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


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

 


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

 


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

 

 


Learning Curve

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Blue morning glories.

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

Oregano, Thyme, Shishitos

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

In it’s favor, it was beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ina’s Corn Muffins

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


What’s New?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours in Health,
Donna


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

 


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