COWGIRL UP!

I got to spend the morning on my friend Barbara’s ranch a couple of weeks ago. Her ranch manager was out of town, so she invited me to come along to check-up on her livestock.

Lookout Cow

She’s an orthopedic surgeon who’s been taking care of my shoulders for years now. You know… those pesky rotator-cuff issues most of us have from years of slinging around ridiculously heavy purses, lifting bag upon bag of groceries, hoisting our kids to our hips, and now hoisting grandkids, if we’ve got them.
I don’t have any “grands”, but I had my arms raised for years cutting and blow-styling hair.

Barbara is also an accomplished horse-woman. And a wonderful singer/songwriter/storyteller. And a lot of fun!

After a 90-minute ride through rolling green land east of Austin, we pulled off the main highway and turned onto a long dirt drive to her property. I was expecting something more rustic, but the land was beautifully fenced and mowed, fields green, and her farmhouse was charming cottage.

We checked on things inside as she showed me around, and after having a drink of water, we made the short walk from the cottage to the barn, with its adjacent henhouse and the fields where the horses and cows were anxiously awaiting us.

Thanks. But, no, thanks! Picky chickens.

Barbara had mentioned that her hens liked scraps, and if I wanted to bring them some, I could. As I recall, my Grandmother threw everything to her chickens, her philosophy being, “eat it or go hungry.” But when I proudly presented my leftover goodies to these gals, they looked at me like I was stupid. Grumbling as they went, they moseyed off.


The cows, on the other hand, were not at all picky. Quite the opposite, they were curious and bold. It was a bit frightening coming face-to-face with a 1,200 lb. creature, if truth be told! But I “cowgirled up” and shooed the cows away like an old hand, as I dumped piles of grain from a sack on the back of the Gator, walking behind it as Barbara drove. What an experience!

Too close for comfort

After the work was done, we drove the fields checking on the hay bales as big as Volkswagens. They never look that big from the road.
We checked fences and then rode the trails through the woods. There was even a cove with a few large pieces of Petrified wood! I wish I’d planned ahead for better photos, but I am glad I grabbed a few fun shots to share.


It was a morning well spent – I came away with a dozen beautiful eggs, courtesy of the girls, and a reminder of how hard our farmers and ranchers work to bring us all food.

Look like Easter eggs!

As my dear friend, Karen, always says, “If you have food to eat… thank a farmer.” Indeed.

XO Donna


endless summer

Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July” generally describes our Texas weather to a tee! It usually becomes unbearable by now, but it has been a great year for being outdoors, for a change. So, I’m walkin’, yes indeed, I’m walkin!

Mark’s Daily Apple, a health/fitness blog I have been reading for years, had an article on the benefits of having a walking routine. As did CNN, calling it the “most underrated form of exercise.” I gotta admit, I love it when I’m ahead of a trend!

And to make things even better, my youngest sister, Elizabeth, came to visit for eight days! She lives in Wisconsin, and pretty much hates the weather there ten months of the year. All she wanted to do while she was here was go for walks and lie by the swimming pool each day.

So, that’s exactly what we did, sometimes walking twice a day! We also went out riding in our golf cart most evenings – and we were generally able to talk my sweetie into chauffeuring us around.
We saw lots of deer and their still-spotted fawns everywhere. Loved it.

Elizabeth is 14 years younger than I, but of all my sisters, we are the most alike. We both share a love for hair and makeup, healthy foods and fashion. And we both have a warped sense of humor… that certainly goes a long way right now.
Take this photo, for example – I have so few photos of us together, and just when I thought we’d finally have one, she licked me!

I planned a special dinner while she was here, and invited my darling friend Mike for dinner. His new hobby (he’s already mastered being a barista) is mixology. Lucky us! We told him our planned menu and he made us a special cocktail to go with it, the base of which was freshly made watermelon juice, made from a Pecos watermelon! The best of Texas, for sure!

Can you believe I was too busy having fun to take any photos?!?

Elizabeth loves feta cheese more than anyone I know. I’m talking obsessed with feta. And a week or so before her arrival I found a Bon Appétite recipe I had to make for her – a Spinach Feta Tart with an almond-flour crust. Is your mouth watering?

She can’t eat wheat, either, so it was perfect for us, and came out better than we could imagine! Again, no photos. BUT, I will make the tart again and post photos and the recipe. I promise.

Unfortunately, vacations end and she had to return home and go back to work. Still wanting a nice photo of the two of us, I told her to act right. She told me she thinks she always looks awful in photos.
I told her the same thing I’ve said here before – if we think we are going to look awful, it will show.

I coached her a little bit, told my sweetie to give us a count, and lo-and-behold, a great photo to remember our week by!

XO Donna

P.S. – If you haven’t noticed the new button on the right side of your screen yet – the book is a link directly to Amazon where you can purchase Sick and Tired & Sexy! Cheers, y’all.


ErroR notiCe

I had a nice (well, at least I thought so) post ready to go… but a glitch with the new, and infuriating , WordPress editor wouldn’t cooperate.

The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men often go awry.

Robert Burns

Hopefully, I will rise to the challenge and have the issue resolved quickly!

XO Donna


Comfort Food

Now that my sweetie and I have had both of our vaccines, we celebrated by having a very dear friend, who has had both of his vaccines, too, come to dinner. I cooked a “comfort food meal,” and for dessert I made a delicious carrot cake with a light glaze of cream cheese frosting. Like many of my favorite recipes, this one has a story attached, the story of me.

When I moved to Austin, TX in 1978, I found out there was no reciprocity for my hairdresser’s license here. Although I had been working as a hairdresser for two years in NY, I had to go back to beauty school to earn more credits for a Texas license. This was not what I expected!

To make ends meet, I worked evenings at the Austin Opera House slinging cocktails and buckets of beer. The music was good, the tips were great, and I made my first friend there, Terry. Her husband was a musician and her sister worked at Austin Public Library – she’s the one who told me about a part-time day job in the Children’s section of the library.

I was hired, and I was in Heaven. I worked with amazing people in a beautiful new library. Books everywhere! About six months later there was an opening next door in the Central Texas Library System film department that offered a few more hours, a little extra money, very interesting work, and another group of interesting and creative people.

Many of us were working towards something – a masters in library science, a masters in archival studies, degrees in public administration, library management, or creative writing and theater. I was working my way back toward enough credits for my cosmetology license.

Along the way, I developed wonderful friendships and became part of the tribe that made up the Austin arts and music scene in the 80’s. The early Capitol 10K races! Carnival Brasiliero! Liberty Lunch! Whole Foods! Armadillo Christmas Bazaar! Fiesta! at Laguna Gloria, Spamarama! Zilker Hillside Summer Musicals!

Soon, I was happily divorced, had earned my cosmetology degree… and began cutting hair at my kitchen table, or in good weather, out on my patio. A year or two later, and I was cutting most of the Austin Public Library staff’s hair, and a bunch of the local artists, artisans, actors, writers and musicians. That’s when I decided it was time to open my first salon. Many of the friends made then remained my clients for my whole 30+ year career.

This recipe was given to me by my boss, Biruta. She was a beautiful woman who looked very much like Ali Macgraw. She was an exceptional hostess, and a delicious cook, whose whole lifestyle exuded what is now being called a “Scandi” aesthetic: simple beauty and naturally elegant furniture and textiles. None of this was what I had grown up with at all – and I admired her style tremendously.

This is her carrot cake recipe… the original copy she handed me, jotted in her neat handwriting from 40 years ago, now stained, wrinkled and splattered from many great cakes.

You have the option of more white flour than whole wheat, but I always make it equal. I grate my carrots in a Cuisinart now, rather than by-hand using a box grater. My cream cheese frosting is just one 8 Oz. package of Neufchâtel at room temp mixed with enough powdered sugar to make it sweet, but not disgustingly so – about 1 Cup – and a teaspoon of vanilla. My electric oven baked it in 30 mins. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Let cool to room temp before frosting, then chill in fridge to set icing. 12 servings, more or less.

Bon Appétit!
XO Donna


1,000 PAPER CRANES

Every day since I joined the Breast Implant Illness and Healing group on FB in August, I spend 15 – 30 minutes reading posts and sending well-wishes to the women having their surgery that day or the next. Looking at their photos I see my own exhaustion, sadness, fear, and hopefulness mirrored in their eyes, and I say a quick prayer for an easy surgery and a speedy recovery for each of them. These are the things I wish for myself.

A few nights ago, while spending some time checking-in on the site, I had a “flash” of an Origami crane. According to legend, creating a Senbazuru by folding and stringing 1,000 paper cranes gives you an opportunity to make a special wish come true.

Traditionally the crane is a mythical creature believed to live 1,000 years. In Japanese, Chinese, and Korean culture it represents good fortune and longevity, and throughout Asia it represents happiness and eternal youth. The Senbazuru is created by stringing the origami cranes on 25 strands of 40 each. It is then given to someone who is seriously ill as a wish for their recovery. These are usually done by friends, classmates, co-workers, or as a collective effort in the community. They are a physical manifestation of prayers, becoming a symbol of hope and healing during a challenging time.

When I wrote my blog Coming Out, I had been involved with the BII group for about two months, and at the time there were 127K members. In these past five months, that number has risen to 136.7K, with new members daily .

According to Japanese tradition, anyone with the patience and commitment to fold 1,000 cranes will be granted their most desired wish because they have shown the crane’s famous loyalty and have recreated the beauty the cranes are know for.

Through this group, I found the perfect surgeon for myself in Dallas, Dr. Surjit Rai. My consultation with him in February was nothing short of amazing, even my cardiologist is impressed with him after he called to talk to her! My surgery date is being scheduled for early May, I will know exactly when soon… the details haven’t been ironed out yet with the hospital

I am ready, and both nervous and excited. I look forward to feeling better, having energy again, and feeling more comfortable in my skin. I want what everyone who undergoes this surgery wants, a return to health! What I realized the other night when I envisioned the origami crane, is that my daily well-wishes to the women in this group about to have their surgery is not different from my folding a thousand cranes… one good wish at a time. While it began altruistically, I am keenly aware that I want this for myself, too. And I will continue to “fold my cranes,” as it has become my daily practice.

I believe that my patience, commitment, and loyalty will pay off… and I will get my most desired wish.

XO Donna


Forewarned is…

I am sharing a dear friend’s post this week for a couple of reasons: I know you’ll find her post valuable in your own dealings with sleazy service/salespeople. And, if you have friends in the San Antonio area, I hope you will pass it along to them. This behavior isn’t acceptable toward any woman at any age. And, I am still mulling over what I want to write. So much to talk about after Snowmageddon down here in Texas!

I’m sure you’ll remember Brenda Ray Coffee and her blog… I used to contribute to 1010ParkPlace. Brenda has taken time off from it, with occasional exceptions, because she is currently working on what I am sure will be one hell of a memoir! Please enjoy her post, the link is below.
I will see you with my own post next week.

XO Donna

https://www.1010parkplace.com/you-browbeat-the-wrong-woman-ralph/


FROZEN

Frozen @Disney Movies

Not having children, especially little girls, I’ve never seen the Disney movie Frozen. Nevertheless, Frozen is the word that comes to mind when I look out my windows. Yes, I live in Central Texas, and we occasionally have a week of winter… but this is “a sheet of ice covering everything, power outages, and a 130-car pile-up on an icy freeway kinda winter!” Dang! I’m waiting for someone to cue the herds of caribou. Or a woolly mammoth.

Our local weatherman gets quite excited when some “weather” happens, and it’s understandable since we really haven’t had anything like this before. He keeps using the term, “record breaking!” while avoiding the term “global warming,” but, this is indeed unusual for Texas, to say the least. The forecast is for even colder weather, and snow beginning on Sunday evening with an accumulation of a couple inches.

This will be the second time in the last 18 years that I have seen a couple of inches of snow here on Valentine’s Day.

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, I know with everything that’s going on in our world: the extreme winter in 43 out of 48 states, the saga of the impeachment hearings, and the challenges of trying to get a Covid vaccine while doing our best to avoid getting the virus, it’s hard to get excited about Valentine’s Day.

You think, “what does it matter?” Trust me, it does matter… there isn’t much we can do about the BIG STUFF going on, except keep our hearts open and warm to the people around us.
But, we can and must strive to be fully present to the small stuff: moments of pleasure and beauty that come our way. It is necessary for our mental health and connectedness.

If you are reading this, I want you to be My Valentine! If I could “do an Oprah” and send you all flowers and chocolate, I surely would. Instead, grab yourself a favorite chocolate bar, box of chocolates, slice of cheesecake, glass of champagne, or some strawberries, and let’s celebrate ourselves!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

XO Donna


Looking ahead

LET’S look ahead, year end is here. Keep our hearts open, spread only good cheer.
Try to be helpful, be patient and kind. And, above all – keep an open mind.

SHARE with others what you can; bake a meal, write a check, lend a hand.
This year’s been a tough one, but we’re getting the gist – and my friends that haven’t, got moved to the Naughty List!

LOVING hearts, open minds, and the willingness to try seeing things a new way…
being grateful for all we have and trusting that better days will come is what this Holiday is all about.

Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, and a very Happy, Healthy New Year to us All!
Thank you dear readers/friends for another year together.
XO Donna

Santa Claus: family heirloom 2020 ornament: Marjorie King Parker


newish jewish

As someone who never felt like they “fit in” growing up, looking back on the moments in my life when I truly felt like I belonged, I realize how important that sense of connection is. We all seek it.

I’m thinking about this because of the pandemic this year, and the conscientious lack of social gatherings. Yet, there are many ways to be with family. And, Hanukkah began last Thursday night… although I’ve only recently discovered I’m part Jewish, it is encoded in my blood, and that knowledge has created a sense of peace. And a strong desire to cook latkes!

About two years ago my sisters and I joined Ancestry on a whim. We thought our maternal grandmother was half-Cherokee half-Irish, and that our Mom’s father was English.

We knew our Dad’s mother was Italian, through-and-through, (with stunning family names: Basile, DiNobile, and Sconamiglio!) And, our paternal grandfather was… well, he was missing, actually. A blank page in our book.

My Dad grew up without him, never even knew him, and like many people of that generation, it wasn’t a subject he was willing to talk about.

I may have been the one who instigated this whole quest, because from the first time I saw Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr’s “Finding Your Roots” on PBS I was hooked. And very, very curious about my roots. My sisters and I ordered our test kits, spit in a tube, and mailed them back.

Was I surprised to find out we had Jewish ancestry?
Yes… we all were. But as my youngest sister said, “Wow, this explains a lot!”

First, it explained something very important about our missing grandfather – he was 100% Jewish.
Who would ever have suspected that background with a name like O’Klock?
And our 100% Italian grandmother, she of the beautiful names, was way more Greek/Albanian, and way less Italian than she knew!

The second equally surprising thing was that our maternal grandmother had no Native American blood, not a single drop, and no Irish ancestors, either.
My Mom grew-up believing she was Cherokee and Irish, but it turns out Grandma was all Scottish. And my beloved “Grampie” was English, and German, and Swedish. He was the only grandparent I really knew. He loved me, and I adored him. He had exquisite handwriting, and he worked on the railroads and on his ramshackle little farm. I get my reverence for the land and for trains that cross it, from him. I happily lived in a cottage for thirteen years because it was just four houses away from the railroad tracks in South Austin.

“Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. The midnight train is whining low, I’m so lonesome I could cry”

Hank Williams

The more people explore their ancestry, the bigger the data base of DNA becomes and the more accurately results can be pinpointed. My map is an updated result for this year, and my Jewishness got “upgraded” three percent, which seemed somehow inevitable. I wanted to convert in high school – envious of my girlfriend’s Bat Mitzvahs (and nose-jobs) but my Father refused. And years later there was an almost-wedding and almost-conversion for Robby Cohen… who turned out not to be the “nice boy” I thought he was!

But mostly, that 29% explains the almost-religious experience I have every time I walk into a good Jewish deli. My blood knows!

Your Ancestry report is a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and when it’s finished, it’s you!
I could have easily put that picturetogether based solely on the foods I love the most: Greek food. Mediterranean food. Italian pastries. Scones, shortbread, and tea. Or, my all time favorite – an “everything” bagel with cream cheese, lox, red onion, tomato and capers with a wedge of lemon. And a cup of strong coffee.

But for tonight I think I’ll pick up some brisket and make another batch of potato pancakes with sour cream and applesauce. Hanukkah isn’t over yet!

Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year! May this season be Merry and Bright, and may everything you eat be a delight!
May we be grateful for our good fortune, and help those who are less fortunate.
And let’s remember, we don’t need to be close…. to be close. Stay safe my loves!

XO Donna


Coming Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Member of Breast Implant Illness group.

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.
XO Donna