Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

via Daily Prompt: Breakthrough

A few years ago, I took everything that mattered to me and flung it out like I was tossing dice onto the pavement.  I was restless and unhappy and I didn’t know how to fix  what was wrong.  Flinging my life, as I knew it, away did not change anything.  I became deeply depressed and confused.  I would like to say that drove me back to therapy, but it didn’t, but by chance I found a therapist.  My husband and I thought we would try couple’s counseling, but the therapist clearly saw that I was the one that needed the help.  Thus began my adventure to have a breakthrough and find myself.  It wasn’t the first time I had tried – other therapists, but no real breakthrough. I was the product of an alcoholic mother and an enabling father.  It left me with a deep seeded anger that fueled my career and a lack of compassion for myself.  That didn’t change for years.  I kept things from these other therapists and they insisted that I feel emotions beyond the anger,  that just weren’t there.

So with a new therapist, we explored my life in great detail.  And after a year and half, I had the breakthrough.  I let go of the anger of my young life.  My depression lightened and I became functional again.  A few months later, I would become depressed again, but it didn’t last as long and I knew what it was about.  Because it was time that I faced up to myself. I used to say that I was the only one that had to live with me forever. But I know now that is no longer true.


Daily Prompt: Test

via Daily Prompt: Test

The word test probably makes you remember being in high school or college, studying for a test, sweating over a test, hoping you passed the test.  Or maybe you remember your driving test – your moist palms because you wanted to pass it so badly, and how hard it is to drive when you know someone is observing and passing judgement on your driving.

But there are other kinds of tests – tests of character, tests of trustworthiness, test of your ethics.  When they happen, you may not realize that you are being tested.  You may be unaware that there is a line in the sand and once you cross it, you may not be able to go back.  The day you have to stand up and defend yourself, the day that you’ve been told a secret that is so juicy that you almost wish the other person had not told you.  The day when you have to make the choice between covering over your very bad mistake or owning up to it, knowing that your job may hang in the balance.

We are told when we are children that  we must not lie, cheat or steal.  And when you are a child, it is so easy to see the world in black and white, good and bad.  But then you become an adult and it is not so clear anymore.  It may be as simple as leaving work early, when no one will notice you are gone.  It may be a complex as owning up to the mistake that will cost your company millions.  Remember when you were a child and whined to your parents – “but everyone is doing it”, and your parents asked you “if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?”  Too bad it is not that simple once you are an adult.  Sometimes it is one step at a time and suddenly you are jumping off the cliff, but you notice that no one else is jumping.  Your character, your trustworthiness and your ethics are being tested every day, and if you keep all of that in tact, will you be able to live with the consequences.  It could go either way – you keep your job and take a baby step away from what you know is right; or you own the moment and perhaps feel the satisfaction of standing on your principles.

And suddenly, that test you didn’t study for, or the test of your driving ability doesn’t seem so bad, does it?


Daily Prompt: Facade

via Daily Prompt: Facade

I once worked with a woman who used to tell me about her wonderful life.  That she and her husband were deeply in love and raising twins.  That they were restoring an old Victorian in a very chic part of town.  That they had married for love, after he had been divorced for a number of years. That she was just coming into the workforce again, now that the kids were in school.  Everything in her life was blissful and everyone was so happy.

A year later, I was sharing an office with this woman’s husband.  Before my arrival, he always kept the blinds closed because he was hung over.  He took his briefcase with him every day to lunch, and would come back sleepy and smelling of alcohol.  He said that he was still married when he met her,  and his 1st wife was pregnant.  He told his first wife he wanted a divorce immediately after she gave birth.  And he was proud that he flew below the radar and never paid child support.  That he undertook the relationship with wife two, who was working in a Senator’s office, because he thought she had money.  That he had no health insurance when the twins were born, and when the hospital insisted that he made arrangements for payment before discharging wife 2 from the hospital, he told them to keep her and keep the babies, because he had no money.   That the Victorian house was falling apart because there was no money to fix it up.  One day he showed up at work with a deep cut across his face.  He said that he had been teaching a woman to play pool and her boyfriend took exception.

Funny how different their stories were about the same marriage.  She was busy maintaining the façade of a happy family, and he, knowing that I knew his wife, was probably hoping I would tell her what he told me and she would divorce him.

Funny how everyone’s life seems so perfect until you look behind the façade.

Daily Prompt: Stylish

via Daily Prompt: Stylish

I have noticed a lot of articles that focus on what older women should not do, if they want to remain stylish.  I find these very curious, and wonder who thinks about this enough to come up with a list.  I imagine some young writer  expressing their wisdom, and I expect most of these writers live in New York City. at what she sees around her.

Yesterday, I read one of these lists that will keep me from looking 10 years older.  First of all, I am “older”, so that immediately made me wonder what I shouldn’t be doing  to keep from looking 71.  I guess it has to be said, that if one is looking at this kind of list at my age, there is probably no hope for one.  If you don’t know your style by that time, a list isn’t likely going to help you.

One of the items on the list was don’t wear black.  Really?  I happen to like black; it goes with my skin tone and my silvery hair.  Another “rule” was that I should be wearing pattern on pattern.  I have to say that the picture that was posted, did not make me want to do this.  A young woman dressed in an ugly pattern on pattern outfit is not going to change my mind. Then there are the articles that say after a certain age, a woman should wear whatever she wants. While that sounds good, it violates my philosophy of “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”  There was a fad a few years ago of gym wear with “Juicy” written across the ass.  So cute on a 20 year old, but not so cute on butt where gravity and a lot of sitting has taken it’s toll.  Or if  your T-shirt is tight across your chest, and gravity has had it’s way with you, it’s not a good thing.  But beyond common sense (and a caring what you are putting out there for everyone to see), I don’t see why you need to follow someone else’s rules.

Another list had to do with make up for older women. This author was promoting almost no make up for older women.  I think most people would agree that sparkly blue eye shadow should not be worn by anyone over the age 25.  And those cat eye liners – after a certain age, your cat eye liner will be dressing your crows feet.  But to say that older women should wear virtually no make up?   Does this woman ever look at herself in a mirror when she gets up in the morning?  There is no way that I am venturing beyond my yard with no make up.  I don’t wear a lot of make up, but I do wear eyeshadow (taupe), eye liner (at the very base of my lashes), mascara, brow pencil, blush and lipstick.  There are very significant reasons why I wear each item.  I’m not giving them up.

A list that might be helpful would be one that encourages everyone to wear the proper support garments, like Spanx or Yummy Tummy.  Or the use of a scarf to hide your sagging chin.  There are always articles about surgical and non-surgical anti-aging procedures, but I notice no one every publishes a list of places that will lend you money to have these.  Last time I had a little botox and a little filler it was over $900.  Being stylish is expensive.

My advice is when you see a list of fashion mistakes, make up mistakes, or directives telling you what to do and not do, just pass it by.  Remind yourself that these lists are written by 20-somethings, fresh out of college at their  first writing or fashion job and bare no resemblance to anything that makes sense about being stylish at a certain age.  And by the way, there is an interesting blog called just that “Stylishatacertainage.com”


The Biannual Migration

Today I spent the afternoon moving clothes between closets.  I look over what I have, what I have bought, create stacks to give away or to donate to charity.   Sometimes I  feel like I have found a beautiful old friend among last year’s wardrobe, and sometimes I wonder what the hell was I thinking when I bought that! I don’t know about you, but I am very guided by mood when I shop – one day I feel very classic and I’m buying conservative clothes, and another time, I’m thinking I have to jazz things up.  My real style is somewhere between the two, so the transfer exercise comes with a lot of surprises.

As most people know, I love animals.  Domestic and wild, I love them all.  So it is probably not too surprising that I like animal print.  I am attracted to it like a nail to a magnet.  I’m not one of those crazy women that wears animal print on animal print – I mean, that really only works on the big cats, don’t you think?  But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to have a selection of pieces to work with.  A woman likes to have options.

Now early in the season, I bought two pieces of animal print – a popover top that will work well with leggings, and a brushed cotton top that will work well with brown slim leg pants.  I was feeling pretty good about my restraint this season.  That is until I went to my closet and discovered that perhaps I had more animal print than I remembered.  No fewer than 3 blouses, a cardigan, a long sleeve scoop neck top.  Another sweater with an abstract animal design in black and gray.  I started getting a sinking feeling – you know the one when you realized you should have checked what you had on hand, before you went shopping?   5 pairs of black pants, in addition to the two that I bought.  3 pairs of brown pants in addition to the two that I bought.  2 black ponte jackets.  You see where this is going.  I really didn’t think I had shopped that much last year.  More importantly, I hope my husband didn’t think I shopped that much last year. The truth is, if I didn’t shop for the next two years, no one would notice, although the local stores might have to close some of their locations.

It’s going to be a chore getting the clothes back in the closet.  I dread that part.  I still have to locate last years shoes, to put on my shoe rack.  The transition takes a lot of time, because I have visions of clothes being organized just so.  It won’t last and I know that, but it seems important to start well.  Now if I can just resist anymore animal print and brown pants, I’ll be set.

Until next time – Elsie



My Handbag Addiction

In addition to my love for shoes (which is genetic), I also love purses.  For years now, I have been buying expensive (350+) purses, which probably made sense when I was working.    But then someone on Facebook posted one of those clever quotes that said, to the effect, women buy purses for other women to admire, because no man ever said “look at that purse!”   I think this must be true, because I’ve had women admire my purses, but a man?  No. My own husband couldn’t tell you what my purse looks like.  I want a designers name plate on my  purse. I have no one left to impress.

I have been scouting out TJMaxx, that has a lot of really nice purses.  Why did no one ever tell me this?   Last season I bought a White and tan Michael Kors for $129.  It sells in the other stores for $328.  So the other day, I went to TJMaxx to look for an Olive Green bag.  I found one that is very nice for $29.  But of course I had to keep looking (once you find what you went for, it’s always a mistake to keep looking) and found a current season Patricia Nash that sells in Dillards for $199 and TJMaxx had for $99.  Now I understand that it may be a reject for some reason, not recognizable to the casual human eye.  Well, you know what happened.  I bought them both.  I was proud of myself, because there were many more beautiful bags in various colors and styles, but there has to be a limit – right?  I should have felt some guilt, but what women doesn’t like a great bargain.

I think my addiction to purses goes back to Coach.  Not the Coach they sell today, but the original Coach purses that were made in NYC.  They used high quality skins, solid brass hardware – those things were indestructible, but in case you managed to, they would replace the strap for free. My husband brought me the first one for a birthday, and it was such a success, he bought me 3 more for various other occasions.  Eventually, Coach got bought out and their quality slipped. So I moved on to Brahmin.  We had a long relationship, but eventually their quality changed and I gave them up.  Eventually I moved to Michael Kors, when I noticed that every other woman in the world seemed to have already discovered Michael.  I like the designs but hated that but to hide the obnoxious MK. .  We had a nice, budget busting relationship, but I started to notice that they didn’t wear well.  The edges of the leather showed signs of wear, after only a season of use. Last year, I indulged in a black, quilted leather bag.  It was beautiful and I still like it, but the leather is worn on the edges. And you can believe that if other women are judging me on my purse, I do not want to be judged by worn leather… that is just the kind of thing another woman would notice.  So this summer, when the Nordstrom pre-season sale went on – I went with a black Vince Camuto.  I’ve used it once and all those compartments that I thought would keep me organized are annoying as I lose things in this purse.

It seems to me that the purses that my mother and grandmother carried were better made.  They were frame purses with silk linings that never seemed to get dirty.  Of course, they probably didn’t drop them on the floor in various environments or have the cap come off a pen or a lipstick open in their bags.  I don’t recall my father or my grandfather thrusting things at my mother and grandmother and saying “can you put this in your purse”?  I suspect this is why a lot of women carry big bags and why an equal number of women have gone to tiny purses that barely hold a credit card.  That generation of women could actually have a collection of bags that lasted for years and could still be handed down.

Now the question is where to keep all the purses without having to get the step stool to get them out of the top of the closets when I’m not using them. I’m mad enough about being short, much less having a daily reminder.    When I was working, I had hooks in the utility room, on which hung my purses.  It made for the quick change as I went out the door every morning.  For the most part now, I carry the same purse for weeks before abandoning it for another.  I don’t know why I think I have to change purses, but I guess it is part of my fetish.

I saw a commercial on TV the other day.  It was for a company that will buy your expensive designer bags – Chanel, Hermes, Tod’s, Alexander McQueen, for cash. I know how much these bags cost – do women really pay a couple of thousand dollars on a purse?  I wonder if they know that men don’t notice women’s purses. Do they have rich lovers who bestow these things on them as gifts?  One time I was in Neiman Marcus and a woman, with her husband in tow, was dithering between two very expensive evening bags.  Eventually, her husband said “damn it, get both and so we can get out of here.”  Now that is a man I can relate to.


Until next time, Elsie








Daily Prompt: Silence

via Daily Prompt: Silence

One of the best things about getting up early in the morning is the silence.  The dogs and the husband are still in bed and  the telephone hasn’t started ringing with telemarketers.  If I walk outside on the porch, the only thing that will break the silence is a fish rolling in the water.  I can actually hear myself think, I can hear the occasional owl hooting or, as happened the other morning, the whipper-wills.  It is a peaceful kind of silence.

My husband and I each grew up with a parent who talked far too much.  Early on we promised each other that we would not emulate these parents as we got older.  So far, we’ve kept to it.  My husband is now extremely hard of hearing, so unless he is sitting in front of me, looking at me, he doesn’t hear anything I say.  So I don’t say very much unless it is something extremely interesting or important.  He spends his time doing research on his hobbies, so his concentration is such that he doesn’t talk much either.  So I am used to the quiet and I like it.  I’m not someone that needs the background noise of the TV so I don’t feel alone. Our silence is not borne of anger, but of a respect for each other’s space.

My mother used to use silence as a weapon of emotional abuse.  If she was angry or if I wasn’t doing what she thought I should be doing, I’d get the silent treatment.  She and I would go for months not speaking, and twice, it lasted for over a year.  It didn’t bother me.  It was a refreshing change from her constant talking – telling me about people I didn’t know, their children and their lives; taking  verbal jabs at me and my husband, who she disliked.    I found a way to mentally check out, but retained the appearance of listening intently and with the occasional “hmm”, or “I see”.  After she died, I didn’t miss the verbal onslaught.

So that is probably why I am okay with silence. If I want conversation, I can always talk to the dogs.





Daily Prompt: Radical

via Daily Prompt: Radical

My radical idea:  that I no longer had to have a relationship with my father, the man that allowed my mother to abuse me, and never once came to my rescue. This radical idea came to me after a year of therapy.  I had been in therapy before, with a therapist that ensured me that I needed to view my mother and father as “flawed” people, and that would cure the feeling that I was only alone in this world – a feeling that came to me about age 5, and never really left.  I had no idea what normal looked like, but something in me always knew that our family life was way distant from everyone else’s normal.

When I was growing up, my mother was an alcoholic.  She also suffered from narcissism and borderline personality disorder.  I was an only child for 10 years, so I was the sole focus of her abuse.  Later, after my two sisters were born, I was the family scapegoat. My mother’s abuse came in physical hitting, anger and hurtful words.  I lost count of the number of times she told me she hated me and that my birth had ruined her life.  All the while my father sat there passively and did nothing. I can still clearly see him sitting in the living room of our house, reading the newspaper,  while my mother flung abuse at me.   Later, when my sister’s and I confronted our father about our mother’s drinking and abuse, he would just shrug his shoulder and said “who is she hurting?”, as a way of not dealing with it.

Long after I left home,  my mother played fast and loose with her medication for emphysema and eventually she died, while undergoing a transplant operation. And for several months afterward, our father leaned on us with phone calls and conversations, until he met another woman.  He married her and he allowed her to drive a wedge between us.. She particularly disliked me, especially after my uncle left his entire estate to me.  My father tried to get the will overturned in his favor, and he didn’t speak to me for about 2 years.  During that time, he had open heart surgery, which he and his wife decided not to tell me about.  I was obviously the villain because I wouldn’t hand over that which my uncle wanted me to have.  He showed up at my uncle’s house, shortly after his death, and confronted me directly, about what he was going to get out of this.  I forgave him and thought it was likely his greedy 2nd wife who was pushing him.

After about 10 years, his second wife died.  There were weekly phone calls again, but never did he inquire about what I was doing, how my husband was doing or anything pertaining to our lives.  It was always about him.  He told me that he eschewed the club house in his senior community, because they just sat around and bragged about their children and grandchildren…. leaving me to conclude that he felt that my sisters and I weren’t worth talking about.  After his wife died, he ended up in the hospital a couple of times, and I rushed there to oversee his care and to coordinate with his Drs.  One time, when they put him on a special diet, I was there for over two weeks, making him bland but edible food that he could eat.  Did he thank me? No.  It was just expected that I would show up and do what needed to be done.

Soon he had another lady friend.  He gave her gifts for her birthday and Christmas.  Three years ago, he told me that “everyone” down in Florida, where he lives, was sending just one card, for those with birthdays around Christmas.  He didn’t have the time to shop for a card for my birthday (Dec 15th) and instead sent me a Christmas card, which an Oh-by-the-way, birthday greeting in it too.  He did the same to my sister.  We weren’t even worth a card, in his mind.  It finally opened my eyes to how little he cared about us.  He never once worried about our lives, our feelings, and what damage my mother did to us, the result of his enabling her.

So I made the radical decision to drop him from my life.  He is a toxic person to me and I realized that he no longer earned a place in my life.  Someone else would have to deal with his emergencies and listen to him complain about his life.  He has written me a number of letters, which I have thrown in the trash, unopened.  He sent me a birthday card last year that went into the trash, unopened.  And radical as it may seem, I don’t feel a thing about it.

Daily Prompt: Cake

via Daily Prompt: Cake

I have never baked a cake that was fit to be seen in public.   I follow the directions, I bake as directed, let it cool in the pan the time specified, and then – disaster.  My cakes stick in the pan.  Not just a little bit that could be repaired, but half the cake stays in the pan while the other half is in some mess of crumbs on the plate.  I’ve tried boxed mixes, “no fail” recipes,  recipes that people pressed on me.  I’ve buttered, greased, sprayed the cake pans.  It is as through a cake devil  sees that once again I have been lulled into thinking that I might be able to bake, and casts a curse on my pans, while my kitchen witch looks on.  While others pull golden, level  layers from the oven; layers that will pop out of their pans like a dream, I’m tapping the bottom of the pan, trying to convince it to release.

My grandmother was a baker.  She turned out beautiful cakes that were always the hit of the bake sale or eagerly consumed by her guests.  People complimented her on how beautiful they were, not to mention light and airy.  I remember one time she baked a lemon cake for a bake sale, put it on a gold box, and it looked like it glowed.  I watched every move she made in the kitchen from the time I was very young, until I was a young wife, and she made it all look so easy, but for me, her magic never transferred.

I guess I got my mother’s baking gene, which is to say non-existent. She could not bake, but then she never tried.  She always said that there was no reason to put forth effort into something she could just as easily buy.  I don’t even think she owned cake pans and it did not bother her a bit.  Other mothers make cakes and cupcakes for their daughter’s class, but when my mother showed up, it would always be with store-bought baked goods.

After years of  hope that this time will be different, only to have my hopes dashed by inedible layers, I have given up.  I have accepted that there are just some things that I am not good at and baking cakes is one of them.  This is a disability here in the South, when one is expected to show up with home baked good to every gathering, where people will exclaim and swear it is the best thing that they’ve ever eaten.   Anything I bring will be store bought and switched onto one of my very own cake plates, but no one will be fooled.  No matter how beautiful the cake plate, my cake is destined to be left behind and the hostess will no doubt ask me if I want to take my cake back home, bless my heart.  She’ll say something encouraging about how there were just too many cakes to be eaten, but this will only be to try to spare my feelings,in the way that Southerners do.  The other women will leave with their empty cake plates and their heads held high, while I slink out the door with my pathetic uneaten  cake that I will slip into the first trash can I see.








Daily Prompt: Shiver

via Daily Prompt: Shiver

It is the day of my Mother-in-Law’s funeral.  We elected to have graveside service, without knowing that it would turn out to be freezing cold.   I am looking through my wardrobe, trying to find something both appropriate and warm.  It would be nice if I owned a winter coat, but I don’t.  I left it behind when I moved from Northern Virginia to Alabama.  I am wreaking my brain trying to think of how I am going to keep from freezing.  I’m already shivering, just thinking about it.  So I settle on my silk long johns, a pants outfit and boots.

The funeral home is late in arriving at the gravesite,  and we stand about looking at each other and trying to ignore everyone’s shivering.  My Sister in Law is wearing a full length mink coat of white. It looks terrible on her, but at least she is warm.  As the immediate family, we sit under the canopy and the funeral director offers lap robes, but for some stupid reason, I decline.

The Minister who is conducting the service, keeps calling my Mother in Law “Irene” which is her middle name, not her first name.  I am thinking about how Alzheimer’s had taken her mind until there was just a body, but she actually died of pneumonia.  She was so brave after my Father-in-Laws death, setting  course for herself that included travel, lunches with friends, and her church.  Not the church at which we are having this service.  My Brother-in-Law decided to have her interred in the cemetery of his church, for convenience.  It is not a bad place – it’s not too crowded yet, and the edge of the woods is just over there.  I don’t know why I am thinking this, and not what the Minister is saying.  He is doing his best with the words, but despite the notes my Brother in Law gave him about my Mother-in-Law, he doesn’t seem to be able to personalize it.

I’m still cold and the service is coming to an end.  In a few minutes I can stop shivering and take refuge in the Community Hall, where ladies from the church have laid out a lunch.  Coming into that space, it suddenly feels overly warm and I want to step outside in the cold again.  On this day, it seems right to shiver.

Elsie Hickman