Why is Mitt Romney writing me?

Maybe he watched Radio Daphne where I said I had dream we were going to hook up.  Was that it?  Did his people confuse me with a Mormon mom blogger.  Hmm, probably not, they don’t talk about hooking up.

Well, Mitt wrote me, personally.  He even sent a picture! Yes, Mitt I do believe in America! But, I’m pro choice liberal, so how did you get my address Mitt?  He seems like a nice man, except for that cutting the kids hair off in high school, firing a bunch of people and talking out of both sides of his mouth ( note to self, look up definition of ‘nice person’)  I can’t figure out what list I’m on with my full name, even middle, that Mitt used to send me this lovely man in front of barn with flag picture.  Nothing says America like denim and distressed wood.  The symbolism of the empty farm equipment is sending a message as well.  “America is out of work.” But, Mitt’s going to fire up that tractor and get us back to work!

Mark is a former Mormon and over the years sometimes the nice men in white shirts and ties knock on our door to ask him to return to the church of his youth.  They have ways of finding you… they are great at genealogy, Is that how I got this?

Look, am I better off than I was 4 years ago? That would be a NO.  Do I think Obama is more likely to fix the economy than Romney?  Probably not.  I tend to think that the neither is going to make a big dent, except we do need health care reform and we don’t need to roll back “Obama care “( Mitt care).  As a small business owner that provides health care coverage it would be better for us if everyone had to do provide and everyone had to participate. HIgher taxes, drag on economy, cutting entitlements, drag on economy.  We are kind of  screwed.

 

In 2004 and 2008 I traveled to other states and knocked on doors for the Dems.  Will I do that now? No, I’m not.  I’m busy, underemployed and a tad discouraged.  But, my line in the sand is the Supreme Court.  This court has enraged me plenty. Bush V. Gore, and most recently the stupid decision ( Citizen’s United) to allow unfettered money from corporations into politics (can hear Mitt from the barn, “corporations are people too”).  I think Mitt would appoint judges that would bug me.

But, thanks for thinking of me Mitt.

It’s News! Sort of.

On the eve of The State of the Union speech by President Obama, I was trying to watch some political shows per usual.

“Vivien, let me watch the end of ‘Hardball,’ and then I will play dress up dolls with you.” I played dress up dolls while Hardball was on. Compromise.

I’m sure you are like me. You sit at home watching the news or reading it online, and you think,

“No, no you aren’t getting it.”

or “Um, that’s not how I see it.”

So here are a few of these random thoughts in no particular order.  I would love to hear from you about when you challenge the conventional wisdom of a news story. Political, pop culture, whatever.

QUIT CALLING IT A HUG! Florida Governor Charlie Crist did NOT hug Obama. It was nothing like that pathetic shot of McCain Squeezing George W Bush like his momma after she has been out of town for a few days. Crist grabbed Obama’s arm while they shook hands. It wasn’t even the “Straight Man hug,” the embrace while they each loudly pat each other on the back. Crist may be an overly tan moderate who has gotten on the wrong side of some conservatives, but news people stop saying he hugged a guy he didn’t.

MASSACHUSETTS SENT OBAMA A MESSAGE TO SLOW DOWN ON HEALTH CARE.

Yeah, not really. The Bay state sent a message that charisma plus retail politics still rules the day. That race was decided the same way most are: who is more likable? Who would you rather have a beer with? Martha Coakly seemed cold and officious and couldn’t talk about baseball (among other gaffes). Scott Brown is a hunky, likable pro choice Republican. He handled questions very well and the first person he called when he was elected was Vicki Kennedy. That’s a smart politician (weird comments about his daughters came after he was elected, oops). Yeah, the economy still stinks, people get nervous about some big proposals, but I think if I had met Scott Brown years ago I probably would have slept with him.  I’ll vote for that… in my mind.

WILL OBAMA STOP TALKING ABOUT HEALTH CARE AND START TALKING ABOUT JOBS?

I may scream if I hear some hack pundit say this one more time. Way to allow the health care business–and it is a business– to set the debate. It does have to do with jobs, it does have to do with job creation. If a business is crushed by the cost of insuring their employees, will they hire more people? No. Will they try to hire less employees and only pick up freelance people whom they don’t have to pay benefits too?  It’s already happening. If health care costs eat up the little profit margin a small business has, will they stay in business? The costs are soaring. I’m still perplexed at how cost containment isn’t more front and center for the debate on both sides. I’m not saying the Obama plan can fix these issues. I am a big hair less Dane or Swede in my heart when it comes to health care, I’m for cradle to grave, but fat chance getting that in the US. Bottom line, health care debate is NOT separate from jobs.

OCTOMOM PLEASE KEEP YOUR CLOTHES ON

Barf, who wants to see that head case parade her newly bounced back body? Not me. Right, I’m sure you are mother of the year with your 14 kids and your workout routine. Good for you. Go away.

And most importantly,

MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Can we please discuss how our emphasis on being a war machine bleeds education and safety from our kids, robs the middle class of resources, and leaves our mentally ill and poor to wonder the streets and annoy as we walk out of Trader Joe’s? One doesn’t have to be a dyed-in-the-wool hippie to see that these huge companies that make the weapons and support staff (Blackwater anyone?) hide behind our patriotism and support our troops sloganeering. It’s called war profiteering, and it’s so ingrained in our country, few see it, and less speak about it. It’s not a mainstream discussion, and this mother thinks it should be.

What are some of your fist pounders or head scratchers?

Just cuz he’s cute…

California Dystopia

I know I’m not the only one living in a state in crisis, but since I am a born-and-bred Californian, this essay by Peggy Orenstein hit home. The difference in our formerly ideal University system in my own lifetime is dramatic. And then throw in our out-of-reach real estate prices, and I totally get the folks who say, “Forget this!” and move to Las Vegas, Texas, North Carolina, etc. The percentage of your income to the price of housing is totally out of whack. Even in this supposedly flat real estate market, a million dollars can get you a fixer. Unless of course you want to drive 90 minutes to work, then maybe a family home is about $600,000.

I have a few childhood friends who took over their parents’ or grandparents’ homes. Bought out the other heirs, did a little remodeling (or not), and now raise their own families where they were little kids. The first time I heard about this (maybe 15 years ago) I thought it was quaint, practical. Now, I see it as near essential for most people to stay in the parts of California that are job centers.

It’s strange for us, the generation raised seeing our parents do better than theirs, and we are expected to do better than our folks. In actual fact, it’s going to be tough to just rock steady on the same plane they existed on.

Although to be fair, we do have better food and wine than when we were kids. At least there is that.

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?

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.

I Am a Madoff Victim

This has been the hardest blog post for me to do. When I vlogged about my miscarriage that was challenging, but this has other layers to it. By revealing about how we were robbed, how we are part of possibly the largest financial fraud in US History, I am not only disclosing my own life, but the life of my family. I didn’t blog about this before for many reasons. Chief was absolute shock. Then, it was too painful to discuss except with very close friends. I still have some friends I haven’t told. Sometimes it exhausts me too much to do so. Then when I wanted to blog about it, my husband didn’t want me too. I think like anyone who has either been in mourning or been the victim of a crime there are the stages you go through. For me this was both. We were robbed. Someone sits in jail right now because of what has happened to us and thousands of others. And it has altered the trajectory of my life. Many assumptions that I made are no longer valid. To have a secure retirement gave me a buoyancy I no longer possess. I would like that back.

I also didn’t want to blog about it if it was just for me to vent. I didn’t start this online adventure to be a Dear Diary, but I have been touched by comments that some of you have made on this site about your own struggles with the economy. So, I thought maybe by doing this we could help each other through a historical low. One of my initial reactions when we heard that our money was gone was to beat myself up… and my husband. We should have been more diversified ( we were, but not enough), we should have done this or that. And it did help when we realized that we were not part of a small fund like we had been led to believe, but a world wide one where people more savvy or richer than us were also robbed. Mort Zuckerman, Kevin Bacon, Steven Spielberg. And also better people than us, Elie Wiesel (who steals from Holocaust survivors?!)  I also started to hear from friends and neighbors how they too thought they might need to sell their house or move in with relatives, and it was for other reasons than our own, a real estate deal gone south, unemployment.

So, going forward I’m in a sense catching you all up with what I have been personally struggling with for the last 6 months. There is so much to say about this. But I’m still going to have some funny blogs and funny videos, because my whole life comedy has meant a great deal to me. It is healing (remind me to tell you about doing improv for chronic pain patients), and it has dictated my entire career to me. And like the saying goes, tragedy plus time equals comedy.

Have you heard about the pregnant lady who found out she had been robbed? Ah, yeah, not funny yet.