked over to apologize to me. I said, “Wait a minute, I was just going to tell you how proud I was that you saw you were going to come in last but you didn’t quit or even slow down; you finished strong.” Cade looked down and said, “I knew I was going to lose. I always lose. It doesn’t bother me anymore.” I replied, “I think it does bother you and that’s why I’m so proud. Because even though it bothers you, you’re still out there competing. And you can hold your head up high because of that. That takes heart. I’m so proud everyone here sees the strength of heart my son has. In fact, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Life is competitive. And although most of the kids Cade (and Ella, too, for that matter) swam against were a full year older, I didn’t want him focusing on excuses. I wanted him thinking about how to improve his technique so he could improve his competitiveness. So that’s what we talked about. From the subject line, you may have guessed that I’m a big Teddy Roosevelt fan. One of my all-time favorite quotes ever comes from him: “It is not the critic who counts. … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

This is what I wish for my children.

Marc Garlett 91024

My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it. – Clarence Budington Kelland

fathers day 91024My Father’s Day was really, really great. I spent the afternoon at Angel’s Stadium watching the Royals for a full nine innings with my parents, my wife, and my children. And the Royals won the ball game, which was icing on the cake.

As I sat there with my dad and my kids, I couldn’t help but reflect on fatherhood. I thought about the things my dad taught me as a kid. Inconsequential – but important – things like how to throw a baseball, how to ride a bike, how to grill a hamburger. And the more consequential – but less concrete – lessons like how to be a gentleman (my mom never had to open a door, pump gas, or pull out her chair when my father was around), how to provide for your family, and how to lead by example.

My thoughts turned to my own role as father and the things of consequence my children are learning from me. I think the gentleman thing is just ingrained in me from watching how my father treated my mother every day. I hope my son picks that up from me, too, and I hope there’s no doubt in my daughter’s mind about what she can and should expect from any man who desires her affections.

But I sometimes struggle with feelings of inadequacy in providing for my family, financially and emotionally. I know my shortcomings and so I know what more I could be doing. And I also have doubts about the example I’m setting. Sometimes it’s good, if not great. But at other times it leaves a lot to be desired. Occasionally I demonstrate the exact behaviors I am trying to help my children outgrow and overcome. Ugh!

It’s not that my father was perfect with me. He wasn’t. He’s human, after all. And although I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I know I don’t have to be flawless to be a good father. But I’m not always clear whether I’m taking two steps forward for every one back, or if it’s the other way around. And the direction I’m going matters. There are two precious lives depending on me getting this right. Three if you count their mother – and I do!

Being a father is the most important work I’ve ever done. And yes, it is work. There’s no time off and no timecard to punch out with. I know I don’t have to be perfect, but I do owe it to all of them to them to bring my A game. I have to reconcile that with the fact that I’m not always going to be that man; the MVP I want to be. And I know sometimes I’m not even going to be junior varsity-worthy. I suppose there’s value in showing them you can fall short, fail even, but not let that knock you out of the game. That I can do. I only hope that when my kids look back on what they learned from me, it’s more than just that.

Marc Garlett 91024

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford

difficultCade doesn’t like learning Chinese – at all. After yet another painful Saturday morning Chinese tutoring session, in a long string of painful Saturday morning Chinese tutoring sessions, everyone was fed up… Yan, me, Cade himself, and no doubt his tutor as well. Cade’s most common refrain during tutoring has been, “I can’t; it’s too hard.”

But last Saturday something changed. I’d finally had enough, I guess. Instead of coddling and cajoling, or begging and pleading, or yelling and screaming (all of which we’ve tried, repeatedly), I simply sat my son down and had a very deep, serious, heart to heart with him.

I talked to him about deciding what kind of person he wanted to be and what kind of life he wanted to have. I spoke about making a choice between being the kind of person who finds ways to achieve rather than the kind of person who finds excuses. Then I reminded him of where he comes from. The stock he’s made of. The kinds of people who’ve come before him and passed their DNA to him.

I talked specifically about his maternal grandparents who escaped a China labor camp during the cultural revolution (if you missed that blog entry you can read it here). I asked him what would have happened if they’d have said, “it’s too hard; we can’t do it.” Realizing that would have meant his mom probably would’ve never been born, and, that even if she had been, I certainly would have never met her, made him think long and hard about his own existence and the far-reaching effects of life’s decisions.

I told him, in detail, about my paternal grandparents. My grandfather was crippled for most of his life yet I never heard him complain or saw him feel sorry for himself. Not once. Nor did I ever hear him make excuses, say something was too hard, or see him give up. I only ever witnessed the opposite. In fact, apart from the constant use of crutches and having a hard time getting up and down out of a chair, he was pretty much Superman. And I’ll tell you this- there’s nothing he couldn’t build.

I then explained how my grandmother’s parents basically sold her and her little sister into what amounted to slavery when they were just little girls. I described how they used to be chained to a bed, together, each night so they wouldn’t run away, and how my grandmother’s sister couldn’t hold her bladder through the night, and how my grandmother would wet the bed too, on purpose, so she could take the blame – and the beating – which followed each morning.

I wanted him to understand the difference between Chinese (and yes, I get it, Chinese IS hard!) and the life altering, punch in the gut types of hardships life can, and does, deal out. And I wanted him to know that people in his family had faced those types of hardships, endured them, and ultimately triumphed over them. Again, when I had answered all his questions, I could see the wheels in Cade’s head spinning intensely.

And then I completely changed my tone, my approach, indeed, my parenting. I told Cade we were done saying something was too hard. I told him he was better than that and his forbearers hadn’t made it through what they had only so he could quit now. I told him he owed it to them to decide to have a “can do” attitude. I told him even more than that though, he owed it to himself. I told him I believed in him and wasn’t going to let him sell himself short a moment longer.

Something seemed to click, for both of us, there. We discovered a new, close connection with each other and it felt good. Really good. I know he wants to believe in himself. He’s just scared. I also know one of the best things I can accomplish as his father is to help that belief take hold and blossom. I see the way forward. And I’m confident he will arrive because he was hopeful enough to begin following me, knowing full well the direction I’m leading.

Marc Garlett 91024

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is wasted. ~ Aesop

Yan and Ella (1)Marc and Cade It was another whirlwind weekend at the Garlett household. Cade and Ella have taken up two new sports, basketball and fencing. They also had belt testing to advance to the next level of wushu. So our normally packed Friday night through Saturday night was pole to pole action. Sometimes it seems we may have too much going on with the kids. But Yan and I want to encourage our kids’ athleticism and self-confidence. It is one of those parenting lines we try to walk and are never quite sure which side we’re on.

We’ve also been trying to buy another investment property for a while. I feel like the market is changing. Inventory is low. Good deals are harder and harder to find. We’ve been putting offers out there but haven’t been able to get one accepted for quite a while. Then suddenly, out of the blue, this weekend we had three offers accepted all at once. So, a good chunk of our Sunday was spent physically inspecting each property and running and then re-running the numbers so we could whittle it down to one purchase – a lot of work but certainly a good position to be in!

Yet the highlight of the busy weekend (did I mention this weekend was busy?) was our time Sunday afternoon with Food on Foot, an organization whose motto is “Rebuilding lives one at a time.” This non-profit in Los Angeles is dedicated to helping the poor and homeless by providing meals, clothing, work training and job placement. We donated money to the program, then volunteered to help distribute food to people in need.

Yan was the driving force behind our family’s participation. And I must admit, left to my own devices, I’m sure I would have found something else to do with my Sunday afternoon, even if that something else was nothing else. But I’m so glad Yan made this happen. First of all, I love that she does things like this and pushes, pulls, and otherwise leads our family towards out-of-the-routine experiences. Secondly, I think it’s important that our children see up close and personal that not everyone shares the same comforts and privileges they possess, and I want them to observe, feel, and practice service to others. And thirdly, I was truly inspired by so many of the people I met there – from the other volunteers to the folks in the program who had hit rock bottom, lost literally everything, and yet hadn’t given up, wore big smiles on their faces, and were working incredibly hard to rebuild their lives.

I didn’t get a sense of entitlement from them. I didn’t get a sense of anger or resentment or victimhood. I did see them taking responsibility for themselves and their future. I saw genuine gratitude, appreciation, kindness, and compassion in them. I saw some of the best of humanity in these people who were living in barely human conditions. I saw hope.

I came away with a new perspective. I discovered an organization whose mission I support and whose methods I respect. I met people lifting themselves up by their bootstraps with joy in their hearts. I left humbled. I, who have everything, spend so much of my time thinking about just me and mine. Yet those I met, who have nothing, spend time every day focusing on how they can be of service to others. It’s part of the program and those successful in the program are so, in part, because they embrace and internalize that spirit of giving. I have a lot to learn from them, and I hope my children heard that simple but powerful message, too. It’s easy to make a difference in someone else’s life. It doesn’t just happen, however. We have to seek, recognize, and then act on the opportunity for kindness.

I am grateful for that reminder.
Marc Garlett 91024

“Daddy, Disneyland is the BEST!” — Ella Luree Garlett, Spring 2017

Disneyland 91024Cade and Ella are on spring break this week so Yan and I decided to spend at least part of their break on a multi-day family trip to California Adventure and Disneyland. We woke up early Sunday morning and hit the road by 7 am. Arriving at California Adventure before it opened was all part of the plan. And it was worth it. To watch my kids’ barely contained enthusiasm erupt into skipping, jumping and hopping through the park once the gates were opened warmed my soul.

Yan stayed up late the night before, planning our day. To put it plainly, my wife is a logistical magician. We were on a tight schedule which left little room for error. But Yan had it down to a science. No… more of an art, actually. We were zig-zagging through the park at her direction, stepping right onto the rides only to see a long line had suddenly developed by the time we got off. Occasionally she would tell me which ride to take the kids to next and give me a short deadline within which to meet her there before sprinting off to secure fast passes to be beautifully woven into the strategic tapestry of her master design throughout the day.

For those of you who know me, you can probably guess this approach to… well, just about anything… is not in my nature. I am much more of an improviser and a take it as it comes sort of guy. For those of you who know Yan, I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you at all that she had our day planned down to the minute (I kid you not – the minute) or that her maneuvers were as complex in their execution as they were effective in squeezing the absolute most from every single one of those minutes. It was as if all the other park guests were moving in slow motion, little more than static scenery on our warp speed tour through the park.

At the end of the day, we walked to our hotel – right across the street! – and settled in for the night. Cade said he wasn’t feeling well so we got him fed and tucked into bed with Ella while Yan went to work crafting the next day’s operations order as I rubbed her tired feet. But Cade wasn’t kidding. Soon he bolted upright and began throwing up on his bed. Yan sprang out of our bed and got behind him (she’s obviously the pro here). I jumped up, grabbed the nearest container – which happened to be a cup – and came around in front of Cade (amateur move on all levels there). Just as the panic set in that my little cup was filling up way too fast, things went from bad to worse. Cade began projectile vomiting.

I can only guess that the level of Newtonian force aimed directly at me was some kind of scientific record. And I must admit, there was a brief period of time when I wasn’t sure if I would stand my ground or break and run. But I’m proud to report that my sense of fatherly-duty somehow prevailed over my sense of self-preservation and I held my position even with all hell breaking lose around – and on – me. The aftermath wasn’t pretty but I had seen the elephant, withstood the test of fire, and although a long shower was called for, at least I was able to towel off afterward with my parental honor still intact.

Cade was feeling fine by the next morning and begged us not the cancel the rest of the trip. So off to Disneyland we went. I wasn’t sure just how much of Sunday’s logistical magic was luck, but yesterday erased any doubts I may have had about Yan’s prowess in amusement park supremacy and ultimate Disney dominance. And I think my favorite thing of all was when Yan announced to me that she had scheduled in some “free time” for us between 1:33 pm to 3:04 pm. Imagine, free time at an amusement park. Hilarious!

The only glitch came at the electric light parade when the adults my kids had squeezed in front of told Cade and Ella they were only allowed to stand behind them, not in front of them, because all the space in front of them was “reserved” to avoid congestion and/or an obstructed view. Now, I’ve got to pause and say here, while I don’t really understand adults who go to Disneyland without kids, I certainly don’t judge or resent them. And I know there are plenty of people who do just that. But it’s not something I get. If it weren’t for my kids, I wouldn’t be fighting those crowds, spending that money, and standing in line after line after line. No thanks. But fine. To each his own. What I absolutely can’t understand, however, is any adult telling a child to get behind them during a parade. I mean, really?!

But I digress. Suffice it to say, Yan’s plans didn’t account for these few bad apples who somehow mistook Disneyland for a kid free zone, but it did give me a chance to be more than just the “carrier of tired children and other heavy things” and use my improv skills to politely – or at least more politely than they deserved – remind those grinches what Disneyland is all about and in so doing, ensure my kids had an opportunity to see and enjoy the parade (which, by the way, did not in any way affect those other people’s opportunity to see the parade since my kids were barely 4 feet tall – that’s a fact; I’d seen them being measured all day long).

So at just under 20 miles and just north of 40,000 steps later (thank you, Fitbit, for that morsel of information) we headed back home after a two-day, physically demanding, emotionally rewarding, and don’t forget biologically trying, family trip to the happiest place on earth. We made so many great new memories with Cade and Ella and I got to marvel at my wife doing things supercomputers can only aspire to accomplish. Being a family man can sure be exhausting and sometimes even gross, but man oh man am I glad this is my life.

Marc Garlett 91024

The Whole 9 Yards

Cade's 9th birthday 91024My son turned 9 years old on Sunday. We celebrated, at his request, with just a small family gathering. Cade loves family. He feels most comfortable when he is with family. His incredibly deep sense of family connection is one of the many things about him I have always adored and admired.

His grandparents (my parents) hosted a swim-barbecue party the day before his birthday since I was scheduled to be working the law firm’s “got guardians?” booth at Sierra Madre’s Wistaria festival on his actual birthday. Yan’s parents were there as well, along with Cade’s two aunts, Wan and Tessa, his uncle Matt, and his two cousins, Erin and Clayton.

Cade, now in third grade, has struggled mightily with reading over the last few years. But due to a lot of hard work on everyone’s part – and so much of that credit has to go to Cade himself – he is nearly caught up to grade level. He really has worked, and worked, and worked at it and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

He continues to tell me he is the “stupidest kid in [his] class” but I’m also seeing supplementary flashes of self-confidence come through, too. He is extremely sensitive and competitive… not necessarily the greatest combo. If he is not the best at something, he often feels like he must be the worst. And I know he’s been acutely aware of his own struggles academically so far in school, relative to his classmates. His powerful perceptive abilities can, on occasion, intensify his insecurities.

And speaking of perception, that kid can read a room in an instant. Upon walking in, no matter how many others are present, he’ll not only know who’s there but also what they’re wearing, what they’re doing, and even immediately tune into how they’re feeling. It’s really something to behold. I’m just in awe of his visual acumen. For example, he flipped through the instruction manual for the big, intricate, Lego X-Wing Yan and I got him as a birthday present and then went right to work. In fact, he got lost in it; tuning out everything else until he had the craft constructed just a short time later.

For someone who excels at spatial logic and visual cues, I can certainly see how reading difficulties have been especially frustrating and unnerving. But to be honest, as hard as it’s been, I’m actually a little glad Cade’s struggled. Nothing much worth having comes easily in life. The sooner Cade learns that, the better as far as I’m concerned. Ten years from now I hope Cade is in college (wow, that just seems crazy) studying science, or engineering, or whatever his gifts and intelligence lead him towards, with the humbleness which only comes out of adversity and the poise only attainable from overcoming it.

Man, do I love that boy.
Marc Garlett 91024

Art Linkletter, you were right!

Community Outreach 91024With the new year a full three weeks old now, the presidential inauguration in the rear view window, and the holiday hangover fading in memory, I took a look back at some of my favorite home moments from 2016. Here are a few of them:

While eating dinner as a family one evening, Cade abruptly announced, “I like it doggy style.” You can imagine the horrified and shocked glances Yan and I exchanged with each other, both simultaneously wondering how our 8-year-old even knew about such things. Then, before we could react, he put his hands behind his back, lowered his head, and began eating directly from his plate. Finally, he exclaimed, “See, it’s just so much more efficient!” Yan and I burst out laughing and shared an immense sense of relief that the seriousness of our conversation with Cade that evening needed to go no deeper than proper table manners.

Ella started writing prompts in her first-grade class this year. One of the questions from her teacher was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Ella’s written response was simply and succinctly, “Not a lawyer.” Seeing this come home in her classwork folder one day really tickled me. So I had to ask her why she didn’t want to be a lawyer. She replied, “Because I want to be a veterinarian.” So I asked the obvious, “Why didn’t you just write down you wanted to be a veterinarian, then?” Ella said, matter-of-factly, “Because I don’t want anyone to even think I’m going to be a lawyer.” Okay, I get it. But I must say, that was a very lawyeresque way of answering the question!

On the way to school one morning, Cade caused me another momentary panic. Out of the blue, he made the comment, “When I grow up, I want to get lots of booty.” Completely shocked, I couldn’t form a response and only managed to stammer and stutter a bit. Then, after a brief moment of interrnal reflection, Cade continued, “Daddy, do pirates still get paid in booty?” Whew! Another bullet dodged. I feel so much better equipped to have a conversation about the pros and cons of piracy as a career choice than I do about having an in-depth discussion regarding “booty” as it relates to the birds and the bees at this point in my children’s lives.

Finally, the newest addition to the family, Alexa (the Amazon personal voice assistant), has created many moments of laughter – and yes, we were laughing at her, not with her – in our home. However, there’s one in particular that sticks in my mind. Shortly before Thanksgiving last year, we were all discussing our previous year’s delicious smoked turkey and whether we should prepare the turkey that way again. So to get some other ideas I asked, “Alexa, how do you cook a turkey?” The response was, “The recipe or ingredient I found for turkey is: turkey.” We all got a big laugh and it turned out Alexa was technically right– turkey did indeed turn out to be the main ingredient in our Thanksgiving day turkey.

Being a parent is hard. There are lots of moments of frustration and worry. But thankfully, the moments which really stick with me are the ones of joy and laughter. Here’s looking forward to more of those great moments throughout 2017.

Marc Garlett 91024

“Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before.” ~ Dalai Lama

grand-tetons-christmas-2016Yan and I certainly try to follow this sage advice. Though it was easier to do before we had kids, it is more rewarding to experience traveling with them, and see earth’s remarkable places through their eyes.

We spent Christmas this year (and the week following) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming – a place I’d never been before. It was beautiful and rugged, and everything I pictured Wyoming would be. We spent a day inside Yellowstone National Park, another in Grand Teton National Park, and another on the National Elk Reserve. They were all spectacular. But my favorite day, by far, was the day we went snowmobiling along the Greys River in the Bridger National Forest.

Cade and Ella alternately rode with either Yan, me or Yan’s sister, Tessa (Tessa Yi Yi as they call her), who accompanied us. I must say, though, riding with me must have been the highlight for the kids as I was the one more than delighted to meet their need for speed, consistently pushing my sled to 50 or 55 miles per hour (much to Yan’s horror). We rode about 30 miles into the wilderness before turning back and it was as remote as it was amazing. I’ll never forget it.

Before the holidays, we celebrated my joyful, determined, resilient, artistic, congenial daughter’s seventh trip around the sun. She eats up birthdays like the Cookie Monster devours Chips Ahoy, so we began the last third of December at full throttle.

Then after returning from Jackson Hole late on the night of January 30, we went to a couple of different New Year’s Eve parties the next day. It was special to close out 2016 and say hello to 2017 with so many good friends. It brought home the fact that Yan and I are close to numerous, outstanding people. I was really feeling the love for them as we hung out with each other while also sharing the evening with all our children. And no, my feelings of love were not alcohol induced just in case that’s what you’re thinking. I happened to be the designated driver in my family!

So, while traveling to new places is one of the true joys of living on this spectacular planet, it is really the people we share our experiences with which touch the heart. I hope you felt some of that, too, over the holidays. And I sincerely wish you the happiest of new years.
Marc Garlett 91024

“Never discuss politics or religion in polite company” (etiquette rule)

2016 USA presidential election poster. EPS 10

The political conventions are behind us and we officially have our two major party candidates for the presidential election this November. Do you know how the outcome might affect your estate plan? Trump’s current proposal is to eliminate the federal estate and gift taxes altogether. Clinton’s current proposal, on the opposite end of the spectrum, isn’t very detailed but would appear to dramatically decrease the current gift and estate tax exemptions, eliminate the yearly adjustment for inflation, and significantly increase the gift and estate tax rates.

What does this mean? If either proposal becomes law there will be substantial impacts to estate plans everywhere. The effect of Trump’s proposal would be to limit the tax benefits of certain irrevocable trusts and grantor-retained annuity trusts, while the effect of Clinton’s proposal would be an increased tax burden on millions of Americans which would necessitate the implementation of advanced estate planning strategies on their behalves. You should know the facts about how each candidate would like to change the estate planning landscape, but in no way should this be interpreted as my endorsement of one over the other. This is far from the only issue in play.

I am going to delve into this even deeper, though, at the risk of offending “polite company” because although this blog is a means for me to communicate with my circles, I am always conscious that it will be a big part of the legacy I leave my children. I believe in being real with you, and I want Cade and Ella to know the real me– what I was thinking, feeling, experiencing during the events of my life. So I’m going to dare to attempt to illuminate what’s going on inside of me during this presidential campaign of 2016. If that makes you uncomfortable or you feel it is simply not polite to talk politics, stop reading now. Otherwise…

I have always voted for the person, not the party. I am proudly independent and base my vote on who I think would be best for the country. Period. I have, in fact, voted for republicans, democrats, and even third party candidate before based on that principle. Yan tells me a vote for a third party candidate is just throwing my vote away. But as someone who spent time in the army, ready and willing to lay down my life for our constitution, I believe the only vote thrown away is the one not cast. So I will be casting a vote… for someone. But I’m having a hard time getting comfortable voting for either Trump or Clinton. Like many Americans, I see deep character flaws in each of them and little evidence either of them is worthy of the privilege, honor, and responsibility of leading this great country of ours.

This is an incredibly important election, however, so perhaps I should just cast my vote based on the issues. I am very much in favor of marriage equality for anybody and everybody (or perhaps to put it better, I’m simply in favor of equality for everyone). This one issue would seem to push me to vote democratic as the republican party wants to continue telling people how and who to love. On the other hand, I believe the current administration’s foreign policies – endorsed and/or engineered by Clinton – have dangerously weakened America. So that issue pushes back toward the republicans who I believe have a stronger approach to those who would destroy us. In fact, the issues most important to me are pretty evenly split between the republican and democratic platforms (probably why I’m independent).

I have not been this perplexed about an election, ever. I look at my children and I feel the weight of my decision. Just like all parents, my children’s future drives me. I know the decisions we make today will either make things better for our children tomorrow or leave them with an even bigger mess to clean up. I want them to reap rewards rather than having to pay a price for being the generation which follows us. I know you do, too. And many, many brave souls have sacrificed everything to ensure we have a voice in what kind of future we leave for our children.

So I know I will be voting, even if I don’t yet know for whom. And I will have my kids with me when I do, just as always, so they can see democracy in action, close up and personal. I will tell them, just as I always do, why it is so important to participate in the process. And I will talk to them about the issues in this particular election, too, so they can begin thinking about and forming their own political views – and I don’t really care if those views are in line with mine or not, as long as they’re thinking for themselves.