Semi-Brave New World

Everything is completely different than it was two weeks ago… who could ever have imagined?

And yet today dawned sunny and warm, the birds alternate between singing and giving us dirty looks from their cruddy, almost dry birdbath. Thank heavens this isn’t a Hitchcock movie…

I’m anxiously finding my way through these turbulent times, how about you?

Everything here in our “senior community” has been completely shut down (I’m talking Ghost Town) for two weeks. But I’ve found yoga online. And my BFF is doing her NIA classes live beginning today. Something fun to add to my daily walks. Have you found any online exercise you like?

The Coffee Break Creativity group that had just begun meeting has moved to working together online, also. By sharing artistic goals we want to achieve, and before & after photos, we are all still connected.

Even my group therapy session happened online yesterday. Seeing everyone’s dear faces onscreen reminded me of Hollywood Squares. Remember that old show?  It was so zany and risqué for it’s time!

 

Afterwards, my sweetie and I had an appointment with a lawyer. Their office followed the most stringent cleansing and social distancing standards imaginable – we could have done surgery in there!  But, I still signed all my papers with my own pen. After talking about this for years, our wills and our medical directives are now finished.

Do you have a will and medical directives? Does your family know your wishes?  People avoid talking about this, but it is actually a generous gift to your family.

At the most difficult time ever, they will know how to carry out your wishes, and it will give them a sense of direction and purpose when needed the most. Just try to make sure your wishes are reasonable…

Obviously, we couldn’t give my sister the “Viking funeral” she wanted: A flaming boat set adrift in the river behind her home floating toward Lake Michigan would probably have violated every city, county, and state ordinance on the books. And I’d probably be writing this to you from jail.

 

After the lawyer’s office,  we braved the grocery store. It’d been more than eight days since our last trip and neither of us really wanted to go. I was anxious, to say the least. We both felt a little safer when we saw that they had their social distancing down to a science!

Unfortunately, the shelves were almost bare, and the weirdest stuff was unavailable – not a can of baking powder or box of baking soda to be found. Nary a packet of yeast. I’m very adaptable, and a resourceful cook, but for some reason the sight of an absolutely empty baking aisle pushed me over the edge – I fought back my tears and hurried along.

Today I must catch up on my English Grammar class (I’ve fallen behind) and bake a couple of loaves of sandwich bread.

I am counting my blessings: my family and tribe are all well right now, I get to see them online. I’m making a donation to the local Food Bank. And I’m sending out blessings for those on the front lines: all of the  medical personnel, and technicians and researchers, and public servants braving this virus, all of the workers who can’t work. And to you, friends, may you all be healthy and well.

XO Donna

 


Gotta Have Friends

 

 

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and finally found the perfect opening in this (adjusted) quote by John Donne:

“No woman is an island, entire of itself; every woman is a piece of the entire continent, a part of the main.”

After having a stroke last year, my continuing heart problems coupled with the physical and emotional numbness I felt made me withdraw. I’ve always bounced back from problems before, but this time felt more like a “SPLAT!”

I tried to stay active on social media because it felt like connection, but I found myself feeling isolated and depressed. I’ve never felt either way before, so I kept hoping it was a temporary situation and that it would pass.

Although I’ve seen people share EVERYTHING on social media, I wasn’t one of them, and I was too embarrassed to admit to anyone how I was feeling…  unwilling to give voice to it.
After months of feeling this way, I finally called my dear therapist, whom I haven’t worked with in years, and began group-therapy again.

(Side-note: I have two fantastic female therapists, a cozy uplifting space that feels like “home,” and five wonderful people who are my understanding mirrors. I highly recommend group over ‘one-on-one.’)

I was in a doctor’s office last week when I came across an article in GH entitled “Friends With Benefits.”  Catchy title, but not what I thought at first (I know, I should get my mind out of the gutter).  It’s about all of the ways that friendships boost our health and well-being:

  • Friends lower our stress, because when we are with them our levels of progesterone increase, decreasing our stress and anxiety.
  • Women between 50-79 who had more support from their friendships lived longer.
  • Women with breast cancer who have strong social networks also have better odds of survival.
  • People over age 80 who have more positive social relationships also had the memory function of middle-agers.

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “The depth and breadth of your social connections will impact your health just as much as diet and exercise.”  Did you know that older adults are more at risk for developing hypertension from social isolation, than from diabetes?

The take-away: our friendships are just as important as taking good care of ourselves.

Social relationships can buffer some of the effects of stress and help us cope, especially in mid-life when there are a lots of demands in our life: children, aging parents, work, divorce, illness, death. It’s noted that having a large social network was even more important than having high-quality relationships during older age.

By sharing my authentic-self, and trusting my group/therapy, I’m finding the inner-strength to venture out again. I’ve committed to a weekly yoga class. I also accepted a weekly invitation to join a group of creative women and make time to work on my art and words. And I’m bringing grain-free brownies to a get-together with women on my block on Friday.

The importance of feminine friendship and community is at the heart of the book I just finished, Willa’s Grove by Laura Munson. It’s a little more chick-lit than I normally read, but it was just the right medicine for right now.

So, remember to wash your hands thoroughly… and get together with your friends frequently.  To your health!

XO Donna

 

 


Undressing Lester

Okay, I can hear y’all wondering, “Who in the world is Lester, and why is she undressing him?”

Relax, Lester is just our Christmas tree, there’s nothin’ funny going on. And, today is Epiphany…the day the wise men showed up, and all Christmas trees come down.

The world according to my mother…

Mom was somewhat strident about the ins-and-outs of Holidays. She knew all of the rules (who decided those rules?) and made sure we observed them carefully. That being the case, our tree did not go up until Christmas Eve because that’s when Jesus was born.

But first the Nativity had to be set up in the living room bay window upon a downy layer of snow. The fact that there was never any snow in Bethlehem did not deter her one bit. She carefully arranged all of the pieces, which she had made and beautifully hand-painted. I especially loved the wise men with their robes and headdresses in exotic colors!

That nativity was the source of much family laughter because my son Jason, who was very young and the only grandchild, swapped-out his toy frog for the baby Jesus.

(For years to follow it was a running joke between the two of them, and he’d replace Jesus with a lump of Silly Putty, a Hot Wheels car, or even a GI Joe).

Mom always got as flustered as Barney Fife when Andy snagged him for doing something stupid again.

She’d cuss and grumble about the sacrilege of it, all the while trying not to laugh as she hunted for both Jason and baby Jesus.

While I do bend her rules a bit; we like to put our tree up two weeks before Christmas, I am still compelled to take it down on the 6th of January.

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This is partly a nod to my sweet Mom, and the self-knowledge that a deadline is the only way it will get done before all the branches are doing downward-facing-dog pose with both needles and ornaments sliding to the floor!

So, that’s what I’ve tasked myself with today, and I’d better get back to it. Do you have Christmas Tree Rules?  Do they even exist? I know of people who put their tree up the day after Thanksgiving – it may be a Texas thing. 

Oh, and back to Lester, the Skinny Christmas Tree… my sweetie and I have had sixteen holidays together without ever naming a tree. Where this came from, I’ll never know. But it made things a little more special to have “Lester’s” sparkling company throughout this season.

Wishing you all Health, Happiness, and Abundant Peace in 2020!

XO Donna


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 



The Best Medicine

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I’ve made progress since the strokes three months ago. I’m driving again, going for walks, reading Liz Gilbert’s “City Girls” and able to concentrate. I still prefer the ease of Netflix and Prime because I don’t have to focus so intensely… and there’s always the rewind button. 

All of this lounging about watching movies originally felt like a vacation… but it was beginning to feel like a rut. Was I bored? You bet. Feeling a touch depressed? That, too… and those are both new feelings to me.

I’ve been finding motivation, energy, and inspiration hard to come by. What’s a gal to do? Enter sister #5, Elizabeth.

She called to ask if she could come visit. She has been working full-time, then going home and taking care of her grandsons every evening so her daughter can work. I don’t know how she manages, that’s two full-time jobs!  Of course, I told her “C’mon down!”

Her imminent arrival provided the motivation to finish up the guest room by buying new pillows and sheets, and finally repairing a pretty set of Asian lamps that had been damaged in storage. I also ordered the perfect nightstand from Amazon and put it together. I love putting things together, don’t you? Hardware stores, Amazon, and IKEA are my idea of heaven! I prefer them to shopping for clothes… which explains the gaps in my wardrobe.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, is an expert shopper. Efficient, always perfectly pulled-together, and great at spotting a bargain!  Which doesn’t add up to traveling lightly. We joke about how I can travel for a week with one small carry-on… and she needs her own bellman and porter! 

She’s my youngest sister, there’s a fourteen year difference between us, and only a five year difference between her and my son, Jason. She came to live with me for almost a year when she was sixteen… and it created a special bond between us. And, my son, an only child, had a very cool “big sister” for a while.

Thankfully, she arrived from Wisconsin with only one item on her agenda: floating in the pool every day. I could manage that. After living here for six months, we finally went to the Activities Center and signed up so I could accommodate her wish. What a milestone! 

My sweetie even rented a golf-cart for us to use while she was here, so we could get to the pool and back. The first night we had it, the three of us crammed ourselves into the seat and went out “joyriding” after the sun had set and the air cooled down. We zipped along (and I use that term loosely, because top speed is 20 mph) giggling about the cramped seating and enjoying the night. 

“Hey, you do see that snake, right?” Elizabeth said.
“What snake?”
“Um, the one we just ran over!” 

Oh, dang… we turned around and went back, and sure enough, we had squished a baby rattlesnake!!  I felt terrible, but no telling how many residents we’d saved by eliminating the threat of a rogue rattlesnake rampage!

We had exceptional weather while she was here, (now, it’s relentlessly hot) and we spent each day at the pool, and each evening out on the patio telling stories and laughing. I shared my healthy-food lifestyle, and she shared the very best smear-proof eyeshadow and made us her famous Banana Pudding for July 4th.

She provided me the motivation to get out-and-about and enjoying life again, and gifted me with not only with her presence, but with acceptance and love. That kind of healing is something no amount of medicine can do for us. 

XO Donna