Small Triggers and the Slinky Life


By Louise Ure



I have been so enchanted with the depth and breadth of writing in recent Murderati columns: David’s Ode to the Female P.I., Zoe’s looking back and looking forward in planning her writing life. Tess’ review of a Canadian conference, and Stephen’s paean to Peter Pan and an author’s magical thinking. They are all part of the writing life; an appreciation of the job, the output, and the mystery of making it all work.

I am not centered on the writing life right now, and because of that I sometimes find it hard to leave a relevant or thoughtful comment on my fellow bloggers’ posts. Everyone seems to have more insight than I do these days.

But here’s a tiny insight I found this week that is possibly a small trigger for better days ahead.

We all have those harbingers that we — jokingly or not — claim that blue skies and lucky days are ahead. The visit of a humming bird, the discovery of a penny on the sidewalk (especially if it’s heads). My new harbinger is: purses.

Yeah, purses.

Most of you know about my love affair with shoes. For most of my life, I’ve had at least a hundred pairs of shoes at a time. Bruce was gracious about it, but about ten years ago ruled that if a new pair came in, an old pair had to go out. More than fair.

But what you probably don’t know is that for all those same years … with a hundred pairs of shoes at my beck and call … I only had one purse.

Granted, it was a very special purse. Brown leather and lattigo, with snakeskin and turquoise inlaid on the sides. It was created by a magical artisan named Toyo at his shop, Dark Star Leather, in Tucson. With that kind of bag, what on earth would I want with another?

But this last couple of weeks I’ve gone into a purse buying frenzy.

Bulgy pewter ones that can fit as easily over your arm as over your shoulder.

Lime green bags that go with absolutely nothing in my wardrobe but make an aqua sweater realize that she’d better rub the sleep out of her eyes and comb her hair.

Bright orange asymmetrical bags with enough ruffles and bows to contend with the hats at a royal wedding.

(This blog post was to have been replete with images. I worked like a dog to get all these new bags properly lit, propped and photographed, only to have Squarespace bamboozle me once again. Use your imagination on all those images, please.)

The only thing these bags have in common is that they are all big enough to carry an iPad as well as all of my usual junk. Oh, and they work like a bullfighter’s capewhen you see me coming down the street. There’s nothing subtle about these purses.

Shoes have always been a very private purchase for me. I can wear them at home, or just to the grocery store or taking the trash cans out to the curb. Shoes do not require you to commit to a job interview, a dinner with friends or a trip. The best shoes put no pressure on you to perform.

Purses, on the other hand, are extraverts, hob-nobbers and loud mouths. My person, they say, is so important that she has to have room for THREE PDA devices with her at all times. My person is so on the go that she has to have the ability to have her hands free at a moment’s notice. My person is so cool that she can wear something bright and big that bears no relation to anything else she has on. She’s sure of herself and she’s stepping out.

You truly can’t enjoy a purse unless you go out somewhere. Carrying it from room to room at home will do nothing but occasion snickers from the closet.

Purses demand a committment that you will go out and get involved with life. And that’s a far cry from what I’ve been doing for the last several months.

But maybe purses are the harbinger — my shiny penny, my first robin of spring — that says I’m ready to start.


A P.S. from here in Seattle: Things with my father-in-law are going well. His caregiver team is terrific (although he calls both young men from Ghana and Gambia “Barack,” because their names contain a “B” and because he calls all accomplished young black men Barack. They smile back). His appetite, his strength and his interest in life have all improved dramatically.
“Sure, he’s dying,” wrote Gillian Roberts, “at a rate just about the same as the rest of us.”

She’s right. For the moment, he’s comfortable, safe and clean. And we’re heading to the Indian casinos this week to see if he can add to my inheritance.

I see his strength and envision one of those slinky toys, motoring along under its own power, doing what it can do. But then I remember that a slinky can only maintain that momentum while it’s going downhill.

Well, maybe that’s true for all of us.

Here’s to the slinky life. And purses.


Do you all have any lucky signs that you treat as omens?

33 thoughts on “Small Triggers and the Slinky Life

  1. Catherine

    Yellow roses. My Nan, the one that played ragtime into her eighties, and had her own dance band in the second world war was having trouble with a decision she was making, or maybe it was because my aunt decided to defect to London in the sixties from a small country town and Nan was worried.

    Either or both seem plausible. I do remember that she prayed about whatever was concerning her and wanted a sign. I think my Pop, not known for spontaneous gifts and who used to say that the best flower in a garden was a cauliflower came home with three yellow roses. I'm really going to have to check the veracity of the source of the yellow roses…but at the core of it was yellow roses appearing in way that was not the norm, that relieved my Nan's worry.

    So for me whenever yellow roses pop up somewhere unexpectedly in my world they make me think of my Nan and that maybe she's sending me a sign. I remember her with love and I feel lucky

    Louise the power of a new handbag is not to be underestimated. Sometimes fripperies just gladden the heart. Your new purses sound like they have lots of personality and fine contenders to assist you in just about anything you decide to get up to. Wishing you laughter and winnings at the casino.

  2. Sarah W

    Most of my lucky signs come from the radio. Happy songs mean a good day, specific songs are trying to tell me something, and so on.

    Last week, I was wondering if I should continue with a project — okay, fine, I was grousing about not wanting to sit my rear down and figure out what wasn't working. I noticed that the radio was playing one of the songs in the playlist I'd put together to set the mood for the project.

    I didn'tt pay much attention, until the next song in hte line up was also on my list . . .and then the *next* one. Different artists, not too mainstream. And it was actually the radio — I checked to make sure my longsuffering family wasn't staging a secret intervention with iPod speakers.

    I gave up and sat down and wrote.

  3. billie

    You and all your new purses are fabulous and inspiring!

    I've just finished teaching a writing workshop in a cabin on a huge rushing creek with waterfalls right outside the deck, and have been aware all this past week and weekend that there are often 20 or so hummingbirds surrounding the two feeders. I've never seen so many all at once – a true hover of hummingbirds. I suspect the energy in this place is drawing them – five women plus me, all writing, all making huge leaps forward in work in progress.

    Sometimes I think more than signs (which I see everywhere, on a daily basis) these things that come into our lives and our consciousness are reflecting where we are but don't even know it yet.

    So the sign isn't about "something to come" – it's about what is already there. If we don't see it, the reflection gets stronger and stronger until we do.

    I'm thinking of road signs that announce where we are, not how many miles to where we're going.

    Forgive the serpentine thinking here – I'm under the spell of the creek!

  4. Alafair Burke

    My lucky signs come from synchronicity of timing. Just when I'm worried about X, Y will happen, and I'll decide they must be connected.

    I also have only recently begun to enjoy a good handbag. Like you, I have certain size preferences – large enough to fit both an ipad and emergency flip flops (since I have a tendency to wear shoes that can't walk as far I can).

  5. Zoë Sharp

    Erm, what's a handbag? I *try* to carry one, but because I usually just hook my phone on my belt and my wallet in a back pocket, I'm not in the habit of carrying one, so I forget it. The best of these was leaving my handbag containing money, tickets, passports – in fact, everything vital – in a booth at a restaurant in Waco, TX, and not realising until THE NEXT MORNING. Fortunately, the wonderful staff had found it and put it to one side for us.

    So glad your pa-in-law is having an upswing. Good luck at the casino!

    And PLEASE, send me those pix and I'll do my best to put them up for you, 'cos these we HAVE to see ;-]

  6. Sylvia

    I cannot say how much I LOVE this post for two reasons. One, I hear joy in you. That is worth a million yellow, lime and orange purses. Two, you seem to find a way to resonate on an item, thought, passing moment and wrap it into a meaningful and profound entity.

    I don't own a purse. I just carry my wallet. It has to go with me in-hand, in the computer bag or in the swim bag. Owning and carrying a purse seemed to be such a commitment that I've, quite frankly, been afraid of. My husband even bought me a bright yellow purse this year for Mother's Day and I took it back for the $ to pay bills. What did I need with a purse? I'd have to learn how to use it. Now I feel bad I took it back. I could embrace that purse today!

    As for "things are turning around" omens… when little wins all of the sudden start happening. The bill you thought you had to pay by tomorrow you find out you have another week. The bill you thought was $1,000 is actually $200 because the insurance coverage hadn't been factored in. The call or next job you didn't know where it would come from just lands in your inbox.

  7. Louise Ure

    Yellow roses, Catherine. How beautiful. And much like Ken Bruen's white feather falling in front of you, a sign of a guardian angel/grandmother.

    Sarah, I know what you mean about songs as motivation and inspiration. And as a goad to get on with it, as well.

    Billie, I love the notion about the signs being markers of where we are, not harbingers of things to come. That creek has done you good.

  8. Jake Nantz

    I look for signs when I'm praying, like the night I drove back to school in one of the worst storms western North Carolina had ever seen, and just kept praying for a sign I would make it back okay. Every time the lightning flashed it brightened the world up so much that I could see better, and though the storm could never be big enough to cover a four hour trip, and wasn't even heading in my direction, that lightning followed me the whole way, sparking every 45 seconds or so.

    Of course when I got back I found my roommate standing in my room next to my open fridge with the six-pack I'd left, and the campus security (of a dry campus) who had caught him. I guess I shoulda asked for everything to be okay when I got there.

    And Louise, if anything I see signs of a comeback in the specific writing of your posts. A well-used word choice here, a turn of phrase or humor there, and it shows you're heading back to the pages with confidence. For example: "You truly can’t enjoy a purse unless you go out somewhere. Carrying it from room to room at home will do nothing but occasion snickers from the closet." I've never given an ounce of a shit about a woman's purse, but that line right there made me chuckle and understand–if only a bit–at the same time. That says to me that you're getting back to feeling like you, which is a very big step in a very good direction.

    God bless, and good luck at the casino!

  9. Louise Ure

    Alafair, I haven't reached the carrying flip flop stage, but I'm not far away.

    Zoe and Sylvia, what's wrong with you two? You can fit what you need in a wallet and a pocket? What about the second pair of sunglasses? The contact lens drops? The instant mouthwash? The chap stick? The iPad? (To say nothing of the small vial of Bruce's ashes I take with me everywhere I go.)

  10. Allison Davis

    Oh, Louise, god love you and this fabulous post. Yes, I see them all, and hear you rattling around, at once buying the purses, then trying to shut them up, and there they are coaxing you back out again. I once wrote a short story about shoes, I also love shoes, and I'll have to dig it out. It's not near as funny as your persuasive purses.

    When I was immediately post divorce, my neighbor, Becky got me out of bed early on Saturday to go to the Alemany Farmer's Market where you can buy an armload of flowers for a nearly a song (about $20) and told me to fill my house with flowers, and it would chase the sadness away. Three years later, I still go to the market on Saturday and fill my house with flowers, my office, and now the backyard that looked like an overflow from the dump is now filled with blooms, herbs and hummingbirds. Not that I need to chase away any sadness, now I'm embracing the beauty, smell and freshness of the flowers in my life.

    The green gladiolas last night beckoned me to the writing desk and I got through another chapter…they were so tall, proud and blooming gorgeously, who could resist?

    Your voice sounds strong, good and your humor is solid. Your father in law is lucky to have you right now and I hope your luck rubs off and you both are winners at the Casino!

  11. Louise Ure

    Jake, I never thought of lightning as a source of good news of any kind, but you've proved me wrong. Sorry about the subsequent bust.

    Love the notion of a house full of flowers, Allison. I haven't done that very much for myself and better not start now. After all, they would lure me to stay home and the purses would be screeching like banshees.

  12. Rae

    OMG, purses! Welcome to the club! Love 'em, as you know, Louise. Well, anyone who's ever spent more than 5 minutes around me knows I love handbags, and have quite a collection. I frequently am teased about my love affair with them – especially since I insist on taking many of them with me when I travel. I do not travel light 😉

    As to lucky signs and omens – if my morning routine goes well, I usually feel like the day is going to be pretty good. The components of a good morning are: the cat didn’t barf overnight; the coffee came out the way I like it (strong enough to float a horseshoe – with the horse attached); I like my outfit (including the purse); and I’m not running late. If that all comes together, I walk out my front door with a smile on my face. It’s a thin fine line, though – if it all goes sideways…well, it’s not a pretty picture.

    Glad your father in law is doing well. Raising a glass to the slinky life….

  13. JT Ellison

    I am a purse fiend, but I try very, very hard to keep myself in check. My favorite though is a great saddle type back I picked up in Italy – just the right size for the iPad, Moleskine wallet and phone.

    My omen_ Green Day's TIME OF YOUR LIFE. Every time I hear that song, something good happens. But it has to be by accident, I can't seek it out to listen to.

    Love to you Louise.

  14. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    A pewter purse, Louise? Like, pewter, the metal? Like what Paul Revere used to make? Why don't you just buy a Nambe purse, it would weigh as much.
    Or an iron purse. Like you don't have the weight of the world on your shoulders already.
    Two other things jumped out of this post for me. The way your father calls every young, accomplished black man Barak. That cracked me up.
    And your slinky comment – which is brilliant. Absolutely perfectly astute, on the money, perfect. The image and the phrase will stay with me forever. "A slinky can only maintain that momentum when it's going downhill" – there's your heads-up penny.

  15. Louise Ure

    Glad to know I have company in the purse-love world, Rae and JT. The morning routine as a sign, Rae. I love that it has to start out with no cat barf. Now I have to go listen to Green Day, JT.

    No, Stephen, it's not the metal pewter, it's the color pewter. Not as shiny as silver. Not as dull as gray. Sheesh, you have to explain everything to these guys. And here's to the Slinky Life.

  16. JJ

    I bought an eye-stopping, turquoise-colored purse a year ago but have not yet had the nerve to carry it. So I'm changing to it today. Thanks, Louise, for the inspiration!

  17. Jake Nantz

    JT – I love that song, but the band re-titled it after he got over the breakup a little more and figured out that he was really better off with his girl in Ecuador and he moving on with hie life. I will always love the new title better: "Good Riddance"

    Definitely a good song!

  18. Catherine

    Once upon a time Louise I worked as a fashion buyer for a friend. Didn't pay an awful lot, but I used to not mind as I was being paid to shop…and I had access to an awful lot of wholesale priced handbags.

    I tend to wear a lot of black. It saves fuss. Handbags give whatever I'm wearing a bit of zip. Plus they assist with consolidating (before you walk out the door) what you think your day will be.

    When I'm in the country I only need a smallish bag. When I'm in the city I pack for the day with my laptop, and a whole slew of minor items that make my day a bit smoother. In the art of the purposeful handbag I do pretty well. A well packed handbag and one small carry on bag supported a three week stay in the US years ago.

    Thanks Louise for asking the question about signs. It's been a great reminder of how yellow roses have become so symbolic of my Nan in our family. I'm going to bring some down to my Mum this Friday as it will give her a nice infusion of Nan love.

  19. Susan Shea

    I've never let my go-wild-girl near handbag displays. I don't have enough room for all the impulse buys I can imagine. But transferring all my crap from one bag to another is so annoying that I do it less and less with the ones I do have.

    I'm also partial to fortune cookie fortunes. I've had a few over the years that have been so right on, with such perfect timing, that I hesitate to dismiss them. The newest, taped to my computer case: "A good movie will inspire you to reach for the stars." I have an idea I know exactly what it's referring to.

    Good luck (sound of eyes rolling) at the casino!

  20. Louise Ure

    Oh David, I did not know that song and now I'm grinning like a fool. Thanks for that.

    JJ, go show off that bag!

    Catherine, the rest of my wardrobe is in mouse colors. The purses make me feel like strutting. Go share those yellow roses.

    Hi, Susan. I have yet to get a meaningful fortune from a cookie. Today's at lunch was: Your confidence will lead you on. Bah, humbug.

  21. Reine

    I love the vision of your colorful purses, Louise! I don't carry one anymore, not since the day I retrieved my repaired engagement ring from the jeweler. One of the diamonds had fallen out, and I'd had it replaced. For some unknown reason, I'd put it back in the jeweler's bag and stuck it in my purse. Then I went grocery shopping. You know the little section on the grocery cart where people put their toddlers and purses? I put my purse there and did my shopping. Then I loaded up the car and left my purse in cart in front of the store. Sometime after I got home I tried to find it and realized where I'd left it. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be there, but I went back anyway. The manager gave it to me and said that a customer had found it. Since then I have not trusted purses – or me with purses, rather, and I rather like the freedom.

  22. PD Martin

    Ooo, I wish we had the images! And I was with you, picturing them even though I'm not much of a purse or handbag person (or shoes for that matter).

    Anyway, I don't really have an major harbingers of good luck. I am, however, very much a warm weather person and so when early spring hits and the Magnolia flowers start to bloom (in all their sculptured beauty) my mood is instantly lifted. Have no idea if Magnolia flowers are spread across the Rati world, but hopefully you know the flowers I'm talking about.

  23. Louise Urr

    Yes, PD, as Reine says, we have gorgeous magnolias here. And the peonies and hydrangeas coming out here in Seattle right now are especially wonderful.

  24. PD Martin

    What an amazing pic, Reine. My eyes literally bulged! Thanks for sharing. Great article too.
    Louise – glad you can relate! Although for us I've got a few months to wait for magnolias…we're in the first month of winter here. Brrr….

  25. Sylvia

    Louise – they wallet moves from the computer bag (with laptop, iPad, power cords, notepad, pens, lipgloss, iPhone, earbud) to the swim bag (towel, goggles, earplugs, cap, change of clothes).

    This was out of necessity from years of travel where I wanted 2 carry-ons – my suitcase and my computer bag. A purse was a 3rd item so …

    Any place else I go is pretty meaningless – or I'm simply that lazy – and will squint for sunglasses and carry my keys in my pocket.

    I may need to learn how to use a purse. Do you give lessons?

  26. Sandy

    Hi, Louise. Sorry for the late comment, but yesterday got away from me. Your observation about how purses, unlike shoes, demand that you get out and into the world is priceless! May yours lead you forth. Personally, I am more like Zoe and rely on pockets rather than purses. A number of years ago, I went on a Southwest Institute tour of Navajo Country and was given the moniker "Woman of Many Pockets" because of the really cool vest that I wore. Happy trails! Sandy

  27. Reine

    I hope you have a great time playing hostage. Another fun thing to do with police is the shoot 'em up films where you have to decide to shoot or not. When you shoot your gun (loaded with blanks) it stops the film. Then you get to see what would have happened if you hadn't shot. One shoot 'em up I did was of a guy in a car who I pull over and then he reaches under the seat and comes up with a gun in his hand that he points at me, so I shoot. The film stops, and it's a beer can, and the guy starts laughing and says, "Yeah, I am drunk, Olisfher. Take me in!"

    My favorite place to go in NYC is the Russian Tea Room right near Central Park.

  28. Reine

    Sorry about the posting error about New York and hostage role play, Louise. I meant it to go to Allison's post for today – aaaargh – so embarrassing!

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