My Date with a Billionaire

Peter* is handsome and the founder of a company that takes in over a billion in sales each year. He travels all over the world in luxury, meets with former US Presidents, and is in fantastic shape.

Asked Out by a Billionaire

It’s not everyday that one gets asked out by a billionaire. Perhaps it’s more likely for one to be struck by lightening. 

In the Age of Cyberspace, I was sent a Friend Request by a very handsome man. 

In the Age of Cyberspace, I was able to learn a great deal about this stranger before deciding to accept his request.

The Facebook Down-Low 

Peter loves to travel. He has one sibling and owns multiple properties. Peter has a full head of hair and likes to spend time on the beach. He’s a father. He’s the Founder and owner of a well-known company.

I decided to accept Peter’s request.

Those First Text Messages

Peter was over-the-moon that I had accepted his Friend Request. He wrote eloquently and asked me engaging questions before asking me out to dinner.

“I’m in my ________ home now, but I’ll be flying back to ________ and would love to take you to dinner.”

Peter proceeded to suggest 5 different restaurants, each one ridiculously expensive. He then offered to pick me up or hire a car for me.

“Thank you for the offer. I’ll meet you there.”

My History with Wealthy Men

Years ago, I was with someone wealthy. However, when our relationship didn’t work out, the wealth was used as a weapon:

What Wealth Feels Like

So, it made sense that my spiritual hackles were raised by Peter — an affluent stranger who asked me out on social media.

Still, everyone is different and everyone deserves a chance.

 To discriminate against someone wealthy is no different than discriminating against someone poor.

Our date was set.

The Little Pebble in Your Shoe

You put on your socks, step into your shoes and something doesn’t feel right. You walk around and try to ignore it, but it’s there, you can just feel that something is in the way.

Sometimes it’s the little pebble in the shoe that needs to be addressed.

My little pebble: the age difference.

Upon further internet browsing, I learned that we weren’t ten years apart as originally assumed, nor fifteen years, but 17 years apart.

Does it Make a Difference?

As a social experiment, I’m purposely not sharing which direction this age difference is. For example, is Peter:

  • 17 years younger than me?
  • 17 years older than me?

Why?

 Because it doesn’t make a difference which way the age gap falls, almost 2 decades of “Age Distance” in either direction is significant.

What Does Matter

There’s nothing like preparing for a date with a billionaire to remind someone of what really matters:

Heeding your own inner voice and guidance.

Easier said than done on the cusp of a date with a billionaire. Suddenly, everyone has to give their two cents (seriously, no pun intended;-) As Clint Eastwood says in Dead Pool:

“Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.”

And the unsolicited opinions arrived:

“Seventeen years isn’t so bad.”

“Just go out with him for the experience.”

“You’ll be taken care of.”

“Who cares if you have nothing in common — he’s rich!”

“Let him spoil you. You deserve to be spoiled.”

“When he’s that rich, who the hell cares about age.”

Going Inward

Advice aside, I needed to listen to what thought was important. 

At the end of the day, it’s what YOU think that matters.

When I got quiet, I could hear my voice above the cacophony of others’:

Money comes and goes. It does not make a person. Certainly, money makes life easier. But I do not want or need a man to make my life easier. I want someone in my age range to enjoy and experience this life with on equal footing. The uneasiness in my stomach felt every time I think of this date is my body’s intuition. 

This man seems kind. I do not want to waste his time. He deserves to spend time with someone who will look forward to his company, not one who is looking for the EXIT sign as soon as they meet.

While our financial bank accounts might look a world different, we each carry a mortal bank account and deserve to spend it wisely before our unknown expiration dates.

My Decision

Once I realized that it was better — for me — to cancel our date, I took action.

Peter was a perfect gentleman, writing that he understood and wishing me and my family a Happy Thanksgiving.

My decision to cancel the date wasn’t personal to Peter; it was personal for me.

Peter “got” that. No doubt, he will meet the perfect woman for him.

The Fallout 

As with any decision we make in this world, there are reactions from those well-meaning people in our lives with their buttholes — er, opinions.

When people are disappointed in your decision, remember that it’s about them, not you.

Peter wasn’t offended in the least. He knew my decision was not about him. The age difference was my issue, not his.

My dear family and friends (not all) were overflowing with their opinions regarding my decision. I felt like I was a sport’s team, and they hadn’t liked my last play.

At the end of the day, our life’s choices are ours to live with.

Had I gone on the date or had I maintained my decision to decline doesn’t matter to anyone else — it doesn’t affect anyone else.

People who are close to us often mistake their opinions as ours.

When we are close to someone, we can easily lose ourselves in the story told to us.

But we are not someone else’s story. We can choose, at any time, to get back into the driver’s seat of our life and decide what does and doesn’t work for us.

The Good and Bad of Opinions

Opinions offer opportunities for us to consider other viewpoints and challenge our own. 

The danger of opinions, if we aren’t vigilant, is that they can stealthily morph into our own until we are living the life someone else wanted for us.

Vigilance is key. Paying attention to our body’s reactions to another’s advice. Questioning our reactions yet trusting them to guide us.

There is no wrong decision when it comes from our intuition.

*Name is altered for privacy purposes

Thankful of Steroids

And why it matters

Want to know a secret?

Whether you think life is awful or wonderful, you are correct.

The good news: we each have the power to alter our perceptions at any moment.

Live Like My Little Sis

I’ve just returned from the gift of spending time with my younger sister in NY. Well…my sister and her family. During my time there, the following occurred:

  • the bathroom mirror literally started to peel off the wall like a Reflective Tower of Pisa
  • a washing machine began to “chew” clothing reminiscent of a toddler with teething issues
  • the brisket splattered EVERYWHERE (leaving a sticky-savory trail from the oven to the floor — the dogs were smitten)
  • children needed to be taken to doctors while work emergencies erupted

And yet, my little sis’ remained calm and easy, all while preparing a thirteen person dinner party to welcome me home.

Humor as Medicine

Listen, I’m sharing a “sample platter” of all the “dishes” my awesome sis’ handled in the days I spent at her home. This chica has A LOT going on. 

Were there conflicts that arose? Absolutely.

But Little Sis’ handled whatever came her way with humor and grace.

Humor is an undervalued form of medicine. 

Humor makes life’s challenging arrows more palatable. 

When we are able to find humor in those tense moments, we alter our perspective. Life’s challenges and heartaches don’t seem as sharp.

Humor softens our focus, working as a balm to our pain or unease.

We Become What We Think

After creating the first and second platters, my sister had the same reaction each time:

“This is so much fun! Look at how cool this is? I love this!” 

My Little Sis’ was literally jumping up and down each time she completed the platters.

Her eyes danced with delight each time she completed another step creating her cornbread, her lemon zest ricotta cake, her rosemary and apple-infused turkey — you name the dish, she was lit up more than a tree at Rockefeller Center.

When challenges arose, she de-escalated the issue immediately by:

  • focusing on what was working
  • offering a helpful suggestion 
  • bringing her infectious humor

Little Sis’ loves serving the people she cares about. She loves making a difference, loves challenging herself to create new things.

Take it from Oprah:

“What you focus on expands and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.”

Focusing on the Good is Contagious

We are all energy. So it’s no wonder that my Little Sis’ family “caught” her warmth and love throughout my visit. And, of course, I wasn’t immune either.

Appreciation is a form of meditation.

I started to notice how long my nephew’s eyelashes are when he looked down to focus on the board game we were playing.

I noticed the sound of my older nephew’s laugh made me think of a warm sunrise.

I noticed the comfort and easiness, the vulnerability and strength between my Little Sis’ and her sweet hubby.

The Gift of Slowing Down

As we approach this holiday season, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on slowing down, not speeding up. I want to relish the gift of this life, honoring my reactions and impressions along the way. 

We will never get “there” because there is no final destination.

There is only the precious moment of now. And when we choose to focus on how amazing this moment, and the next moment is, our lives grow evermore awesome.

MENTAL HEALTH

The Doctor Will See You Now

Finding insight and healing in writing

We can attend to our inner wounds through self-reflective writing.

The boy sat staring at the blank page in front him, while his fourth grade peers wrote with gusto.

One word came to mind as I took in the 9-year-old with gripped pencil in hand:

fear

Writing as a Vehicle

The students were filling in their journals, writing about their family members. Kids were smiling as they wrote about their parents, siblings, and cousins. The giddiness in the room was palpable.

Writing about ourselves is a powerful vehicle for self-discovery.

Still, the 9-year-old-boy with the gripped pencil remained staring at the untouched page.

Me: You okay?

Student: I don’t know if my dad is a family member. My mom said, I can’t see my dad anymore and that he’s no longer my dad. So, do I include my dad?

Ouch. 

Sometimes, the vehicle of writing brings some rough terrain.

Fostering Self-Discovery

Education is all about offering tools to empower. Writing is one of those foundational tools. Our world is literally built on words; it is the machinery that drives innovation and self-awareness.

The young student’s question offered an opportunity for him to self-reflect and find the answer within.

Me: That depends. What do you think? Do you think your father is still your father?

Student: Yes.

Me: Then that’s your answer.

Writing LightBulb Moments

Immediately I saw the boy’s eyes light up, his pencil no longer gripped with fear, but instead, moving with great energy in the no-longer empty journal.

When we lean into the painful questions through writing, sans judgement, aha moments abound.

Writing puts us in the driver’s seat of our life. It offers an opportunity for us to slow down and consider what we think, not what the cacophonous world at large says to think.

When we go within to write, we literally slow down our brain waves and decrease anxiety. Slowed down, we find space to explore problems from a greater creative perspective.

Writing as Therapy

The 9-year-old student was eager to share his family tree and some of their personality traits with the rest of the group. The once anxious face he carried was now emanating pure joy.

Writing offers us the opportunity to go within for counsel.

I never told the young student what to think of his father. The power to perceive his father as his father is his choice. 

Writing allows us to take the reins of our perception.

It doesn’t matter whether we are 9 or 99 years old — our perceptions are ours alone. 

Metacognition, the act of understanding one’s own thoughts and perceptions, only grows stronger with self-reflective writing.

 When we write, we are no different than a radio dial, tuning into what we think about the world around us.

Writing as a Doctor

When we write reflectively, we are taking care of ourselves. We are nurturing our brain waves and self-esteem.

When we take the time to write reflectively, we are subconsciously sending a message to our psyche: what I think and how I feel matters.

Writing reflectively opens the door to the best doctor for you to visit with: your Highest Self. Stress hormones lower, sadness is articulated and addressed. Emotions — in all of their colors — are addressed. Self-compassion and self-awareness are cultivated.

I Just Overdosed

On too much well-meaning advice

Ah, friends and family. Those well-meaning people in our lives who offer advice like candy on Halloween.

The problem?

 Taking in others’ advice is like sampling from an apothecary.

Opinions and Asses: Everyone’s Got One

Whether it’s when to leave a career or how to best file income taxes, opinions abound. We are not talking about those rare issues that offer very little gray area.

Nope. We are talking about those hem and haw mental challenges where we just aren’t certain what to do. Situations like:

  • whether to take a Gap Year after high school or head straight to university
  • plan a huge wedding or get married on the beach with only your immediate family and friends
  • have another child
  • change careers midlife

The Stealthy Side Effects of Advice

My issue was dealing with someone who was regularly hell-bent on making my life miserable. 

When we are in a painful or anxious place, we are more vulnerable to other’s well-meaning advice.

Everyone who cared about me offered up their opinions:

“Fight them in court.”

“Whatever you do, don’t go through the legal system. Only the lawyers win in court.”

“Ignore ‘em.”

“You need to see a therapist.”

“You don’t need a therapist. You need to go for a massage.”

“You need to keep busy and not think about it.”

The side effect of all of this mental and contradictory advice: my heart and head felt incapable of processing.

Here’s the danger of heeding others’ advice: the more you listen to others’ mental medicine, the less you can hear your own inner wisdom.

Word Drugs

It’s one thing to hear what another person has to say; it’s quite another to take in that advice.

Some of us are sensitive and not aligned (at the time — this too can always change) with our inner compass, so that even hearing the advice isn’t healthy for us.

When I’m not feeling centered, all I have to do is read the side effect warnings of a drug and the placebo effects begins.

But when we heed the opinions and suggestions of others, we are reneging our intuition to someone else. 

Accepting the opinions of others as your own is a form of mental ingestion. Digest enough of those varied words as yours and you’ve just mentally overdosed.

The Best Prescription

The best prescription when you feel uncertain about your next move is the one that arrives from within.

I’m not suggesting to stick your head in the sand like an ostrich (besides, that would be me giving you advice;-).

The best prescription is tuning into you. 

Maybe that means going for a walk or baking or meditating. Maybe it means drawing or taking a siesta for a couple of hours.

When we tune inwards for guidance, we find balance; we are better equipped to then hear the opinions of others without ingesting them.

Snowflake Humans

Humans are like snowflakes. Each of us is unique. And just like a snowflake, each of us is going to offer a perspective that is a one-of-a-kind-by-product from the alchemy of our environment and genetics:

Because a snowflake’s shape evolves as it journeys through the air, no two will ever be the same. Even two flakes floating side by side will each be blown through different levels of humidity and vapor to create a shape that is truly unique.-BBC

So, centered, it doesn’t surprise me that my friend who was, at one point, a victim of an abuser, gave me the advice to “Fight ’em in court.”

A family member who thankfully cannot relate to my situation but is perpetually burning the midnight oil, suggested I just “get a massage” and “don’t think about it.”

Everyone’s advice came from a loving place. But the verbal drugs they were offering were created in the lab of their own perspective.

Overdosing on others’ advice made me both fatigued and anxious. Without realizing it, “swallowing” their advice pills, I lost my way.

It wasn’t until I got quiet (lots of walks and naps:) that I realized what I needed to do — for me.

Signs of a Potential Overdose

Wondering what a potential Advice Overdose looks like? Here are some that I encountered:

  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mental fatigue
  • upset stomach

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning

Joking — don’t take two of anything from me. (I’m not a doctor, though I play one on TV;-)

Be kind to yourself. Journal. Reflect. Take deep breaths. Do whatever you can to slow down and honor that voice always residing within you.

Our feelings offer a powerful guide in this life. When we slow down, we are more likely to pay attention and notice what feelings are coming up. Acknowledging them is the first step in finding the best self-prescription.

The Silent Thanksgiving Guest

The silent Thanksgiving guest is with you always. You bring this guest with you to the table. It is with you during the holidays and beyond. It is YOU, the observer, growing aware of your mind’s interpretation of experience.

Thanksgiving always conjures up the image of tables laden with ruby cranberries and plump, caramel-colored turkey, replete with pumpkin pie. Family is gathered around the table, hands extended to pass a generous bowl of sweet potatoes. A cozy fire flickers in the background as laughter bubbles up around the autumnal room.

Well, that’s the image anyway. The Hallmark-meets-Williams-Sonoma-catalogue of the idea of Thanksgiving. The Norman Rockwell of family, of loving comfort and filial security.

The reality is often quite different. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association:

“Nearly a quarter of Americans reported feeling ‘extreme stress’ come holiday time.”

The reality can involve anything and everything from experiencing the recent loss of a loved one to not getting along with your in-laws yet having to break bread with them.

The change in routine, the potential long-distance travel, the anxiety-provoking reunion with family members—some or all of the external factors can make the cozy image of Thanksgiving morph into a Haunted House of horrific possibilities, where you will be thankful for just surviving the family gathering.

So, how can we experience the feeling those Folger’s House coffee commercials exude around the holidays?  And what are those feelings anyway?

According to coach and speaker, Dr. Amy Johnson, feelings are our interpretation based on the interplay between our left (thought) and right (feeling) brain:

“…feelings are fluctuations of energy to which our mind attaches words and stories. Our left-brain interpreter labels and defines the energy dancing through us. So, when we talk about feelings and emotions, we’re experiencing two things: the movement of energy plus our mind’s commentary on that energy.” Dr. Johnson, Just a Thought

Let’s apply Dr. Johnson’s left-right brain awareness to a potentially stressful Thanksgiving situation now. Your flight to visit your family is delayed. You speak to your aunt on the phone to let her know about the delay.

“You’re not going to make it?” she asks.

“I don’t know. The flight’s delayed.”

“Are you wearing your mask? Are people wearing masks there?”

“Yes.”

“This is terrible.”

“I’ll call you when I know more.”

“Yes, call me as soon as you know.”

You recognize words (left brain) that come to your mind when you reflect back to the talk with your aunt: judgmental, anxious, bossy.

You recognize feelings: tired, nervous, frustrated. 

But now, aware, you can interpret your feelings a different way. You don’t need to tell the same habitual story about your aunt and her effect on you. You can interpret your feelings as excitement to see your aunt and her frustration at the situation as a hunger to see you. 

Remember: our heart races when we are on a roller coaster and in physical danger. It’s our interpretation, our mind’s deciphering of the left-brain language our mind uses that makes the difference.

Thanksgiving, steeped in years of familial habits—er, traditions, offers a powerful opportunity to practice Dr. Johnson’s mindfulness while in the company of loved ones who just might (inadvertently) push a habitually hot emotional button (or two). 

So, when you find yourself stressed about how moist the turkey is or upon hearing the banter in the family room grow louder with politics, go inward, and consider a different interpretation for the energy you are feeling. The labels we give our experiences aren’t “real”; it’s only the mind “doing what minds do” that makes it feel real. Each of us has the power to create a different interpretation.

The silent Thanksgiving guest is with you during the holidays and beyond. It is YOU, the observer, growing aware of your mind’s interpretation of experience. You can make peace with this guest at any moment—not just this November 25th. Figuratively break bread with your mind’s interpretation of what you are experiencing. Our feelings manifest in our body as energy; when we consider our left brain labels through a different lens, we can change our very experience.

Source: https://www.claritychi.com/holiday-stress/

Ferberizing Your Teen

Ferber-izing is a self-soothing technique where young children are taught to self-comfort when it comes to bedtime. The Ferber Method is a behavioral tool also to be considered for older children.

A mom is in the mall with her toddler and preschooler. The preschooler sees the Tollhouse Cookie sign, the image of a drool-worthy chocolate chip cookie displayed against the familiar yellow background. Her preschooler points to the confectionary delight and says:

            “I want a cookie.”

The mom sighs. “No.”

            The preschooler whines, “But mommy, I want the cookie.”

            “It’s almost dinnertime.” Mom reasons.

            Now the toddler, bound in his stroller, points to what his older brother wants. “Cookie.”

            “No. No cookies.” (Mom looks like she needs a nap.)

            Now both boys are whining for the cookie. The preschooler stomps his foot. The toddler bears an expression that is akin to someone losing his puppy.

            Mom gives another audible sigh and says, “Fine. Only one cookie each.”

            The only seconds ago storm of emotions felt by the young children is gone, their grins bright enough to light up the sky.

            End scene.

            Unfortunately, the scene above isn’t fiction. Years ago, that very event took place with me as the observer, my friend as the mom to her two young boys. I remember silently judging my friend:

            How could she just give into her boys? Doesn’t she understand that she’s teaching them to walk all over her? 

            Of course, it’s easy to judge when you aren’t the one who’s sleep-deprived and in the line of proverbial fire. After all, it wasn’t my kids puffing out their adorable cheeks in frustration, their large, innocent eyes begging for a little treat.

            There’s a technique, invented by Richard Ferber, called The Ferber Method or Ferberization. The technique’s goal is for young children to learn self-soothing—specifically regarding “sleep-training,” by allowing children to cry for specific, predetermined intervals before receiving external comfort.

Watching my friend next to the Tollhouse Cookie Company with her young children made me wonder if we can’t extend this idea of “Ferberizing” to our daily interaction with children.

So, I applied The Ferber Method to my own children over the years, allowing them to sit with the very things they did not want to sit with in an effort to grow. Some examples include:

  • If my son wanted pancakes, having him crack the very eggs he feared cracking.
  • Bringing my child to an animal shelter when he was reluctant to be near or touch dogs.
  • Apologizing to another child he hurt (despite never meaning to)

And then…they were teenagers…

Who knew teenagers could use some Ferberizing??

Ferberizing is based on the idea of self-soothing. Teens face a panoply of challenges and stressors that foster a great need for self-soothing.

Only the shape and form of Ferberizing looks different than it does at 5 or 10 years old. Young children may have the tantrums that parents can resolve to walk away from (i.e., the screaming meltdown in the grocery store); teens may turn to drugs or alcohol or fall into a bad peer group for self-soothing.

What can we do? We can be present; we can listen without judgment; we can remind them we are there for them and support them, loving them unconditionally.

But here’s the tough part:

We have to accept where our kids are, regardless of where that is and what that looks like. And just like those young children at the Tollhouse Cookie Company, we need to let them experience their physical, verbal, or spiritual tantrum in order for them to grow. We need to let our teens figure it out (while reminding them we are always there to listen and advise—when asked!).

The instinct is to want to fix, to have our children grin like my friend’s young kids did once they knew cookies were in their imminent future. But the “fix” is a short-term gain with long-term consequences. Sure, the cookie will taste sweet in the moment, but the lessons learned were:

 If I make enough noise, I get my way.

Mom is easy to walk all over.

Mom’s job is to please me.

Teenagers are much more subtle when it comes to “pushing” for what they want (i.e., money, a car, a later curfew, etc.) Get comfortable with your own boundaries while letting them know you are there for them—a balancing act, for sure. The more you put the onus on them, the more you are nurturing their autonomy, their ability to self-regulate. 

What’s Your Story?

          There’s a major player in our lives that is unseen but real: our inner dialogue. The way we perceive a situation creates our experience to that situation. The way we speak to ourselves affects the world around us.

The other day, my friends drove about twenty miles for us to meet for lunch. When I asked them how the drive was both simultaneously responded:

            “The traffic was horrible.”  

              “It was good.”

            One car, one trip, and two completely different experiences.

            We can see these alternate reactions from a young age. A mother tells her children they can’t have a cookie now. One child howls, like something heavy landed on her foot, the other shrugs her shoulders and continues playing in the figurative (or literal) sandbox.

            Then there’s the difficult, harrowing experiences, like those who lived through and experienced life in a concentration camp during World War II. The inhumane conditions of life at Auschwitz; the incomprehensible cruelty, abuse, violence, and firsthand witnessing of genocide caused many to lose the will to live. Then there were those survivors like Elie Wiesel who wrote:

            “We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats [gas chambers] over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.” -NIGHT

            Wiesel was only fifteen when the Nazi’s deported him and his family to Auschwitz-Birkenau—only fifteen when, on their first night in the camp, his mother and younger sister were killed in the gas chambers. And yet, his spirit spoke of helping others, of survival, of help as the oxygen for their survival.

            Many Holocaust victims did not find helping others as a means to survival. Many victims were lost in incomprehensible fear and depression. Same situation but a very different experience again. 

            What causes us to react so differently to similar situations? What causes one person alone on a Saturday night to feel sorry for himself and another to relish his own company?

            A major player is unseen but real: our inner dialogue. The way we perceive a situation creates our experience to that situation. The way we speak to ourselves affects the world around us.

            Take a moment to think about something that happened today. If an unpleasant experience arose for you, consider the following:

  1. What were you thinking about the situation at the time?
  2. Is it possible you could consider perceiving the situation differently?
  3. If you answered yes to #2, how does the alternate perspective(s) make you feel?

   When we grow mindful of our inner dialogue, we are less likely to fall prey to negative thinking and more likely to experience compassion for ourselves and others.

Where Are You?

When we react to another’s drama, we run the risk of losing ourselves.

You know those days that make you feel like you’re walking outside on a soap opera set? The sky is the color of a robin’s egg, the air feels fresh and smells like autumn. That was today.

Unfortunately, the picture-perfect weather didn’t prevent two people in their cars at an intersection from fighting. My car idled just behind one of the cars as the drama unfolded.

One man got out of his truck.  I couldn’t hear him, but his arms were flailing. The other man got out of his car, a menacing expression with some kind of metal pipe in his hand.

My stomach and shoulders tensed up, and I felt a prickly heat across my chest. 

My teenaged son beside me looked calm, gazing at the scene before us with the aura of a modern-day Yoda. 

“Mm…I wonder who got there first.” He said with the pondering stillness of a Buddha.

The men were standing close to each other now. The tension between them fierce.

This is how it happens. Death by stray bullet. Gunfight at intersection, news at 11…

The above is where my mind went. I felt a strong, irrational urge to tell my son to duck. 

“It doesn’t really matter who got there first,” I said.

And just like that, the angry men returned to their cars, and we made our way to the intersection, the tense moment behind us.

Hours later, I am thinking about today’s tense moment. In a way, I wasn’t much different than these angry men: I wasn’t enjoying the beautiful day, I was lost in a moment of what if anxiety—another flavor of negative emotion. It was only my son who could observe the scene without taking it in.

We go through our daily lives, exposed to a myriad of “angry intersections”—moments when our environment is tense. At those moments, we can observe but we don’t need to react or become the stressors around us. Easier said than done. My son helped me realize that I’d stopped observing and started reacting; his non-reactive reaction reminded me that we all have this choice within us. 

When we try to detach and observe—even the negative reactions around and within us—we spend more time living in the moment. We can enjoy the beautiful day without getting sucked into another’s angry intersection.

The Wallis Simpson Dish

The Duchess of Windsor offers a cautionary tale to pay attention to our whys, so we can change our patterns and experience different results

The other night, I took pleasure in watching the 2011 Netflix W.E. It’s a romantic historical drama, directed by Madonna, that sheds a different light on the famous love story between King Edward VII and the American socialite, Wallis Simpson. 

King Edward is known as the intrepid man who gave up the monarchy in order to marry the twice-divorced woman he loved.

Sounds romantic, yes?

History paints a picture of a man who wooed someone tirelessly, who sacrificed his royal status in order to be in the company of the woman he adored.

Madonna’s portrayal of that history offers an entirely different perspective: Wallis Simpson’s.

According to both the historical film, W.E. and historian Anne Sebba, (That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor), Wallis never wanted to leave her second husband and marry King Edward. She was content to be the King’s mistress. She neither wanted King Edward to upend the British monarchy nor be the cause of it.

What fascinated me about this story is the why behind Wallis’s actions, the why behind her choices. Why did Wallis agree to marry someone she was content to be mistress to? Why did she want to be a mistress in the first place?

Unearthing the why of our actions is the bedrock of change.

Wallis’s father died a mere five months after she was born. Subsequently, her childhood involved watching her mother’s dependence on the Warfield’s (Wallis’s paternal side of the family) fortune. The purse strings were manipulated by a controlling uncle.

As an outsider, the why behind Wallis’ actions grows clearer as we look at those early years: Wallis grew up dependent on men for money. It is what she knew. It is no wonder then, that she used her quick wit and independent nature to attract affluent men with power.

Yet if we look closer, there is a paradox in each of her romantic relationships:

Husband #1: Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a US Navy aviator. Externally, the aviator held a position of power and respect. Behind closed doors, Spencer Jr was an abusive alcoholic.

Husband #2: Ernest Simpson, described as an ironically “dependable” man who asks for Wallis’ hand in marriage while he is still married to another. Wallis, most interested in security, agreed.

Husband #3: King Edward VII is described by a staff member (Hon. John Aird) on vacation with the King and Wallis, “the prince…lost all confidence in himself and follows W around like a dog.” Again, there is this need for power and stability—both of which the King fulfills due to status and their seemingly co-dependent relationship.

A trove of affectionate, candid letters between Wallis and her second husband exist between 1936-1937. In these secret letters, both Wallis and Simpson refer to King Edward condescendingly as “Peter Pan.” 

An excerpt from one of Wallis’ letters to Simpson stands out:

“I don’t understand myself, which is the cause of all the misery. Give me courage. I’m so lonely.”

Wallis wrote the above just days before King Edward VII abdicated the throne, for her. She was living with a man who adored her and yet she felt “so lonely.”

Chances are, you are not an American socialite nor married to British royalty. However, its’ likely there are patterns in your personal relationships. Wallis offers a cautionary tale to pay attention to our whys, so we can change our patterns and experience different results.

Wallis was a paradox: her independent spirit that men found attractive is what they wanted to possess. Her hunger for financial security and power caused her to sacrifice emotional freedom.

When we place our financial or spiritual well-being onto another, we are limiting and serving a detrimental dish to ourselves and others.

Holiday Shopping Made Easy

2020 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays have a tendency to sneak up on me each year, but with the backdrop of our pandemic reality, time seems particularly skewed these days. How are we less than two months away from a new calendar year??

Whether you are one super-prepared holiday shopper, or you are scratching your head, wondering what gift to get your family and friends this season, consider the following venues to get your shopping groove on–you won’t be disappointed:

(1)Teri Case, the author of TIGER DRIVE and IN THE DOGHOUSE (a personal favorite:) offers gift-givers the chance to read GREAT BEGINNINGS: AN ANTHOLOGY, for free. Here’s the link: https://BookHip.com/NMLQAW

The overflowing-with-talent, Teri Case created a beautiful (and free!) anthology entitled Great Beginnings. More than thirty authors–myself included–joined together to share the first chapters of their books. This anthology includes the first chapters of everything from award-winning fiction to non-fiction. It’s the perfect gift for an avid reader. Consider it a literary appetizer for the book lover in your life.

Thanks to Katie Carlisle Gonzales for creating a one-stop-shopping source

(2)This 2020 Gift Guide was made possible by Katie Carlisle Gonzales, someone a dear friend and colleague of mine (author, Cathey Nickell) met, (well, virtually anyway!) through a Facebook group called Moms and Ladies of Southwest Houston. Katie had the idea to create a holiday shopping guide. The guide includes links to over 30 businesses, offering a wide variety of shopping items that you might not think of or know about otherwise. Check out the link here >>> https://bit.ly/34OY1qO

Bring a mask!

(3) How about an open-air outdoor holiday shopping market? Expect to see about 30 vendors at the 16th Annual Heights Holiday Market from 10am-4 pm, Saturday December 5th, at The Church at 1548 Heights Blvd. Author Cathey Nickell will to be autographing and personalizing her two children’s books: Arthur Zarr’s Amazing Art Car and Yazzy’s Amazing Yarn. Artist Bonnie Blue will bring her “Women That Rock” artcar/van, and she’ll be selling her hand-painted driftwood Santas (and more). Such a fun photo op for the kids! You’ll also find a coffee truck, a taco vendor, and so many amazing one-of-a-kind gift ideas, so please join us if you’re in the Houston area. Masks are required for both vendors and visitors. #houstonheightsholidaymarket

Thank you, Kristine Hall and Lone Star Literary Life for creating a thorough Holiday Gift Guide!

(4) I’m also in another online Holiday Gift Guide,thanks to Lone Star Literary Life, a wonderful organization that helps readers find stories and helps Texas authors find their ideal audiences. Owner and publisher Kristine Hall has put together a Holiday Gift Guide, and I’m in it! You can find my book, The Friendship Diet: Clean Out Your Fridge, Get Real with Yourself, and Fill Your Life with Meaningful Relationships that Last here >>> https://www.lonestarliterary.com/content/2020-hgg-nonfiction-books… and if you go to the Lone Star Literary Life website, Kristine has put together some other gift guides for fiction and children’s books as well (go to the LSLL website and look under the “Features” tab).

There is no doubt, 2020 has NOT been an easy one. I hope you find a potential gift(s) for your loved ones. The epithet applies now more than ever: It’s the thought that counts. A gift need not cost anything, it’s the idea behind the present itself that matters. It is also in the act of giving, of thinking of others, that our lives tend to experience greater sweetness.

Wishing you a sweet and healthy end to 2020 and a fresh start, bursting with wonderful possibility in 2021.