Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Girl Talk, Life Lessons

About My Blog: Dolce Zitella

typewriterWelcome to my blog Dolce Zitella.  Doesn’t it sound like a decadent dessert?  It’s not.  For those of you whose roots do not trace back to that lovely boot-shaped country, let me translate.  Dolce Zitella means “sweet spinster.”  That’s right, I’m a woman of a certain age who’s never been married.  It’s okay with me, but the word spinster seems to press a lot of women’s buttons.  I mean, really, it’s only a word.  But if shrouding the word in a layer of mystery and romance makes some people feel better, so be it.

While I have something to say about being a single woman, that’s not all I have to say.  So it doesn’t really matter if you’re single or married, younger or older.  After all, my younger sisters – I used to be you.  Whether you’re adding highlights and lowlights or you’ve stopped dying your gray roots, whether your hot body is the reward of working out or the result of menopause induced hot flashes – we’re all part of the same sisterhood.

Like you, I’m just trying to balance career with the rest of my life, whether it’s spending time with family and friends; meeting a new man; being proactive about my health; trying out a new recipe; embarking on my latest home improvement project; taking a night class; engrossed in a book; binge watching a television series; or searching for that perfect shade of red nail polish…

Dolce Zitella will be updated on alternating Thursdays.  Visit and bring your friends.

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post, Life Lessons

My Dad – The Ad Man

Father’s Day is this Sunday.  Here’s a re-post about my dad.


Back in the day, my father was a G-rated version of Don Draper – one of the original “ad men” of the 1960’s.  For most of his career, he worked in the advertising department at NBC.  As a child, I didn’t understand what he did, but I surmised it was important because he worked in Rockefeller Center and had a view of the skating rink from his office windows.

Years later, I understood just what his job entailed.  His department was responsible for all the print advertising for the network.  The graphic artists and copywriters created ads and he produced them, by working closely with engravers and typesetters.  He then bought space in the various newspapers and magazines that would run the ads.  Faced with the pressure of constant deadlines, he often schmoozed and negotiated with the printers, all the while cajoling the artists to get them to turn their work in on time.  My father worked long hours.  And he suffered from migraines.

My father’s immigrant father owned a small, independent, neighborhood fruit and vegetable store in Queens, New York.  My grandfather spent his life lifting and carrying crates.

Despite how tired my father must have been from his long work week at NBC, he sometimes helped out at the family store on Saturdays, and I doubt he and my grandfather ever talked to each other about work.  I’m not sure if my grandfather understood the power of the media or saw the work my father did as meaningful.

When my father retired, he traded in his suit and briefcase for a set of golf clubs.  These days, he goes out to breakfast with the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out), wearing the Life is Good baseball cap I gave him a few years ago.  He thought the slogan was a reference to his retirement.  But it was also meant to acknowledge how hard he worked to give our family a good life.

Thank you, Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.

 

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Girl Talk

A Big Ol’ Bag of Epsom Salt

Everybody’s talking about self-care.  It’s the new buzz word.  But it means something different to every woman I know.  It might be daily yoga practice for one haggard working mom, while it’s all about reclining on the couch binge-watching Hallmark movies for another working gal.  My mother is very clear about self-care:  she just wants some quiet time to read a good book.  My office mate’s self-care takes place in the kitchen, with flour, sugar, butter, and a rolling pin.  Me, all I need is a bathtub full of hot water and a big ol’ bag of Epsom salt.

Epsom salt, really?

Yup.

Since Epsom salt is having a moment, I’ve noticed a few new fancy label options that may be infused with lavender or eucalyptus.  And you may prefer that.  But for me, the whole point of Epsom salt is its purity – no dyes, chemicals, or added fragrance.  Just a tried-and-true medicinal that works.  This stuff is chock-full of magnesium and when I dissolve two cups of it in my bath water and soak for 15 minutes, I get the same benefit as a pricey massage.  In fact, a large bag of Epsom salt costs about five dollars whether you buy it in the drug store or super market.  But please don’t let that hefty bag detract you.  You could store your Epsom salt in a pretty footed glass apothecary jar or a kitschy vintage tin to add a decorative touch in your bathroom.

Trust me on this.  An Epsom salt bath will relax you, relieve your aches and pains, and help you get a good night’s sleep.  Now that’s self-care!

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Wonder Women

Here’s a re-post for all the wonder women out there!

Girl Power has created a whole generation of wonder women.  And I am grateful that so many of these ladies have had my back in times of crisis or as I was navigating a major life event.

I didn’t plan it that way.  It just sort of happened.

It started with the medical profession.  When my primary care physician was retiring, the doctor coming in as replacement was a young woman, just starting out.  I was told she was “good with women’s issues.”  She wasn’t just good, she was great.  Over the years, she referred me to a female ob-gyn, and a female surgeon who, in turn, recommended a female oncologist.  When it was time to pick an eye doctor and I could’ve gone with the stern-looking older gentleman with the bow-tie, or the gal who was my age and dressed in smart Talbots separates, who do you think I chose?  And yes, my dentist is also a woman.  The bottom-line: I am healthy today because of the collective skill, smarts, and compassion of all these women.

Now let’s talk money.  After working with several fast-talking, young, male financial advisors who left me confused and skittish about stocks and annuities, I got lucky and luck was a lady. My new financial advisor, a single woman like me, finally demystified the whole investing process and gave me confidence to boot.  Recently, I chose a well-known and successful Boston realtor – then a family member recommended an excellent real estate attorney, who in turn connected me with an accountant.  All three of these professionals are women and their collective acumen helped me move from a small condo to a house of my own.

I hope all this doesn’t sound like I’m anti-man.  Believe me, I like ‘em and I’m still hoping to marry one someday.  All I’m saying is that there’s a profound truth in that familiar quote about the iconic dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  She did everything he did, only backwards and in high heels.

 

 

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

When Mother and Daughter Become Friends

Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 8th.  In honor of my mom, who’s also my best friend, I’d like to share a post a wrote about her a few years ago.

When I was a child, the constant dialogue I had with my mother took the form of instruction: wash your hands, eat your carrots, look both ways before you step off the school bus.  All else was in some way a teaching moment, like when I learned how to tell time, or asked what makes the leaves turn color in the fall.

The nature of our conversations shifted when I had something to offer in return.  And by the time I was a ‘tween I could tell she enjoyed my company because she’d pick me up from school and take me with her on errands she could’ve done earlier in the day without me.  I remember going shopping with her when she needed a new dress for a cousin’s wedding.  And it was fun.

Once I was in high school, I’d come to know her not only as my mother, but also as a person.  When we sat at the kitchen table sharing a pot of tea, she would tell me stories about her childhood or her courtship with my father.  We’d often discuss a movie we’d seen or a current event.  She’d want to know my opinion.  And I could make her laugh.

I knew I was an adult when she began asking me for advice. At first it was about the menu for one of her dinner parties.  Then she wanted my input on choosing new wallpaper.  But it mattered most when she, as an only child, was the sole caregiver to her aging mother.

Despite living 200 miles apart, not a day goes by that we don’t speak on the phone.  And we Skype every Sunday.  Maybe my mother and I are unusually close, but I don’t think we’re such an oddity.  Because when I look at the women I know – from every race and ethnic group, scattered across different regions of the country, spanning several generations – there’s often a common thread: the profoundly intimate relationship between mothers and daughters.  And it’s not just because they are mother and daughter – it’s because they are friends.

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Pop Culture

The Candy Holidays

During the past few weeks, I kept seeing the same message: Follow the bunny – he has the chocolate!  And I was reminded of a post I wrote a while back that still rings true.

It’s over.  I can breathe a sigh of relief.  You know what I mean.  The candy holidays.  No normal human being can resist the constant barrage of sugary treats that appear in September and last until April.

It starts with that damn candy corn and the “fun size” candy bars.  You can have a few because they’re so small, harmless really.  Yeah, right.  It’s only fun until you suddenly can’t zip up your favorite jeans unless you lie down on your bed and hold your breath.  Let’s say that by some small miracle you make it through Harvest without gaining any weight.  Now it’s the hap-happiest season and you’re surrounded by candy canes and chocolate Santas.  Be careful here or you might get sucked into the sugar vortex that leads to an obscenely gigantic heart-shaped box of caramel and nut-covered chocolates, and a bag of tiny red cinnamon candies that, if you eat one too many, will burn your tongue and leave the roof of your mouth numb.  Next you’re hopping down the bunny trail trying to dodge those pastel-shelled chocolate mini-eggs, (I refer to as “devil eggs”) and neon-yellow marshmallow chicks.

As alluring as all that candy is every time you go shopping at the supermarket, drugstore, or large retail chain, the real challenge, at least for me, is the day after Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter when holiday candy gets marked down to half-price.  Forget the allure of the candy itself.  Who can resist such a bargain?  Clearly, not me.

Easter Sunday has come and gone and here’s my dilemma:

What to do about those Peeps?   A friend of mine once told me of a long-standing tradition that took place at her ivy-league university.  After eating one or two of the gritty, sticky little things, the rest of the brood got put into the microwave.  To get nuked.  Until they exploded.  I swear I’m not making this up.

Summer’s coming and fortunately, there are no Fourth of July sweets to tempt me.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

A Red Swing Coat

On a recent spring shopping spree with my mom, I was reminded of another one of our shopping expeditions.  Following is a re-post about that earlier outing.

She stepped out of the taxi, so vibrant, so cute, in her hot pink woolen swing coat.  Her lipstick was a perfect match.  She opened her vintage black patent leather kiss lock purse to pay the driver.  Then she was on the move.  She clearly had places to go.   It was many years ago, but I still remember that older lady in the bubblegum pink swing coat, and how I thought: I want to be her someday.

Now let me preface this by saying that my mom has not yet reached the age of that older lady in the pink swing coat.  She has a way to go yet.  But during one of our recent shopping expeditions, the topic of dressing one’s age came up.

Me, I’m of the belief that looking fashionable has no age limit.  My mother, however, was concerned that the pair of dress pants she was trying on were not exactly age appropriate for her.  “Are they too trendy?” she wanted to know.

Forget that we were shopping in a store that caters to women of a certain age.

“No,” I asserted.  “They fit you like a glove – and you look great.”

She shrugged, “I don’t know…”

vintage-red-swing-coatJust then, the older lady in the pink swing coat came to mind.

“Do you like these pants?”  I asked, “Will you enjoy wearing them?” and before she could answer, I added, “Then who cares what anybody else thinks.”

I shouldn’t have had to convince her to buy the pants.  It’s a shame that we, as women, are always questioning ourselves, especially about our appearance.

As for me, I’m still planning to wear a lively swing coat someday.  But I’m not a pink girl.  So mine will be red.  And with it, I’ll wear lipstick that’s a perfect match.

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Dolce Zitella's Latest Post

Dedicated to New York’s Bravest

When I heard chirping coming from the hot-wired fire/carbon monoxide alarm in the basement, I didn’t panic.  I figured it was an anomaly caused by the brutally cold temperature and fifty-mile-an-hour winds outside, and I reset the alarm.  However, when it happened again, I grabbed my coat, went outside, and called the fire department.  Within moments, four firefighters were on the scene.  Despite being masked up for Covid-19, I could tell these were fine looking men.  They bounded down to the basement, checked things out with a carbon monoxide meter, and assured me there was no leak.  Then they did a sweep of my whole house.  The conclusion: it was time to replace the basement alarm.  I thanked them profusely and they were on their way.

What can I say about firefighters that hasn’t already been said?  That the hunky firemen stereotype is founded in reality.  That they are superheroes who wear over fifty pounds of gear instead of tights and a cape.  That they risk their lives by running into burning buildings to save total strangers.

I do have something else that needs to be said.

Recently, the term “long haulers” has been given to those who contracted Covid-19 and, months later, suffer lingering health problems.  They are getting much media attention and my sympathy and good wishes go out to them.  But there’s another group of long haulers out there – the firefighters who struggle with lung and cardiovascular disease and battle cancer as a result of their exposure at Ground Zero in the weeks and months following September 11, 2001.  Why no mention of them?  In less than six months, our nation will mark the twentieth anniversary of that horrible day and, along with it, two decades of suffering.

Most New Yorkers could tell you that 343 firefighters perished on September 11th.  But they may not be aware that at least 241 firefighters have since died from illnesses linked to exposure at Ground Zero.  Sadly, dear friends of mine have lost two brothers this way.  One passed away four years ago, the other four weeks ago.  These men were New York’s Bravest, even in the long haul.  They will remain in the hearts of their family, their friends, and their community forever.  And the best way we can honor them is to never forget.

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Life Lessons, Writers and Writing

A Writer’s Writer – Carson McCullers

The following is a re-post from January 2018. It remains timely today.

She was a rock star.  Her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, brought her critical acclaim at the age of twenty-three and she made her mark on the literary scene of the 1940’s and ‘50’s at a time when the field was still overwhelmingly dominated by men.  Her body of work hauntingly echoed the themes of loneliness, unrequited love, and being different.  A southern gothic writer, she railed against racism and homophobia – and her message still resonates today.  Her name was Carson McCullers.

While living in a Brooklyn brownstone called “February House” with a menagerie of other writers and artists, she wrote The Member of the Wedding.  When she was in residence at Yaddo Artists’ Colony, she penned The Ballad of the Sad Café.  Later, as her health was failing, her home was a Victorian with a wrap-around porch and a view of the Hudson River, not far from where I grew up.  Each time I passed by that house, I imagined Carson, decades earlier, sitting on her porch, peering from her window as she sat at her typewriter, perhaps walking down South Broadway in the mornings.

When I came upon a grainy, 1958 recording of her reading from her work, I was awestruck.  There was a fragility in her voice, which quivered, as though she were about to cry.  That shakiness, along with her thick Georgia accent, conjured in my mind an elderly southern lady rather than a woman who, at the time, was only forty-one-years-old.

Carson McCullers left us a beautiful literary legacy.  Whether you’re looking for a thought-provoking book for yourself, or a good-read for your book group, her prose is lovely and her message will surely ignite great discussion.

 

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Life Lessons

Through Children’s Eyes

My cousin recently described what it’s been like to take her children, an adorable set of four-year-old twins, to the neighborhood playground.  Social distancing playtime means patient children await a turn to be gently pushed on a swing, as long as the swing to their left and to their right remain vacant.  But many times, there’s no need to wait because most of the neighborhood regulars are staying away.  This absence is not lost on the twins, as one of them recently observed, “There are no people.  Where are the people?” 

A friend of mine has two elementary school-aged daughters.  Their zoom school and homework completed, they watch television in the family room, adjacent to the kitchen where my friend is busy preparing dinner.  When a popular news magazine program featured a story about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday,  one of the girls remarked, “Where are their masks?”  My friend had to explain that the episode was a repeat from last year, from before the pandemic.

Another friend, along with her husband and two older boys, like to end their busy work week by ordering take out from their favorite neighborhood pizza joint.  But as restaurants shuttered, in order to continue their Friday night pizza ritual, my friend began making her own pizza dough.  Even though she is by far the best baker I know, the dough has not always risen as it should, and sometimes the results were, as she put it, “flatbread.”  The boys, eager for any sort of pizza crust that could support chunks of fresh tomato and gobs of stringy, gooey mozzarella cheese, named this homemade pizza “quarantine pizza.” 

While some children are still too young to fully understand, that doesn’t mean they aren’t attuned to the ways, both big and small, that life has changed during 2020.  But clearly, children of all ages have been remarkably adaptable.  The holiday season has begun and I, more than even, will try to see things through their eyes.

 

 

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Eight

October is nearly over.  But it’s not too late. 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  If you haven’t scheduled your mammogram – or if you’re overdue for your mammogram because of the ongoing pandemic – this is your chance to take care of yourself and to take control of your health. 

Fact: one-in-eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.  Covid-19 or no Covid-19 – this staggering statistic has not changed.  I ought to know – I am one of the one-in-eight.  And so are some of my family members and friends.  That’s why I’ve written on this topic before,  https://dolcezitella.com/2016/01/14/how-i-got-to-red/ and https://dolcezitella.com/2016/10/20/inked/ and why I will continue to do so.

The number eight has another meaning for me.  August is the eighth month of the year, and this past August marked my eighth anniversary of being cancer-free.  Even though the five-year anniversary is an important milestone for breast cancer survivors, eight years is the big benchmark for women who’ve had my specific type of breast cancer.  Having reached this milestone, I feel immensely grateful and blessed.  But I take nothing for granted.  I remain diligent and timely about my check-ups and testing, knowing that if I hadn’t been so diligent and timely a little over eight years ago, I might not have benefitted from early detection nor experienced such a successful outcome.

Stay on track.  Schedule your mammogram.  No excuses.

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