The Purse Chronicles



My friend and I recently saw a bumper sticker on the car in front of us that said, “My car always runs as good as my stockings”. Her husband did not understand why we were laughing hysterically in the front seat. It occurred to me that there are many mysteries of women’s daily coping which escape the uninitiated. One of these mysteries is the purse, fraught with an elaborate symbolic structure rivaled only by the major religions of the world.

Betty Harrigan wrote several years ago that not using a purse could soar one’s career path at the speed of light. Of course, she had to recant. There is no end to purses nor to their significance. Recently the “fanny pack” has attempted to make the purse’s function more efficiently designed. Obviously this is a gross judgment in error and evidence of almost unforgivable naiveté on the part of merchandisers of women’s accessories. These bags, when worn in front, side or rear on women, simply look ridiculous. There is no civilized substitute for the right handbag.

First consideration: the size. The minute versions which hold only one hankie, a breath mint, and a pin, are exquisite statements not only of economy but of a magic act. They elegantly state that here is a woman who can maneuver expertly amid the concrete jungle of city night life and still get home in the morning completely unmussed. On the other end of the spectrum is the small suitcase, which, camouflaged as a purse, can equip us for an entire trip to Mecca and back still suitable for being photographed at the pyramids.

Next, shoulder or hand carried? Or, better yet, a purse that can do both. Although when I buy this type, I am constantly confronted with the necessity of making a decision on whether to use the long strap or not. On second thought, scrap this one. Just decide before purchase. A purse should assist your living, not complicate it. Even though the crime stoppers say use the shoulder version, they’ve probably never had their shoulder dislocated as a result of a determined mugger.

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What of sacred materials? Unknown mixtures from unknown lands? It’s all available, but some have longer lives than others. Of course, manufacturers don’t maliciously produce handbags which fray when removing the paper stuffing and immediately after throwing away the price tag and receipt. It’s just that, well, they can be so beautiful when they’re uselessly constructed.

Structure: Compartments are required in the covert operations of daily survival. One small especially sturdy one is necessary for keys, which, as we all know, seek the lowest, darkest level of purse life by nature. Clasps and handle fastenings should have been pretested by special
combat forces before marketing. The interior must be able to survive intense digging and retrieval efforts and the exterior must be able to survive even a car wash and still shine.

Hopefully this guide will help the retail industry and other non-initiates into the divine heritage of the purse. A purse leads a double life. Sure, you think it’s a fashion accessory. It’s supposed to look like a fashion accessory. But women know what it really is. Armor.

Little Girls, Food and Weight


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As a young girl, I heard relentless anxiety and fear about my weight and what I was eating. If I was a good weight in my mom’s view, I had to worry about not gaining. If I was overweight in her view…well, you know, it was a shame because I had such a pretty face. This was discussed while we were being served her cake which she would be upset if we didn’t eat it while she worried if it was good enough. Unfortunately 12 step recovery programs were not around then and she did not realize she was an obsessive/compulsive. Today, this attitude is more likely to be reflected in the women’s magazines with diets on one page followed by cake recipes on the next. The same self-hatred is still there, however. Fix it with a diet or surgery or a pill or a 3 marathons a month or…

As an educational counselor, my take is that we project our anxieties and fears for our young one’s health in negative ways. If we have concerns about the hysterical tragedy of weight gain, we will worry about our daughter’s. I remember the natural signs of puberty – breast and hip developments – as signs I was getting fat. But the reality was that my body was not finished growing. To interfere with the process at this stage disrupts the natural metabolic process. I shot up before eighth grade and was not overweight, but the constant messages about being overweight left me with low self esteem, shame and thinking I was overweight when I wasn’t. So I would seek comfort in carbs.

I think a more promising approach for us is to replace concerns about our daughters’ eating with other emphasis. The real damage is what messages she is getting about her body and her worth, and she will face a constant onslaught from media and some peers about needing to being different than she is. So the best thing is for us to continue to build self acceptance and teach ways to process feelings and be ok. Books and other programs, even positive girls clubs, are doing a better job of this now.

If she is mindlessly crunching unhealthy foods while on TV or computer for extended times, we can make those things happen away from food settings like the kitchen table. We never snacked when I was young but now snacking is routine for everyone. Synthetic foods leave a person unsatisfied, thus crunching more or mindlessly. There are more books out there on mindful eating, yoga, etc. even for young children that I think shift the emphasis to being in touch with our insides and bodies in a healthier way. Introducing them to these or participating with them in these activities set a positive and emotionally warm and satisfying way to connect and reinforce a good connection with themselves. One idea is to put entertaining movement or yoga DVDs on the computer or TV and do them with her, especially the ones featuring kids. I consult the Mighty Girls book lists as well for reinforcing books for girls of any age.

I would not be too concerned if a young girl snacks a little but if it goes into prolonged mindless eating, that would indicate a need to get up from the TV or computer and move, do something else for awhile. Movement is a good alternative emphasis I think. I did not learn to move as a young person. About the only thing I did was ride my bike which I did enjoy. But as an introverted reader, I did lay on the couch and read a lot. Back then we didn’t eat while reading or watching TV. We did crafts or something else with our hands. Of course we didn’t want to soil a book either as it was usually a library book. I think avoiding getting the keyboard of the computer dirty is another way to avoid allowing eating while playing video games, etc. It’s the mindlessness or the avoidance of one’s feelings or mood alteration that is what can be addressed rather than what she is eating, how much, be careful, don’t do that, you don’t want to gain weight, etc. We don’t need to focus on the symptom: food, eating, weight. That sends a shame message that is likely to be eaten over, or worse.

If your woman-to-be likes healthy foods, all the better. Meanwhile, deal with our own issues. Give her body time to develop and see what happens when she is older. Of course we don’t want our daughters, nieces, or others we care for to go through our inherited pain but we can access more support for them now than we had. Meanwhile keep building her emotional foundation and it will be there for her when she needs it and, if she knows what to do with feelings, she’s more likely not to need the overeating.

The Princess and the Dragon


Kaieteur-Falls-Guyana            One day a clever princess sought her mission in life. She lived in a land full of possibilities and she wanted to find her way. Although she did well with her palace tutors, she believed there was more out there for her to explore and achieve. So she left the palace to go into the surrounding woods. The sunlight filtered through the multi-green leaves, creating beautiful patterns on the forest floor. The twigs crackled under her feet and the water spiders were skating in the little stream.

Amid this beauty she heard a rush of wind and, turning sharply, she saw a magnificent knight on his mahogany stallion standing behind her, looking at her with admiration and desire. She felt no fear, because she could see the knight was obviously on a great mission. He did not even take time to remove his iron faceplate. She smiled and challenged him:

“Tell me, oh knight, what is the best use of one’s life?”

“Why do you ask?” he replied.

“Because I am on my way to find my purpose and to use my knowledge.”

“Then come with me,” he said, because I too am on such a quest and we will find it together. I could use such a clever companion.”

So she hopped on back of the splendid horse and off they galloped. The air was full of the fragrance of the woods, and the sky was full of small puffy clouds that whisked their way along above them, as if following the two travelers.

They rode for days and the princess began to tire. She wanted to stop for rest, food and water but the knight explained that one needed to pursue such an important quest with all one’s might. Not wanting to appear weaker, the proud princess held on more tightly until her arms began to feel numb. Finally, her fingers themselves could not hold on any longer and she fell off the horse. The knight reined in the steed, dismounted, and turned to her. Lifting her off the ground with a slight roughness, his eyes showed his displeasure through the gleaming stone faceplate.

“Do you want to continue on this quest,” he challenged, “or do you want me to leave you behind?”

“Oh, no, certainly I will continue,” stammered the princess. “It’s just that I’m so tired.”

“The quest will strengthen you,” he said. “My mission must be completed.”

He lifted her back on the horse and wound ropes of vines around her to help her stay mounted. The princess wondered at the unusual strength of the knight. “How strong such warriors must have to be!” she thought to herself.

They set out again and she dozed briefly as they rode. They came out of the woods, across the plains, and headed toward the mountain. The horse had to pick its way carefully to find each spot for its hooves in the narrow, rocky footpath.

The sun was now rising and, as it topped a ridge, it blinded the princess. She could not see but she could feel the knight’s armor becoming so hot that it was melting. Suddenly they made a turn on the footpath and a tree’s branches broke the sun’s glare. To her horror she saw herself bound to the scaly back of a dragon! The knight’s faceplate was gone and the cruelest bloody eyes now glared at her. It was as if the sun’s rage had burned into the dragon’s soul and hatred-filled eyes sent scathing stares at her. The scales were dry and sharp and began to cut her arms where she was bound to the beast.

“We are reaching our goal,” his words blasted fire. “Soon you will meet your destiny.”

The princess now realized that the dragon knight believed her destiny to be her destruction!

She fought not to scream, fearing it would quicken her death. The rising panic felt like inner chains tightening around her chest, squeezing the life out of her heart. “I must face this fear and think!” she told herself, closing her eyes.

Summoning all her wits, she looked more closely at the scales. She saw that they angled down, making it hard to move against them without cutting herself more deeply. She began to move imperceptibly to the side instead of up. As she did, she was careful not to jolt the dragon as he rode. Slowly each tendril in the rope began to fray. When they were loose, she stayed very still so the dragon would not notice the cords which had fallen behind her.

“We are here,” he hissed, as he slowed the horse up to a cave in the side of the mountain where a fire was already burning and a stone altar stood with blood stains on its sides. Before he could stop completely, the princess rolled backwards off the horse and began to stumble down the mountainside.

The dragon’s fire flamed after her and singed  her skin where it had been cut. Finally crying out in pain, the princess renewed her strength and outran the dragon’s heat.

The horse was now galloping faster, however, and she knew she could not outrun it. The narrow path led to a steep cliff which she was coming upon too fast. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she turned around with all her might, opened her eyes and held up her hand. “I say stop and be gone!” she commanded.

Her abrupt move spooked the horse, which reared and threw the dragon knight headlong into the canyon, where he burst into flames. The orange, red and black hues from his burning can still be seen as the sun sets on the canyon walls, but the princess never returned there.

Customized Journals


Have you ever had a pressing problem or issue that you thought journaling might help? But when you go to look at journals, they are confronting you with terrifying blank pages? Or you browse the topic journals but come up empty?

With my broad background in education, counseling and personal development, I can customize a 30-day journal for you. Here’s a sample of one I developed recently for a friend of mine who was struggling with money issues:

Day One:  Write about the messages you received growing up about money.

This is an important activity because we all carry often mixed messages about money into our adulthood. These beliefs may or may not be borne out by our actual experiences with money.

For example, my mother thought my father was extravagant when he would buy me something. My father thought my mother was a harpy because she was never happy with the amount of money he made. I was shocked to discover, years later from my older sisters, that my father was too tight to send my sister to the Catholic parish school when they wanted 10 cents a week tuition (yes that’s not a typo) and that was why we switched parishes. Or finding my mother’s little brown book years later with every     single    penny   spent recorded.  Or that my mother was still paying her father back for loans even when I was out of high school.

So I received many messages that impacted  how I viewed money, what I thought of myself in relationship to money, and how I used money. None of them were positive.

Beginning at this journal entry, I unscrambled these messages. After I had excavated them, I could begin to compare them to my experiences and see how they have removed me from the adult status I needed around this issue.

I would love to assist you through a customized journal. Let me  hear from you! or, if you liked this post,  just leave a comment about how journaling has helped you with your issues.