Life Lessons That Are Just a Click Away

How many times have you seen the Wizard of Oz?  One? Ten? I can honestly say I have watched it dozens of times.  30-40 viewings would be a good estimate having had 3 daughters that loved the movie and watched it over and over again. I have watched this movie literally my whole life, every Easter weekend, as that is when it aired on TV annually. My most favorite part was when Dorothy sung ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.  Forget being intrigued by her beauty and magical voice, but the verse below would melt my heart.

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops,

Way above the chimney tops,

That’s where you’ll find me.”

I never thought about this until listening to an audio book by Oprah Winfrey last weekend, but could THIS be what I have been searching for? Was I looking for a place to escape to in order to NOT deal with my worries and stresses?  Somehow, the decisions I have made in my life actually took me far away from this peaceful place and to a different place where I became buried in heart break, betrayal, and abuse. But now that I have been clawing my way back, it literally just hit me… Could I have had the answers and directions in front of me this whole time?  Up until this point, I have always viewed the Wizard of Oz as just a movie about a girl and her dog in a magical place- Period.  There was nothing deeper.  I remember there had been some talk that the characters represented social groups of people and issues during that Era.  The Scarecrow supposedly represented the uneducated Farmers and the Lion represented the heartless Steel workers.  But my girlfriend Oprah just opened my eyes to another, totally different thought process.  So, if you have never heard this twist on what the Wizard of Oz could represent, you are in for a treat and you need to sit down and take some notes. 

There is no way my mom could have ever of viewed The Wizard of Oz from this perspective.  Clearly, I as a parent did not.  But I think this movie should be required viewing for all older children and young adults.  Not only to view it, but to dissect it and then have a serious discussion of the embedded messages and how we can ingrain these lessons into our sense of being. After listening to my audio book, I reflected on the circumstances of my life. I have long accepted how I have gotten myself into those messes as a result of my poor self-esteem. But now, I am comparing my life to some of these ‘Oz” lessons and thinking…HOLY CRAP!  I have mentioned in early posts that I am a slow learner and missed and/or ignored many red flags in my life. But these words of wisdom below seem to be the saddest and most unfortunate messages that flew under my radar. As I reach the milestone of the big 50 tomorrow, I want to share my perspective of these messages.  So, let’s get started! This is my life seen through the looking glass of Dorothy Gale from Kansas.

Do you recall this scene?  Dorothy says to her dog that they need to find “A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?”  Life is so hard.  I think we have all had a moment that we wanted to abandon the life we were living and just go someplace simpler. A place where there is no stress, no worry, no bullshit…a place of peace and love.   But as I have learned the hard way, that place doesn’t REALLY exist.  It would be nice.  But instead, we get a sampling.  There are periods of time we catch a glimpse of a happy go lucky life, but let’s face it,  a fair part of life is unfair, hard, and/or fucking complicated.

I deeply regret the amount of times I have allowed my heart to be broken.  Yes, allowed.  I was an active participant in my life, so I do accept responsibility for my role and refuse to play the victim role any longer.  But to go out on that limb time and time again to love, despite how much love had let me down, was a risk worth taking to me.  What would my life had been like if I made a different choice?  What if I gave up on love?  What if I hardened my heart?  What if I shut it down to the point that I no longer had a heart?  This isn’t impossible.  I meet heartless assholes all the time.  Hell, I have dated and married a few along the way.  But perhaps, if I didn’t have a heart, my life could have been different… easier.  But I would have never been happy living the life of a Tin Man.  I’m a lover, a broken heart was a risk I was willing to take.   I am glad I kept trying.  Look at the amazing love I am blessed with today. Learning forgiveness definitely aided in keeping my heart open to new possibilities. Forgiveness is probably the most important process of preserving a pure and open heart.

The Wizard says to the Lion, “You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom.”  I have felt like such a loser for leaving two marriages.  I have closed doors on many friendships over the years as well, many long term friendships.  I used to wonder what is was about me that was so horrible at relationships.  And I truly believed, I was a coward…I ran away.  I quit because things were hard or made me uncomfortable. It took me years to gain the wisdom that no one, let me repeat this again, NO ONE has the right to make you feel like you are less.  NO ONE has the right to harm you, physically or emotionally.  NO ONE has the right to control you…tell you what you can or can’t wear, where you can or can’t go, who you can or cannot call your friend, or who you spend your time with.  NO ONE has the right to talk about you, betray you, let you down at your lowest point.  I had reason to be very fearful of parts of my past, Serious reason. And yes, I abandoned those situations. But I didn’t run away, I gained WISDOM.  The wisdom to understand that these behaviors are unacceptable.  The wisdom to understand that these things in my life were deviant. The wisdom to know that I deserved better.  The wisdom to know that friends aren’t envious, petty, or manipulative. I had developed the insight of knowing that although these people were important to me at some point and they played an important role, their purpose in my journey through this life was over.   I didn’t run away.  I wasn’t a coward.  I finally started to develop a sense of self-esteem.  My courage finally surfaced in my ability to confront these people and say that I had enough.  I had enough of all of their non-sense, but more than that was that I had enough of being sad to the core.  I was brave to leave people in my life that no longer, and in some cases, never served my best interest, despite how I may have loved them.  I finally realized that I was worth fighting for. 

Experience has definitely made me smarter.  As I said before, you begin to feel so foolish when you make mistake after mistake.  I actually left mistakes and then returned to them! I returned thinking things would be different this time, that I could change the root of who and what some people really are. I think that I am always sharing my twisted past in an attempt to give people a huge head up about me.   I want them to know that I am a person who made more bad decisions than most.  More importantly, I also want them to know that I am tough.  Tougher than a good amount of people they may have ever met and if they cross me or they are not genuine, they will be plucked from my life like an ugly weed, despite how my heart may feel about you.   Experience has helped me to separate my brain from my heart.  It has taught me who is good and who is not. Very few “impostors” slip through the cracks in my circle of friends, at least not anymore.  I listen to my instincts a lot more and avert relationships with similar people and circumstances that have burnt me in the past.  I have learned from each good and bad experience in my life.  Those big experiences have help shape me into a bit of a warrior of love.  My experiences have also forced me to change me for the better. 

In the Oprah audio book, she makes an interesting point about the three characters Dorothy encounters on her journey to get back home.  She suggests that perhaps they are disassociated pieces of Dorothy’s own personality.  Here is this defiant teen, trying desperately to happiness and along the way, she has to confront some broken pieces of herself.  She tries so desperately to run away from her troubles.  She isn’t feeling loved and understood by those around her (Tin Man).   She also is afraid to confront this insecurity in herself (Lion). With experience, she learns her self-worth. (Scarecrow).  What better representation of Dorothy getting on the right road to find herself than by the guidance of the beautiful Glinda.  Glinda is a true representation of how beautiful we really are deep down inside.  Could Glinda have also been a representation of Dorothy subconscious?  The Wicked Witch of the West clearly served as the obstacle in Dorothy’s life who forced her to face each of these fears and weaknesses. Think about the situations in your life that served as obstacles?  What was the breaking point that pushed you to finally face your fears?  For me, it was a fierce desire to no longer let my children down.  My goodness, what a horrible disappointment I must have been at times.  I was driven to make sure my children were safe and felt loved. I strived to become a person they could trust and admire.   An important scene is after the witch threatens Dorothy.  “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” Glinda reminds the Wicked Witch that she has no power over Dorothy in that situation.  Isn’t this the truth with all of us.  In reality, we have the power in our lives, not our fears.  When we are in crisis, we cannot see that we have power because we are unsure, scared, broken.  But it is there.  Step back.  Breathe.  Focus hard.  Your strength is in there.  You just have to melt that nasty old witch telling you otherwise.

It takes courage to look within.  For some of us, that is a jagged pill to swallow…facing the things we need to change about us.  However, if we reach way deep inside, we will eventually discover that we do have the power to change our lives and always have. It’s not lost, it’s just forgotten or misplaced.  This lesson is one that I wished I had learned so much earlier in life.  I didn’t gain any magical powers along the way in life.  I didn’t learn a new skill to deal with my life or combat my own demons.  I simply began to like me better.  I became the same advocate for myself that I was for others.   I grew up with the Catholic guilt in believing it was a sin if we were selfish.  I confused selfish with self-care.  It is not selfish to take care of yourself first.  IT IS MANDATORY. When you fly on a plane, they tell you that in the event of an emergency situation, if oxygen in needed, you should put it on yourself first and then help others afterwards.  There is no possible way to take care of others when you are a hot mess yourself.  My decisions to stay in certain situations literally left me suffocating emotionally.   It is mandatory for your physical and mental well-being to be kind to you and to help yourself.  If you are still struggling as you read this, click those heels of yours three times and get your ass in gear! Find your power

It is a natural response to run away from danger.  If you are not physically doing it, your body is most certainly doing it through its Fight or Flight response.  This roller coaster of ups and down we are riding on is aging us and for some, it can literally destroy you.  We all want to escape our stress and responsibility at times.  But we are not solving the problem.  It is still there and trust me when I tell you….it waits for you.  In increases in size and intensity. It turns into the flying monkeys, ripping you apart a lot like they ripped apart poor Scarecrow.   I ignored, pretended, and hid the truth. I became so good at it that I should have won an Academy Award for my performance!  I started to believe my own lies.  I didn’t trust me or my judgment.  I was afraid if I faced my problems, I would rock the boat, make them worse.  I was lost.  I had no idea who the hell I even was at time.  The more I looked outside myself to solve my problems, the further I got from actually solving anything. I believed things like if I just cooked better, things would get better.  If I just lost weight, things would get better.  If I  got my marriage blessed in a church, things would get better.  Crazy, right?  Well guess what?  I did all of those things and dozens more…and nothing changed.  It didn’t change because although the situation was indeed broken and needed to be fixed, I was broken and needed to be fixed.  And once I saw that and believed in me, I became stronger and things fell into place.  Not over night.  Not even over a decade.  But I am making progress and so can you.

Dorothy finally realized by the end of the move that she possessed everything she ever needed to be happy and return to Oz and her home and eventually, so did I. I started to come back home me, MY thoughts, MY beliefs, MY strengths.  It wasn’t solved by external factors; it was solved by coming home to me.   I really never lost me, I just misplaced me.   Home is within you if you look hard enough!  And finding yourself is as great as coming home from a vacation and finally getting to sleep in you own bed. Ah! There really is no place like home!

When I was lost in my land of Oz, I honestly believed that I could be enough and love enough for everyone!  My love could FIX things…marriages, friendship, finances, etc.  I didn’t know, or perhaps I forgot, that I deserved to be loved too. I forgot that I deserved to be loved and respected by others, especially people like my husband or friends. My forgetting that, I grew to dislike me so much, that this thought was just not plausible.  My heart was broken because’ I ‘ failed to fix my life and  I became exhausted by giving out all of my love. I was running on empty.  I gave my love to people who seriously did not deserve it.  And not only were they not worthy of it, they sucked me dry and never cared enough to return some love, not even a little bit.  Once I allowed my self to be loved by me, the rest began to fall into place.  And I want to make it clear that I don’t mean the love of a man, I am talking about finally feeling the love from myself, my parents, siblings, children, clients,  and yes, eventually the love from a great guy, and amazing, selfless friends.  I am home!  MY. HEART. IS. SO. FULL!!! I know many people struggle with these issues; I still have some of my own that I will tirelessly work on.  But our life is shaped by the people we meet along the way. Remember, the barriers you come across have no power over you in your home.  Stay the course.  Follow the yellow brick road.  Trust and love yourself.  Be brave and walk away from things that are not good for you.  Learn from your experiences.  And the most importance lesson of all…Persevere Bitches!

Parenting Fail

Photo by burak kostak on

I have heard people say that there should be a test administered for parenting before someone is permitted to bring a child into the world. I have witnessed stupid parents in action and sort of agree!  Yikes. A few years ago, I accidentally bought a Christmas gift with the wrong name monogrammed on it.  A friend recommended I try to sell it on a “Mommies” group on Facebook.  So, I sent a request to join the group, and posted my item.  It didn’t sell, but that is not where I am going with this.  I stayed on this group for a few weeks, and literally watched in shock as some of the most absurd posts surfaced.  “My child has been vomiting all night and hasn’t eaten in 2 days…anyone have a similar experience with this and have recommendations on what I should do?”  I immediately wanted to write, “You should call the Department of Human Services and tell them that you are an idiot and that your child needs to be put in foster care immediately!”  Why in the world would you ask Facebook people, most of which you have never met, what to do instead of hauling your ass to an Emergency Room or calling your child’s pediatrician?!?  The stupidity and peer pressure on that site was INSANE!  Another post went something like this, “It’s my son Biff’s 3rd birthday.  Looking for new ideas for his party.”  I found myself checking this post frequently out of curiosity.  “Oh, we had Ted’s Exotic Pets come to my son’s and the kids got to ride the Alpacas” Uhm…. What?  Or “We had a casino night and gave my 3-year-old and all his friends $30 to play games while smoking candy cigarettes and sipping juice cup martinis. It was so adorbs!”  I’m pulling your leg on that last one, but that is how outrageous some of the responses were.  What happened to the Good Old Days of “I made a Betty Crocker Cake, bought some Turkey Hill ice cream and we sang happy birthday with the kids on the block?”  I appreciate that I raised most of my children in simpler times. 

Let’s face it, there isn’t a science to parenting.  It is a hard and stressful job a good amount of the time.  I watch families in meltdown mode, dragging their kids through amusement parks and restaurants and think…How the hell did I survive that insanity? As I watched some of the comments in that group, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere along the line, we have lost track of the fact that a good parent doesn’t have to throw elaborate parties and buy expensive gifts.  We just need to teach our kids basic moral fundamentals:  Be honest, work hard, and love deeply, you know, important thinks like that.  But we also have an obligation to guide them onto that course and protect them along the way. This was a task I was not consistent on performing in my parenting.   I was really good at that for so many years, all the way up to the second I wasn’t. If there WAS a test on parenting and this section was on it, I am afraid that I would have failed miserably and would be childless today. 

I had the unique experience of being a very young mom and then an old mom.  Three of my children were born before my 24th birthday, and one after my 37th. I have to say that I didn’t dream of being a mom.  It was not part of my high school finance plan as I believed that I was going to be one of the top attorneys in the city, living in the penthouse suite at Rittenhouse Square, driving my brand-spanking-new, red Lamborghini, What else, right?  Lol…Talk about straying from your dreams.   As that young mom, I can remember being excited at each milestone my kids reached, not as an accomplishment to be proud of, but one less thing I had to do. I was trying to survive myself those days.  I regret that terribly looking back now.  The old mom version of me was so much more patient and present.  I was established in my career, had my own business, made my own hours and cried each time a milestone was met, and my son no longer needed me.  So, although, having children was not a planned thing for me, once I had them, I fell in love and I was fierce in protection them. 

As most moms, I spent more time making meals, doing laundry, helping with homework, and running to sports than there were hours in the day.  I also wanted to be the cool neighborhood mom, so if someone wanted to have a friend sleep over, the answer was typically yes. I rarely had a house of 3 kids; it was typically 5 to 6 most times.  As my girls got older, I ‘wanted’ to stay the cool mom, but I found that I tended to ‘lose my cool’ instead.  My older children were raised in a time of no cell phones, so I could keep track of them better believe it or not with my secret weapons…. EAVESDROPPING and INVASION OF PRIVACY!   If I heard there was a keg party down at the train tracks and they were going, sure enough, I was venturing back with a flashlight yelling to them by their first and last name and warning them that if I caught up with them, they were done.  YES, I was that mom!  I can recall my one daughter being on the phone on night, you know, the one attached to the wall. I overheard her talking about her friend’s mom being away and everyone going there for a party. When she finished, I said, “I hope you don’t think you are going to that house with no parental supervision.” “Oh, please mom, I’m not” was the response.  When she left, I called a friend of mine that lived in that neighborhood and asked her to look outside in about 15-20 minutes and let me know if she saw my daughter going into that house.  As sure as the sky is blue, my phone rang about 20 minutes later and my friends only words were, “You are good!”  Like most rationale parents, I drove to the house and calmly knocked on the door.  Suddenly the background music stopped playing.  So, I proceeded to knock again and wait patiently.  After a few minutes, all I could think is …You have got to be friggen kidding me?  Are they this stupid?  I stepped back and looked at the house: all blinds and curtains were pulled shut.  As I starred at the house trying to resist the urge to borrow an axe and chop through the door, I noticed that the half-moon window at the top of the storm door had clear glass.  A quick scan of the front of the house brought my attention to a large trash can.  I grabbed the trashcan, turned it upside down in front of the door, climbed up and looked in.  Can you imagine if this happened today, in the day and age of cell phone videos and social media?  I would be an internet sensation overnight with this type of insanity.  As I looked in, there were about 12-15 kids sitting on the living room floor looking up and me.  For the love of God!!!!   I tapped on the glass, pointed directly at the little liar that belonged to me, and made the motion with my thumb up and moving backwards over my shoulder that signified …” Let’s go!”  It took me all I had not to choke her right there. 

As my children became teenagers, I was hard on them at times…a lot of times if I am being honest.  I needed them to be great and stay out of trouble as I didn’t want them to turn out like me…mom at 18.  It was so important to me to show people that MY mistake as a teen would not carryover to my kids.  So, I could be super fun but super strict.  If you have one, you can also relate to that fact that teens like to test limits and in testing limits, they will tell lies along the way.  Some of my children lied more than others.  It was like the little boy who cried wolf.  At some point, I no longer believed a word that was being said by any of them.  This is the ultimate parent fail. It is my ultimate mom fail.   I will refer to the “unspeakable” event in my life many times in my blogs, but this is not my story to tell and its origin will remain private to protect people as a result.  My mistake is something that will haunt me forever, but I was fully committed to the belief that teens will lie to deflect attention away from the things they are trying to get away with.  In a lot of cases, I was 100% accurate and my theory worked.  However, in one very important situation, I was wrong. 

When you make a vital mistake as a parent, no matter what the situation is, it is extremely hard to accept.  As the parent, you are supposed to be correct all the time…Right?   You aim to be perfect in your children’s eyes.  When you fuck that up so significantly, how do you ever recover? You are clearly no longer their hero, or someone they can even count on, trust, or look up to.  Perhaps I am very hard on myself, perhaps other parents have made mistakes but adopt a ‘oh well, I tried my best’ attitude and live stress free, or perhaps, some of you are lucky enough to have not messed up.   But I am painfully aware of this reality EVERY…SINGLE…DAY!   And every so often, some of my adult children will get mad or frustrated with me, and do not ever miss the opportunity to remind me of my mistake. I feel that this is a perpetual sin I will be paying for indefinitely. 

I wanted to be the perfect mom, but I was not.  I have accepted that I have made a very big mistake that I can never change. I live with a terrible, gut wrenching fear that the thousands of things I have done right as a mom will not be the ones remembered at the end of my life, just the one I screwed up.  I watch the movie Eat, Pray, Love at least once a year, it’s one of my favorite movies! I watch it faithfully on New Year’s Day to remind myself that it is a new year and I need to continue to work on letting go all these demons that keep me trapped in the quiet torture of my mind and find balance.   The scene that touches me the most is when Richard from Texas and Liz are in the car after the wedding and she talks about wanting her ex-husbands forgiveness who she believes she hurt very deeply.  Richard says, “Forgive Yourself.  If you do that, then everything else will take care of itself.”  In the very next scene, Richard proceeds to tell her the story of how he messed up with his son.  Liz then asks, “Is that why you are here, to forgive yourself?” Richard replies that he is working on it.  Well I, too, am still working on it. At times I fear I will spend the rest of my life working on it.  But each year, when I watch that movie, that line breaks my heart a little less, so perhaps I am making progress.