happy anniversary Bernie!

Today is the 5th year anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s arrest.  And they said it wouldn’t last!

CNBC called me a few days ago and asked me if I would go on camera and talk about how I am coping as a Madoff victim.  The producer said she had just spoken to someone who said “they had moved on.”  Some people she said “are relunctant to talk about something so painful.”

good gravy, those people look miserable

good gravy, those people look miserable

Me: “That’s cool, I’ll talk, I’ve been coughing up my soul for years.” (cut to montage of my solo shows, stand up, vlogging, after too many drinks at a party)  I was the lead plantiff in a class action suit against Stanley “died before convicted” Chais so I have not been a shrinking violet when it comes to my absconded retirement fund.  I’ve always been ENRAGED.  

As is often the case with these things I don’t love the way it was edited.  First off, none of my funny lines made it in. Like when it came up about Madoff talking from prison and I said,  “I don’t want to hear a thing from that guy.  Unless, it’s hey, Daphne, there is a box of money I kept hidden and here is it’s location.”They didn’t get me choking up, tears in my eyes.

Can I direct this thing?

Also, the other woman who they interviewed talks about getting the money she originally invested.  She must have been a direct investor. We weren’t so we didn’t get anywhere near it.  But, whatever.  Here is another few minutes in the reality show called my life! CLICK HERE  There is an EP of Madoff suckers  victims here.  But, scroll down past his ugly mug to the vid with us.  I’m glad they got the part  about OTHER people, with their own ugly mugs, who have not had to pay the piper. Yet.

The producer said I was good on camera.  I suggested I host a show for CNBC called, “How not to invest.”  She laughed.

discouraging children from acting

The best kind of performing

Because of my TV and Vlogs my kids are comfortable in front of the camera.  When they shoot the cool mom vlogs with me it takes minutes and if they don’t want to, fine, go play in the mud.  Occasionally producers have asked for my kids to be in a branded shoot.  I always make sure they are compensated and all of it goes into their 529 or IRA.   According to the Coogan law parents of child performers only have to set 5% aside of the kids earnings, which I think is far too little.  I put 100% in.

My kids performed well.  Especially Vivien did what she needed to do on cue.  I was proud of her.  Look at her, cutie pie! 

Now, the most recent shoot we were on was longer and more involved than others.  It was also done during a heatwave. While I love being with my children and love having them get some money for their future I am glad that being involved in a production makes them never want to be actors.

 

“This is boring mommy”.  That’s right production is a lot of sitting around and waiting.

“Why are we doing this again? We did this shot already?”  I know, we have to do it again for different angles, there was a lighting problem, etc.

It was  like a scared straight treatment for budding thespians.

Having been bitten by the performance bug as a tyke, I get it. Yet, seen through the lense of irregular employment, no pension and crows feet I feel acting is the low hanging fruit of ambition. As I helped her out to the set on the HOT day I said, “lawyers work in air conditioned offices all day.  Finance people get up early, but people go and get them lunch while they make obscene amounts of money.”   I learned last year that I wouldn’t be taking them on auditions. Since the people running them are assholes. But, was open for stuff like this that fell in our collective lap.

I don’t want my kids to be going on auditions for the next 50 years.

I don’t want them to have insecure employment.

I don’t want them to need to diet or alter their face in order to get a job.

I don’t want them to worry about eating cat food when they are 70.

I don’t want them to go “wow, I use to work with Ryan Seacrest and now he is 12,000 times more succesful than I.”

Basically, I want them to choose a different path than my own.

I have had some FANTASTIC times working in broadcasting and entertainment.  I’ve met some famous people.  I’ve also had gigs where I did very little and got paid well.

When I hosted “The X- show” on FX.  One of our favorite guests was Sammy Hagar. Circa 2000- 2001.  I forgot that Gary Coleman was also there that day. Sure, I could show the picture of me with Hillary Clinton or at the White House, but this seemed more fun.

But, having lived most of my life in LA I also see the desperate, agitated middle aged lady with puffy lips snapping at a clerk while she orders her wheatgrass shot ( no, it wasn’t Lisa Rinna, but in that vein).

So, this shoot done on the hottest day of the year was hopefully unpleasant enough that the bloom is off the rose.  Show biz is 2 parts perks and red carpet and 98 parts sitting around, multiple takes, long hours, insecure employment.

Maybe the next step is to give my kids some more “sampler” careers so they can focus early.  I’m going to call a Wall Street firm about a little kid internship.  Clearly understanding that stuff is not a requirement.

 

does the recession challenge your sense of humor?

fault
My whole goal in starting coolmom, back in 2007, was to make parents laugh, give a little community.  I still want to do that.

But, today reflecting..as I often do at 2am…. What a butt kicking few years it’s been! I don’t have a ton going for me, but what I do excel at is working a room and finding the humor in a moment.  But, this ongoing drag of the economy is challenging my funny bone.

Is this just me?  Do you feel like this?  I know it’s also because so far 2012 is shaping up to be the most CHALLENGING year yet so far for me work wise.  That is saying something when you can point to a year (2008) you lost MILLIONS ( course ends up it was already gone, we just didn’t know it. Ha, jokes on us.).

The lack of funny of a great recession and two slaughter wars struck me when I got one of a dozen pitches I get a day to promote products.  ( Um, have you seen my site?) It was for some jewlery that had cute sayings.  Things about going drinking with the gals or pretending your a celeb.  It struck me as tone deaf for the times.  Like when that movie “Shopaholic” came out.

Here are my ideas for things to be written on t-shirts, necklaces and rings.

“It must be somebody’s fault” ( I have this cover from W up on my wall.  It came out right after Madoff and I love it so much)

” There must be a pony” ( lifted from james Kirkwood’s bio of the same name meaning.. “because there is so much crap)

I want my money back”

” Well, back when I had money…”

” I miss the ’90′s”

“I was use to the assaults on abortion, but now birth control?  Get a grip fat men.”

That might be too much for a cocktail ring, maybe a shirt.

“Whiskey is the new wine.”

” my vacuum is broken, that’s cool I have a lint brush”

“99 cent store is the new Costco”

I miss Serzone”

“are you going to finish that?”

I get wanting to infuse humor and lightness in the mix, but it can’t sound like it goes with a Cosmo and a tech boom.  Much as I loved those years they are GONE.

So, reviewing this I guess I still have a sense of humor it’s just darker.

Well, Now That You Asked…

This morning I got up bright and early ( it was dark outside) to be picked up by a car to go to a NBC studio and be interviewed by my friend Chris Jansing on MSNBC. Yes, that link is to the video.  Please note, that unlike Ruth Madoff I did my own hair ( glad they couldn’t see the back like in my recessionista vid

So, Ruth Madoff is going to be on “60 Minutes” this Sunday. It will make me seethe, but at some point I will probably watch it. Not during our dinnertime and not when I could be reading to my children, but I’ll DVR it and watch it.

As a chatty, open “victim” I’ve started to get the calls from the news media about my reaction. I feel sorry for the producers because I can’t say that I’m a total basket case; that would be better TV. Some of the repercussions of the loss of our savings is too personal to share even on this blog. It would violate other family members’ privacy. Suffice it to say: It has had a huge impact.

But I’m fine. Pissed, poorer, asking people, “Hey can you hold that check for a week or so?” … but in the realm of normal living.

HOWEVER, when I read that poor Ruth and Bernie tried to off themselves I seethed anew. I’m hesitant to respond at all because it usually sets me back for a few days.

Did they try to smother themselves in a big bag of money?

Ruth says they took some pills because people were calling them mean names. Not because they had RUINED people’s lives. Poor Bernie took pills because everyone knew he was crook, not because he was a crook. Not when he took old people’s life savings.

I reserve HATE for a few people. Two that come to mind: Bernie Madoff and Stanely Chais (i.e., the dead guy who took our money and gave it to BM – good initials for him).

But I’m fine. I have to help Rex with his watercolor.

Madoff: 2 years later

December 12th 2008 is our families darkest day.  Our own Sept 11th where everything changed, well not everything.

I have to take it as a healthy sign that was I was unaware the anniversay was on upon us.  That is until Thursday night MSNBC called and asked if I would speak about my experience the following morning.  I am on the media radar as I quickly stuck my neck out, after we found out about being robbed, by finding a lawyer who would take up our case.  I was the lead plaintiff in a class action suit against Stanely Chais, the head of the feeder fund we were in (though we had to drop it once the gov.’t stepped in).  I had never heard of B. Madoff, that was the late Mr. Chais’s secret that he was handing all the money to him. I agreed to do it because 1) to give a face to this story 2) they said they would mention coolmom and I always need to drive traffic here.

The anchor asked me to talk about the day that I found out.  I did and told her the wrenching tale.  I also mentioned that I had thrown up for 24 hours after I found out.  She asked how we were doing and I said basically that, after the shock we decided that Madoff ruined his life, he wasn’t going to ruin ours.  We had a baby boy on the way and we would celebrate that.  We did have a party, albeit potluck, but it was great.  I told the newswoman, fab Chris Jansing, that it was hard to rebuild in the great recession.

“Do you still get sick to the stomach?” She asked

“No, I think I am passed that.” But I spoke about my anxiety and how some of the members of my family have had depression issues because of this.

I was driven home by a car they hired. I was thinking, that went okay, good I will be home in time to take Vivien to school and then it hit me.  I ran into the house and I did get sick.  I had flown to close to the flame.  I had allowed myself to get too deep and feel the trauma again, the life change, the “holy crap what are we going to do now?” pit in my stomach.

But, what always sets me right again is time with my kids, (exercise as well, but not in the cards that day) seeing good friends.  Okay, deep breath, seeing the glass half full again.

Then Saturday came the news that Mark Madoff had hung himself.  I found this very upsetting.  I always thought that he and his brother knew something of the scam, though I don’t KNOW that.  Yet, I was shaken by his suicide just from a humanity level and because his 2 year old was in the next room.  He left behind 4 children.  Call it the Stockholm syndrome, but I did feel a connection with Mark Madoff at this news.  Two years later, though we had never met and were on different ends of this grand theft, he was still very affected by it as was I and my family.  It actually made me feel less odd for feeling sick to my stomach.  I thought a lot about Mr. Madoff’s death as I slept. Sunday, I realized my body was aching.   I told my husband that I had been physcially dormet this week and I wanted to go and take a yoga class.  At first it felt good, but half way through the class I couldn’t stop shaking, like I was freezing, but I knew I wasn’t. I felt ill and I phoned Mark. “you must have a touch of the flu” he said.  I drove home and got into bed.

Fortunatly my sister Cecily- a therapist- came over and was very good to talk to.  She said it’s standard mental health stuff that people are vulnerable around the anniversarys of trauma.  Mark Madoff clearly .  Now, I was having a little anxiety attack of sorts. Some good food and time with my kids started to lighten the cramping in my body and warm me up, literally.  She reminded me about a great, cheap massage place near my mom’s.  I went when Mark came home from work and I felt a TON better.  Maybe the laying on of hands.

When I came home to our crowded, messy house with the four of them eating in front of the TV, the dinner table dishevled and abandonded because “The Santa Clause” was on I felt so content I happily cleaned up the plates and the mess in the kitchen.

This weekend I was also thinking of Elizabeth Smart and how she has been able to go on after the nightmare that was foisted on her.  People like that are amazing, I know she must have her dark moments, but admire how she holds her head up and continues on.  If she can do that, this should be a walk in the park for me. But, of course it’s all relative and I think that the important thing for anyone who has had a blow of some sort, death of someone close to them, a crime, is to know that there are times, like anniversaries, that can wallop you without you knowing it.  Be gentle with yourself at these times.  Ask for help with the kids or take a walk, get a massage.  Eating lots of sugar and white flour and wine do not seem to help, I know, I’ve tried that route.

(By the way, when I write about this I ALWAYS get a few snarky comments, so let’s skip those shall we?  I know how dare I be bummed about having a lot of money stolen from me and my family.  Just humor me.)

worn out

It’s starting to all catch up to me.  The great recession, not enough sleep, losing my dad.  Today is his birthday and I have a pit in my stomach.  I keep trudging, moving, working, volunteering at Vivien’s school, living life.  But, I just want to crawl into my bed and weep and sleep.

I said to a friend the other night “I peaked in the ’90′s” he said

“we all peaked in the ’90′s”

There are so many lovely moments in my life, chief being my kids.  Also nice to sip a cocktail at The Tar Pit with my sister ( which I will be doing to toast my dad).  But, dang don’t you feel like we just need a break?  Some relief from this cloud, or maybe that is just my own stuff.

The other night I went and saw Michele Obama and Jill Biden stumping for Barbara Boxer.  After Madoff I become far less political, but decided to go since I could walk there from my house and I like the first and second lady and I am voting for Boxer. All three spoke well and at one point Michele Obama was saying something along the lines, “we know change hasn’t come fast enough for many people”  It was a good speech and I was feeling that old juice from ’08. Then she said, “remember how you felt on election night?”  The crowd cheered.  I cheered too thinking how proud I was that our country had moved past racism.  I remembered being with my family and friends at Campanile crying with joy and feeling hopeful and patriotic.  Then she said, “remember how you felt on inaguration day!”  The crowd cheered.

I did not.  That was one of the worst days of my life.  That day as thousands bundled up in the cold to see the swearing in Mark and I were signing the escrow papers to sell our house.  My dream house.  I looked down at the floor.  I couldn’t shake the sad feeling even as I applauded at the end.

Election night, my dad was alive, we spoke and he was a gracious Republican that night, I was pregnant with Rex, I was settled.  Now, my financial security, house and my dad are gone.

Look I know I am a lucky person.  I really believe I am, I’m just pooped and sad.  I’ve been downsized on my TV show, The Fashion Team, to that of a contributing correspondent, not one of the main hosts. That stings a bit, I won’t lie.

If I could just get a little sleep., that would be change I could believe in.

The last days of disco

This is Vivien and Rex on the last day she went to pre school.  Rex and I lingered for awhile when I dropped her off in the morning.  He loves playing there and I wanted to take lots of pictures of her and her friends.

I am far more sentimental than Vivien.  For survival it’s better to be more like her.  When I picked her up at the end of the day I asked her if she wanted to give the school a final look.  Knowing I would have touched every surface in true OCD style.  But, she didn’t want to.

“Come on, let’s go.”

She looked ahead.

This was Vivien the first day she went to pre school by herself.  She wore a diaper, and had curls.  She also lived in our big house.  Everything seemed so much easier.  It’s hard not to think of the time she had in preschool in terms of the upheaval, good and bad, that our family went through.  Buying dream house, getting pregnant, robbed by Madoff and company, selling dream house, dad’s worsening health.  Vivien’s forward moving nature has helped us always move forward.  Also, to our credit we tried to craft the move in a positive light.  She never saw me screaming, “Holy heck, we are f–ed!”

The moment had finally come when we had to physically walk out of our home.  The last mover had left, taking some things to storage, and other things to our rented home.  The new owners painter’s were arriving in the morning to cover the walls of our rooms.  To take down the wallpaper.  All the the things that I thought that would be there for years, that I had painstakingly chose, were to disappear after only a year.

My mom held two month old Rex as we stood on the walkway out front.  I had set up that we would have dinner out with my sister and nephew as I knew it would cheer Vivien to see him.

“This is when we say good bye to our house Vivien.” I said kneeling down to her level.  “Would you like to go back in one more time and say good bye to your house?”

“No, Mamma, let’s just go.”

In that moment she helped me so much.  That’s right, let’s just go.  It’s just a house.  I had thought I would be ill to walk away from it.  But, I wasn’t.  I just buckled her and Rex in and we went to dinner.  Drove off and didn’t look back.

Late at night when I can’t sleep I sometimes visit every room from our house in my mind. How the sun hit different rooms at different times.  How I use to like to sit at the top of the stairs, look down the hallway thinking of how our kids would grow and change here. I think about how it felt to be there before the words, “It’s gone, it’s all gone” were said to me by my husband.  The Mandarin orange pillows I had custom made for my kitchen table that I had to leave, that center island, the IRA.

But, of course the best things from that house I took with me.  They are sleeping in the next room.

“Let’s just go, Mamma.”

Vivien takes the fun she had in pre school, the friends, the confidence, the toilet training.  All the forward moving things she gained in the last two years.  She walks out and still has it.  She innately knows that.  I hope that always stays with her.  There are so many things that can shake our confidence .

Once it’s gone, I don’t think you ever get it back.

My Letter to the Editor

Well, after my big vlog yesterday, as promised it’s going to be all geared toward “reversal of fortune” this week on Cool Mom. And again, thank you so much for the dear comments. I appreciate them, and I also appreciate the lows that others are going through or have come out of.  Makes me think of what a mentor told me in college years ago,

“Daphne, you know life is not like a movie, that it’s not on a constant upward trajectory?”

Me: “Of course I know that.”  Inside I was like, “Crap, yes, I thought it was like a movie; I thought it was a constant upward trajectory.”  How she read me so well, I do not know.  Well, the last few years have felt pretty good… despite aging father and such. But, dang, someone just grabbed that fun romantic comedy I was watching in the DVD player and threw in another with some dark turns. Wait, look another DVD is coming back in,  it’s the “comeback” story, the “As God as my witness, I will never be ripped off  by a Wall Street creep again!”

Wouldn’t be great if the whole country right now could cut to the montage? The one where in 90 seconds we get slim, smart, and prosperous?

ANYWAY…

Last week I wrote a letter to the editor of the LA Times business page. Here it is.  I was rather proud of it. The one thing I would add to this is the SIPC funds we read about (most recently one said $30 million given so far to Madoff victims) is only if one was a Madoff client. Myself and other family members were not.  We were in a feeder fund who didn’t disclose that he was taking a fee… a sizable one… to hand over 100% of said funds to Madoff. The gov’t doesn’t count us for the SIPC. I bring this up just because it’s easy to think “Hey you Madoff people quit your whining; you’re going to get 500 grand.” We will not. We are praying that we do get some of the taxes back we paid on the phantom profits.  But as I say in the letter that won’t do anything for my IRA or my husband’s. That’s Puff the Magic Dragon time.

People talk about how the economy is in trouble because everyone was spending and not saving. Ha, ha, I started my IRA when I was 16 and was making $3.75 an hour. I am sure you all know how hard it is to save when you make that wage. I wish I had spent more money; then at least I’d have something to show for it!  Also, most everyone I know in Miami is in foreclosure, and I have a terrible property there I bought before I was married. It’s very under water, fiscally speaking. Irks me when I hear people talk about “speculators.” I mostly know moms who were trying to supplement their families’ incomes by buying a condo or a house, fixing it up, and selling it.  A year ago, they would have been called entrepreneurs; now they are speculators?  They (me) got caught.  So many of us got caught in this mess.  Ideas that seemed like a good idea a few years ago are a disaster now.

I don’t know about you, but it can certainly undermined my confidence.  And I will be slow to give anyone else financial advice in the future.