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.


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


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


Got the Blues

Before we left Texas, I’d harvested a bunch of the red fruit (tunas) of prickly pear cactus where we were camping. I’d made prickly pear juice quite a learning curve, with quite a few sticky (ouch!) issues.  And I had another bag full of tunas thinking I’d do it again, using my new wisdom, and make thick syrup to give as gifts for swirls in Margaritas.

Passing through Santa Fe, we were invited to return for Mad-Stock, a Woodstock themed celebration of music, peace and love. I decided I’d make tie-dye shirts for the guys our of the prickly pear juice! Both said they didn’t mind wearing hot pink… what a washout!!!  After all my work; cooking them in the hot juice for an hour, then letting them sit overnight in plastic bags, when I untied them they were gorgeous. When I washed them, this color faded completely away.

Now, you know full well that if I spilled any on a good white blouse, it never would have come out!

I was even more determined now, and after looking through Pinterest, I decided to try again, this time using an old friend from the 70’s…  RIT dye in a lovely Indigo Blue.
I used some of my old tying techniques (I used to love doing tie-dyes in pretty patterns, but simple, beautiful colors) incorporating tying stones into the folds, simple pleat-and-band, and Japanese Shibori folding and resistance techniques.

I followed RIT’s instructions TO THE LETTER, and when I pulled them from the dye bath (done in a 3-gallon bucket in my kitchen sink) I was over-the-Moon thrilled! Indigo blue! Shibori folds! Gorgeous circles with marigold-like patterns within!

Still following instructions carefully, I washed and dried them, and what I pulled from the dryer 40 minutes later was a pale imitation of what I had put into the dryer.  My well-defined lines of indigo and white had become a soft cream and denim blue design. Sigh. I went to bed that night feeling like a failure…

Turns out the failure was in RIT’s isstructions, for when I looked online there were completely different guidelines than on the box. Had i known, I would have gladly taken all the extra time they were proposing. I hoped the guys would still wear them.

The next morning when I awoke, the first thing I saw on my FB feed was this post by a friend, Lynn – “Failure is an event, not a character flaw.”  That changed my mind, what I did failed, but now I know where to pick-up next time. This was entirely too much fun, too relaxing, and too fulfilling to quit. I’m not ready to take orders yet, but I see a lot of Blue in my future!

 

XO DONNA





Grace and Frankness

I’ve been toying with the idea of having some work done on my face. Nothing drastic, just a little filler, since slender oval-shaped faces with sensitive skin don’t age as gracefully as round, or square, faces with an oilier complexion.

When my clients used to look at themselves in the mirror and complain about their fat faces I always told them, “Hush. You’ll really appreciate this in your sixties.”  As we age we lose the fullness from underlying fat, in our face. We also experience bone shrinkage… making a thin face even thinner. Add this to that the fact that I’ve been on medications for 20 years now, and you see why I’ve been considering options.

One reason I haven’t done anything so far, is my fear of looking like a Picasso painting as punishment for being vain.

Mostly it’s my fear of not getting wonderful results because of the aforementioned meds. Or of ending up looking like Melanie Griffith.1D2E8974-899B-43D0-97AE-582D6EA859C0

My first thought was, “Poor thing… didn’t she have any girlfriends to tell her when enough was enough?”  On the one hand, there’s the notion of loving someone enough to tell them the truth as you see it. But, on the other, there’s always the risk of losing a friendship, or alienating someone you care about.

I’ve always admired movies or books about women’s relationships where they can tell each other anything-and-everything and it’s heard, and they are still best friends. Like the Nextflix show Frankie & Grace.  I come from a long line of women who were taught to keep secrets, and to hold our tongue. “Don’t say anything, we don’t want [the others] to worry.” Or, “Don’t tell so-and-so we were talking about this because she’d kill me.”  So, I don’t say lots of things when I feel like something ought to be said because I worry about hurt feelings, about confrontation, and even the fear that my words won’t make a difference after all.

Is this a Universal Truth?  Is it attributable to being a women of this age? Or is it just familial dysfunction, what do you think?

Regarding all of this, there is a quote I love that has been attributed to everyone from Socrates to the Buddha, listing four things to consider before speaking your mind:

  1. Is this true?
  2. Is this necessary?
  3. Is this kind?
  4. Does it need to be said by me?

XO Donna


Grey Haired Beauty

Notice how when you begin to think about, or buy, a new car suddenly they are everywhere? I decided to grow out my hair to it’s natural color, whatever that was, a few months ago. Now that it’s grown out, and it’s grey, I’m checking out all of the other women close to my age sporting grey hair. Appropriate word… because some women really do “sport it” by wearing bold colors and jewelry, and makeup that highlights their eyes and lips. I admired lots of these women in Santa Fe, whether their hair was long or short.

In the ”hippy-ish” towns of Silver City and Bisbee I saw women who embraced their silver strands as just a natural part of growing older. I saw everything from short shocky haircuts, to gleaming streaming flaxen hair with rainbow-bright streaks atop gorgeous global, open-hearted, chakra-balancing, essentially-oiled, inner-peace clothes.

Both groups felt like women who loved the power of being women, and wore their crowning glory atop faces that radiated lives being well-lived.

That’s what I want, although right now it’s in that Ugly Duckling stage between a pixie and something else. And without color it’s as fine as frog-fur, but with my experience I’m certain  I can come up with something I’ll grow to love.

The last group I noticed was all the women who had become pale water-colors. Pale hair, pale skin, fading eyebrows, dressing in pastels and beiges. We ate lunch in Las Cruces one afternoon and the restaurant was full of women my age and older, and all but one seemed content to have grown invisible. I wondered when their fire went out? Why?

My conclusion: no matter your age, grey hair in and of itself, doesn’t make us look old. What’s going on in our mind about who we are, and what our worth is, those make a woman look old. My solution: the same things I discussed in my book, “Sick and Tired… & Sexy, Living Beautifully with Chronic Illness,” about taking care of yourself first.  

Make the time to do a quick 5-step make-up; tinted moisturizer, fill-in your brows, mascara, a touch of cream blush and a swipe of lipstick.  Wear colorful clothes, they lift your energy. And jewelry. Have a good haircut that is appropriate for your hair, face shape, your ability to style it, and your figure.

To steal a line from a men’s clothier  – “You’re gonna love the way you look!”

XO Donna