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:

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 >>>

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 >>>… 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.

The Pricey Parenting Dish

Each time we give into the short-term, “It’s just easier” mindset, we may be paying a greater price in the long run.

As a mother, I strive to find balance on that delicate tightrope of demonstrating loving compassion and “tough love.” I’m there for my kids, but I’m also not a doormat, challenging them to take responsibility, yet not “Tiger Mothering”( Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of the 2011 Memoir,  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.)

But the other day, a friend of mine said something that resonated with me, making me realize that my so-called “tough love” could use a good more muscle. Here’s what she shared:

“*Brent is 20 years old. Everything is done for him. We’re lucky enough to afford a housekeeper, and I do everything else domestic-wise. So today I thought, ‘It’ll be good for him to do something other than learn virtually at home. I’ll ask him to take out the trash.’ But guess what? He couldn’t even do that. He didn’t know what to do with wrapping the trash up. I had to literally show him how to tie the bag. He watched me do it and said it will still confusing. The light dawned on him when I told him it was like tying shoes.”

Brent is a bright young man who maintains excellent grades at a respected university. He is witty, respectful and kind. His SAT score and GPA opened several academic doors at prestigious colleges. And yet, tying a trash bag was a genuine conundrum for our scholar.

I recall sitting at my son’s martial arts class when he was in the third grade. A mom sat beside me as we watched our kids through the clear class that separated us from our pre-pubescent ninjas-in-training. That day, her son had forgotten the required belt for class; mine had left the required black pants. Their lack of preparation for class immediately bonded us.

“Honestly, I try. I try to let him fail, but it’s just easier if I do it all. I don’t have the patience. I work at all day at my firm. I’m tired by the time I get home. If I want something done, I do it myself.”

That was 9 years ago. Today, both of our sweet ninja warriors are young men, a little over 6 months away from graduating high school. They drive cars, they shave, they are excelling in their Advanced Placement courses.

And yet…I think back to that moment in the martial arts class and wonder if I often took the easier road with the short-term benefits. I work full time and still find it “easier” to cook, clean, bake, wash, dry and fold for my teenagers. 

I’m trying to change my ways, focusing on the long term gain these days. There’s still time before the older one heads to college, still time before the younger one enters high school.

I’m a work in progress: yesterday, I gave my sons eggs, sliced cantaloupe and a warm tortilla purposely on the side just to see what they would do without a fork. That’s right, a full plate of food with eggs needing to go in that tortilla but no fork nearby. They needed to actually get up from the table to get their respective forks.

They ate with their hands…

But there IS progress: 

Both have learned to soak bowls that once contained oatmeal and glasses that once held smoothies.

One regularly “squeegies” the shower after use.

Both know to empty their trash cans on Sunday afternoons.

Progress! Both know how to cook basic things now.

Work-in-progress: I’ll leave folded clean laundry outside their door; they merely walk around it like a benign obstacle course.

I prefer the “pain” of taking time out to teach them these basic life responsibilities/skills rather than the long-term suffering waiting for a potential life partner/spouse.

Just some food for thought to all parents out there. We owe our kids a domestic education—for themselves and their future family.

“What Memes Are You Ingesting?

“We all have thoughts that were given to us by our families, our society, our culture. These given thoughts are so pervasive and so ingrained that they seem like part of our very being, but that’s exactly why we need to dig in and examine them if we want a life worth living.”-Wayne Dyer

Memes are those humorous images or brief videos that spread like wildfire on the Internet. But memes aren’t always so innocuous or merely copied and pasted into our web browser.

According to Merriam-Webster, a meme is “an idea, behavior, style or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Much like COVID-19 possesses the potential to spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, a meme is spread between people either in person or digitally. 

While memes range in emotional variance from belly-laugh-inducing to call-to-action-inspiring, there are dormant ones that, received unaware, can be downright dangerous. They’re words or actions that we ingest without giving ourselves time to chew. We swallow these memes without even taking a breath to consider them. 

These dormant memes can manifest in our personal or professional lives. Their danger lies in our inability to discern them; digesting them unconsciously wreaks havoc on our spirit and psychological wellbeing. 

Here are some virus memes I’ve heard in the past two weeks:

“I’m so stupid.”

“I’m depressed.”

“I’m disorganized.”

“I’m lazy.”

“I’m fat.”

Notice they start with the pronoun I. These statements are nothing more than memes. Someone at some point told them they were stupid, depressed, disorganized, lazy and fat. And they accepted the meme without question until it became part of their belief, their psyche.

Much like a malignant growth that needs to be removed, it is important to consider the statements you find yourself thinking or saying often. If it’s something negative about yourself, there’s a good chance you are allowing a virus meme to dwell in your psyche. If the words or behavior hurt you, I encourage you to work on its extraction from your life. Consider replacing it with an inspiring meme.

I leave you with an inspiring quote from Wayne Dyer regarding memes: “We all have thoughts that were given to us by our families, our society, our culture. These given thoughts are so pervasive and so ingrained that they seem like part of our very being, but that’s exactly why we need to dig in and examine them if we want a life worth living.”

Dig in and know your hunger!