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.
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!
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, (withstunning 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”
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!
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.
Howdy, y’all – is everyone hanging in there? Looking back on recent posts, I realized that I’ve only posted once a month lately. That’s such a difference from my old bi-monthly “bursting with new things to share.”
New make-up, skin care, or beat-the-heat beauty tips… I don’t have any to offer, and who really cares about that? Styling your outfits… heck, I’m not really going anywhere that requires outfits, are you?
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up on myself… I’m not walking around looking like “the the Wreck of the Hesperus” nor living the grunge life! While it may take more energy than I have some days, I do shower, blow my hair dry (even gave myself a haircut this morning!) and put on eyebrows. Self-care is important… maybe more than you realize. Taking good care of myself helps keep me in the moment, in my body, and feeling valued.
These are the same reasons I make nectar and fill the hummingbird feeder, clean and refill the birdbath, and stand out in this heat to water my garden. Yes, it helps all of the birds, bees, and butterflies, and by helping them, I help myself stay grounded. Sane. Connected.
I’m sure that by now you, too, are beginning to realize that things aren’t “going back to normal.”
There are a lot of changes afoot, and many of them a long time coming. So, how best to deal?
By realizing that Change is the only constant there is. And by realizing that willingness to change, adaptability, is the key to living well.
Adapting helped me learn to live well with multiple chronic illnesses years ago, and to recover again after the strokes last year. When the pandemic began, I remember feeling bit smug, and “uniquely suited” to handle this new experience. Ninety percent of the time I can. I learned to manage my feelings of loneliness, powerlessness, and patience while recovering from the stroke. I became familiar with new technology; using Zoom, FaceTime, and Google Duo to “see” my friends and family, have online doctor visits, and even do my group therapy online!
But, every once in a while I feel freaked out, sick, and off kilter – like everyone else. How can I make myself feel better?
I know I did it before… how can I do it now? To that end, I pulled out my book and re-read it to see how to apply what I’d written to these circumstances. Living Well 2.0 in the Time of Corona. Each chapter reminded me of ways to feel more present and less worried. This read-through, my favorite chapter is “There’s No Rut in Routine.”
Rumi said, “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”
My days begin by making my bed. First thing every day. I was surprised by how many friends poo-pooed it, but it felt important enough to me to include in my book and give it a chapter of its own. I felt validated in my bed-making habit when I heard Naval Admiral Wm. H. McRaven’s commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class at University of Texas, Austin.
A Navy SEAL for 36 years, McCraven offered this simple lesson and its importance to him: “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. It will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. And, if by chance you are having a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made, that you made, and it gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
I find that outer order gives me inner calm… and it is one of the few things I can control. If you don’t already, try making your bed daily for a week and see if it makes you feel better. If you do, pick another small task you’ve been avoiding, and give it your attention, then please let me know how it went in the comments. I love hearing from you all.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to accept the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Apropos of nothing, I awoke this morning humming the old tune, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” and thinking, “but first, I’d like to teach them to spell.”
This was probably because of a package of pencils with common grammar issues imprinted upon them! I’ve always jokingly (andperhapstastelessly) included myself among the GrammarNazis; those sticklers for knowing and using proper grammar and spelling.
Wrong use of words like “could of” rather than “could have,” and using “your,” when you mean to say “you’re,” (you are) in a sentence are like fingernails on a blackboard to me. You, too?
Speaking of, a darling friend in California who is also a stickler for good grammar sent me a pack of grammar police pencils as a gift, so I’m sure that accounts for part of my waking thoughts… but how that 1971 Coca Cola commercial worked its way into my consciousness, I’ll never know.
The world could definitely do with a bit of love and kindness right about now… maybe “sharing a Coke and a smile” would go a long way toward that?
Just as I sat down to finish this post, an old friend called to see how I was faring in these terrible, terrible times. Her words, not mine. “There’s nothing but bad news everywhere I look!” she said. After listening to her “awfulize” for a few more moments, and not wanting to lose my sunny buzz, I interrupted her (even though it was rude to do so) and told her that of course there was good news, I subscribe to a weekly newsletter full of good news from around the world. It took her a second to regroup. “Really?” she asked, incredulous.
I know that it can be very compelling to focus on everything that’s wrong and negative, but I also know that inspiration, motivation, and hopefulness can be found when we look for them. I was glad she called so that I could redirect her, remind myself, and share this with you.
Many of you know who David Byrnes is – the British-American singer, songwriter, and musician of Talking Heads fame. He is the founder of an aptly-named newsletter that thrills me every time it shows up in my inbox: Reasons to Be Cheerful. They call their project “tonic for tumultuous times,” and I’d have to agree. Here’s the link: http://reasonstobecheerful.world
I hope you will take a look and that you find it as uplifting as I do.
I’ve also been keeping my spirits up by exercising, and in the process I get to see my BFF regularly since Holly teaches Nia, a movement class “for every body.”
With the advent of the novel corona virus, her classes have now become available live on Facebook and are reaching everyone worldwide! I credit regular exercise for helping me recover from my stroke and it’s side-effects. Feeling ill last week, and consequently not exercising for 8 days, I’ve noticed some of the numbness and tingling have returned… so I’m back on track this week!
Nia classes with Holly
Exercise is proven to release “good chemicals” in our brain, lubricate our joints, boost our circulation, and increase our range of motion, and stamina… which ultimately lifts our spirits.
Holly’s online presence is just as wonderful as her live persona… she has a way of making her love of movement enjoyable and accessible to all. So many of the complaints people attribute to aging and illness are really just the result of a sedentary lifestyle. Since I’m no longer young, and I live with chronic health issues, I can’t begin to imagine how “old” I’d feel if I didn’t push the furniture aside and exercise regularly!
Plato said, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”
Cheers to kindness, a bit of exercise, and preserving a sunny attitude.
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.
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 justasimportant 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’sGrove 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!
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.
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!