bittersweet recipe

It’s very exciting these few Sundays now.. where I watch my show.. where I get tweets from people I don’t know saying they like the show.  I get emails from distance cousins who I have heard not from in years that they are loving seeing my show.  I also loved in the most recent episode bringing in some of our friends to be on the show.  I also thought that overall of all the Daphne Dishes, this one was the best.  It held together. I loved making the food, loved my cocktail.   It’s a light, fun show… I hope… with some information. However, the making of it was more fraught than is seen.

One clue to that can be seen at the end of this show..”In Memory of Jeff Wannberg.”handsom

I have made reference to there being a big loss that shadowed the filming of the show.  The night before we started shooting my brother killed himself.  Jeff was not my blood brother, but a brother he was.  We came into each others life at about 2 or 3, start of pre school.  I got kicked out because my mom was the teacher and the school thought it better if she didn’t teach her own kid.  But, Jeff stayed.  It’s hard to describe to people who didn’t know us in childhood, teen years, 20’s, but each year he became more and more part of us, and visa versa.  Our homes were a few doors away and he was the only kid in his house.

4th of July in Culver City in the '70's. Dad, Cec, Jeff, me

4th of July in Culver City in the ’70’s. Dad, Cec, Jeff, me

We needed a brother, he needed us.  We went to the same progressive school for a while, so we had short hand for our unconventional childhood.  “We joined a cult” Jeff said just a couple of years ago in his characteristically dry humor.  In our teen years organically we began to call him brother, he called us sisters.  It annoyed us to no end if someone said, “but you aren’t REALLY siblings.”  We responded with annoyance or cut them out.  As he once said, “I’m not going to say, they are my really, really, really, really good friends.  That’s not right.”  It wasn’t.  We were far more ingrained than that.

I cannot sum up our relationship or Jeff in a blog post and it wouldn’t do him justice our lives together. But, since September 9th everything has been…different. He was in my sister’s weddings.

Happy Day

Happy Day

I officiated at his US wedding.  I was his best man at his Australian nuptials ( where is wife is from). We are use to him being here for family events.  It was hard having him in Australia the last several years, but he wanted to come home.  We wanted him to come.  It was just a matter of time before he did.

He was always with us at Thanksgiving. We started playing football at Thanksgiving because of Jeff.

Thanksgiving. Jeff behind, brother in law Kevin next to my mom.  I'm the one with the mullet next to my dad

Thanksgiving. Jeff behind, brother in law Kevin next to my mom. I’m the one with the mullet next to my dad

He often made a turkey.  Jeff loved to cook.  He loved French food and classic American food.  He opened his own American steak house in Australia.     I, like all those who love him, are left bewildered and bereft.  In my case I’m puffy and bewildered as I’ve put on some big grief pounds.

He was so smart, quick witted, a brain like no other.  Even while he was living far away I kept up with him with skype, phone calls, email, social media. But, it’s no subtitute for being there.  When I moved back to LA in 2000 I took an apartment that was less than a mile from him.  When I decided to do my solo shows he was the only one I wanted to direct me.  The only one I trusted.  He was a photographer, a post production producer, an app producer, dog lover, bon vivivant.  He was and is someone very special.



I didn’t know if I could get through the filming, as I mentioned before Food Network kindly offered to postpone the shoot, but I know these opportunities might not come again and I know how hard Jeff hustled to get projects that he wanted off the ground.  His wife said, go for it.  That shot at the end of the show  (“Eat up Sports fans”) When I catch the ball from Vivien was the only time my face was onscreen that first day. I can see the puff and the pain in my face. Bewilderment.  People who are also survivors of suicide know the bewilderment.  The shock.  The first few days I would wake up early before the crew arrived.  Make coffee, talk to Jeff, “Why, why?  How could you leave us?”  I would lie down on the floor and cry.  Then I would get into hair and make up and when the producer said, “Sparkle in the eye”  I turned it on.  Everyone I worked with was very patient and kind with me.

“What do you need?”  a Food Network executive said that first day.

“Ask no one to bring it up.  I will come un done.”  She did and they didn’t.

Vivien was with me the first few days.  She would stand by the cameras before we started, give me a smile and a thumbs up.  “You can do it mommy.”  It would fuel me.  I was torn up by grief, survival guilt, and guilty that I had a big project going on when he was having a hard time making his opportunities come to fruition.  When Vivien wasn’t there I would look at her pictures on the fridge and then turn around and cook for camera.  Like so many moments in my life my kids are joy gas.  I’d be a broken down jalopy without them.

my kids there for me on a shoot day... before my grief weight set in

my kids there for me on a shoot day… before my grief weight set in

When we had a day off I really collapsed.  That’s when I realized how much the show was good for me.  I loved the absorption of work.  The first few days I was trying to contact everyone who needed to know about Jeff. I had a great need to speak to people who knew us when we were younger, before something went wrong, something went sideways.  But, then I switched and I couldn’t speak about it.  If I did I wouldn’t be able to work.  I clicked over and while the camera was on, or even with the crew I started to have fun.  Jokes were coming more easily.  So, for the Game Day show it was later in the process ( except for the football scene) and I was feeling better.  When Trish showed up, who is truly one of my best friends and who knew Jeff, I could let my guard down a little.  When I give her the drink and we toast it’s pregnant with meaning.  She knew how special he was and how deep our connection was and how I was hurting.

After the shoot we had his memorial, his celebration of life.. what is the right thing to call it?  We decided on JeffCon’14.

While we were shooting I asked if he could have a memorial credit.  It has to go through some channels.  Then a few weeks ago I got an email.  Yes, his name would be there.  I was glad, but I got back down on the floor and memory of jeff wannberg

Like anyone who has lost someone you don’t want your loved one to become “the dead guy” and with suicide you don’t want their method of departure to define them.

Some of Jeff’s friends and I have connected or reconnected like never before.  It’s been a great source of support. Also, I went through an 8 week Survivors of Suicide group.  A lovely group of people.  That helped a lot to sort through the layers of feelings with people who were on the same journey. The sense of failure, rejection, lost.  One friend of Jeff’s was over a couple of months ago and said that I should start posting and talking about the show coming on.  Really?  I was not feeling like celebrating.  Then I remembered what one woman in my group said, “Fake it till you make it.”  So I did start posing about it and talking about it and people were very sweet and excited and that felt good.  I just want Jeff to be here with me.  So by having his picture in the first episode about my mom’s healthy eating and his name in the game one I feel there was a touch.

Of course the way my brain and humor works is so influenced by him he is part of it.

So, it might seem just like a light little food show, but there was a lot going on.

Life Changing Products

Nothing like going through a REAL life changing event to highlight the hyperbole of that term applied to things that are nice or helpful, but hardly Life Changing…
There are a lot of big terms we throw around that a sensitive person (which I’m usually not) would jettison.
For instance, “The traffic was so bad I was going to kill myself!”  I have some friends who have lost loved ones to suicide, so I try not to use this exaggeration.  I have replaced it with, “stick a fork in my head” or something a little more Three Stooges.
Perhaps beauty products could come up with something different as well.

Momversation:What to Say to Parents who Have Lost a Child

Monday night at 11:25pm Hunter Zen Thawley passed away in the loving arms of his parents. If there is a super something that makes these calls, I can tell it that a mistake has been made. His parents wanted him to stay. This was a strong boy who endured so much and still had the most adorable giggle a little boy could have. He was days away from being 3 and half.

This is the edited version of the long video that I accidentally posted the other day. Heather Spohr was a real champ here. She was candid and honest about her own experiences as a mother who lost a child. I so appreciate her doing that. When I asked this question of Heather, Hunter was still alive. And even though his parents were told he would not survive I still had some magical thinking that there would be an 11th hour save.

The deep pain that my friends, Hunter’s parent’s, are now going through is beyond measure. I wish that I could lift some of that pain off of them. I’m glad they know that in his short life Hunter did not live, laugh, and suffer in obscurity. His tenacity, and the love of his parents, has inspired  a lot of people. He was braver than I would have been, than most would be. By talking to Heather I hoped to maybe figure out someway to offer comfort to my friends and others who have lost a child or at the very least not to make their suffering any greater by doing or saying the wrong thing.

I will never forget you Iron Hunter.  I promise.

Shhh, Mommy’s Watching Tributes

Ted Kennedy’s passing is the kind of event that makes me want to just park myself in front of the tube and take in the tributes and old news footage. The great speeches, the sad face at funerals, the neck brace after his greatest moral failure. Only to be punctuated by reading articles on line and in the paper. But as a mother one rarely gets to do that. But I did get a bit of it… yippee (hate to say yippee around a death, but there it is). Rex took the longest nap of his young life, and Vivien was happily playing at her neighbor friends.

Then I heard that Domminck Dunne died. Dunne and Kennedy seem so different, but they had a terrible common thread. Both of their lives were marked by the murder of at least one close family member. I always enjoyed reading Dunne’s essays in Vanity Fair. Great, compelling dish. His interest in court cases and crime took root because of his daughter Dominique’s murder (and the short sentence given her boyfriend/killer). (Sidebar: My husband knew the man who killed Dunne’s daughter Dominique. They worked together many years ago. Which is a whole other weird tale of someone who can seem normal and then so thoroughly snap.)

Dunne will be Farrah to Ted Kennedy’s MJ though. The next week will be be dominated by Ted Kennedy’s passing. And of course it makes me think how his brothers would have lived to be gray-haired elder statesman as well if only…
Creative Commons License photo credit: bradleygee

When I was eating up the Michael Jackson coverage I could simply say to Vivien, “He was a famous singer,”  and she got that that was somehow special or important. Today when Vivien came home and was wanting my attention and I said, “But Vivien, one minute. Ted Kennedy died. He was a senator; his brother was a president.” I didn’t say, “His family was iconic, tragic, troubled, great, and we all wanted to be invited to the Compound.”  I don’t think she would have gotten that.

I don’t think she knows what a Senator is.

But she has to learn one day.

Michael Jackson’s Kids

In an attempt to parody the coverings of MJ’s kids, I ended up looking like Twitter avatar sticking up for Iranians.

I have to weigh in on some of the Michael Jackson stuff. I loved his old music, thought he was kind of sad, and probably after about “Smooth Criminal” didn’t pay a lot attention because he started to have the cooties.

It’s prurient sure, but it’s also because of being a mom I am curious about what happens to the kids. Or what has already happened to them. Raised with no mother, they have strange identical names, a ferris wheel in the back yard and every summer their father has a different face.  Someone will be penning a great tell all on their up bringing one day.

I was thrown by the Diana Ross as back up for guardian ship after his mother.  Miss Ross might need to step in at some point.  Less so because his mother is 80 and more so because her estranged husband Joe is a gross child abuser.  He is open about having beat his kids and their are rumors that he did even worse. Of course now there is speculation that they are not his biological kids as if that matters.  It does annoy me that people act like then they are not his kids.  I know many adopted children and their parents who would beg to differ. The dermatologist in question, Arnie Klein, my husband is acquainted with from the restaurant.  He talked about treating Michael, but over short ribs never offered up, “oh, and btw I fathered his kids.”  Mark said Klein was in a very bad car accident that has impaired his walking.

But, did Michael talk to Diana Ross about this?  Is she in Europe ( where I think she lives) saying, “oh, god, Can’t Liza do it? ” Michael was her best man. Liz Taylor can’t pull it together to be Auntie Mame?

I hope someone teaches them to manage money well.  Maybe Michael’s former mother in law Priscilla Presley could step in.  She save Elvis’s estate when it was in shambles.

Telling that he didn’t ask any of his siblings to step in.  Might be best if the children go to a less carnival like home where creepy grandpa can’t stop by.  But, what will it be like for them?  Where is the consistency?  Well, that’s where the nanny comes in.  They have had the same one their whole lives, their only “mother”.  But do they in a sense hire her till they are legal? ( Wait a minute, sound s like a good premise for a movie.  Kind of like “Parent Trap.”) Or the courts could give her custody and shove a few Beatles songs in her back pocket to support them?

Just thinking…

Hello Knuckles, My Old Friend

Our snake Knuckles died today, and I am the only one that cares. Knuckles was my stepson Oliver’s snake; he bought him when he was a little boy. But since I’ve been in Oliver’s life, he hasn’t cared much for Knuckles.

Vivien and Knuckles the snake

A few years back, Knuckles shed his skin. Oliver looked at him and said, “This is the most exciting thing Knuckles has ever done.” Snakes don’t fetch or cuddle or lick. A nice Albino corn snake, Knuckles just wanted to be warm and hang out. Don’t we all.

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