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


So here it is Christmas…

To quote John Lennon, “So here it is Christmas, and what have you done? The old year is over, and a new one’s just begun.”

This song touched me the moment I first heard it. It was written by John and Yoko in 1971 as a protest song against the VietNam war, and every year when I hear it I wonder to myself, “What have I done this year? What have I learned? What can I do to help others?”

I’m never sure when making a list (and checking it twice) how long to make it, but since I was the oldest of five girls (yes, five!) I will share my 5 items that I think are both thoughtful and empowering, and that would make fabulous last-minute Christmas or Hanukkah gifts for women on your list.

  1. Big top 10 thingsThe Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You by Mike Dooley.  Mike is a wise, humorous, and even joyful New York Times best-selling author. If you have lost someone, or are facing that process, this book will help you. It certainly helped me get through the recent loss of my younger sister, Terry.
  2. Money love storyMoney, A Love Story by Kate Northrup. The subtitle is: “Untangle your financial woes and create the life you really want,” and that pretty much says it all. I read it this summer and I then put everything in order and still balance my checkbook almost daily! A great read for gals of all ages!
  3. Playing Big by Tara Mohr. Tara is a personal coach, a writer/poet, and a mother. She encourages Big Playing bigevery woman to quit holding back and “find your voice, your mission, your message.” It was named a Best Book of 2014 by Apple’s iBooks and it’s been called, “the how-to manual we have been waiting for.”  I feel very lucky to have an autographed copy, and I can’t wait to dig in to it!
  4. For that someone who has everything: you can donate to Charity:Water www.charitywater.org/  I just watched Marie Forleo interview Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity Water. I sat and cried when he said, “Water can give a woman dignity, at the most human level.”  I donated, and promised to do a fundraiser on my birthday next year.
  5. And saving the gift closest to my heart for last…You can make a donation to The American Cancer Society at- www.cancer.org/donate or to St. Judes www.tg.stjude.org . Give, to help more kids live.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays,

XO Donna

 

TerrytooIn Loving Memory of my sister

 Reverend Theresa Kathleen O’Klock-Glick

September 3, 1953 – November 12, 2014


You Can Go Home

It’s the time of the year for one of my favorite Thanksgiving movies – “Home for the Holidays,” starring Robert Downey Jr, Holly Hunter, Dylan McDermott, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, and directed by Jodie Foster. I see elements of my own family in it, and it used to make me both laugh…and cry. Even though it’s nine years old, most of the elements are still (maybe even more) timely.

I’m going to let Roger Ebert’s November 3, 1995 review tell the story…

‘There is a point in Jodie Foster’s “Home for the Holidays” where a brother and his brother-in-law are fighting on the front lawn while their father tries to break it up by wetting them down with a garden hose. Looking across the street at the neighbors gawking, the father snarls, “Go back to your own goddamn holidays!”

The movie, which is about the Thanksgiving family reunion from hell, is not exactly a comedy but not a drama, either. Like many family reunions it has a little of both elements, and a strong sense that madness is being held just out of sight.

Have we not all, on our way to family gatherings, parked the car a block away, taken several  deep breaths, rubbed our eyes, massaged our temples, and driven on, gritting our teeth? That is not because we do not love our families, but because we know them so well.’

imageHere’s what I have learned about family this past week.

  • When we go into situations with expectations and assumptions,  we will probably get to be right.
  • When we go somewhere/do something because we choose to, as opposed to doing it out of obligation, everyone wins. So if you really believe you MUST do something…choose it. How you view it makes all of the difference.
  • Stay present. Forget what happened in the past. Be Here Now.
  • Strive to be part of a solution, or a process, that results in the best possible outcome for all involved.
  • Focus on everything you have to be grateful for.

You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have and how well you can all get along. All you need is love. And some bourbon and eggnog. And this great movie.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving next week!

XO Donna