Learning Curve

Trying new things can be either an exciting and rewarding learning experience, or fraught with anxiety if, like me, you hate to get it wrong.

I was raised by a “failure is not an option,” father. No learning curve allowed. I was expected to do everything right, right off the bat. Many parents, and some grandparents, mistakenly think that this attitude presses kids to do their best. But, pressure stifles a sense of wonder and experimentation, and diminishes the self-confidence necessary to try something repeatedly until you succeed. Often  these feelings carry forward into adulthood.

These days I’m adhering to a new school of thought, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

Fifty years later, after some therapy, and online access about how to do anything, PLUS a global pandemic… heck,  “Time is on My Side.”  I not buying into  “can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”  That’s just an excuse, not a fact.  I have been trying lots of new things, straying from the comfort zone of the things I know how to do well, and having quite a few interesting outcomes!

Heavenly Blue morning glories.

First, I planted morning glories, and they took forever to sprout. Like a good Jewish Mother, I checked on them daily encouraging them to grow babies, grow. Only three out of the six seedlings made it, but they are strong and happy.  I also planted a Shishito Pepper and some Thyme and Oregano in a big pot in the sun. I talk to them too, and they are all thriving! We ate my first handful of peppers sautéed with shrimp for dinner  the other night.

Oregano, Thyme, Shishitos

Then, I had an applesauce cake FAIL.  A familiar recipe, except that this time I used French flour that I ordered from Amazon. I’d  heard that people who react badly to American wheat are able to tolerate this better.  What I didn’t know is that without adjustments, it would come out so dense.  How dense was it, Donna?  It was as dense as an apple-scented fire log.

In it’s favor, it was beautiful.

After lots of research on why this happened, I learned that this type of flour (t45) is usually reserved for pastry and cookies.  It’s lower gluten creates much less sponginess, and the fineness of the flour  soaks up much more liquid than I could have imagined. The Gremlins won that round as I threw it in the trash.

Still a little bummed-out, I decided to try a new recipe for cornbread, since I’ve  been making the same cornbread for 40 years. Although the recipe is from a cookbook I’ve enjoyed many things from, their cornbread was a disgusting failure. No idea why… absolutely none at all. Into the trash it went, too.  Another win for the Gremlins.

Reluctant to waste any more hard-to-come-by ingredients,  and trying to bolster my sagging ego, I pulled out a tattered Ina Garten corn muffin recipe that I’d scribbled on an envelope and carried around for years, but never baked. They were unequivocally the  most delicious corn muffins I have ever eaten! They were perfect with a pot of chili for dinner,  and still perfect when split, buttered,  and toasted the next morning with my coffee.

Of course they’re delicious, they’re by Ina Garten!

Ina is one of two or three people on my “People I’d Love to Meet” list. When I was very ill years ago and couldn’t eat, could barely get off the couch, she was the bright spot in my day as I’d watch her cooking for her darling husband and friends. I would reminisce about my 25 years living on Long Island, too, and even driving around the beautiful town where she lives. I fantasized about being  invited to her house to chat with her as she cooked, and afterward, eating a beautifully prepared meal with her .

(If any of you have connections to Ina, and can arrange it, I’m game!)

So, without any further ado, here is the recipe that gave me so much delight this week:

Ina’s Corn Muffins

Mix 3C flour, 1 C sugar, 1 C cornmeal, 2TBSP baking powder, 1.5 tsp. salt in large bowl.
Whisk 2 sticks butter, melted and cooled, 2 XL eggs, and 1.5 C milk together. Add wet to dry. Don’t overmix the batter, quick and easy does it.
Scoop into 12 lined muffin cups, bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 mins. Halves easily for 6 muffins.


What’s New?

I almost added “Pussycat!”  I’m dating myself, I know, but… it’s good to be silly.

Passover has come and gone, and all I made this year was a bowl of haroset: minced apples, walnuts, raisins, dates, a few drops of wine, honey and cinnamon. I can’t even remember what else I cooked for dinner, but I know that I enjoyed the fruit even more the next morning, on my Greek yogurt!

And Easter has come and gone without a Peep. Or any dyed eggs, or even a chocolate bunny.

The days have mostly lost their definition, blurring into each other (except for Tuesday, therapy day, the anchor for my week). One way I’ve been filling them is with baking bread for the guys and grain-free treats for myself. Then my oven died. It not only interrupted my baking for a whole week, but my dinners as well. Fortunately it is fixed now and heats faster and more evenly than ever. To celebrate my “newish” oven, I made bread from James Beard’s cookbook – which I somehow never returned to the library when I moved to Texas in 1978. (Yes, I feel a little guilty every time I use it.)

My sweetie and I have been walking together pretty much everyday, and since everyone else here is too, there’s a lot of effort expended to maintain physical-distancing on our sidewalks. It’s become so crowded, this morning we decided to drive to one of the neighborhood wilderness trails. With almost nobody there, we got to enjoy the birds, the fields of flowers and butterflies, stately old pecan and oak trees, and mowed niches with benches beside a flowing creek. It felt as though we had wandered into Paradise.

Have you had an online doctor’s appointment yet? I just had my first “conference” with my cardiologist this morning. It was very nice to see her smiling face, and between my blood-pressure cuff and my Apple Watch, I had all the info she needed. I don’t need to see her for six more months. Hopefully the world will be closer to normal by then… whatever normal is.
I really enjoyed not having to drive an hour to see her. I could get used to this!

I’ve also been making a lot of art, and for the first time in my life I feel no need for it to be perfect… I’m enjoying it just for the sake of creating.

If you like coloring, like I do, some art museums and art institutes are now making their collections available as coloring books for you andyour kids, or grands, to play together and learn. Visit ColorOurCollections.org.  And for tours of museums around the world: https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

Yours in Health,
Donna


Semi-Brave New World

Everything is completely different than it was two weeks ago… who could ever have imagined?

And yet today dawned sunny and warm, the birds alternate between singing and giving us dirty looks from their cruddy, almost dry birdbath. Thank heavens this isn’t a Hitchcock movie…

I’m anxiously finding my way through these turbulent times, how about you?

Everything here in our “senior community” has been completely shut down (I’m talking Ghost Town) for two weeks. But I’ve found yoga online. And my BFF is doing her NIA classes live beginning today. Something fun to add to my daily walks. Have you found any online exercise you like?

The Coffee Break Creativity group that had just begun meeting has moved to working together online, also. By sharing artistic goals we want to achieve, and before & after photos, we are all still connected.

Even my group therapy session happened online yesterday. Seeing everyone’s dear faces onscreen reminded me of Hollywood Squares. Remember that old show?  It was so zany and risqué for it’s time!

 

Afterwards, my sweetie and I had an appointment with a lawyer. Their office followed the most stringent cleansing and social distancing standards imaginable – we could have done surgery in there!  But, I still signed all my papers with my own pen. After talking about this for years, our wills and our medical directives are now finished.

Do you have a will and medical directives? Does your family know your wishes?  People avoid talking about this, but it is actually a generous gift to your family.

At the most difficult time ever, they will know how to carry out your wishes, and it will give them a sense of direction and purpose when needed the most. Just try to make sure your wishes are reasonable…

Obviously, we couldn’t give my sister the “Viking funeral” she wanted: A flaming boat set adrift in the river behind her home floating toward Lake Michigan would probably have violated every city, county, and state ordinance on the books. And I’d probably be writing this to you from jail.

 

After the lawyer’s office,  we braved the grocery store. It’d been more than eight days since our last trip and neither of us really wanted to go. I was anxious, to say the least. We both felt a little safer when we saw that they had their social distancing down to a science!

Unfortunately, the shelves were almost bare, and the weirdest stuff was unavailable – not a can of baking powder or box of baking soda to be found. Nary a packet of yeast. I’m very adaptable, and a resourceful cook, but for some reason the sight of an absolutely empty baking aisle pushed me over the edge – I fought back my tears and hurried along.

Today I must catch up on my English Grammar class (I’ve fallen behind) and bake a couple of loaves of sandwich bread.

I am counting my blessings: my family and tribe are all well right now, I get to see them online. I’m making a donation to the local Food Bank. And I’m sending out blessings for those on the front lines: all of the  medical personnel, and technicians and researchers, and public servants braving this virus, all of the workers who can’t work. And to you, friends, may you all be healthy and well.

XO Donna

 


Gotta Have Friends

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and finally found the perfect opening in this (adjusted) quote by John Donne:

“No woman is an island, entire of itself; every woman is a piece of the entire continent, a part of the main.”

After having a stroke last year, my continuing heart problems coupled with the physical and emotional numbness I felt made me withdraw. I’ve always bounced back from problems before, but this time felt more like a “SPLAT!”

I tried to stay active on social media because it felt like connection, but I found myself feeling isolated and depressed. I’ve never felt either way before, so I kept hoping it was a temporary situation and that it would pass.

Although I’ve seen people share EVERYTHING on social media, I wasn’t one of them, and I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone how I was feeling…  unwilling to give voice to it.
After months of feeling this way, I finally called my dear therapist, whom I haven’t worked with in years, and began group-therapy again.

(Side-note: I have two fantastic female therapists, a cozy uplifting space that feels like “home,” and five wonderful people who are my understanding mirrors. I highly recommend group over ‘one-on-one.’)

I was in a doctor’s office last week when I came across an article in GH entitled “Friends With Benefits.”  Catchy title, but not what I thought at first (I know, I should get my mind out of the gutter).  It’s about all of the ways that friendships boost our health and well-being:

  • Friends lower our stress, because when we are with them our levels of progesterone increase, decreasing our stress and anxiety.
  • Women between 50-79 who had more support from their friendships lived longer.
  • Women with breast cancer who have strong social networks also have better odds of survival.
  • People over age 80 who have more positive social relationships also had the memory function of middle-agers.

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “The depth and breadth of your social connections will impact your health just as much as diet and exercise.”  Did you know that older adults are more at risk for developing hypertension from social isolation, than from diabetes?

The take-away: our friendships are just as important as taking good care of ourselves.

Social relationships can buffer some of the effects of stress and help us cope, especially in mid-life when there are a lots of demands in our life: children, aging parents, work, divorce, illness, death. It’s noted that having a large social network was even more important than having high-quality relationships during older age.

By sharing my authentic-self, and trusting my group/therapy, I’m finding the inner-strength to venture out again. I’ve committed to a weekly yoga class. I also accepted a weekly invitation to join a group of creative women and make time to work on my art and words. And I’m bringing grain-free brownies to a get-together with women on my block on Friday.

The importance of feminine friendship and community is at the heart of the book I just finished, Willa’s Grove by Laura Munson. It’s a little more chick-lit than I normally read, but it was just the right medicine for right now.

So, remember to wash your hands thoroughly… and get together with your friends frequently.  To your health!

XO Donna

 

 


Up to Speed

What do you do when you procrastinate?  

I have a friend who works on spreadsheets. My youngest sister cleans. Me, I bake. I have a batch of almond-flour chocolate-chip cookies in the oven as I write. 

So much has happened, I hardly know where to begin. My posts have been sporadic, but I feel up-to-speed now, and I have a new computer to boot. 

I hope it’s true that learning new things is good for our brains, because I am transitioning from PC to Mac… and it’s a little like learning a new language. On the plus-side, my sweetie is pretty fluent in Mac. And I think my iPhone and iPad experiences have helped me. 

Just like all of my years of baking have made the transition to wheat-free recipes easier for me. I mean, look at these gorgeous cookies!

 

I made the PC-to-Mac transition because I was ready to get back to work on the book I began writing before my strokes. However, my computer lacked both the drive and the memory for the necessary updates. I can sympathize.  Encouraged by friends to make the switch, I stalled – afraid of something new and different, of failure…

 But, after weeks and weeks of mulling it over, when I found what I wanted for 25% less than in the Apple store… I was finally inspired to dive in. 

My exquisitely packaged MacBook sat on my desk for more than a week before I was brave enough to even open it. Gosh, I’m really embarrassed to admit that. 

But, here I am, writing you today on my Mac. And wait, there’s more! I also signed-up for an English grammar class taught online through MIT!
I’m excited, and nervous: I think it will be a fun way to get more comfortable with my computer, yet nervous because I chose to be graded, knowing it would make me more diligent. I’ll keep reminding myself of how much I love adventure.

Speaking of which, we sold our motor-home last month. We both have mixed feelings since it was such a wonderful part of our lives. We had a blast, and we have lots and lots of photos to remind us of our wonderful trips. The best part of all is that the people who bought it are the nicest couple ever! We are so happy for them.

A week later, we traded-in our faithful pick-up truck that was now too road-weary, and needed repairs. This seems to be a recurring theme today. LOL!  After joking about Corvettes and Mustangs, we now drive a mid-sized SUV that’s got all of the modern technology anyone could want. Maybe more than anyone wants, truth be told.

It’s sleek, has a couple of nifty features that I find incredibly helpful, it’s gas-efficient, and has a net for my yoga mat and blanket. What more could you want from a vehicle?

All-in-all, things are feeling steadier these days, a perfect environment to flourish in. And who knows what adventure is awaiting us just around the corner, right?

XO Donna


Value Added

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re like me, you have probably spent most of your life deriving your value from what you do, rather than who you are.

You’re a wife, or you were. You’re a Mom, or were… but now the kids are grown and flown. You may be employed or you may be an entrepreneur, or perhaps now you’re retired.

All of my life, in spite of hearing that it wasn’t so from the personal growth community, I derived my value from my work, the people I surrounded myself with, the way I looked, the interests that I had, and what I was doing and sharing. I was busy “earning my keep,” so to speak. When it (suddenly) seemed like none of those criteria were being met anymore, I had a minor, okay… a major crisis.

Who the the hell am I without all of that to define me anymore? 

I was feeling worthless, and as it so often turns out, I was asking the wrong question. I should have been asking, “What is it that I value, and do I count myself among those things?”
Curiously enough, this question seems to be popping-up for lots of people.  I noticed today that “Your Inherent Value” was a component of a new workshop a personal coach/friend is offering.
Last week I followed, avidly, a very long and thought-provoking conversation on Facebook all about, you guessed it… your value as an individual human, and how does one determine it.

I realized that our value, or self-worth, can indeed be gotten from what we do, but not from the job itself. For example, it wasn’t what I did for work, I see that my value was determined by the personal qualities I brought to my work: my manners, attention to details, my personal grooming, sense of artistry, conversational abilities, and especially gratitude, toward both my clients and the proprietor who provided space for me to be gainfully employed.

With family and friends, I valued my sense of humor, loyalty, honesty, an open heart and an open-mind. I’m dear friends with people on “both sides of the aisle” and while I don’t always agree with their point of view, I would never criticize, minimize, or cut them out of my life over politics. I value my sense of curiosity, independence, inclusivity, and delight in learning new things. I have had lots of interesting/alternative/life-changing experiences and thus have a unique way of viewing life.

I have slowly (and with the help of therapy) learned that other’s opinions of my value, or of what qualities/things I should value, are about them, rather than me. I can also disregard anything that doesn’t serve me.
It may not have always been the case, but if I were to make a list of all the things I value today, I would definitely include myself on that list.

 

Grateful for you,
XO Donna

 


Undressing Lester

Okay, I can hear y’all wondering, “Who in the world is Lester, and why is she undressing him?”

Relax, Lester is just our Christmas tree, there’s nothin’ funny going on. And, today is Epiphany…the day the wise men showed up, and all Christmas trees come down.

The world according to my mother…

Mom was somewhat strident about the ins-and-outs of Holidays. She knew all of the rules (who decided those rules?) and made sure we observed them carefully. That being the case, our tree did not go up until Christmas Eve because that’s when Jesus was born.

But first the Nativity had to be set up in the living room bay window upon a downy layer of snow. The fact that there was never any snow in Bethlehem did not deter her one bit. She carefully arranged all of the pieces, which she had made and beautifully hand-painted. I especially loved the wise men with their robes and headdresses in exotic colors!

That nativity was the source of much family laughter because my son Jason, who was very young and the only grandchild, swapped-out his toy frog for the baby Jesus.

(For years to follow it was a running joke between the two of them, and he’d replace Jesus with a lump of Silly Putty, a Hot Wheels car, or even a GI Joe).

Mom always got as flustered as Barney Fife when Andy snagged him for doing something stupid again.

She’d cuss and grumble about the sacrilege of it, all the while trying not to laugh as she hunted for both Jason and baby Jesus.

While I do bend her rules a bit; we like to put our tree up two weeks before Christmas, I am still compelled to take it down on the 6th of January.

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This is partly a nod to my sweet Mom, and the self-knowledge that a deadline is the only way it will get done before all the branches are doing downward-facing-dog pose with both needles and ornaments sliding to the floor!

So, that’s what I’ve tasked myself with today, and I’d better get back to it. Do you have Christmas Tree Rules?  Do they even exist? I know of people who put their tree up the day after Thanksgiving – it may be a Texas thing. 

Oh, and back to Lester, the Skinny Christmas Tree… my sweetie and I have had sixteen holidays together without ever naming a tree. Where this came from, I’ll never know. But it made things a little more special to have “Lester’s” sparkling company throughout this season.

Wishing you all Health, Happiness, and Abundant Peace in 2020!

XO Donna