Dear Evan Hansen

In February my sister took the kids and I to see the brand new musical, Dear Evan Hansen. The story is about Evan Hansen, a high school senior who deals with crushing anxiety. He see’s a therapist, takes medicine, and just doesn’t fit in…anywhere. My darling son also deals with these issues at times and we thought that it might be a great way for him to see that he isn’t alone. There are so many people out there struggling from depression & anxiety, and it can lead them to feel incredibly isolated. For a moment we worried that it might actually trigger him, but in the end I thought it was worth the risk. It was.

What an incredible show! I cried through most of the show (as did everyone else). Evan’s is being raised by a single mother (like me) and it was so incredible for me to see that I am not alone. There are plenty of other parents who have highly sensitive children like mine…like Evan Hansen. Her struggles are my struggles too. His struggles are my sons struggles too.

Last night at the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for nine awards, winning six including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt who was AMAZING as Evan Hansen. I am still cheering today!

In this crazy upside down world, leave it to the artists to keep us grounded. I never thought that a musical about an awkward and anxious kid could sweep the Tony’s and win over the hearts of so many, including mine. And in the process shine a much-needed light on the struggles of mental illness that are more common than we like to think.

I tell my son that he takes his medicine because his brain doesn’t make enough of a certain chemical. It’s like a diabetic who needs his insulin to balance his blood.

Thank you Dear Evan Hansen for helping me show my son that he isn’t alone. That there are others that understand him and his very personal struggle. Last night was just the cherry on the top as it won critical acclaim, reminding us that it’s okay not to always be ok. What makes us different is also what sets us apart and makes us unique to this world.

If you get a chance to see this amazing play, do it! If you have a teenage kid who struggles like mine, and Evan Hansen, then save your money and try to take them to the show. You cant get much better therapy than this. xo ella

“Don’t waste your time trying to be like everybody else because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.” – Ben Platt

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https://youtu.be/0vkTxakkho4
(click on link to see the performance of Waving Through a Window at last night’s Tony Awards.)
Waving Through a Window
I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me
Give them no reason to stare
No slipping up if you slip away
So I’ve got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say
Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
I’m waving through a window
Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving
Back at me?
We start with stars in our eyes
We start believing that we belong
But every sun doesn’t rise
And no one tells you where you went wrong
Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving?
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
Did I even make a sound
It’s like I never made a sound
Will I ever make a sound?
On the outside always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been
’cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
Waving through a window
I try to speak
But nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass
Waving through a window
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?
Oooh, is anybody waving
Waving, waving, whoa-oh, whoa-oh-oh-oh
“Waving Through a Window” is a song performed
by Ben Platt (Evan) from the Broadway musical
DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

Perfect.

Perfect

Fuckin’ Perfect

Made a wrong turn, once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that’s alright
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, misunderstood
Miss ‘No way, it’s all good’, it didn’t slow me down
Mistaken, always second guessing, underestimated
Look, I’m still around
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you are less than, less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing
You’re fuckin’ perfect to me
You’re so mean when you talk about yourself, you were wrong
Change the voices in your head make them like you instead
So complicated, look happy, you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred, such a tired game
It’s enough, I’ve done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons, I’ve seen you do the same
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you are less than, less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel like you’re nothing
You’re fuckin’ perfect to me
The whole world’s scared so I swallow the fear
The only thing I should be drinking is an ice cold beer
So cool in line, and we try try try
But we try too hard and it’s a waste of my time
Done looking for the critics, cause they’re everywhere
They don{t like my jeans; they don’t get my hair
Exchange ourselves, and we do it all the time
Why do we do that? Why do I do that
Why do I do that?
Yeah, oh, oh baby, pretty baby
Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than fuckin’ perfect
Pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you’re nothing, you’re fuckin’ perfect to me, yeah
You’re perfect, you’re perfect
Oh pretty, pretty please, if you ever, ever feel
Like you’re nothin’ you’re fuckin’ perfect to me
Songwriters: Alecia Moore / Johan Schuster / Max Martin

Endless

love

“Love. It will not betray you, dismay you or enslave you. It will set you free.”
– Mumford & Sons

I used to have a warped idea about love. I believed that if I loved deeply and intensely with all of myself I could change the world. My ex-husband walked into my life-like a black hole. He sucked everything that I had out of me and then he demanded more. Everyday I paid a toll for being alive and it wasn’t cheap. He took everything I had to give, spit it back into my face, and then took more. I loved him though. I just kept scraping up what I could find of me to give to him. Little pieces, tiny shards of myself, were all I could find in the end. Never have I met another who could find so much to take from so very little. I left him as a shell of the person I had met him as, but I also left him with so much more than I had come to him with.

My world has never been the same. Even after years of separation he is with me everyday. How can you turn off love? I have my moments of anger and regret, but my love for that incredibly sick and imperfect man is still there. It’s changed in scope and I don’t respect him, or speak to him for that matter, but for a fellow human, hurting and damaged, I still have love. As a child I was raised to love and turn the other cheek. As a wife I learned to survive. As a single mother I learned to fight back to protect my young. We live so many lifetimes over and over in this single life we are given. And we have the potential to love many times over. When my marriage crumbled I thought that was it. Party over. The ship sailed. I didn’t think that I could ever have the capacity to love another person in that way again. Love taught me differently though.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8

After my marriage exploded I focused on what I knew would never fail me; the love for my children. Pure and unconditional love knows no deeper depths than that of a mother for her children. I poured myself into them so that they would know that I could love them enough for both their father and I. I alone was going to be enough for them. That was going to be enough. I was going to be ok. And as time passed I realized that love was not a one way street. If you loved the right people then love could come back to you as well. Loving people has always been easy for me, but It took me a long time to get comfortable trusting someone enough to allow them to love me back. To be able to believe in that love and accept it was something  I had to learn.

I learned, that I needed to love myself first, way too late into the game. If I could love myself then all future relationships had a chance of being balanced and healthy. It’s somewhat impossible to have a solid relationship with another person if you don’t love and respect yourself. People throw the word love around like its candy. Love, true love, is so much more than that. It is layered, rich, and runs deep. It has a foundation of trust, loyalty, and an innate desire to bring happiness into another’s life. If you can have that kind of relationship with yourself how can love fail? True love is complete freedom to be you while sharing your life with another. It is fail proof because even if you part ways, love finds a way to carry on.

In our youth it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of love’s depths. Love has a very narrow view. We know love for family and then we know the Hallmark version. As we grow, get hurt, heal, and deepen our personal awareness we learn that love can be so much more than that. We humans get so hung up on the idea of romantic love to come and save us and it’s a sham. Love is peddled as an industry generating millions each year. It starts with Valentine’s Day and continues through, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and funerals. Our society spends so much money trying to buy and capture love when in reality true love is free and it is endless.

Love is not something we buy in a store. It is living, breathing, alive. It has the ability to change the course of your life. Love can end wars and change nations. If we want this world to survive than love is the only thing that can save us. Love is stronger than any kind of hate. Love endures and love is the only thing truly worth fighting for.  Love is boundless. And if  love finds you worthy then you must be prepared to love in return. Love is not one-sided. It is patient and it is kind. Love is long-suffering, humble and loyal. It will be the sunrise and the sunset of your days. Embrace it and cherish it. Give it space to grow and nourish it. Just know that true love can crown you and crucify you, but if you want to love then there is no half stepping. Love is endless…it goes on and on and on.

xo Ella

Incremental Growth

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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions and I don’t believe in diets. I don’t think that quick fix fads work, and I believe in buying quality over quantity. I often find myself at odds with the rest of the world, but it wasn’t always like this for me. In fact, there was a time when I lived in the fast lane and was all in. I had a long list of goals tucked safely into my passport. I was on the move and I wanted to do it all.

I have changed since then and doing it all just doesn’t feel as enticing or thrilling to me as it used to. The fear of missing out or not keeping up has dissipated, and I am living a much different life than I could ever have dreamed of before. That’s the thing about your dreams…they need to be flexibile. If you don’t have flexibility in your life you will inevitably end up feeling like a failure. It’s much better to set out with a goal paired with an open mind & heart and just see where life will take you. Life is always changing and I find it so much better to flow with it than feel like I am being dragged by it.

How do we adjust our sails as we live headlong into heartbreak and defeat? Life is full of it and it can’t be avoided. If you think you can avoid the heart breaks then you are in for a rude awakening one day. When I go to see my therapist I occasionally get handed a questionnaire to answer before I go in. It’s a benchmark guide to see how I am doing compared to past visits. I’m given statements and I have to rate where I feel in that moment. One of them is, “I feel like a failure.” Another is “I feel like I am being punished.” Each time I read them I hear a voice in my head say, “You have every right to say ‘YES’, but it’s simply not your truth.”

What is my truth? I don’t believe in failure. I believe in learning lessons, and sometimes those lessons are harsh. For instance, there was that time I married a man who I thought was my soul mate only to realize that he would be my biggest life lesson. I don’t feel like I failed because I chose to learn from it instead. How was I to know that my soul mate would be mentally ill, and abusive? I followed my heart and I gave it my all, but it didn’t work out. In fact, it ended very badly for all involved. I could have stayed down on the ground, and quite honestly I don’t remember getting up. The point is that I got up and I don’t see myself as a failure.

When my marriage blew apart it honestly felt like the apocalypse had snuck up and screwed me from behind. I had been living in a prison and when the door opened I ran. I didn’t see it coming, but when it did, it exploded into a fire-ball and left a lot of collateral damage. Some people may have felt like they were being punished, but I simply don’t believe in that.  I could choose to blame myself and label myself a failure, but I know that I did the very best that I could, so how could I be a failure? When I look back at the charred Earth and all the loss I often wonder why I don’t. I know it is because of my audacious hope.

I don’t know what I am doing any more than the next guy, but I do know that I give a shit. And I truly believe that here in this moment is where my life is happening. I take a daily inventory. I check in with myself. I make sure that I am taking care of myself, and I am really grateful for my life. It’s not easy to have the bottom drop out on you. It’s not easy to pick up the pieces and sort through the debris. It’s been years, and I am still sorting through it. Healing and self enlightenment don’t come easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. Accepting where you faltered and what you should have done differently isn’t easy, it takes a lot of honesty and patience.

There are so many choices to make and each choice that we make brings definition to what will be our life story. It goes a long way when you can accept that you will make mistakes and yet still believe that when you come up on the other side it will be okay. It has taken me a lot of practice and patience to be understanding and compassionate with myself. Every single day I put that into practice because the world keeps telling me the opposite. It takes hard work to break down the all the armour we spend years building throughout our younger years. The beauty is that redemption is possible. It’s there for the taking.

xo Ella

I Choose Joy

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Christmas magic is silent.  You don’t hear it ~ you feel it. You know it.  You believe it. 

I am so blessed to have grown up in a home that celebrated the Christmas season with healthy gusto. As soon as December came around my mother would spin into action. Like a racehorse in the starting gate she was ready to take off at the shot of the gun. Boxes were pulled out of the attic and I would watch her take down the Fall decorations to ready the house for Christmas. It was hands down my favorite time of the year, and that was because my Mother made it magical.

When I grew up and had my first child it happened to me. As December approached I could barely contain myself. I had a list of things on that first Christmas To Do List. I wanted my child to know the kind of magic that only comes round one time a year. We picked out a beautiful tree and decorated it with ornaments; some of our choosing and some handed down from my mother and Grandmother. As Christmas cheer pulsed through my veins I quickly realized that I was becoming my mother.

It’s amazing how once we have kids we start seeing ourselves in our parents. It can be comical actually. Every mother has her own odd ideas of what is precious and shall become a tradition in their home. This is the first year in my home where Santa is no longer a larger than life figure. I have to admit that it takes the excitement down a notch. The Elf on the Shelf is out but he isn’t participating in our daily life as he has in seasons past. In some ways it’s a relief and in other ways I am trying to think of something we can do in his place.

When I left my husband it was on a freezing cold night a couple of weeks before Christmas. I had young children, nowhere to go, and I was terrified for our lives. That was a tough Christmas, but I had to make a decision that year about how I was going to proceed. Although I could barely think straight enough to eat,  I made it as magical as I could with the kids. My mother was there and dove right in to help me with that. That was the toughest time in my life and it happened during my favorite time of the year. In the end it was lovely because I was so grateful to be with my family. I may have even seen my 5-year-old smile that day.

I learned from my parents that Christmas is so much more than just a day. It’s more than presents. My parents celebrated the birth of Jesus and that was the reason for the season. The pre-Christmas busyness of planning, baking, wrapping, and shopping gave me a high. Seeing others happy is just about the best thing in the world isn’t it? I seize this opportunity every year to spread around some Christmas magic of my own.

I know a lot of people who hate this time of year. Perhaps they don’t have good childhood memories, perhaps like me, something happened to them that time of year or perhaps they just didn’t have anyone to truly celebrate with. I know it can trigger depression in people and I get that. When the middle of December comes around I get triggered too and I have to remember the choice that I made in my first year of freedom.

I wasn’t going to let the memory of my ex throwing out the Christmas tree with the ornaments away in the trash like the Grinch steal me of my Joy. I wasn’t going to let the fact that I didn’t have a home, a job, or any money destroy Christmas holidays yet to come. I was going to fight for what I loved. And so every year around this time I have to make a choice…do I allow the past to creep in or do I focus on creating some magic for those around me? I will always choose the latter.

If you are reading this and one of those people who struggle with the holidays I want to suggest that you focus your heart on being grateful. Because being grateful for my life, my kids lives, and the freedom to simply be able to celebrate Christmas is far more powerful than anything anyone can throw my way. Christmas spirit is a real thing, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some of us have to make a conscious decision to be happy. I chose Joy, because sometimes it really is as simple as that.

xo Ella

Love One Another

Mandela

I was born into a large Irish Catholic family. I attended Catholic school and have been fully indocrinated with it’s teachings. I’ve studied the Bible, and I know that I prefer the New Testament to the Old, but that they must stand together to be whole. I don’t go to church anymore, but all these years later there are two things that I lean upon in my daily life. They are a part of my personal foundation and ironically they are both attributed to Jesus. 

“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Luke 6:31 (The Golden Rule)

I have studied many religions and philosophies over the years. From Buddhism and Toaism to Rastafarianism and Wicca.  I have come to believe that it is not religion that makes the person, but rather the heart. I prefer to think of myself as a highly spirtiual person rather than a religious one. It is my relationship that I have with my God that is what is most important to me. No laws made by man can ever change what I hold in my heart and soul. I know my truth. 

It is a wonder to me that after all I have learned that the two things that I return to time and time again are the simple words of Jesus Christ. It’s honestly a wonder to me, because growing up in a house where religion was crammed down my throat, I chose to reject it all for many years. I was angry and I thought it was bullshit mind-control. One day my high-Catholic school history teacher tried to make sense of it to me. He said,”No matter what anyone says, I challenge you to read about Jesus and find one thing that you truly disagree with.” And so being the rebel that I have always been, I took his challenge and I read even more.  I learned that this man that walked the Earth so very long ago was of my tribe. He hung with the outcasts, the beggers, the downtrodden, prostitues, drunks, and lepers. He didn’t judge on outward appearances. He loved, because love was what he was sent to teach us how to do. 

Whether you believe that Jesus walked this Earth is up to you. If you believe he is the son of God then that is your truth (I would like to believe that, but I am honestly still on the fence.) I do know that this man is the greatest example of what Love incarnate is to us as humans. His words, examples, and life sacrifice have stood the test of time, and the world is forever changed by him. 

Today I awoke to the tragic news of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. A man full of hate targeted a gay dance club and opened fire. By now you all know the horrid details. I tried to stay away from the news, but I have been drawn to it. I lived in NYC on 9/11 and I know this kind of hate and the fear it breeds. I have tried to stay away from social media because the there is so much anger and hate which is breeding more anger and hate. It’s a vicious cycle that is going to get us nowhere. We cannot attempt to destroy an ideology no matter how much we try for it will only breed more hate. The only solution is love. 

This is what I know. The only true path is LOVE. In order to truly love you need to be able to forgive. To love is to live your live with compassion and empathy. It is to be tolerant, even those who do not align with your beliefs. To hate the sin and not the sinner for we are all marred by the weaknesses of the human condition. I didn’t ask to be born an American, but I am so grateful that I was. My life has not know the kind of war that so many other people have been born into. We are products of our environments and not all are blessed to be raised in peace. Ultimately, we all have to choose our path. We must think for ourselves and stand up for what we believe to true. I know that fear is stronger than hate. And I know that if we could all just learn to drop our anger, biases, and fears then perhaps we could one day know peace. As a realist I know that as humans war is our Earthly tradition. Who ever does not control will be controlled and we can see this played out over and over again throughout the centuries. Power is mighty drug.

In spite of all of this madness I will hold onto the philosphy we were all created equally. That the only true way is to love one another and treat each other as we would like to be treated in return. It’s really so simple, but we make it so complicated. In the end love is the only true path to freedom. Love is always louder than hate.

xo Ella 

Honor the Truth

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In 1991, a 35-year-old professor named Anita Hill was brought into the public eye when she testified to a Senate Judicial Committee about the sexual harassment she had endured by her former boss, Clarence Thomas. Thomas now proudly sits on the Supreme Court of the United States. I was a young professional at the time of the hearings and I can remember clearly feeling that she was telling the truth. Why would a woman, a women of color at that, want to face off with a panel of white men in power without good reason. I just finished watching the HBO movie, Confirmation, which attempts to tell the story from a different perspective then we were provided back in 1991. I believed her then, and I didn’t need to watch this movie to confirm it, but I am glad I did. 

“It’s going to take undoing centuries, if not longer, of devaluing women — all women. Adding race to it only makes it harder to overcome. I think today we’re in a better position to do that, by listening to women’s experiences and honoring the truth of our experiences and putting aside all of these myths that we’ve heard about women in these situations and what we’re supposed to believe versus looking at the reality.” – Anita Hill

It is amazing to me that people to this day can still argue the existence of sexual harassment that women have had to endure. I was a young single woman in 1991, just starting my career and men ran the businesses back then. In my first job I was an assistant, which meant a lot of color copying and errand running. Not very glorified for a recent Cum Laude graduate, but I was determined to climb to the top. One day while I was in my (male) boss’s office I was asked to bring some files into a board meeting that was taking place in another building. At the same time, my boss had the conference room, which was filled with all men, on speaker phone. When he said, “I am sending Ella over with the files” a male voice came through the phone and responded with, “Good, I hope she isn’t wearing any underwear.”

That was my first job as a professional. A job I had busted my ass off in college for.  My mouth dropped open and my boss turned red as he laughed and hung up the phone. I quickly told him that I wouldn’t be taking the files over. He told me I was being over sensitive. One of the women in the office stood up for me and said, “Joe, you can’t allow this! You can be sued for sexual harassment!” What I did next I still regret. I took the files and I walked across the street into that conference room and handed them to the man in charge. My cheeks burned red as the room got quiet and I felt the eyes of a dozen men upon me. 

I went home that night shaken and disillusioned. I can remember calling my father and telling him. We spoke about my options, but we both knew that my career would have been over if decided to sue. I most certainly would have been fired for some ridiculous reason, and then what company would hire me with a reputation for calling “sexual harassment” on its owners? I felt defeated, diminished, and shamed. That experience opened my eyes wide to the realities of the workplace and as I watched Anita Hill testify I new as well as any other woman that she was telling the truth. 

A lot has changed since then and I am grateful, but we have a long way to go. There’s a Sexual Harassment Law that is supposed to prevent this from happening in the work place now. The reality is that it still does. It happens everyday. I am sure that now the script has been flipped and there are women who harass men as well. I am not saying that this behavior solely belongs to men. However, men still have the majority of leadership roles in this country and the “old boys club” is still alive and kicking. I know that it is still an issue with young women trying to further their careers….play ball if you want to get ahead. 

These scenarios are still going on in all manner of business be it corporate or not. Power is a thirst that some people need to quench. There’ and old adage that many people out there believe, ‘he who does not control will be controlled.’ This is demonstrated over and over again in world history. What happens when a person stands up to the controlling party? The controlling party pushes back and discredits the attacker. Look around the world today and you can see that this is systematic of patriarchal societies. Women have always been the ones burning at the proverbial stake. 

I want to make it clear that I love people be they men or women. I have never had a prejudicial bone in my body. My heart aches for the oppressed and the disenfranchised. My mind fights against other people’s prejudice, hate, classism, bigotry, and sexism everyday. It is everywhere and it is abundantly clear who is leading the ranks. My heart breaks for Anita Hill and for all the women who have had to deal with this degradation in the workplace after fighting so hard to get where they are. Harriet Tubman was just declared the new face for the $20 bill and the derogatory comments I have heard about it in passing are so upsetting. What an incredibly BRAVE and loving human she was. It’s wonderful that she will be honored in this way. 

Times are changing and Ms. Hill is right, it is going to take a long time for things to change, but we are in the process. Our voices are our most powerful asset in this fight. By listening to women’s experiences and honoring the truth of our experiences things will begin to change. We’ve come a long way since 1991, but I still think that the majority of people will hold a man’s opinion over a woman’s.  As a survivor of abuse I know how this type of culture not only exists in the workplace, but permeates into the home as well. We must make sure we raise the next generation of men to understand that this is a human issue…not an issue of sex or power. It’s about being human, kind, decent, respectful, and fair. 

xo Ella