SLEEPY TIME

“To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Now that I am finally sleeping blissfully again, I can look back at how elusive sleep was for more than two years. I tried everything in order to get a good night’s sleep, and while nothing worked then, all of those new habits are now paying off splendidly!
Experts call this process Sleep Hygiene; revamping your habits and developing practices to improve sleep.

A good night’s sleep benefits everyone, in every way, from infants to centenarians.

My long-time favorite evening beverage.

This past year I saw lots and lots of people on social media complaining about sleep deprivation. Yes, there was a whole lot to be anxious about, so you can blame some of our collective sleeplessness on that. But a lot of our new behaviors are causing this sleep disruption: being glued to electronic devices at all hours, a lack of fresh air and daily exercise, working in a new environment (at home, in our pajamas, and often from our bed). Any one of these can contribute to sleeplessness, but compounded?

There are many consequences of poor sleep, especially when it occurs repeatedly.

  • Weakened immunity
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, and both short and long-term memory loss
  • Weight gain
  • Low sex drive
  • Risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Have you ever dealt with a cranky, frustrated, and over-tire toddler? Lack of sleep creates all of those emotions in us, too. Fortunately, we don’t usually throw a screaming tantrum. Although…

Developing a good night-time routine will help reinforce “Bedtime” in your mind, making it easier for you to sleep..

  • Limit naps and caffeine in the afternoon.
  • Build in a one hour buffer before bedtime to unplug from electronic devices. They cause mental stimulation and produce blue-light which can disrupt sleep. If you like to read at night, read a book, or use the black-screen on your e-reader.
  • Lower your lights to signal your brain that it’s time to relax.
  • If you’ve been working in pajamas all day, change to a different pair for bedtime.
  • Make your evening facial cleansing/moisturizing/tooth brushing routine into a relaxing ritual.
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool enough, and if you need it, add some white noise. I used a small old-fashioned fan that whirred softly, but there are also white noise machines that you can purchase.

Experts say you should make this your Golden Rule: only use your bed for sex and sleeping, but I’m not about to hang-out on the couch when I don’t feel well, so I would include recuperation too.

I used to become anxious each night at bedtime because “I knew” I wasn’t going to fall asleep. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy until I developed a Daytime/Bedtime distinction in my mind. I also learned that if I went to bed and wasn’t asleep in 20 minutes, to get up. Stretch, read a book, sit quietly, or do something else calming, in low light, before trying to fall asleep again.

Do you have any tricks or practices that work for you that you would share? Let me know in the comments below.

We’d all like to be sleeping like a baby.

XO Donna


Comfort Food

Now that my sweetie and I have had both of our vaccines, we celebrated by having a very dear friend, who has had both of his vaccines, too, come to dinner. I cooked a “comfort food meal,” and for dessert I made a delicious carrot cake with a light glaze of cream cheese frosting. Like many of my favorite recipes, this one has a story attached, the story of me.

When I moved to Austin, TX in 1978, I found out there was no reciprocity for my hairdresser’s license here. Although I had been working as a hairdresser for two years in NY, I had to go back to beauty school to earn more credits for a Texas license. This was not what I expected!

To make ends meet, I worked evenings at the Austin Opera House slinging cocktails and buckets of beer. The music was good, the tips were great, and I made my first friend there, Terry. Her husband was a musician and her sister worked at Austin Public Library – she’s the one who told me about a part-time day job in the Children’s section of the library.

I was hired, and I was in Heaven. I worked with amazing people in a beautiful new library. Books everywhere! About six months later there was an opening next door in the Central Texas Library System film department that offered a few more hours, a little extra money, very interesting work, and another group of interesting and creative people.

Many of us were working towards something – a masters in library science, a masters in archival studies, degrees in public administration, library management, or creative writing and theater. I was working my way back toward enough credits for my cosmetology license.

Along the way, I developed wonderful friendships and became part of the tribe that made up the Austin arts and music scene in the 80’s. The early Capitol 10K races! Carnival Brasiliero! Liberty Lunch! Whole Foods! Armadillo Christmas Bazaar! Fiesta! at Laguna Gloria, Spamarama! Zilker Hillside Summer Musicals!

Soon, I was happily divorced, had earned my cosmetology degree… and began cutting hair at my kitchen table, or in good weather, out on my patio. A year or two later, and I was cutting most of the Austin Public Library staff’s hair, and a bunch of the local artists, artisans, actors, writers and musicians. That’s when I decided it was time to open my first salon. Many of the friends made then remained my clients for my whole 30+ year career.

This recipe was given to me by my boss, Biruta. She was a beautiful woman who looked very much like Ali Macgraw. She was an exceptional hostess, and a delicious cook, whose whole lifestyle exuded what is now being called a “Scandi” aesthetic: simple beauty and naturally elegant furniture and textiles. None of this was what I had grown up with at all – and I admired her style tremendously.

This is her carrot cake recipe… the original copy she handed me, jotted in her neat handwriting from 40 years ago, now stained, wrinkled and splattered from many great cakes.

You have the option of more white flour than whole wheat, but I always make it equal. I grate my carrots in a Cuisinart now, rather than by-hand using a box grater. My cream cheese frosting is just one 8 Oz. package of Neufchâtel at room temp mixed with enough powdered sugar to make it sweet, but not disgustingly so – about 1 Cup – and a teaspoon of vanilla. My electric oven baked it in 30 mins. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Let cool to room temp before frosting, then chill in fridge to set icing. 12 servings, more or less.

Bon Appétit!
XO Donna


1,000 PAPER CRANES

Every day since I joined the Breast Implant Illness and Healing group on FB in August, I spend 15 – 30 minutes reading posts and sending well-wishes to the women having their surgery that day or the next. Looking at their photos I see my own exhaustion, sadness, fear, and hopefulness mirrored in their eyes, and I say a quick prayer for an easy surgery and a speedy recovery for each of them. These are the things I wish for myself.

A few nights ago, while spending some time checking-in on the site, I had a “flash” of an Origami crane. According to legend, creating a Senbazuru by folding and stringing 1,000 paper cranes gives you an opportunity to make a special wish come true.

Traditionally the crane is a mythical creature believed to live 1,000 years. In Japanese, Chinese, and Korean culture it represents good fortune and longevity, and throughout Asia it represents happiness and eternal youth. The Senbazuru is created by stringing the origami cranes on 25 strands of 40 each. It is then given to someone who is seriously ill as a wish for their recovery. These are usually done by friends, classmates, co-workers, or as a collective effort in the community. They are a physical manifestation of prayers, becoming a symbol of hope and healing during a challenging time.

When I wrote my blog Coming Out, I had been involved with the BII group for about two months, and at the time there were 127K members. In these past five months, that number has risen to 136.7K, with new members daily .

According to Japanese tradition, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 cranes will be granted their most desired wish because they have shown the crane’s famous loyalty and have recreated the beauty the cranes are know for.

Through this group, I found the perfect surgeon for myself in Dallas, Dr. Surjit Rai. My consultation with him in February was nothing short of amazing, even my cardiologist is impressed with him after he called to talk to her! My surgery date is being scheduled for early May, I will know exactly when soon… the details haven’t been ironed out yet with the hospital

I am ready, and both nervous and excited. I look forward to feeling better, having energy again, and feeling more comfortable in my skin. I want what everyone who undergoes this surgery wants, a return to health! What I realized the other night when I envisioned the origami crane, is that my daily well-wishes to the women in this group about to have their surgery is not different from my folding a thousand cranes… one good wish at a time. While it began altruistically, I am keenly aware that I want this for myself, too. And I will continue to “fold my cranes,” as it has become my daily practice.

I believe that my patience, commitment, and loyalty will pay off… and I will get my most desired wish.

XO Donna


Forewarned is…

I am sharing a dear friend’s post this week for a couple of reasons: I know you’ll find her post valuable in your own dealings with sleazy service/salespeople. And, if you have friends in the San Antonio area, I hope you will pass it along to them. This behavior isn’t acceptable toward any woman at any age. And, I am still mulling over what I want to write. So much to talk about after Snowmageddon down here in Texas!

I’m sure you’ll remember Brenda Ray Coffee and her blog… I used to contribute to 1010ParkPlace. Brenda has taken time off from it, with occasional exceptions, because she is currently working on what I am sure will be one hell of a memoir! Please enjoy her post, the link is below.
I will see you with my own post next week.

XO Donna

https://www.1010parkplace.com/you-browbeat-the-wrong-woman-ralph/


FROZEN

Frozen @Disney Movies

Not having children, especially little girls, I’ve never seen the Disney movie Frozen. Nevertheless, Frozen is the word that comes to mind when I look out my windows. Yes, I live in Central Texas, and we occasionally have a week of winter… but this is “a sheet of ice covering everything, power outages, and a 130-car pile-up on an icy freeway kinda winter!” Dang! I’m waiting for someone to cue the herds of caribou. Or a woolly mammoth.

Our local weatherman gets quite excited when some “weather” happens, and it’s understandable since we really haven’t had anything like this before. He keeps using the term, “record breaking!” while avoiding the term “global warming,” but, this is indeed unusual for Texas, to say the least. The forecast is for even colder weather, and snow beginning on Sunday evening with an accumulation of a couple inches.

This will be the second time in the last 18 years that I have seen a couple of inches of snow here on Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, I know with everything that’s going on in our world: the extreme winter in 43 out of 48 states, the saga of the impeachment hearings, and the challenges of trying to get a Covid vaccine while doing our best to avoid getting the virus, it’s hard to get excited about Valentine’s Day.

You think, “what does it matter?” Trust me, it does matter… there isn’t much we can do about the BIG STUFF going on, except keep our hearts open and warm to the people around us.
But, we can and must strive to be fully present to the small stuff: moments of pleasure and beauty that come our way. It is necessary for our mental health and connectedness.

If you are reading this, I want you to be My Valentine! If I could “do an Oprah” and send you all flowers and chocolate, I surely would. Instead, grab yourself a favorite chocolate bar, box of chocolates, slice of cheesecake, glass of champagne, or some strawberries, and let’s celebrate ourselves!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

XO Donna


PURPLE REIGN

The first blog post I wrote for 1010ParkPlace was an article about the Color of the Year, and that I was excited because of what it represented. I’m having those same feelings again, still abuzz with excitement from last week’s Inauguration, and the fact that Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama all chose to wear brilliant shades of purple. Elizabeth Warren even wore a fuchsia neck scarf and matching mask.

Purple is special. Take to heart Alice Walker’s powerful line, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.”

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Politically, the color purple (borrowing from Alice) is significant because it represents bipartisanship. In this case, their outfits represent a hope for Red and Blue to work together… Heaven knows we could certainly use a lot more of that.

Do you remember elementary school art lessons about primary and secondary colors?  Red, Blue, and Yellow are the primary colors, and when you mix any two together you get a secondary color. Red and Blue mixed together become Purple.

Purple was one of the colors of the suffrage movement. In a 1913 newsletter, the National Women’s Party described their use of purple, stating that it “stood for loyalty, constancy to purpose, and unswerving steadfastness to a cause.”  My paternal grandmother, Carolina Basile, born to Italian immigrants, was a suffragette in NYC in the late 1920’s. Her steadfastness and vision, along with tens of thousands of others like her, gave women the right to vote, and lead all of us to this amazing moment in history: our first female Vice President!

Purple has long been associated with royalty, and along with it, power and wealth. There are a few reasons for this: Phoenician-purple dye was extremely time-consuming to create since it was made by gathering and crushing Murex Brandaris shells.  Thousands of shells were required to make enough dye for just one tunic, making it extremely expensive.

But even more than the cost of labor and all those poor sea-creatures, this dye was prized because rather than fade over time, the color increased in brilliance as it was exposed to sunlight and air!

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Purple was worn by Roman magistrates, then became the color of rulers in both the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and later it was the color of the Roman Catholic Bishops. At some point in history, laws were enforced ensuring that only royals could wear it.

I think back to all of the paintings I’ve seen in museums where some royal, or another, is wearing a purple ermine-trimmed cape. I’ll pass on the fur, but I always noticed that splendid color. 

Which brings me to the reason I am most excited that purple is having its moment:  Violet represents the Crown Chakra –  Universal consciousness and our connection to a higher guidance. We are finally realizing that we are, in fact, all connected. I believe this represents the opportunity to work together from a more conscious and conscientious place, and move forward together. To accept each other across party lines, or whatever imaginary lines divide us.  

If you haven’t yet, do read Alice Walker’s, “The Color Purple.”  And every time you wear anything purple, I hope you remember how special the color is, and just how special you are!

XO Donna

 


FEED YOUR HEAD

Alice looks a bit unhappy… perhaps too much cake and not enough tea?

I’ve been doing a lot of online research lately. Trouble-shooting I guess, since I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression. Wham! out of the blue I began having panic attacks two years ago, then last year I started having bouts of depression. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for a long time, then began therapy and finally admitted it to my sweetie. In August I found out these are very common symptoms of BII (breast implant illness) and usually go away after explant. Since I am not scheduled for surgery until July, I’ve been looking for a way to feel better sooner!

Everyone’s brains need feel-good nutrients now – what with the pandemic and the unfolding political situation here in the US.


While we can’t control either of those situations, we can take good care of ourselves, and our mental health, by eating right. Without a doubt, cocktails and comfort foods are comforting, but in the long-run they can leave us feeling worse. I have had to find a couple of alternatives to comfort myself that really do reduce stress and anxiety – picture Julie Andrews singing, “These are a few of my favorite things.”

A five or ten-minute guided meditation (found on Google)
An online exercise class (I do Nia with Holly Nastasi on FB)
A 20-minute walk outdoors, or if you live in snow-country, just a few deep breaths outside in the fresh air
A phone conversation with a friend
Hand-writing letters or notecards just to say, “Hi!”
Curling up with a really good book (I couldn’t put down “The Beauty in Breaking” by Michele Harper)
Taking a break for a “cuppa.” (see how testy Alice is getting…)

In my searching, I’ve found many articles written on the field of nutritional psychiatry: foods that help beat depression by giving the brain more of the nutrients it needs to thrive. I read that in a 12-week study, the people that improved their diets the most improved their mood the most. A long time ago one of my spiritual teachers said that “it’s not what’s eating you, it’s what you’re eating.” Turns out, there’s now the science to back him up.

So, what should we eat to feed our head? A Mediterranean-style diet full of fruits, fresh vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, plain yogurt and natural cheeses, beans, nuts, seafood, smaller portions of lean poultry and meat, and whole grains (except I have to skip the grains, unfortunately.) Please, enjoy that fresh whole wheat bread for me!

I’m also focusing on specific nutrients that are especially helpful: Probiotics which replenish the good bacteria in our guts. There is a strong link between our gut health and our brain health. To benefit both, add plain yogurt, sauerkraut, Kefir, Kosher dill pickles and fermented vegetables like kimchi… which I really need to learn to make, and that can be a whole blog if I can get a friend to come teach us! Vitamin B6 regulates our sleep and our mood, and too little is associated with depression. It’s a daily need and easily found in pistachios, garlic, salmon and tuna, bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados and whole grains. And last, DHA the main omega-3 fat in our brains. It promotes new brain cells, and Heaven knows I need all of them I can get!
Seafood is probably the source we are all familiar with: wild salmon, oysters, mussels, and anchovies. But raw nuts; almonds, macadamia, cashew, and pecans are all good sources, too. There is one caveat – skip the can of dry-roasted, salted nuts – the processing and salt override their healthy benefits.
***I want to add a side-note here, I was taught long ago that if you eat well 80% of the time, you can “cheat” the other 20% and still be well. We all need an occasional indulgence!

So, that’s all the news for now. I’m going to make myself a cuppa and queue up “White Rabbit” on Pandora.

XO Donna



Looking ahead

LET’S look ahead, year end is here. Keep our hearts open, spread only good cheer.
Try to be helpful, be patient and kind. And, above all – keep an open mind.

SHARE with others what you can; bake a meal, write a check, lend a hand.
This year’s been a tough one, but we’re getting the gist – and my friends that haven’t, got moved to the Naughty List!

LOVING hearts, open minds, and the willingness to try seeing things a new way…
being grateful for all we have and trusting that better days will come is what this Holiday is all about.

Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, and a very Happy, Healthy New Year to us All!
Thank you dear readers/friends for another year together.
XO Donna

Santa Claus: family heirloom 2020 ornament: Marjorie King Parker


newish jewish

As someone who never felt like they “fit in” growing up, looking back on the moments in my life when I truly felt like I belonged, I realize how important that sense of connection is. We all seek it.

I’m thinking about this because of the pandemic this year, and the conscientious lack of social gatherings. Yet, there are many ways to be with family. And, Hanukkah began last Thursday night… although I’ve only recently discovered I’m part Jewish, it is encoded in my blood, and that knowledge has created a sense of peace. And a strong desire to cook latkes!

About two years ago my sisters and I joined Ancestry on a whim. We thought our maternal grandmother was half-Cherokee half-Irish, and that our Mom’s father was English.

We knew our Dad’s mother was Italian, through-and-through, (with stunning family names: Basile, DiNobile, and Sconamiglio!) And, our paternal grandfather was… well, he was missing, actually. A blank page in our book.

My Dad grew up without him, never even knew him, and like many people of that generation, it wasn’t a subject he was willing to talk about.

I may have been the one who instigated this whole quest, because from the first time I saw Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr’s “Finding Your Roots” on PBS I was hooked. And very, very curious about my roots. My sisters and I ordered our test kits, spit in a tube, and mailed them back.

Was I surprised to find out we had Jewish ancestry?
Yes… we all were. But as my youngest sister said, “Wow, this explains a lot!”

First, it explained something very important about our missing grandfather – he was 100% Jewish.
Who would ever have suspected that background with a name like O’Klock?
And our 100% Italian grandmother, she of the beautiful names, was way more Greek/Albanian, and way less Italian than she knew!

The second equally surprising thing was that our maternal grandmother had no Native American blood, not a single drop, and no Irish ancestors, either.
My Mom grew-up believing she was Cherokee and Irish, but it turns out Grandma was all Scottish. And my beloved “Grampie” was English, and German, and Swedish. He was the only grandparent I really knew. He loved me, and I adored him. He had exquisite handwriting, and he worked on the railroads and on his ramshackle little farm. I get my reverence for the land and for trains that cross it, from him. I happily lived in a cottage for thirteen years because it was just four houses away from the railroad tracks in South Austin.

“Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. The midnight train is whining low, I’m so lonesome I could cry”

Hank Williams

The more people explore their ancestry, the bigger the data base of DNA becomes and the more accurately results can be pinpointed. My map is an updated result for this year, and my Jewishness got “upgraded” three percent, which seemed somehow inevitable. I wanted to convert in high school – envious of my girlfriend’s Bat Mitzvahs (and nose-jobs) but my Father refused. And years later there was an almost-wedding and almost-conversion for Robby Cohen… who turned out not to be the “nice boy” I thought he was!

But mostly, that 29% explains the almost-religious experience I have every time I walk into a good Jewish deli. My blood knows!

Your Ancestry report is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and when it’s finished, it’s you!
I could have easily put that picturetogether based solely on the foods I love the most: Greek food. Mediterranean food. Italian pastries. Scones, shortbread, and tea. Or, my all time favorite – an “everything” bagel with cream cheese, lox, red onion, tomato and capers with a wedge of lemon. And a cup of strong coffee.

But for tonight I think I’ll pick up some brisket and make another batch of potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce. Hanukkah isn’t over yet!

Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year! May this season be Merry and Bright, and may everything you eat be a delight!
May we be grateful for our good fortune, and help those who are less fortunate.
And let’s remember, we don’t need to be close…. to be close. Stay safe my loves!

XO Donna


Thank Full

I learned a long time ago that if you look, you can always find something to be grateful for. These days, we don’t have to look far at all. A roof over our head and food in our pantry. Health, both our own and that of our loved ones – be they near or far this year. And a couple of extra dollars to donate to the local food bank.

And gratitude for friendships.

Thank you all for being here – or out there in the Ethernet. Thank you for your comments, for your advice, support, for sharing this blog, and for reading; giving me some of your time. Wishing you a delicious Thanksgiving!

XO Donna