How to take a good picture

during the holidays we take a lot of pictures.  By a tree, on Santa’s lap, photo bombing the wise men.photobombing wise men

Then New years rolls around and you want to look in a picture.. so #1 take the picture before you are drunk and have eaten off your lipstick.   Here is my treatise on How to Take a Good Picture   ( in the case of the one above, I don’t look good, but sometimes beauty needs to be sacrificed for humor.)

 

PS

 

Food Network has begun running promos for my show.  So fun!  “Daphne Dishes” debuts Sunday Jan. 4th at Noon.  Please Watch.

I love this Christmas stuff

My nose is running, I’m tired and have skin so dry I could plant corn in the cracks, but I do love this time of year.  It’s all because of my 4 and 8 year old.  christmas kidThis precious time where they

1) Still want to hang out with me

2) Still believe in Santa Claus

3) are open and excited and haven’t become cynical jaded f*cks.

That time will come, but till then I’m loving it.  I love sharing them with my mom

kids, Aunt Cec, mom, niece Lily

kids, Aunt Cec, mom, niece Lily

best gingerbread house

The four at home in front. maybe I should have asked for a little guy just off the plate to represent Oliver in college

and going to holiday teas, church Christmas boutiques, (my splurge here from the Solvang Bakery) Last year my splurge was piano playing miniature teddy bear. What can I say I’m weak for Christmas kitsch.

Mom, are you sure we can't eat it?

Mom, are you sure we can’t eat it?

personalized gingerbread house

Making hot chocolate, buying our tree.  They insisted on flocked this year. decorating a flocked treechildren decorating christmas trees I have bought ONE gift so far and need to do my budget of what is possible, but in the last few years I’ve just come to accept that anxiety at what I’m putting on the credit card is as much a part of Christmas time as hot apple cider.  Oh, by the way Christmas bazaars, this year no one has had hot apple cider.  What gives?  I’m calling Fox News.

Christmas time goes so fast that one really has to have everything staged and ready to go.  I’m pretty good, but still trying to dig out my Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra holiday CD’s. Good I have spotify, but I have to skip a lot these modern ballads.. blech.

children's christmas

Thanks for the Mick Jagger pose Rex

One reason I have been looking forward to Christmas is so that Vivien can finally wear this exquisite dress that Mark’s cousin Vicki made for her.  She visited us earlier this year and we went fabric shopping. She went back to Oregon and then sent us this picture perfect dress.  Red velvet, green silk sash, ruching on the shoulders. homemade christmas dress A one of kind.  Years from now when Vivien is off clubbing or running her medical practice I will be clutching this dress, shooing  my cats away from its beauty.

kids and santaDear Santa, let this sweetness last as long as possible.teddy bear tea

 

Let’s get this Flocking started!

 

“I feel overwhelmed.”  I heard a mom say to another at school.  “Don’t you feel overwhelmed?”

“Yes” said the other, “I feel overwhelmed.”

I didn’t speak because I didn’t feel overwhelmed.  Not in the way they meant it.  Not about buying presents or visiting relatives or packing a bag.  I am enjoying all the ho-ho- hoing.  It’s what’s getting me through right now.

2012 has been a bit of a rough year. Both of Mark’s restaurants closing, general recession crap-o-ola  ( I think that’s what the Feds call it)  But, our worry about making a living seemed to pale a week ago Friday whenI found out an old friend had died.  My rough year didn’t seem so rough.  I’m mourning my friend and feeling very guilty about having taken him off my worry list in ’11.  I didn’t know the cancer had come back.

“But, it’s all loss to the body.” my friend Eleni said.  She had arrived as if on a cue.  She is an even older friend who lives abroad and whom I rarely see. My body sure felt those shingles from the stress, but so small in the face of what my friend dealt with.

Per usual my kids lift me out of the gutter again and again.  Nothing as good as Christmas with little kids.  The tree trimming.  Though Rex keeps saying “I wanted a white flocked tree”  Quite right, next year I we will flock it. Maybe a color even.  Why not?  It’s all artifice. Dress the tree up, dress us up.

with their cousin Lily

I’m driving us to every holiday fun thing in town.  A trip or two to Santa, Christmas puppet shows, kids get dressed up in their finest.  Love it!

The first day I heard about my friend I could only lie down.  But, the next day my motto was “who wants to bake sugar cookies?”  I doubled down on Christmas fun.   I don’t want my kids to see me blue.  They get so excited.  Chef Peel gives his two cents,  “I think you are over mixing it”  as Vivien bangs at it with a wooden spoon.  Relax grasshopper, it’s about the process. The second night I upped the ante.

“Who wants to make sugar cookies with green sprinkles?”  The heavens rain joy! I thought I had them covered when “Ava Maria” came on and I got a message from a friend about our friends passing.  I ran to my office, lay down on the kiddie couch and cried.  Vivien came after me, “What is it mommy?”

“I’m fine, everything is okay, I’m sad about my friend dying and I wanted to cry about it for a minute, but I’m okay. Can you please just give me one minute?” Sometimes crying is like going number 2.  You need to do it alone.  I got my minute and then broke out the food coloring.

Another night we went caroling with some neighbors.  We all sounded terrible, but it was great fun.  Of course I took over the crew when I felt we were aimless.  “Okay, listen, it’s Jingle Bells, then Deck the Halls. No, nobody knows the words to Let it Snow.  A 1-2-3, deck the halls…”

Next year, we are going to need to rehearse. And of course have a flocked tree.

 

Christmas love

Love getting the tree with the kids. 

 

Love decorating the tree with them.

photo booth fun with mark, kids and my mom

Love going to kitschy Holiday gatherings where we all dress up.

Love their excitement on all things Christmas.

Let’s see if YOU love all things Christmas.  I was just sent this video of a Christmas song by Richard Honig, the self proclaimed “Mister Rogers of Spiritual Pop” .  I bet it goes viral.

 

Santa, Finally

This was the first Christmas Vivien was okay with Santa. I don’t blame her for being less than excited to sit on a strangers warm lap, but it did feel like a little victory that she was good with old Saint Nick this year. Notice how she was at 15 months when I first tried to get her to sit with Santa.  No go.

,

This year she went with her best friend and a week later took this picture with her cousin Lily.

She told me she would not have done it alone. “I’m brave with my friend.”

But let’s be real, the ’09 Santa was a much better Santa than the ’06 one. She can spot a phoney, phoney.

How We All Doing?

Did you do okay with Christmas? This dead week is still going on. The week where work is lighter, there is no school, and you still have your lights up. It can be a nice slice of a quieter life.

Or it can be trying.

Last year the slow pace of this week drove my husband and I up the wall. We were still silently freaking out after having found out on the 12th of December that we has been largely wiped out by Bernie Madoff and company (Sidebar, just saw that a local station in North Carolina said evil M had some punches to the face or some signs of an assault. Is it wrong to want to buy the guy who did that a beer? Sidebar, sidebar, my husband said it would be a funny skit, a cop standing over a beaten Madoff asking, “Do you have an enemies?”). All we could do is try to be pro-active with what economic life we had. Talk to realtors, a budget overhaul, look around for things to sell. We wanted to get busy so we could salvage our life and stop the screaming in our heads, but it was “wait till next week!” Also, I knew I was giving birth mid-February, so I really needed to make hay.

It’s also a bad week for a mental health crisis. I have gone through that with a relative and unfortunately it is happening again with another relative. It’s the hardest time to find a bed in a mental hospital because this is the busiest time of year to snap. Christmas time is very hard on some people. But we knew that right? I thought it was interesting when I found out it is not a punch line or anecdote, people really do end up in scary, lonely situations at holiday time, and as my sister who is a licensed therapist said, “The dirty secret is there are not enough places for people with mental illness, and no one cares until they have a family member who has fallen ill.”

Which I think must be everyone. In a few hours of hearing of my family member who is in crisis, the few people who I told all had a sister who healed with electric shock, a cousin who had recently killed themselves, a brother who has to live with his parents since his release, and it went on and on.

And from my previous experience dealing this, and it seems to be following the same course this time, not all facilities are equal. Often the institution wants 1) to keep the patient from harming themselves and 2) wants them to be compliant. Which means they are put in restraints, and it feeds into whatever scary scenario the injured brain had already manifested. There isn’t a course of treatment. And good luck getting a doctor to get on the phone with you. All of us were stiff with tension, minds distracted. I keep saying “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The constant balance of talking to shrinks, while playing happily with your little kids. “Everything is fine! Let’s play catch.” While you wonder if an anti-psychotic would be better than anti-anxiety drug.

A few years ago when we were mired in this, it was about a 4-month journey. At the other end was a breathtaking recovery. But nonetheless on the other side was also a changed life. A much, much better life than had seemed possible in that holiday time, but it was a different one.

No wonder I dread Christmas.

Merry Christmas

I hope you all are having a decent holiday time. I’ve long had gripes with this time of year. Pressure of spending money, family tensions, the usual. But last year was the worst Christmas of my life. Well, maybe neck and neck with the Christmas where my high school boyfriend broke up with me.

I won’t go over it again, but I’ve been bracing to be mildly depressed this season as well. I can happily report except for one day –2/3 of the day– where I ran over to my mom’s so I could nap and have a pity party, I have avoided the big Christmas blues (knock on wood).

All that happy, happy, joy, joy can feel like such a burden when your heart is breaking. I hope everyone who has their own challenges and struggles can enjoy themselves at least a little this year. Get a charge out of the kids’ joy is my favorite way to do that. I’m so lucky to have my kids. They have natural excitement. And we are excited about about the my husband’s new place opening up, The Tar Pit. Fingers crossed.

Thanks so much to all of you who come to Cool Mom and especially those who wrote kind things to support me and my family in our dark and hopeful times. I’ve gone a on journey with you all. I really appreciate the caring. Without knowing most of you, I feel a connection, and I can only hope that your families are safe and sound and prosperity is under the tree for everyone.

Happy Holidays.

Love, Daphne

The Stages 1) Sadness 2) Barf 3) a Mix Tape

Years ago, TV reporter Betty Rollin wrote a memoir called First, You Cry about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer and then having a mastectomy (later made into a movie of the week with Mary Tyler Moore, natch). I kept thinking of that title the first few days after my husband called me on the way home from work one day to say we had lost the majority of our net worth. That we had invested in a scam. I was on my way to pick up Vivien from school. I was numb for a few minutes, but as I saw Vivien drawing near with her teacher, my eyes welled up, and I couldn’t keep quiet.  I blurted to her teacher what I had just found out and started crying, hard.  The teacher was very nice.

“We are going to have to sell our house,” I cried. I tried to pull it together and asked Viv to come home with me. She was not budging; she was pissed at my emotional outburst. That would be the last time I cried in front of her.

That evening I dropped Vivien off at my mother’s. I had to be alone. I drove around town in hysterics. I called my family members sobbing like you do when you’re a kid. I called one of my best friends and did the same. They were all stunned.

Mark and I had calm talks about what was best to do. We could stay in the house for as much as two years, but then if the economy didn’t turn around I’d be afraid it would like Grey Gardens, and then we’d have to sell it, cats and all. The first night I woke up every 45 minutes and vomited.  I spent a day returning all our Christmas presents except for most of Vivien’s (I couldn’t part with her recently requested super hero costume), and I kept back one each for my stepsons and Mark.

I cancelled every trip we had planned, told my pilates instructor to consider me dead. I cast about for things to sell. An older friend said, “Yeah, when people we’ve known have gone through this, they always panic and sell too much of their stuff.”  I was so taken aback.  I was so deep in my grief, pain, shock that I thought, “He knows people who have gone through this? There is a pattern?”  Kind of like after a break-up, I figured MY pain was the ONLY pain.

A few days later, I went next door and cried to my neighbors. They told me that they had a different kind of downturn and would soon be decamping to a rental apartment. That’s when I started to realize it was better to talk about it, and how widespread this reversal was.

Over the holidays, my wonderful stepdaughter Vanessa visited. She has amazing strength. She had lost her own money but was more concerned with us. She would say, “What can I do for you?”  I would often say, “Please play with Vivien; I have to go and lie down.” Not just ’cause I was 7 months pregnant, but because I was emotionally fatigued and wanted to cry in private without Vivien seeing me. And as I have often said, “When the going gets tough, the Brogdons go to bed.”

I kept waking up at 5 a.m., unable to go back to bed. I was scanning for new Madoff developments. To read that he was still in his NY penthouse at this time galled. I would look and see what houses were going for. I would look at Craigslist to gauge how much I could sell a couch for.

But one morning I woke up thinking these feelings were parallel to a bad break-up.  And I asked myself what I used to do after a break-up to help me get through it. Sleep with a stranger? No, that made me feel worse. Starved myself and lost 10 lbs.?  No, I’m pregnant, have to protect the baby. Ah, I used to make a mix tape. Eureka.

I went down to my computer and I made a mix called “ripped off”. It started with Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”

“You are riding high in April, shot down in May.”  How true.

Then the part where you want your lover/money back.  “Why,” Annie Lennox.

You want to feel the love/security of money one more time? “Touch Me in the Morning,” Diana Ross.

Just full blown wallow “We Are the Broken Hearted,” Back Porch Mary.

And then why did I date that guy/ why wasn’t I more diversified?  “What Kind of Fool Am I ?” Sammy Davis Jr.

Then a little anger creeps in… “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady,”  Helen Reddy.

Survival… “Knowing Me, Knowing You” by Abba; “Don’t Look Back” by the Temptations, and of course like any good post break-up, I had to put on: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

Followed by Sam Cooke’s “Get Yourself Another Fool.” I dragged myself to look beyond the horizon with the Carpenters’s “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “No More Tears( Enough Is Enough)” by Donna Summer and Barbara Streisand. I began the next section of renewel with “Believe” by Cher.

Years ago I had a friend who was working in Yugoslavia as the civil war was ending. Cher’s song was new then, and he said when the peace accord was signed, people ran into the street and blasted that song. Thus, he had loved that song ever since. I figured if people who survived genocide and total civil unrest could look forward, I certainly could over some cash. I reminded myself of all that I have and that “They Can’t Take that Away from Me” (Fred Astaire) not “My Favorite Things” (Julie Andrews).

I wrapped up with “Not Going to Cry ” by Mary J. Blige, “The Best Is Yet to Come” by Tony Bennett, and finally, “Let’s Hang On” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

And then I ate a bowl of cereal and wondered if the drapes would fit windows in another house.

Merry Christmas

This is one of the bleaker Christmases I can remember. Most everyone is totally freaked about money. Even if they haven’t lost their own, they worry they will. Even in prosperous times, I think spending a bunch of money on adults is silly. Buy the kids presents. My family does a Secret Santa for the older set, so there is something to open. But years back, I got physically and financially exhausted from buying everyone presents. And as I said years ago to my family, “Unless you can give me a development deal at ABC, anything I want I can get myself.”  Since I don’t think they are going to buy me a week cruising the Greek Islands, that’s basically correct. And isn’t better to give to charity?

Bauble
Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrew Stawarz

But this year I’m having a change of heart. Businesses, small and large even, are the charities.  Witness how charitable our government has to be to the financial markets, to the car companies.  I know some sweet small stores that wait for hours for a $30 sale.

So if you have any, go ahead, and spend some money.  The law of circulation; it all goes around. I don’t know if it’s what Jesus would do. But with these great sales, maybe he would.