I Want a Flunky!

It can’t all be recession talk right? We need to look forward! Visualize our coming prosperity. Money is great to have for so many reasons; well, here I discuss one of the less talked about reasons why it would be great to have money. Or “f- you” as I like to think of it… so much money you can have whatever you want.

Other than the greatest hits, (roof over head, good schools, chocolate) what are some off-beat things you would like with your future lottery winnings?

What to Say

(Note: Not the original intro I had written. See below for ensuing sh*t storm.)

Okay, this was my attempt to do a twist on the vlog I did post miscarriage “What NOT to say” about hurtful things people said to me after that. This is what TO say because I found it was hard when people didn’t say anything after we found out we had been robbed and had to sell our house.

Frankly, this vlog was not as successful as the one I patterning it after. I think I tried to cram too much in. But the take-away for me to remember is: if someone’s misfortune is uncomfortable to you, imagine how it is for them.

Not that I’m always succesful at this… work in progress.

White Trash Couch

Well, we are wrapping up “Madoff Week” here on Cool Mom. Our money being stolen caused one behavioral change in me: how I reacted to Vivien getting furniture or rugs dirty. Before I would be like, “Oh, Vivien, you need to be more careful.” The first week after we found out the trajectory of our lives was up for grabs, I practically cried if she spilled on my couch, “Vivien, this cost mommy a lot of money” (when she had it).  “Please no more food near my couch.” (I started calling everything ‘mine,” taking it all personally).

Then I realized that having a 3 year old and wanting to preserve furniture that I could no longer afford to replace was setting us up for failure. So, this was my temporary solution. A little later, the couch you see was loaded up and sits in my mother in law’s spare room. I had two couches; now I only have room for one. And there is NO eating on it. The good thing about a small house is Vivien can see the TV from our dining room… and the computer… and the toaster… you get the picture.

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.

Honey, We Have to Move

So, here I talk about how to handle the move with the wee ones. It was VERY emotional at times before we moved. Hearing little Viv say she didn’t want to move was a knife in my heart. I I think from the comments I get from all of you and from my own experience, a reversal of fortune is harder because you have kids, but it’s what also makes you get through it. Also, my stepson is a no-drama kid. I say, “So, your room is going to be smaller; is that okay?”

“Sure, that’s fine.”

Later, “Um, there isn’t enough room in the house to hang all of our art work; would it be okay if next to the Simpson poster we hang these art photographs?”

“Sure, that’s fine.” Phew.

When I was single and childless, and I was unemployed for a while or had ive with my parents after college because I didn’t have a pot to piss in and student loans to boot, it wasn’t great but not that big of a deal. You know other friends who also don’t have much. You get a six pack together and watch TV.  In my 20s when I wanted to go to Europe, I put it on my credit card and then ate cereal for a few months at home alone till I made some payments on it. Nothing that kicks you in the gut. But when you feel like you are letting your kids down, when you aren’t giving them the life you had dreamed for them, that can send you to a dark place.

But if it wasn’t for my kids’ If it weren’t for my happy-go-lucky daughter, my even-tempered stepsons, my supportive step-daughte,r and a newborn boy who needs me totally, I could have easily gone off the rails. To be jolted like this without my wee ones, well, I’d probably be shooting heroin in my gums.

Happily, a fresh coat of pink paint and white shelves really made the difference for Vivien in the new house. I shelled out the money for that happily. She has not missed a beat and loves her “new, pink room.”

For anyone else who has had to guide their kids through a similar transition, I welcome hearing about how you did it.

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.

Worst of the Week

No, not another piece about the falling stock market or whether I agree with Obama’s stimulus package. ‘Cause frankly, I have no idea what to think about that. If this downturn has taught me anything, it’s that I’m going to make sure my kids are more financially savvy than I am. That they understand mortgages, and that condo boards can make your home financially impossible, and still the jacuzzi is broken. That they understand if they invest in stocks they better be able to understand things like cost ratio and leverage, you know, the stuff I barely grasp.

I’m part of that generational shift where we were told we were unique and wonderful. And I bought it. I thought I was special. But the more years I have learned is I am one of the masses. During macro economic upturns I have done well; during downturns I lost money or experienced unemployment. The graphs of the U.S. economy almost exactly mirror my own ups and downs. So, along with the big dose of liberal education I have received and positive thinking, a greater grasp of finances would have been a plus. And I’m not a total knucklehead; I don’t walk around with credit card debt, and I know how to balance a checkbook.  But I’ve certainly stepped in some dumb money decisions.

Anyway, so what did my education make me fit for? Writing jokes for Star magazine. I write jokes every week for the “Worst of the Week” pages. It’s one liners about famous people’s bad outfits. Sometimes I’ve never heard of them, but I still write jokes. I send in about 2 or 3 per person, and then the magazine decides which to run. And it’s a good thing I’m not famous because I’d be snapped dropping my daughter off at school and be ridiculed more than Octomom’s Donald Duck lips.

I didn’t major in satire.  I majored in Sociology.  Same thing.

The picture is one from 2 years ago when I came home from commenting on the Oscar fashion for CNN headline. My hair is underwhelming, but they would only provide makeup for me, so I had to wing the hair. I had to find a designer who would loan me a dress myself. But that’s life on the G-list. Viv is the best accessory. There is probably a joke there like: Don’t buy a designer bag; buy a designer baby!

Obama Mamas

Look, no one is happier than me that Bush is GONE.  I cried when the Supreme Court appointed him in ’00; I cried when he was elected in ’04.  I’ve been driving around with this sticker on my car for years…

Hmm… guess it’s time to take it off.  I voted for Obama and am happy he is President for historic and political changes.  But I can’t get in a lather about it.

My sister-in-law recently sent me all these political cartoons that should produce an “aw.”  Lincoln and MLK proud of President Obama, that ilk.  But I think now the combination of a very long campaign and the economy really hitting the fan has made this political junkie jaded and beat. Yeah, idealism is great, but can we please try to avoid double digit unemployment?  My job has been reduced; my husband is having to work hard to keep his business competitive in this new environment.  My condo in Florida is such a dog I’m begging someone to take it off my hands… no matter the loss.  I’m seeing more empty store fronts around my neighborhood.  So, big historical speeches. Yawn.

I like the more regulations for finance industry, the freeing up abortion rights, etc.  Keep it coming.  But do I keep having to listen to Will.I. Am?  I hope not.

Rah, rah, show me the money.