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


Bare Necessities

Our Mexican Riviera vacation didn’t go quite as I had planned, but you’ve heard the old saying, “You want to hear God laugh, just tell her your plans!”

The trip was easy; the flight is a little over 2 hours from Austin to Cancun. Our pick-up at the airport went much better than usual, too – no wandering around looking for a driver who should be looking for us. We found our ride quickly in the melee, and we were the only passengers in a brand-spankin’ new Chevy Suburban… I felt a bit like a celebrity, tinted windows and all.

We arrived at the hotel with plenty of time to unpack, change clothes and meet our friends for dinner. It is such a delight to be with friends for vacation, isn’t it?  Have you noticed how easy it is to pick-up right where you left off, as if you’d just seen each other a few weeks ago, rather than a whole year ago!

Lesson #1: Like fine wine, friendships grow richer and more special with time.

The next day dawned bright and sunny. We had each reserved a poolside lounge, so we donned swimsuits, dropped our towels, sunscreens, and books on them, and headed to the breakfast buffet. What a day: lounging, chatting, reading, and being waited on the whole time! I even managed to pry myself off of the lounge and make it to the gym to work out! Dinner was especially wonderful because our friends from Montana, whose flight had been scrubbed the day before, had finally arrived. Dinner that night was a dressy affair, and the gang – all 10 of us – were there!

Everything was heavenly… until it wasn’t.

I woke with a torturous stomach ache at 2:30 a.m. I was curled into fetal position praying it would pass, and trying not to whimper and wake my fiancé. It didn’t pass… For the first time in 30+ years, I had gotten the dreaded “turista.”  I’d never heard of anyone getting sick here… lucky me.

For the next 60 hours I never left my room. The first day was wretched, but by evening I was able to relax. And like Greta Garbo, I wanted to be alone. Please dear, get me some ginger ale… and then Go. Have. Fun.

I slept most of the second day, and that night I was finally able to enjoy some fruit and pot of mint tea. The view out my window was great, day and night. My sweetie kept checking-in with well-wishes from our friends, and I kept thanking him, then shooing him away again to enjoy himself..

Lesson #2 – Even though I was sick on my vacation, I was still on vacation.

I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, or my trip was ruined. It wasn’t what I would have wished for, but it was what it was. I practiced “Being Here Now.” (RIP dearest Ram Das). And, did I mention that the view was great?

 

The next day I felt well enough to join everyone again. A sunrise stroll before breakfast let me dip my toes in the Caribbean. A swim in the pool and lots of lounging, and I felt ready for our final dinner together before everyone began leaving the next day.

That is when I learned the last lesson of the trip.

Lesson #3 – When packing for a vacation, pack everything you think you’ll need. Come back later and remove about half of what’s in your suitcase!

I thought I needed lots of options, but too many options = too many decisions, and that = stress. Especially when I have to drag my baggage, literally, through airports.

I brought too many clothes, shoes, books, toiletries, make-up and hair goop. I could barely lift my little carry-on.  What I wore: two jersey dresses, one bathing suit, two sarongs, tights, a tank top and sneakers, a pair of heels, a baseball cap, and flip flops.

The truth is that everything I really needed, other than a few bare necessities, I carried with me in my heart!

Thank you all for being here and reading and commenting. I appreciate you! Happy Holidays and a Healthy, Loving and Abundant New Year.

XO Donna

 

 

 


Walking on Sunshine

I studied with a wise business mentor who always said, “If you’re on time… you’re late.” 

It was a great way to drive home the necessity of being early, and made more of an impression than my mother’s, “The early bird catches the worm.” 

I’ve certainly never wanted to catch worms, have you? However, having all of my ducks-in-a-row is a wildlife metaphor I can subscribe to. So much less stress-inducing than a last-minute mad dash to get everything done! Both my mentor and Mom would be proud of me this year, I’m ready way ahead of schedule.

Just like Santa, I made a list and I’ve been checking things off as I go.

This year I had my heart set on creating my own holiday cards using a photo from our travels. I asked my friend, Maria, (who teaches creativity workshops ) how best to do this. She said that she’s had success with Walgreens personalized cards before, and she was right. I unleashed my inner-artist by uploading a special photo, choosing a design template and a card stock, then even created envelopes with our return address printed on them. They were ready 24-hours later, and with a 50% discount coupon I found online, they were very reasonably priced.

Since it all seemed too easy – I worried whether they’d be worthy of being mailed out? I’m happy to say they are!  I’m addressing them today, and tomorrow they will be dashing through the snow. 

They had to be ready, because Thursday morning we leave for our much-anticipated Christmas gift to ourselves – five nights at a quiet little resort we love on the beach in Mexico. 

There have been days when I wondered if I was actually going to make it… 

For two weeks I’ve been organizing my clothes and now they are stacked on my dresser with care.  They only need to be fitted into a carry-on, along with the small arsenal of health & beauty products a woman of our age requires.

Speaking of products, I visited a friend’s shop last month for a Consuela sale. I needed a makeup bag that could stylishly survive a leak or spill while traveling. I found the perfect one: it’s roomy and lined with sparkly spill-proof vinyl that reminds me of my aunt’s 1950s Formica table-top. Made in Mexico, with lots of styles and designs, her website is consuelastyle.com 

Sunshine, delicious food that I didn’t cook, (meaning no dishes for my sweetie to wash) and a pool surrounded with palm trees. What more could anyone want? 

Since you asked, the highlight of the trip is that we are meeting four other couples there. We are all of a certain age, and have had enough life-experiences that we don’t take friendships, or precious time spent together, for granted.

I feel like a kid, excitedly counting the months, then the weeks, and now it’s down to counting the days till we all are officially on vacation.

XO Donna