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


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

 


Summertime Blues

The best laid plans… I said I’d be writing more regularly last time, but the week after my post I was in the hospital again with stroke symptoms, arrhythmia, and shortness of breath.  Sigh, just when I thought I was out of the woods.

I spent a few days there, having every conceivable test known to modern mankind, including checking for Covid-19, which may have been the worst one!  I’ve been neurotically careful;  mask and physical distancing when I must go out, so, of course it was negative.

The results: they think I’ve been having TIAs, perhaps because my blood pressure isn’t controlled enough by the meds I’m on. Perhaps because of one of my meds. Perhaps because some things are just unknowable. Bottom line: they don’t know what’s going on, so I was told to get off my hormone replacement therapy. Without the hormones I’m afraid I will feel like… well, Dorian Gray’s portrait hidden up in the attic.

 I’ve always joked that you’d have to pry my hormone supplements out of my cold, dead hand… but sometimes it’s wise to stop and think, “Is this really the hill I want to die on?”

Speaking of old, I had the funniest conversation with my youngest sister, Elizabeth. I have a lovely silk spaghetti-strap top I bought last year and never wore. Now, I can’t see myself ever wearing it. I knew it would look great on her, so I sent a pic and asked if she liked it, telling her I’d feel like mutton dressed as lamb in it. Her response:

I’m sure most of this is in my head, because so far, I don’t feel bad at all except that I’m not sleeping. To counter this I’m maximizing foods that feed my brain and help handle depression, anxiety, insomnia and treat menopausal symptoms.

Like what? A Mediterranean-style diet, primarily of fruits, veggies, extra-virgin olive oil, real yogurt and cheese, legumes, nuts, Omega-rich seafood, whole grains, small portions of red meat, lean chicken and pork. The variety in this real-food diet provides our brain the nutrition it needs, regulates our inflammatory response, and supports the good bacteria in our gut.

Very often, what’s eating us… may be what we are, or aren’t,  eating!

Speaking of good eats, our dear neighbor, Rich, loves to cook and brought me over a container of fresh Gazpacho. (I used to make Ina Garten’s recipe, but haven’t in years since my sweetie won’t eat cold soups.)  It was absolutely delicious, and motivated me to make Anthony Bourdain’s Vichysoise to share, since I now had a fellow cold-soup enthusiast.

As a “thank you”, he gifted me one of Bourdain’s cookbooks given to him by a coworker he dislikes so much that just seeing the book on his shelf aggravated him. I’m still laughing over my good fortune!

I don’t know about the weather where you live, but it’s been hot as Hades here in Texas, so last night I made a batch of my creamy, cool zucchini soup.  It’s easy as all get-out, delicious,  and perfect for these inferno-like temps. I have been making this chilled soup every summer for at least 25 years. Try it, I know you’ll love it too.

Recipe:  Three (3) medium-sized zucchini, sliced, and one (1) medium white or yellow onion, diced. Put in a sauce pan with three (3) cups of natural chicken broth and simmer about 10-15 minutes till nice and tender. Let cool 10 minutes. Add 3/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt to the pan and stir. (I use whole milk yogurt for the richness, but use what you have). In two batches, whir in blender till smooth and creamy. Pour into large container and chill. Garnish with chives, parsley, a bit of fresh dill, spinach leaves, or some fresh black pepper. Bon apetit!

XO Donna

 


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


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


Well Read

 

Like most of the country, we’ve had weird unseasonal weather down here. Last time I wrote you, it was so hot we were eating salads for dinner. Now it’s definitely autumn, with a freeze or two thrown in for good measure.

One day it’s flip-flops, and the next it’s boots and a puffy jacket. Ah, Texas.

I am grateful that I can choose not to go anywhere when the weather is beastly… and stay home and spend the day reading. As a friend recently said, “We’re retired, every day is Saturday!” Now that I can focus enough to savor a well-written book again, I want to share what I’ve recently read and loved. I think all of these would make great holiday gifts for the readers on your list.

  1. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – I am a big fan of all Ms. Gilbert’s work, although my favorite is still The Signature of All Things. This newest book creates an immersion into the sexy and fast-paced 1940’s show-biz, club scene with a coming-of-age tale that will sweep you up and take you along for the roller-coaster ride!
  2. Educated by Tara Westover – This New York Times best-seller is a stunning, insightful memoir that reads like the very best fiction. The author was born to survivalists in the Idaho mountains. Her family distrusted both the educational and medical systems, and lived with their own skewed code of ethics. Teaching herself enough to get into college, she went on to graduate from Brigham Young, Harvard and Cambridge Universities.  An eye-opening read about a young woman’s courage and conviction to get not only an education, but a better life for herself.
  3. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs – Another memoir, this one is by Steve Jobs’ daughter. I will say, I alternately hated him, wanting to quit reading, and felt sorry for him. It felt voyeuristic to keep reading at times… and my heart broke over and over for the author. The book gave me some perspective on Steve Jobs, being told by a wise, insightful, and talented writer that wanted to love him, and be loved by him in return.
  4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Also a N.Y.T. bestseller, and it’s very easy to see why! This story – of a fiercely independent young girl living alone in the marsh, leads up to a suspected murder that takes place in 1969, the year I graduated high-school. I found it easy to empathize with, and admire, the main character. I know I could not have had the courage to live as she did. I also appreciate that this is the author’s first novel, and she just turned 70. If you love nature (and Barbara Kingsolver’s books) you will absolutely love this book!
  5. Sand & Water by Michael Hoerning – Who knew a romance story could also be a can’t-put-it-down-page-turner?  I’m not a fan of the romance genre, but this engaging and well-written debut novel won me over. Romance, friendship, personal growth and spirituality, this book has it all. And, the icing on the cake… Michael is my cousin! I am very happy that his work is so good, and hope he writes another book soon.

I’ve also been re-reading my own book: Sick and Tired & Sexy, Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness. I find that it’s good to remind myself of what I know… taking my own advice, so to speak.

All of the books here are available at Amazon.com. Now, I need your help: have you read a great book you’d like to recommend? I need a great vacation read. One that will distract me on the plane, and amuse/entertain/educate me poolside. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thank you in advance,

XO Donna


Nice Nicoise

My Tuna Nicoise

 

 

Our weather has been a roller-coaster here in central Texas. After record-breaking non-stop heat, I believe we had 45 consecutive days  of triple-digits, now we are in our normal fall pattern of hot-cold-hot.

One day it’s in the 60’s, the next it’s in 90’s. Two days ago I wore a sweatshirt, jeans and boots… this afternoon, I’m going over to the pool. We have a saying here, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute… it’ll change!”

We’ve passed the mid-way point of October, and although I couldn’t wait for the heat to end, (I was beginning to doubt that it would) now that I know with certainty that it will, I am savoring these last few days of summer.

It was too hot to cook one night, so I kept it simple by preparing a hearty Salade Nicoise.  (In case you haven’t head of it before, it is pronounced “ni – swaz,” meaning in the style of Nice.) I knew it was a town in France, but what I didn’t know was that it’s on The Riviera; famous for it’s perfect sunny climate, spectacular views, aqua water, and stunning beaches. Think Cannes! Monaco! Bond!

This salad makes perfect sense coming from a place where food is made from what is locally and seasonally available at their markets.

From Shutterstock.

 

I first had it years ago prepared with seared tuna atop crispy Romaine lettuce and veggies. I thought that was how it was supposed to be served.

After delving into it’s gastronomic history, I found out that ain’t necessarily so.

At it’s simplest and most traditional – it’s lettuce, green beans, beautiful black olives, capers, fresh anchovies and a dressing of virgin olive oil, vinegar, and fresh garlic, basil, salt & pepper. It usually accompanies fish or chicken. Just a salad.

Workers made it into a hearty lunch by adding boiled potatoes and a soft hard-boiled egg or two.

I sear either Ahi or Yellowtail tuna outdoors on the grill. Indoors, I do it with the vent-fan on in a very hot skillet, and it has “pride of place” on top of my salad. You can also use tinned tuna from Italy –  it’s very different from ours. Otherwise, just use good albacore tuna from your grocery store.

You needn’t get too hung-up on ingredients, use what fresh ingredients you have on hand and enjoy it!

Sometimes I will eat the potatoes, sometimes I choose not to – staying true to my Primal Lifestyle diet, which has really helped reduce auto-immune disorder aches and pains.

I have yet to add anchovies, but may buy some jarred ones and after rinsing and patting-dry, give them a try. Do you have a favorite meaty, not-too-salty, brand I can try?

Here is my favorite dressing, a simple vinaigrette from Martha Stewart:
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 TBL fresh lemon juice
3 TBLS wine vinegar
2TBLS Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBL fresh chopped basil
1 TBL fresh chopped parsley or dill

Whisk it all together. Let me know your thoughts, send in photos with a comment – I’d totally love that! And let’s enjoy these last few days of summer together, over a meal.

XO Donna 



NO JOKE

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On April 1, at 4:30 in the morning, I had a stroke. Correction, I had two strokes. It wasn’t until a week after I was released from the hospital that I realized this happened on April Fool’s Day. 

For the first time in my life, I feel vulnerable, rather than bulletproof.

I know what the warning signs of a stroke are, but apparently I didn’t know all of them. I knew what my risk factors were, but again, I didn’t know all of them. Now I do, and I want to be sure you do too. 

I wrote about it yesterday here: 1010ParkPlace.com  For brevity’s sake, I left out some details that still have me shaking my head in bewilderment. Tell me what you think.

THREE MONTHS AGO I began working on a new novel. I’d had bits and pieces of it for a long time, but suddenly, it all came together. It’s about an attractive, successful woman, early 50’s, who has a stroke. 

Her prognosis is for a full recovery, but after more than a year, she still can’t speak. She loses most of her business, many of her friends drift away, and her marriage falls apart. 

Make no mistake, she will triumph over all of this.

ONE MONTH AGO, on Friday evening, March 22nd, I went to a “Pots and Plants Party” to help them “plant” 1,000 pink flamingos. For those of you who have been in Austin for a while, these are the folks who always had the “flock” of flamingos at the corner of Bee Caves Rd. and Capitol of TX highway.

AAE19564-8B79-48A9-823B-17C1C4EE4B03Although I was feeling exhausted and had just driven an hour home, for some unknown reason I felt compelled to change clothes, con my sweetie into coming with me, and drive another hour back to this gathering. 

We met the owner of the compan. I told him I missed seeing the flamingos, and asked him why he had closed his business. He told me he’d had a stroke back then, but you’d never know it! I told him about the book I was writing and he enthusiastically recommended a book by a woman neuroscientist who had a stroke.

I bought it the next day, and my hair stood on end when I read that the type of stroke the neuroscientist had, was the same type of stroke I’d created for my protagonist!

NINE DAYS LATER I had my strokes. Do you think I haven’t stood out in my yard and yelled at the heavens, “Is this some kind of sick joke?” 

As I think about it more and more, I marvel at the coincidences… and wondered if they were all preparation for me to know that like the neuroscientist, “flamingo man,” and my fictitious character, I will be fine.

Again, please read, it’s important: 1010ParkPlace.com

XO Donna