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Advice & More March 2018

Financial Fortitude

Savor Perfect Moments

By Karen Telleen-Lawton

What’s remarkable is that this occurred on the heels of a terrible
time. It was less than two months the largest wildfire in California
history, a fire that forced my husband and me to evacuate for 12 days,and came within a mile of our home.

Vacation photos are extraordinary. You can gaze upon your family’s smiling faces in Kodak-moment locations, while the lost luggage, the overpriced dinner, the underwhelming hotel, or the rude taxi driver fade into memory. No matter how perfectly planned and executed are your special times, perfect moments are rarely as perfect as we imagined they would be. Contrarily, ordinary moments can be sublime.One day I sat out on my patio for lunch. Suddenly I felt so peaceful that I wanted to clutch the air. A pair of squirrels raced noisily through the dry leaves. I heard woodpeckers’ harsh calls from the oaks while

What’s remarkable is that this occurred on the heels of a terrible time. It was less than two months the largest wildfire in California history, a fire that forced my husband and me to evacuate for 12 days,and came within a mile of our home.

It was less than a month since our son had suffered a long hospitalization due to a chronic illness. We had spent Christmas Day through January 2 dealing with the emergency room, testing, insurance, doctors, and providing games and New Year’s Eve decorations to lighten the mood.

It was less than two weeks since a half-inch of rain fell in five minutes on the scarred slopes of the mountains behind the community, triggering a mudslide that killed 23 and left hundreds homeless, several of them close friends.

After weeks of dark clouds, I experienced this moment, like I was taking my first deep breaths, like a newborn. I recognized this feeling – it’s like the day after a vicious migraine. I am totally spent but simultaneously euphoric. These didn’t beat me. I am still alive.

I can only be grateful for this out-of-the-blue intense emotion. My joy de vivre was no more deserved that the previous weeks’ events were undeserved. But it helped me remember that perfect happiness can’t be bought or even earned. It can only be recognized, upheld, and cherished for as long as it lasts.

I can think of other sublime ordinary times. There is the satisfaction of concentrated writing or working intensely on a client’s financial plan. Time flies or floats until I wake from a near trance. My thoughts have imprinted directly on the page seemingly without having to transpose through imperfect typing fingers or imprecise translation to words.

Physical work can be equally satisfying. My husband and I dismantled our woodpile not long ago, moving it to further from the house in our fire-prone neighborhood. I donned my work-worn gloves, and we toiled together.

The satisfying clack of kindling sticks hitting each other reminded me of a game from half a century ago. Two kids would hold either end of two long sticks close to the ground, clapping them together and apart while a third hopped among them.

I love discovering one of these long-buried pleasant memories. Perhaps it’s not sublime, but a more reliable source of happiness than my younger self’s need for thrill and adventure.

I hope this is what Heaven will be like: a oneness with the universe that doesn’t ignore life’s difficulties but is at peace with them. The peace that surpasses all understanding that is promised in the New Testament’s Philippians. The feeling that I can meet the challenges, and then rest on the seventh day.

This is my seventh day and I am resting with tears of sadness and joy. The sadness is for the tragedy and illness that has happened not just on the news but in my community, to my friends and my family. The joy is that, as long as I am alive there can be deep satisfaction alongside the deep sadness

I’m reaching for perfect moments in the kind words of strangers, the touch of a friend, and even the optometrist who provides discounted glasses for the ones that disappeared over the course of the evacuation madness.

I found perfect moments in a tearful meal for a book club member who lost her home but was spared her life. The gathering reinforced my appreciation for the intrinsic humanity of people within the intrinsic power of nature.

Once in a while, when you have no expectation but great need, you may have such a Kodak moment: a rainbow in time. Between storms, grab a rainbow.


Karen Telleen-Lawton is grateful to serve seniors  and pre-seniors as the Principal of Decisive Path Fee-Only Financial Advisory in Santa Barbara, California ( You can reach her with your financial planning questions or Gratitudes comments at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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