Dear Old Dad…How to Survive a Turbulent Childhood

IMG_5841My father passed away when I was ten years old, and to say he wasn’t a perfect parent would be an understatement.  He was both drug and sex addicted, and was rarely at home.  When he was around though, he could be really fun and spontaneous; washing everybody in the neighborhoods hair in the kitchen sink, letting us soap our own windows on Devil’s Night, and putting my sister on top of the refrigerator when she stepped on a nail and then proceeding to soak her foot in cottage cheese.

And then there was the other side…

He could be incredibly volatile; screaming at us in the back seat of the car to “shut the bleep up” while he took a hit off of a joint (with the windows up), ordering my brother to go upstairs to get the belt out of his closet so he could whoop my brother (that had to be the longest walk ever), and losing his mind because after scrambling some eggs, he decided to get creative and flip the eggs in the air, and they went all over the floor (I’m not sure he thought that one out).  His behavior was erratic and we walked on egg shells whenever he was around.  He scared the heck out of me, and to this day I have PTSD-like symptoms when I’m around somebody who exhibits excessive mood swings.

He was far from perfect, but today I can say with confidence that he did his best. 

Now, it took me a very long time to buy into this “he did his best” concept.  It felt like a cop-out at first. “Why couldn’t he do better?” I would think to myself.  “He had to know better.”  “He had to know he was hurting us, and himself.”  “He had to know the drugs and his decisions were tearing our family apart.”  But in truth, he was a broken man who didn’t know how to do better or he would have.  His parents never taught him how to love, and when my dad was a very young boy his mother gave him and his siblings the responsibility of watching over their even younger brother, who sadly got hit by a car and died on their watch.  His mother blamed them, and there was tremendous guilt and shame in the family after he died.  It was clear that my father never found a way to forgive himself.

I felt a huge weight lift off of me once I understood where my father was coming from and why he acted the way he did.  I felt even better once I was able to forgive him because I knew in my heart he did his best.  And yet, I still felt a lot of anger and sadness around it, so of course, I had no place left to look but inside.

What were the stories I was still holding on to in relation to my dad? 

What were my expectations when it came to my dad?  (Expectations are something that often cause me suffering, so I knew there was something related to expectation at the bottom of this).

I’ve never met a perfect parent.  I certainly am not, my kids would be the first to tell you, but I can say for certain that I am 100% committed to showing my kids that they are loved. Unfortunately, my father was not quite as committed.   As a result, most of my life, I longed for the type of love I thought the perfect father would provide.  I longed to be loved by a father with great strength, who spent his days committed to his family and who would do just about anything to protect them.  I longed for a father who would give sage advice, who would show me I was loved, who would walk me down the aisle at my wedding, who would look at me with pride in his eyes the way father’s do when they’re watching their children, and most of all, who would show me that I’m worthy. 

I continued to experience anger and sadness until I was willing to look at these stories to see how they were holding these feelings securely inside of me.  What I came away with, after doing some digging, was that it was my job to love me, to know my worth, to be proud of myself, to trust in my own instincts and to know what’s best for me.  This was revolutionary!  But the more I thought about it, the more I knew that nobody else could possibly know what is best for me or give me what my own intuition naturally provides.  And once I took responsibility for my own life, I found great strength in becoming that provider and protector of myself and my family. 

One final step…I still wasn’t there.

Like my father, I still needed to forgive myself.  I needed forgive myself for believing the stories I told myself.  I needed to forgive myself for waiting around for somebody else to rescue me and guide me, when I already had all of the tools I needed to do that for myself.  I needed to forgive myself for believing that all fathers are perfect, all knowing and loving beings.  Most of all, I needed to forgive myself for believing that my father should have put his family first before his addictions and pain.  That was just not the reality – because he didn’t. 

Once I peeked under the hood of my stories, pinpointed my unrealistic expectations, forgave myself for my false beliefs, saw my father for who he really was and forgave my father, I felt free.  Ironically, this path lead me to be more forgiving of myself as a parent, because like my father, I am doing my best. 

A+ Student, not so much #13

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A+ STUDENT, NOT SO MUCH

As long as I can remember, I thought of myself as the person in my family who had the good grades, the first to go to college and so on. I prided myself on this story, until recently when I had to request my high school transcripts and was shocked to find that I bombed several classes in 9th and 10th grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they were the classes I thought I excelled in, math and English. It’s ironic that I eventually chose to become a writer when I literally failed English in 9th grade and managed to raise my grade to a whopping D the second time I took it in 10th grade. It just goes to show you that a high school transcript is not necessarily a picture of one’s future.

I’ve always seen myself as a numbers geek too, I still do today. I find things related to numbers interesting, like investigating and tracking financial accounts to determine the trail of funds, for example. My memory of math in school was that it came very easily to me, and that I got straight A’s. And yet, I did not do well in math my first two years of high school. Hmmm…perhaps the brownies and cookies I gave to my teachers didn’t work as well as I remembered.

The good news is I eventually woke up and improved each semester until I graduated 34th in my class of 350 students (I’m not even sure how I know that). It may or may not be a coincidence that my grades improved significantly after we moved in 11th grade, and again in 12th grade.  I am certain all of the drugs I did in 9th and 10th grade had nothing to do with the D’s and E’s either.  But, because I have chosen to be completely honest, I have to admit I got into drugs starting in 7th grade and this continuing on through the end of high school. It obviously showed in my grades, and evidently effected my memory of my grades too!

The thing about honesty though, is that we all have a very different perception of the truth depending on our vantage point and our experiences. In this case, since my mother never yelled at me about homework or my grades like she did my siblings, and since I spent many of my days high on one thing or another during those years, the part I played in my movie was one of a straight A student. The truth was a very different story. If you had asked me prior to seeing the grades in black and white, I would have sworn to you that I was a straight A student. mymovieWe all see life through different lenses. Some people see the glass as half empty, some see it half full. Some people see life through rose-colored glasses, some with dark shades. Some folks bury their heads in the sand or sweep things under the rug, but each of us sees life through our own viewfinder which is continually changing throughout our lives based on everything we see and experience.  If we were to witness an event at age 20 and then witness that same event at age 40, we would have very different stories to report. Similarly, when several people are witnessing the same event, you’ll hear them tell different stories of how the events unfolded, and they will defend their individual positions vehemently. The truth is, they are all right, because they all saw it happen through their viewfinder. It’s their truth.

So the next time you find yourself defending your position, just breathe, and consider that maybe being right isn’t all that practical, and maybe it isn’t all that important either. Maybe having peace in your relationships is far more important than being right.

The Age of Aquarius #1

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

 

The Age of Aquarius

Born in the 60’s to two beautiful, free-thinking hippies, life was anything but “normal”. Our jet-setting parents, who resembled movie stars, had big parties, big hair, took us on fancy vacations and exposed us to a fast-paced way of life. Not your typical hippies, I suppose.

We regularly attended public school – except that one time which you will learn about later. Oy veh.  We performed dance routines on the lawn for our parents with the neighbor kids, we rode our bikes all day until dusk, and we spent our days doing what most typical kids did back in the 60’s and 70’s. Looking back, it’s pretty clear that our lives were “different” than most of the kids on our block.

Believe me when I tell you I had plenty to be potentially embarrassed about growing up. I could have walked around in shame because my family looked and acted differently, but over time I was able to see the blessings that came with being raised by hippies. I learned to see my life through eyes of appreciation, freeing myself of shame – a very harmful substance to store in one’s body.

This “peace/love” world taught me to be open-minded and accepting of all types of people and circumstances without much effort. “Live and let live” was the mantra of their generation and in our house. Imagine a world where everybody accepted everybody else for who they are and with love for their neighbor. The world would be a very different place today. I’m proud of this gift I was given at a young age, and to this day strangers regularly approach me and tell me their stories effortlessly as if they have known me forever. I feel truly blessed that people feel safe to share their lives with me.

Having been raised by two parents who were “otherwise focused” taught me to be low maintenance and independent, too. I see how hard people work to keep up appearances and how they rely so heavily on others, and I am grateful to have learned to take care of myself without needing material objects to make me happy. This made things much easier when I lost my job later in life and had to downsize my life considerably.

Our parents teach us in many ways, and some of their best lessons are in the form of what not to do. I learned that a life of partying and drugs was not the life for me by watching others using drugs in excess. I may have had a completely different experience in another family, but I cherish my past and all of its dysfunction…I have no regrets.

Just Breathe…

The greatest smallest just breathe logogifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might ask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A Mama’s Gotta take a Breath…#12

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A Mama’s Gotta take a Breath…

Becoming a mom is unquestionably the best decision I’ve ever made.  I know, with certainty, that I was meant to be a mom.  In fact, sometimes my teenagers still tease me, asking me if I want to put sunscreen on them and bubble wrap around them before they leave the house.  I may be a little overprotective, but I love the “cubs”, as I call them, more than I could ever imagine loving anybody, so sometimes I overdo it. Having said all that, parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever committed to doing.

IMG_2187 (1)When you’re thinking about having kids nobody tells you just exactly what’s involved, and even if they did you wouldn’t listen.  Before you have kids, you think “that looks easy, why don’t they just make that screaming kid be quiet. I would never let my child get away with that.”  It isn’t until you’re in the thick of it, and you’ve survived night after night with just two hours of sleep, and somehow you are still madly in love with that little punk who caused all those sleepless nights, that you know you were meant to be a parent.

There’s no question parenting is challenging.  Today, for example, I planned to write, and I had a video conference call scheduled. My whole day was planned out and I was motivated! And then, it dawned on me that it was a half day at school and the kids would be home at 12:00. So I rescheduled my conference call to an earlier time.  And then, my son decided he wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home from school. So he stayed home and promised to stay in his room during my conference call.  The conference call came in 45 minutes early, and my son came out of his room in his underwear, and the person on the other end of the video asked about the kid in his underwear.  He went to the kitchen to make something to eat and the noise made it hard to concentrate for both me and the person on the other end of the call that I had been waiting for all week. He eventually went back into his bedroom, and my other son rang the buzzer, he was home from school!  Shortly after, my nephew came over.  Let’s just say, it wasn’t the quiet, productive day I had envisioned.

So what’s a girl to do when things don’t go exactly as planned; breathe, of course.  While all of this was going on, I have to admit, I did more yelling then breathing.  But the kids went out for a little while and it gave me time to meditate. By the time they got home I was sane again and we had a nice peaceful night. Had I not taken the time to breathe, I may have still been frustrated when they got home, and the night may have gone a very differently, but I don’t like to waste precious time being angry with the people I love.IMG_2196 (1)

I was reminded today that if I had taken the time to ‘just breathe’ while all of this was going on, I would have had a second to remember that everything happens exactly as it’s supposed to.  My perspective would have shifted right away, and my meeting would have gone better because I would have been more present.

Kids are our best teachers; they are our mirrors, showing us exactly what we need to see in ourselves. By being noisy, my kids showed me that I am paying too much attention to the noise in my head. By being disruptive, they were showing me that I have been procrastinating and letting things get in the way of the plans I have for myself. By getting in my space, they showed me that I have to tighten up my boundaries.

Of course, my kids weren’t innocent in all of this, but ultimately everything that comes into our lives is ours even if it appears that somebody else is causing it.  We can either choose to learn from it or we can be the victim of it. The good news is we have a choice, and I still adore the cubs, even though sometimes they make me crazy.

Dear Corporate America, Lobbyists, Politicians,

Dear Corporate America, Lobbyists, Politicians,089

I’m writing to you as a concerned citizen. I’m concerned for future generations and the legacy we are all leaving for them. I’m sure to some this will seem obvious. My hope is to appeal to those who do not see it that way.

I realize from a corporate standpoint one needs to consider shareholders and profit margins, but to what end? What is enough? When will the shareholders feel confident enough that their investment is secure and that they can finally rest assured; $10 a share, $20, $100?

If we’re making decisions based solely on profit margin then the decisions we make will not support the well-being of the people who purchase those products and services, including you, your friends and family. I’m sure this fact has not been lost on you. I know for sure no amount of money will make you or any shareholder feel whole and happy inside. I know that deep down you know you are not exempt from the effects of all of these bad decisions any more than anybody else.

I am a mother who took a drug that was prescribed to me while I was pregnant and this particular drug company knew it was dangerous for babies in utero, and yet they made the decision to side with profit over the health of my son and so many other children. At 11 years old my son had to have open-heart surgery. There is no reason in the world that should have happened. I’m am curious to know, if that company had taken a vote with the shareholders and asked them if they would rather make an additional $5.00 per share or save the lives of children, what the outcome of that vote would be.

How about showing our children that honesty and integrity are the most important traits to cultivate. How about teaching them that the dollar isn’t the end all, because it isn’t. In fact, some corporations actually do set a good example and they are wildly successful! Look at Starbucks and Chipotle, they don’t compromise on standards or the well-being of humanity, and with little exception their stock prices have risen consistently over time. They are doing quite well for the shareholders, and I’ll bet they sleep very well at night.

How about showing future generations that they matter, they are our future after all, and they will be making big decisions on our behalf as we age. The younger generation is acutely aware that big business and politics don’t consider their education a priority, for instance. The decrease in funding and opportunities in schools is a clear indication that cannot be ignored. This fact is only heightened by the extraordinarily out-of-proportion defense budget that skyrockets as the education budget plummets. How can we expect our children to compete in this world and live to their highest potential when their opportunities are being depleted? There is no good reason for this. We cannot expect our children to respect us when we aren’t making decisions to their benefit, making them a priority.

To make matters worse, if you have ever spent time with a typical young adult from the inner city, you know the insurmountable odds they have to overcome to be successful. Education and nutrition, though, are two simple ways to afford these kids with an even playing field. We wish for less crime, a more civilized inner city, and yet we do not do the very things that would allow for it to happen; enthusiastically educate all of our children and provide them with the nutrition they need to be healthy and strong.

So, why is it that big business as a whole cannot seem to get on board with socially conscious business practices? How much profit is enough; $5 million, $10 million, $10 billion? And how do you sleep at night knowing the decisions you’re making are negatively impacting not only us, but you, your friends and family? If I had to guess I would bet you’re not sleeping well at all, and yes I’m talking to you. GMO’s aren’t only in my food, they are in yours too. Not only my friends and family are taking pharmaceuticals made by your companies, I’m guessing you are too – maybe ulcer medications, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids??

You have to see the path you are creating for our children. People are far less healthy despite all of our medical advancements, and so many people are getting cancer. I recently had breast cancer, and I am an otherwise very healthy, clean living person. I went to an all-day meeting at the hospital that they have for new patients every Monday, and every Monday there is 10-15 new people diagnosed with breast cancer just in this one hospital! That’s outrageous. Daily decisions being made by big business and politicians are, without a doubt, significantly effecting our health and well-being. You cannot bury your head in the sand forever. One day it is going to affect you and or somebody you love. It’s not too late to turn things around.

So, how about working on creating good healthy foods for us all to eat, or drugs that actually make us healthier so we don’t get sick? How about instead of spending enormous amounts of money lobbying against things that are for the greater good of humanity (ex. GMO labeling) in order to create more profit for yourselves and the shareholders, you spend that money on making people healthier? How is this not an obvious course of action in light of the crisis our world is facing?

Our world is in crisis because of bad decisions made by people in power. I am begging you to consider being somebody who makes a difference in this world, but a positive one. Do things differently! Go against the grain! Be a leader our future generations can look up to and emulate! You have a choice every day in every decision you make.
Do you really want to leave a legacy of destruction? I can’t imagine you want your children to one day know the negative impact you had on the world. Or how about your grandchildren? Remember, the food you are producing and the decisions you’re making about pharmaceuticals are no safer for your family to take then they are for anybody else? And one day a doctor may tell them they need to take something and tell them that it is perfectly safe. Are you going to tell them it isn’t and that “you had to make the shareholders happy so you marketed that drug anyways, and you hope they understand” while you sit with them in the hospital during their cancer treatments or heart surgery?

So what’s it going to be? Are you going to leave this world a better place or are you going to be bullied by the propaganda that shareholders care more about the bottom line than the great good? Are you going to be a leader you and your family can be proud of or are you going to live in fear propagating more fear for a living? You can be an ass kicking leader, you just have to be brave and do the right thing!

I’m here if you need me.

Karen

5 Critical Things to Avoid in your Divorce

Aside from the obvious lying, cheating, stealing, physically hurting or killing another person, there are five vital things you will want to avoid when you are getting divorced.

1. Don’t play games! Decide up front what your goals are and how you want things to go for you. I would recommend peace and compromise because it worked very well for me, but it’s your choice how much stress you would like to endure.

· Don’t make things up about the other person to get ahead.

· Be fair and reasonable.

· Be honest with yourself and consider the effects your decisions have on everybody involved.

· Don’t ask your ex to do anything you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.

· Take the high road and you will win in the end.

· Remember, what comes around goes around.

2. DO NOT USE YOUR CHILDREN AS PAWNS TO GET WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR EX! This is the greatest of sins if you ask me. Leave the kids out of it! There is nothing in the world worth fighting over at the expense of your kids.

Don’t deny the other parent custody because you want more money or possession! That’s absolutely ridiculous! You are purposely causing pain and suffering to not only your ex, but your kids too! Every child loves their parents and deserves to have both parents peacefully living in their lives. If your ex dumped you and you are bitter, go to therapy and leave the kids out of it!

I grew up without a father and believe me when I tell you that living without a parent in your life shapes who you become in your teens and as an adult. Let’s just say one might look for love in all the wrong places if they don’t have a good male or female role model in their life. Don’t fool yourself into believing that a step parent can fill the shoes of a biological parent-would that be good enough for you?

3. Don’t hire a cut throat lawyer that wants to tear your ex to shreds. There are plenty of good, qualified attorneys that have your same values and succeed in court without tearing the opposing party apart. One of my favorite sayings is “How you do anything is how you do everything.” If you hire a lawyer that thinks putting your ex through the ringer is a good idea, imagine what they have in store for you. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with keeping you in court as long as possible and taking all your money. Unless you want to spend all your time and money in court, I would think long and hard about who you hire to represent you.

4. Don’t continually change the parenting schedule, show up late or drop off the kids late. One of the best things you can do for your kids is to give them clear expectations and a consistent schedule. Children thrive when they know what to expect, they feel safer. Consistency is one of the keys to your child’s well being.

5. If you are required to pay child support, pay it! It is the right thing to do and, frankly, kids are a fortune to feed! It’s been my experience that no matter how much child support is awarded by the court, the person paying it ALWAYS feels like it’s too much and the person receiving it feels like it’s NEVER enough. I have yet to find an exception to this rule.