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


Coming Out

I’ve hesitated to write this because I’ve been extremely ill (feeling as if I’m in survival mode) for a couple of months, and I like to share good news that focuses on the bright side of life.

My mother always told my sisters, and me, to never air our “dirty laundry in public,” and by that she meant sharing secrets. But one persons dirty little secret may just be another person’s revelation!

I thought I was fully recovered from last year’s strokes, that they were a blip on the radar, then everything fell apart at the end of July. I went to the hospital again because of stroke symptoms, extremely high blood pressure, and arrhythmia. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, my sweetie dropped me off at the ER entrance and waved goodbye. Everything afterwards felt like I’d walked onto a movie set…
It is odd being hospitalized in a dim and silent place. There was no hustle and bustle, with only a handful of emergency patients (myself included) for the mask-and-shield-clad nursing staff to care for. One night they played “Taps” over the loud speaker. The staff in the hallway froze in place. Intuitively I knew what had happened: a Veteran had passed away. I sat alone in my bed, hand over my heart and sobbed. Four days later, I went home.

These past twelve weeks have been spent adjusting to a new medicine routine and weekly virtual visits with all of my doctors, old and new. I’ve also had a LinQ heart monitor implanted in my chest right above my heart. It still hurts and makes we want to vomit when I think about it too much. It caused an auto-immune reaction, and I’ve been working to calm the resulting Fibromyalgia flare-up.

And rather than tell anyone about this, I’ve been crying it out in therapy.

My dirty laundry, the secret I’ve hidden, is that in November 2002 I had breast implants. After researching them, I chose the “new, improved, saline-filled, safe kind.”. My clothes fit beautifully. I felt womanly. It was the best birthday present to myself, ever. Or so I thought.

But, with my new breasts came insomnia, as if someone had flipped a switch, and weeks later, wired, exhausted, and almost hysterical, I was prescribed Ambien to sleep. A few years later I came down with flu-like symptoms, a UTI, intense kidney pain and gout-like symptoms. My feet and hands swelled so badly that I feared I’d never be able to wear my new engagement ring again. My Internist was shocked and immediately referred me to a kidney specialist and a rheumatologist for help. Thus it began. More illnesses, more doctors, more diagnoses.

Overcoming a laundry-list of chronic disorders became my “hero’s journey,” the years spent working my way back toward good health. I wrote the book, “Sick and Tired & Sexy… Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness,” about what I learned, the changes I made to my lifestyle, and the mindfulness practices that anchored my recovery. I felt that I had reclaimed my life… and it has been good for the better part of the last five years.

Then things went off the rails with the strokes, a TIA, and heart problems last April. I believed everything seemed well-managed again. I’d been doing everything right, and yet here I was back in the hospital. Why was this happening again?

A month or so ago I serendipitously discovered a group called Healing Breast Implant Illness . After reading the information, I immediately joined their group on Facebook “Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole.” Thousands and thousands of women have banded together to support each other by sharing their journey!

It had never, not even once, occurred to me that my breast implants were making me ill.

After researching everything – and I mean everything – about BII (Breast Implant Illness) I realized that I cannot recover when my body is constantly fighting the toxicity caused by the silicone in the implants. There is hard evidence that mixed-connective-tissue disorder and a rare type of lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) a cancer, have finally been linked to implants by the FDA. The latter resulted in an Allergan textured implant being recalled. Another problem is that this isn’t just happening to women like me, who did it for vanity… but also to women who have chosen implants for reconstruction after mastectomies for breast cancer!

People Magazine featured an article on Breast Implant Illness in its October 6th issue. The Doctors did an episode on BII. It’s all beginning to come out in public now.

Heart problems, blood-pressure problems, neurologic issues, kidney problems, sudden food allergies and intolerances, neck and shoulder pain, unexplained skin rashes, insomnia, thyroid problems, Sjogren’s Sydrome, chronic fatigue, connective-tissue disorders, Lupus, RA, Grave’s Disease, Hashimoto’s, panic attacks, anxiety, and feeling like you are dying are all common complaints from the 127,000+ women in the group. And this is only a partial list.

“What I thought would make me feel better about myself [turned out to be] the gateway to Hell.”

Member of Breast Implant Illness group.

It’s good to know that how I feel isn’t indicative of a slow and unmanageable decline… my body is screaming to be heard. Healing will involve an Explant, a surgery much more complicated and specialized than getting the implants was. I’ve been speaking to all of my doctors, had an explant surgery consultation, and have another surgeon to interview.

I read a study just days ago that stated that 80% of the 700+ women involved in it felt better immediately after their explant, and their health continued to improve as months went by. That is very good news! The surgery is a risk, and an expense uncovered by insurance that I am willing to take. I love myself enough to know that good health is way sexier than boobs.

If you know of anyone with implants who is ill, please share this post with them. If you know anyone considering implants, please share this with them. If you have any questions for me, I’ll be more than happy to share any and all of my research and experience.

Thank you for reading.
XO Donna


Mind Control

DESIDERATA

GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

(By Max Ehrmann © 1927)

collage by D.O’Klock

It is challenging not to feel the pressure  of everything that is going on these days, and last week was a toughie for everyone I spoke to. And that was before the death of one of my heroines, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I don’t need to tell you about her, there’s plenty written already. I am excited to learn more: I just ordered a book from Amazon, “Ruth Bader Ginsberg: A Life.”

It is a constant challenge to control my thoughts…  and I realize that they are the only thing I can control. Always and only, my thoughts and my actions.

We spoke about this in therapy group last week; letting go of things we cannot control. And for me, that includes being fearful, which robs me of the beauty, joy, and loving kindness still available in the world and in mankind. So, to counter feeling like I have no control, I do what I can: I tell people I love them. I write a check to the Food Bank. And I donate to PBS which has been a lifesaver for me during this time, and was a joy when I was raising my son.

And I read the Desiderata. I hope that it brings you some peace, too.

Much love, dear friends.
XO Donna

 


Run, Rabbit, Run

 

One of the sweetest things about our getaway last week was seeing the bunnies scurrying everywhere  in New Mexico. They’re way too fast to get a photo of them – all you see is their little bunny-butts and fluffy tails!

Sick of being cooped up, sick of all of my doctor appointments, and sick of this blasted 100+ degree heat – we decided to take a road trip, and went to visit friends who live in Madrid, NM, (above) an arts community just outside of Santa Fe.
It’s been almost two years since we last saw them. We knew we could safely visit them and catch up, so we loaded our SUV, left early in the morning, and arrived at their doorstep just in time for Happy Hour!

Our plan was to spend a couple of nights at their oasis in the desert hills – then three nights at a newly built AirBnB close to downtown, which had the added benefit of a little café downstairs!

The next morning the guys left early on motorcycles to ride to Taos, and Denise and I decided to walk around town, then go into Santa Fe for lunch. Shockingly,  it was almost as hot here as in Texas!  Madrid had more visitors than I’d expected; people from both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, especially motorcyclists, were looking for someplace to go for a drive.

New Mexicans are strictly adhering to a “masks everywhere policy,” and nobody was rebelling or complaining, people kept a respectful distance from each other, and everyone seemed happy and patient, which was refreshing. Most shops were open and lots of people strolled from place to place visiting.

It was a different story when we went to Canyon Road in Santa Fe later. The restaurants were all closed, except for the very few that have outdoor dining. We’d planned lunch at The Teahouse, a “quaint haunt with an eclectic menu,” but it was closed that afternoon. We headed instead to The Compound, a restaurant whose chef/owner won the James Beard Foundation award. Saying that our lunch, eaten in the patio below, was fantastic is a complete understatement!

After lunch we peeked in a few windows and discovered some stunning heads made out of fired clay bricks. There were very few tourists anywhere on Canyon Road, (which is the Yellow Brick Road of galleries). It is the first time I have ever seen it so quiet, or felt the heat here be so oppressive.

 

The next day Denise worked, so we wandered over to look at the work of sculptor and painter Jill Schwaiko. Link (here)
I find her work to be vividly spiritual. In the courtyard behind the gallery I found this beautiful old door.

It was time to head into town to check-in to our AirBnB rooms. Our suite was in a small complex built in an up-and-coming area, upstairs above lovely gardens and a restaurant. We planned to relax, stroll the Plaza, and go to the O’Keeffe Museum, but so much was closed.  A bit disquieting, in and of itself, but there was also a large fire burning up on the mountain, which was making it very smoky and very hard to breathe. We walked to breakfast twice, very early while it was still cool, bunnies scurrying into the brush as we approached. We stayed in our rooms each afternoon out of the heat and smoke. Evenings we’d spend on our porch or down in the café gardens. I could live in this place!

“It was the best of times… it was the worst of times.”  In spite of it all, we made the best of it.

We finally saw the “miraculous staircase” at the Loretto Chapel. This is only the second church I’ve been inside of in fifteen years (the other being the Notre Dame in Paris) and Loretto’s beauty didn’t disappoint. Built in 1873, it was modeled after the Saint Chappelle in Paris. The wooden staircase has two complete 360 degree turns with no supporting center pole! How the staircase was built, and by who, remains a mystery. There was no wait to get in, we got a Senior discount (LOL) and we were fortunate to be two of only eight masked guests there!

The night before leaving we drove into Madrid to say goodbye-for-now to our dear friends, and visited over appetizers and cocktails. It never feels long enough when we go to visit them, but it’s always great and I look forward to returning again very soon!

XO Donna