Usually if a Jewish person gets into trouble we try not to draw attention to it, we're so embarrassed. We call it a chilul HaShem, an abomination to G-d, and hope the news passes over quickly.

But a guy steals 50 billion dollars, well, it's hard to ignore. Our luck. He had to be Jewish, we say (as opposed to Italian, or Irish, Chinese or Sudanese, a Somalian pirate, a Brit, choose your nationality). People are going to talk about us. Slander us. This time of year, it's especially not so good. It's a real oy vey, something to geshrai (give a sudden shriek) about. Check out this journalist's Jewish Response to the Economic Crisis if you think I'm just a little paranoid about anti-Semitism.

My mother calls me on Friday. She says, "What do you make of this guy Bernard Madoff? Is he sick? I mean, what is he? Is he a sociopath? My friend Beverly says he's a sociopath. What's a sociopath?"

"I don't know if he's sick. I really don't. He might be. Or he might be considered a sociopath."

"Is it genetic?"

"Well, I'm not sure. It may not have anything to do with genetics, although believe me, we'd love to blame something like this on bi-polar or better, uni-polar disorder. Tell Beverly that you think Bernie Madoff had a uni-polar manic episode, a long one. You'll sound smart and it gets us off the hook."

"I can't even pronounce that. But if you're telling me it's probably not genetic, then are you telling me that his parents taught him to be a ganif like that? (Ganif is the Hebrew word for thief.) His parents probably came here on the boat with mine!"

"It's likely people would say that, that this cheating is learned behavior. I don't know. I get pretty tired of hearing parents getting the blame for everything. It's unlikely his parents gave him the green light to steal. It's culturally not what we do. It's frowned upon."

Mom sighs. "I know, I know. We take a kid to a psychiatrist for stealing a candy bar. What is a sociopath, anyway?" She's not into Googling things.

"People don't generally use the word correctly. It's a criminology word, I'm pretty sure. But mental health professionals also talk about sociopathy as related to personality, particularly Antisocial Personality Disorder. Sociopathy refers to having no guilt, to seeing the opportunity to hurt others and taking it. No fear of the consequences. No morality."

"I don't understand. How does a normal, nice looking man like him, turn into someone like that?"

"I don't know, Ma. In our crowd we would say, No Torah. But it's much more than that. Most people have some kind of respect law, for authority, some fear. And they have a super-ego, too, that little voice in the head that says, That's not nice. Don't do that. Seems that Madoff either hasn't got that voice or doesn't listen to it, or has no fear. Your guess is as good as mine, though. Crime isn't my specialty."

We get off the phone. But this bothers me, as it bothers everyone in my community, that this man has scammed so many people out of so much money. Not that their money is necessarily theirs. Some of us believe that if we have it, we have it so that we can redistribute it. But that's philosophy, theology. Some people really do wonder, however, "Is my money mine? Do I really own anything?"

I love the story, and forgive me if I've told it before, about the rabbi out taking a walk. A thief grabs his wallet and runs off. The rabbi runs after him shouting, "Take it, take it! Take the money! It's yours!" The rabbi assumes the guy needs the money more than he does. He's giving it to him so the thief doesn't have to suffer the sin.

So I'm thinking that this man, Mr. Madoff, just isn't thinking right. He doesn't understand his responsibility to the universe to redistribute wealth.

Or he has unipolar mania, a disorder that is rarely diagnosed, because it's generally perceived as hypo-mania, and everyone has one of those in the family, someone who tends to be incredibly gifted, whose gifts or thinking have the potential to get him into real trouble at some point or another, just about the time that his beautiful mind goes too far awry. No fear.

I went to shul this morning and the rabbi talked about Bernie Madoff and how everyone has a war story to tell because this guy took no prisoners.

Then he tells us the following story.

A few weeks ago a couple of young men finished their Friday night dinners and walked to the synagogue to learn together. They studied for many hours into the night, and when they closed the books and got ready to leave, noticed the pouring rain. Since it had been nice when they left their respective homes, neither had brought a coat.

They looked in the coatroom and saw two lone trench coats and various unclaimed items

Our synagogue happens to be a repository of men's coats and sweaters. We could open a store. Anyway.

The boys searched the shul to see if anyone was still there. Everyone had gone home.

They had to make a decision.

Should they borrow the coats? Surely if they did, they could return them early in the morning, first thing. Would it matter? Did they have the right to borrow the coats? Is it stealing to borrow something without permission? What is the law?

Rather than err on the side of stealing, the boys left the coats in the coat room and walked home in the rain.
(That will teach them to not listen to their mothers)

The rabbi's point, of course, is that had Mr. Madoff made decisions like these boys made decisions, had he worried, fretted about the consequences of his behavior, the ponzi scheme would never have taken place. He didn't worry, however, not enough. He's not into karma, and scoffs, apparently, at civil, federal, religion and international law, law of any kind. He has Bernie's law.

That or he's manic.

Below are a couple of diagnoses for you to chew on. Don't ask me to pick one because I haven't talked to him, and have no psycho-social-family history on the man. But I'd love to talk to him, I really would. And he does need a check up. He certainly needs some kind of excuse.


Criteria for Manic Episode:

A. A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary).

B. During the period of mood disturbance, three (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted (four if the mood is only irritable) and have been present to a significant degree:

1.inflated self-esteem or grandiosity

2.decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)

3.more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking

4.flight of ideas, or subjective experience that thoughts are racing

5.distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)

6.increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation

7.excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

C. The symptoms do not meet the criteria for a Mixed Episode.

D. The mood disturbance is sufficiently severe to cause marked impairment in occupational functioning or in usual social activities or relationships with others, or to necessitate hospitalization to prevent harm to self or others, or there are psychotic features.

E. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication, or other treatment) or a general medical condition (e.g., hypothyroidism).

Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant treatment (e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.

Diagnostic Criteria for 301.7 Antisocial Personality Disorder

A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard fro and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

1.Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2.Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3.Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;

4.Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;

5.Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;

6.Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

7.Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

B. The individual is at least age 18 years.

C. There is evidence of Conduct Disorder with onset before age 15 years.

D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode.

Sex differences: According to DSM-IV (in a 1994 publication by the APA), Antisocial Personality disorder is diagnosed in approximately three percent of all males and one percent of all females.



blognut said…
I have a naive question. Why can't he just be evil, bad, ___ , pick your own word? I didn't even know he was jewish, I didn't think about it. Seems to me that his religious beliefs have nothing to do with him stealing. I swear sometimes this world just gets on my nerves. Clearly his religion, regardless of whatever it is/was, DIDN'T WORK on him. He CHOSE not to live it, and so he's bad. I don't know why this should result in anti-Semitism, but I agree; I fear it might.
Retriever said…
Beautiful handling of this horrible story. The story of the coats was perfect.

The religion of the person is not at issue or even their parents. Too much parent blaming in our society. If you think about it, most of the worst behavior is learned behavior, but of a type one is only exposed to in adulthood. We all know that teens and young adults are primarily influenced by their peers. So a good kid (and I don't know if Mr. Madoff was a good or rotten one) raised to be reverent and true could still end up going bad by running by a bad pack in adulthood. The people we choose to hang with make us into the people we are.

This is why those of us who go to church or shul do so. In hopes that God will civilize us thru the words and mutual accountability, thru good examples and cautionary tales in a community of God-lovers struggling to tame their unruly hearts with people they trust enough to take correction from. I hope so, at any rate.

But sometimes there just are truly rotten apples. A relative came to me years ago, having just been offered a financial job, asking me what I knew about the firm. I enthused "Oh, yes, great guy, has helped with the youth group, salt of the earth...." Turned out to be a criminal (my relative figured it out before I did and didn't get involved).
Reas Kroicowl said…
I didn't know he was Jewish either. I just thought "Well, another typical Wall Street tycoon got caught."

Did anyone try and diagnose Kenneth Lay? Same principle applies, right? What about all the great minds at Bear Sterns? AIG? Lehman Brothers? Let's face it: all their brilliant fanagaling with turning mortgages into commodities, credit default swaps and the like caused the entire economy to collapse. Why aren't we trying to diagnose all of them?

What about the regulators with whom Madoff was in bed? What about his accountant? And those that worked closely with him day in and day out? This man did not act alone.

My MIL, a social worker and a therapist gave them all a blanket diagnosis years ago: Antisocial. The problem with this is that in our country, making money is the opposite of anti social--it's not only respected but revered. And because of this people will do what they can to "get theirs", especially if surrounded by enormous egos--like in the financial world. They start cutting corners, pushing the envelope, crossing the line. The longer one gets away with it, the further one will push. A peron begins to think they're above the law.

Does that automatically make them mentally ill? Or just human? We ALL have the capacity for something like this to happen. Power corrupts (shall I name politicians? Nixon, Spitzer, Blagojevich, Bush, McCain, Clinton, Edwards...) Madoff was undoubtedly a powerful man.

The trouble with the mania diagnosis is that Madoff had been running this scheme for years. Even your most impressive manics will crash after a few months.

I don't think it's fair to slap him with some diagnosis. I do think it's fair to say the guy was a complete schmuck who got blinded quite early by dollar signs.

And I don't think he should be thrown in prison. The government should seize all his assets, pay off investors, and force the man to live on a Wal Mart salary for the rest of his life. That would hurt him much worse than some white collar, minimum security cell.
Isle Dance said…
Great post. I wish there was a way to "see" each diagnosis...via an educational video that shows real, live examples. Otherwise, I keep saying, "Yeah, that's my family member so-and-so...but no...can't be possible."
therapydoc said…
Thanks all, Retriever, we want to know. Was he Jewish?

Okay, if I get enough comments from people who didn't know Madoff was Jewish, down goes this post!
therapydoc said…
And about evil. I don't know much about this. Even people who talk about Satan have their reasons, I suppose. I like to think people have their reasons, as hard as they are for us to fathom, and prefer to give them a benfit of the doubt until it becomes clear, and sometimes that benefit is mental illness. But there are the incorrigible, and they have to be stopped. You've never heard me say that castration for certain pedophiles, for example, is a bad idea.
Heavy Psy said…
"I'll take antisocial personality disorder for $200, Alex"
blognut said…
No way you should take this down! It's a good post, and it makes a valid point. There ARE people out there who care about religious affiliation and use the bad behavior of one as a reason to throw out the validity of an entire faith.

And I think Reas has an excellent idea. All of these schmoes should have to spend the rest of their life WORKING in a blue collar world shoulder to shoulder with the people they ultimately robbed. It's their only hope for truly understanding the impact of what they've done.
Retriever said…
The crook my relative was asking about was not Jewish but a devoutly Christian guy. As I said to my kids at the time: those Crusaders were devout Xians but many of them were murdering, thieving jerks.

Personally, I agree w Therapydoc on how to punish them, but I would add the venerable tradition of putting Madoff and his thieving type in the stocks to be mocked and shamed. Think of it, people used to everyone sucking up to them because of their money, being jeered at by the carwash guy they didn't tip, the employe they laid off....

What I have wondered about with this current crop of scum on Wall Street is their finely tuned ability to insinuate themselves into ordinary communities and religious groupings, via charitable work (sometimes by their wives whilst the guys just donate heavily), helped by our society's worship of money and greed. You see them helping out after worship and it disarms you, you assume they are okay. But they truly are wolves in sheep's clothing. Not a new phenomenon, but our society's veneration of money is more extreme than previous ones'.
therapydoc said…
Hold on, I didn't say Castrate Madoff!
Lou said…
I didn't know he was Jewish, my mind doesn't make associations with names for some reason.
I think my son has antisocial disorder, he certainly meets the critera. But then he meets the criteria for a bunch of other disorders. Very confusing!
Actually, on You Tube there's a recording of a phone conversation between that woman in FL who is supposed to have killed her 3-y-o daughter, and her sister, which the sister apparently taped. One of my students played it for the class to demonstrate, point by point, the criteria for Antisocial Personality. It was amazing, in the course of just a few minutes, how many of the criteria that woman exhibited. I'd spent all semester telling them we can't diagnose somebody we haven't met and properly assessed, and then this! I had to concede.
Anonymous said…
I did know he was Jewish, but only because my anti-semitic mother made a big deal out of telling me so.
therapydoc said…
That's what I love about video, Virginia. It's like being there.

Thanks, Anon. I'll keep the post.
Battle Weary said…
I didn't know he was Jewish either...just thought "another scamming a*****e". A person's religion doesn't particularly matter to can be a jerk in any religion...and one can be a wonderful person in any religion. Except perhaps Scientology...little odd there!
Anonymous said…
"I love the story, and forgive me if I've told it before, about the rabbi out taking a walk. A thief grabs his wallet and runs off. The rabbi runs after him shouting, "Take it, take it! Take the money! It's yours!" The rabbi assumes the guy needs the money more than he does. He's giving it to him so the thief doesn't have to suffer the sin."

Hadn't heard that one before. Fantastic story! I love it! Probably because I feel the same way -- if someone needs something of mine that badly, I'd rather give it than put them in the position of having to steal it.

Another great post TherapyDoc.

Happy holidays to you and your family.
JJ said…
There was an interesting post on the subject of diagnoses and sociopaths this week over at Shrink Rap... it really fits in well with this discussion:

-the blogger formerly known as rosysunset
therapydoc said…
I read the article and it's terrific, I'm recommending it to all of you. We used to talk theory, pontificate about why some people "go bad."

Here was the favorite, and Shrink Rap tells it over like so:

In 1837 an English psychiatrist named James Pritchard wrote a book entitled Treatise on Insanity in which he described people who lacked the ability to form attachments to others and who were unable to experience normal human affection or emotions. These individuals had little regard for the feelings or rights of others, however they didn't have the hallucinations or impaired cognitive functioning that was seen in other psychiatric disorders.

The profession used to blame lack of empathy. As Shrink Rap says, It's a beginning.
Anonymous said…
Well-reasoned, interesting, and insightful, as usual. Thank you.

However, this post gives me an opening to muse about the tendency in our society to draw an equivalence between psychopathology and "bad" behavior. If one acts in an "evil" fashion, one must be ipso facto psychologically disturbed. I don't think that this is always (or even usually) the case; indeed, I think that this view tends to exculpate criminal behavior rather too much, by minimizing the important role of free will. More to the point, I think that by "medicalizing" bad behavior, we seek to treat criminals as clearly "other", and so to deny that "there, but for the grace of God, go I". But we must, I believe, remember that (in most cases) these criminals are also human beings like us, and that we too may have within us the capacity for terrible acts.

(NB: I do not mean to attribute the strong position of "criminals are ipso facto mentally ill" to Therapydoc; but I do believe that there is a strain of such thought in the zeitgeist.)

In the case of Madoff, may I suggest another scenario? This is one in which he starts his fund legitimately, and it does well for a while, but then starts to see some losses. In order to maintain his good record, he "temporarily" dips into the clients' funds to fake a small gain instead of a loss for one month, then a second, then a third, figuring that he'll be able soon to pay the funds back from future gains. And maybe he can at first. So this is just petty larceny that in the end harms no one. But this behavior becomes a habit and as his reputation for steady gains increases, the pressure for ensuring no losses also increases, so he does this again and again. Soon, he finds that he can't easily replace the missing funds, and before long, he is dug in so deep that he needs to keep seeking new clients to keep afloat; he can't dig himself out, and has to just frantically keep the money moving to survive. At this point, he has no thought to his clients simply because he is concentrating on not sinking. In the end, he can't keep it going, of course, and so it all comes crashing down.

This scenario does not remove any responsibility from the perpetrator, though. What it does, however, is make clear the tremendous importance of paying close attention to moral behavior in the details of life, not just in the "big picture". It is all too easy to get sucked into some pattern of problematic behavior for all-too-normal reasons, and then the pattern grows until it becomes an all-encompassing malignancy.
therapydoc said…
Brilliant Shlomo, and I agree.

I just have trouble with that 50 million. How does 50 million sneak up on a person?
Anonymous said…
I think once you're in deep enough, you just keep digging, hoping without hope that you can somehow get out...

I should note that I got the basic scenario I sketched from, so I can't take credit for the original insight.
linrob63 said…
I am glad, Shlomo, you posted. As I was reading, I was preparing to post a similar comment.

I read that many, many of those who lost lots are non-profit organizations that provide services to people in need.

If his sole motivation was greed from the go, I do not believe his client list would read like a philanthropic venture. But it does.

I think it is plausible...even likely...that it bagan as a letitimate and very successful venture.

Could his motivation have been not wanting to let anyone down? Or maybe the adulation for doing so good for so many in need?

I recognize it does not absolve him of wrongdoing..and he did very, very wrong that hurt many more in ways that are yet unknown...beyond the catastrophic financial losses.

Is there a diagnosis for someone who got caught up in it rather than planned and executed it?

Just curious.
Anonymous said…
I thought the amount was 50 billion, which no one could possibly spend in the 2-3 years this scheme was going on, particularly without alerting the IRS. My guess is the money is squirreled away in foreign bank accounts so it can't be traced (or only with great difficulty).

What bothered me most about this guy's behavior was that he knowingly stole from charities, mostly Jewish foundations, and from close personal friends who had trusted him for years.

Imo, the man is a sociopath, and a greedy one at that. How can you steal money from a charity, knowing its purpose is to help those without means, and not feel guilty? Sociopath. Plus, he covered his tracks too well for this to be anything but a deliberate undertaking.

And yes, I knew he was Jewish, but I don't think that has anything to do with his behavior, nor is it really a relevant fact, other than to counter claims of anti-semitism because most of his victims were also Jewish.

I grew up in a predominantly Jewish community (which sucked on the weekends because many of my friends had a different Sabbath, and therefore we didn't have much free time together) and have never understood anti-semitism. I know it still exists; I just don't understand why. The closest I can come to an explanation is that others may be jealous of success, since education and hard work are so highly valued within the community. I don't know.

Do you understand it?
Syd said…
I think that Mr. Madoff had incredible arrogance. I don't know whether he is mentally ill. But I suspect that he thought that he was above reproach or perhaps "owed" this money. It's a failure of thinking. There are some people who will take and take just because they can.
therapydoc said…
LINROB, the problem is that you don't get caught up a ponzi scheme; it's a scam from the get go. He knew what he was doing, admitted it. So I don't see Madoff caught up in anything. It seems he initiated everything and wasn't a RobinHood, not unless he thought of himself as the poor.

Most of the people he scammed, as ANONYMOUS tells us, were Jewish. So what that means, I hate to even imagine. It might be a kick in the face to what Jews believe in, which is that there is moral law, and it would be nice if the whole world kept it.

I think you're right, too, about anti-Semitism, but there's more, for sure. It is probably about the separateness of the Jewish people, being DIFFERENT, dressing different, celebrating a different Sabbath, different holidays, going to different schools, NOT believing in a savior other than the father of all mankind.

People HATE different. Probably it's some kind of teleologic thing, survival of the species, but it is very deep in our collective memories or our DNA.

Many Jewish people, for example, still won't buy a Mercedes. But now we know it's because they can't afford one.
Anonymous said…
Most of the people he scammed, as ANONYMOUS tells us, were Jewish. So what that means, I hate to even imagine. It might be a kick in the face to what Jews believe in, which is that there is moral law, and it would be nice if the whole world kept it.

Or he might simply have preyed on the people he believed would find him most trustworthy (many of the people were friends), and built upon networking connections.

It's a shame that he chose to become a criminal, because the man had an excellent reputation and CV, having once been CEO of Nasdaq. I've read that sociopaths tend to gravitate toward positions of power (politicians, CEOs, etc.), but I don't know if this is true, or if I'm simply repeating someone else's opinion.

Thanks for expanding my understanding of anti-semitism. What you've written makes a great deal of sense.

I remember feeling a bit envious, as a child, that Jewish families, and the Community in general, were so emotionally close, shared a common heritage and had many meaningful traditions and rituals.

My own family is fairly mongrelized, widely distributed, believes in virtually nothing, is extremely rigid and stand-offish, and has no traditions whatsoever. I suppose that's not the case for all gentiles.

(NB: I have stopped telling people I was raised by wolves.)
Mark said…
Very interesting thoughts and possibilities. It is a shame that this man's behavior would be associated with his religion, his cultural background. I would hope that most have moved beyond that type of judgment. I think his behavior is an indictment against our society as a whole. There were many co-conspirators involved in elevating this man to the position he attained, and it is our greed as a society that enabled him to accomplish what he did. I do not remove his responsibility, however at the end of the day he did not do this without the support of our culture. This is a mankind problem, not a Jewish problem.
Mark said…
BTW - I did not know Madoff was Jewish until today.
Dr. Deb said…
I have a friend who spells the last name the same" Madoff. HE pronounces it Mad-off. Do you think Made-off was subconsciouly telling us all something?
Jack said…
It just infuriates me. I know people he hurt and that is only the start because this is like a stone dropped into a pond. There are ripples upon ripples. It is going to devastate more lives than he can possibly imagine, and for what.
therapydoc said…
That's the point, for me, too, JACK. I think I'm angry at him, like I would be angry at someone who walked into a school with a gun. (Maybe more, because when people die I feel sad).

And what for? So he (a) keeps his head afloat or (b) gets rich or (c) has some kind of uncontrollable can't stop feature in his brain.

And all of the above didn't have to spiral out of control, he could have stopped or been stopped.

And the suicides are beginning, I understand.

Money's not the root of all evil, but boy, when you read this kind of thing, you wonder why anyone would value it this much.
When my daughter was first learning about being Jewish was when Mel Gibson was doing his Jew-hating. She was very upset, because it was also the time she was falling in love with Shakespeare.

What she came to count on was watching Sunday Morning on television with me. We'd see stories about artists and writers, and she'd say, "Mom! She's Jewish!" and clap with excitement.

You're right. It's like the losers screw all of us. And it's interesting that there are so few of them.

Maybe if all the communities had that sort of pride of ownership, the losers would be less common among us all.
Melissa said…
He did out himself didnt he? What does that mean? Do schemers feel fear? Was it fear run amuck? And if so, fear of what?

therapydoc said…
I don't know. See, if he'd only call for an appointment, we could webcam it like they did with Ashley Dupres, the NY governor's escort, and we'd understand his motives.

But it could be he didn't want to face the embarrassment of handcuffs, and it could be that he's safer, ironically, in the hands of the law than out on the street.
Anonymous said…
I think the saying is actually:

“For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Timothy, 6:10.

(Not a great Biblical scholar; I had to look up the origin of the saying.) But it reminds me of the Israelites' conflict between worshiping and maintaining faith in G-d versus worshiping Ba'al, the golden calf, in the absence of G-d's law (commandments), which they'd yet to receive.

A metaphoric interpretation emphasizes the "gold" part of "golden calf" to criticize the pursuit of wealth.

I think anyone could succumb to the temptation of placing material wealth before G-d, which could easily lead to moral corruption.

I don't know. It's late, I'm too tired to think. Happy Holidays. I should be in bed because the kids will be up early wanting to unwrap their own golden calves... er, reindeer (we have really secularized this holiday).
deb said…
I thought the crooked Evangelical Christians were the anti-social types who call to mania when they get busted.

It's quite disappointing no matter the creed... or religion for that matter.
therapydoc said…
Deb, one thing all of the religions have in common is that there are people who call themselves followers. Were it not for us people, they would all be so perfect, I think, every one of them.

I don't think, btw, that Mr. Madoff said he was manic. Did he? It's the doc in me to pull that out of my hat. I'm hoping he'll call me as an expert witness.

Oh, ANON. Let them enjoy their presents. It's so nice to be little like that and happy for a present. Wears thin as adults, I think.
Anonymous said…
Of course they got to enjoy their presents. I wasn't putting any of that guilt on them, just running nonsense through my tired brain before sleep.

I think this is the best Christmas we've ever had. The economy has screwed up our budget; my biggest client hasn't been able to pay in three months, which was money I was counting on for Christmas gifts. DH's employer has laid off 2/3 of the staff; we're lucky he's still employed, and will be luckier still if the company doesn't fold.

I told the kids there would be few gifts this year, and that I couldn't afford to fill stockings or put up a tree (don't worry, they're 12, 17 and 19 -- I would never let little children down like that). They were okay with it, know our circumstances, never complained, but it broke my heart.

Well, a few weeks ago the girls pooled their money and bought a really pretty tree at a discount, then decorated it as a surprise.

Our oldest daughter gathered up some of her personal belongings, sold them online, and she and the next youngest bought stockings for everyone and filled them. They didn't want their little sister to go without. They didn't tell anyone what they were doing -- it was a sweet surprise.

We were able to scrape together enough money for the one big present each child wanted (two ipod touches and a new cell phone), plus a few other, minor gifts.

I have never been so proud of my family, the way they pulled together, thought of each other, and pitched in to make the holiday special. I'll never forget this.

So, just wanted to end on a happier note. Happy Chanukah, and best wishes to you and your family.
Rachel Z. said…
I don't personally think madoff is manic-depressive. His behaviors actually correlate much better with classic narcissism: a sense of entitlement, refusal to admit he has made a mistake (until there was nowhere to go and he was out of lies), lack of empathy, belief that he is a "special" person who should not be accountable, used and discarded people, etc.