Posted in Soapbox

Failure’s Fortune

Barbara Walters retired last week. While I find her to be grating at times, she is certainly due much respect and kudos for being a pioneer in the news business. I watched some of her farewell coverage, and one thing stood out among many significant things she has accomplished in her life:

Her epic failure.

In a groundbreaking move for 1976, she was paid an annual salary of one million dollars to co-anchor the nightly news with Harry Reasoner. He was ticked that she was earning twice his buck, plus he hadn’t been asked if he even wanted a co-anchor—let along a woman. (Anchorman, anyone?)

He didn’t hide his disdain. In the video below (click the pic), they give a quick summary of the relationship. In this day and age of the “photoshop mentality,” where we gloss over everything to make it look the “best” it can be, I find his raw contempt remarkable.



The ratings tanked and the duo failed. I’m sure in part it was due to the anti-chemistry that Reasoner created, but Barbara herself has said that news anchor wasn’t her strength. Later that year, she found the very thing that would turn her career around—the Barbara Walters Specials that became a resident part of our pop culture.

But first she failed miserably and nationally.

It was kind of like she got pantsed for the whole world to see.

On top of that, first Gilda Radner and then Cheri Oteri did hilarious parodies of her, too. It was easy to laugh at her—she was Barbara Waawaa.

I can’t imagine what that must have been like. My feelings can get hurt if someone doesn’t like the gift I thought they’d love, and here she is being patronized by a coworker and made fun of for her speech impediment on national TV.

I certainly wouldn’t have blamed her if she just licked her wounds and said “enough.”

But she didn’t. She just kept working at it. She developed her skills and found the perfect niche for her abilities.




Flash forward nearly 40 years, and as part of her recent tribute, women currently in the national news industry came out to say thanks to her for paving the way for them. Scores of women. It was an amazing testament to the impact that Barbara Walters has made.

I wonder if she hadn’t failed as that news anchor…would she still have accomplished all that she did? I know there’s no way to really know that, but…I wonder.

Failure can indeed propel us toward fortune. I don’t just mean monetary fortune, but the fortune of our calling…our creativity…our heart. When we fall, we have to make that decision to get up or give up. When we choose to get up, we do so knowing that we could fall again. We consciously decide it’s worth it, even with the pain of falling.

And yet it is so hard to risk it. At least it is for me. I’m not a fan of getting pantsed. I’m not a fan of falling on my face.  But if I only choose a path where I can ring up successes, then the path must be pretty flat and probably leads nowhere.

For several years I helped out with our school’s rollerblading unit for our younger grades. So many wobbly little ones trying to stay upright. Often I would tell a child, “You know what I think is the best thing to do to get over your fear of falling? Fall.” They would look up at me like “Who is this crazy lady helping me?!” but then I would tell them how once they fell, they would know what it feels like…and maybe it wouldn’t be so scary anymore.




Inevitably, they would indeed fall, and if I was there to help them up, I would ask, “So…what do you think about falling now?” and they would typically say “It’s not so bad!”

Of course, there are falls that you don’t bounce back up from. Some that can really break you, and I don’t mean to sugarcoat life’s devastating falls.

But Barbara Walter’s public failure is a great reminder to me that failure can be the first step on the road to fulfillment.

I need to let my wobbly little self continually put on my metaphorical roller blades and have at it. Hopefully every time I fall I’ll look up and say, “It’s not so bad!” And if it is bad, let’s hope there’s someone around who knows how to dial 911!

Posted in Life As I Know It

Lessons from a Failed Tube Top Experiment – My Messy Beautiful



If you have found your way here through Momastery’s Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project, WELCOME! I hope you enjoy this warrior’s messy, beautiful story today!




I’m not a tube top woman. Trust me. Few things in life—scratch that—one thing in life would ever get me to wear one. And let’s just say that experience offered quite the surprise insight.

As a half-Italian kid growing up in the 70s and 80s, I didn’t give much thought to whether or not I had a tan. When it was summer I was outside, and therefore, tan. Period. (Sunscreen wasn’t even around, so don’t give me a hard time.) It wasn’t until the summer of my wedding that I ever thought twice about tanning or tan lines.

My wedding was in late July, but early that summer I spent a long afternoon in the sun in my typical careless manner…wearing a tank top. I came home to distinct tan lines across my shoulders, and then it dawned on me: my wedding gown was strapless. Uh-oh.

What to do? Suddenly this girl who never paid attention to sun exposure was in overdrive to get the white from underneath the straps caught up to the new darker tone. This is not so easy to do. I took every moment I could to lay out (ack!) and try to have the color even out.

Never one to like just lying in the sun and baking, I decided to take drastic measures. I bought a tube top (aka bandeau) that I could wear and “be active” in—but only hidden in the backyard. These things are not what I would term “secure” attire. I found myself frequently hiking the slippery devil back into place and gingerly getting my work done.

As the handyman for my mom’s house since my dad died, I had a pretty wide range of abilities in getting tasks done, and one afternoon I needed to put new flashing on the roof of the shed. Not a problem, just climb up there and get to it. Let me tell, you, though—if you’ve never been up on an asphalt shingled roof, it’s not only hot, but the shingles have a rough, almost Velcro-like texture to them. So…there I was, splayed up on the roof, putting on some new flashing in my “tan-catch-up” wardrobe…

All was fine until the screwdriver decided to roll away from me and head toward the edge of the roof. I sprung up to grab for it, and…can you picture it?

As I shot up, my top didn’t. Gripped by the asphalt shingles, it stayed in place long enough for my left breast—let’s be real here—my left boob to pop out and peer over into the neighbor’s yard and all God’s creation.

Oh, the thoughts that passed through my mind in that brief moment. Thankfully, the neighbors were not in that part of the yard to see Lefty’s wide-eyed hello, but I was mortified.

And here comes the life lesson…are you ready? When your boob pops out, you just need to tuck it back in and get on with your business.

In that moment of mortification, I realized that that was all I could do. That and have a good laugh. I must have been one ridiculous site—the Tube Top Roofer.

But I didn’t give up and climb down—I finished the job, tube top and all (though I made sure there would be no more rolling tools to chase).

After that, I assessed how crazy I was in my attempts to solve my tan line problem and lightened up (pun so intended). By then the distinctness of the lines had lessened and it wasn’t quite as noticeable, but I was also done caring so much about it. The Tube Top Roofer retired.

My wedding day came, and even though the faded tan lines were there, I don’t think too many people noticed. At least no one came up to me and said, “You look beautiful—too bad about the tan lines, though.”


tan lines with text
Ah, the late 90s…


Sometimes it takes a boob popping out to put things in perspective. And sometimes it takes tucking a boob back in to remind me that I am one resilient woman, and it would take so much more to get me off of that metaphorical roof.

My life is a continual reminder that my plan does not equal reality—that my schedule is not THE schedule…and that real strength comes from adapting and making the best of what is indeed reality, rather than lamenting how things didn’t go “my” way.

Errant tan lines happen. Boobs pop out. But weddings happen, and even honeymoons do, too.



And then it is back to making a life and rolling with the changes—and tucking boobs back in and getting on with the business of living.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

PS—I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, you may also like where I write about my Beautifully Broken self. It was inspired by Glennon Doyle Melton’s series on Sacred Scared.