Saturday, June 23, 2018

That Can’t Be Me! 


I look at the mirror and I do not recognize the image I see.
That can’t be me.
The old lady with the 3 cm of gray peeking through the parting in her hair.  The one with the lines under the eyes magnified 3 fold under the 3.5 reading glasses. The one for whom men who look even older offer a seat to in a crowded tram. The one who is shuffled to the Senior Citizens line at the immigration counter.
No, that can’t be me.  I’m the one who bought first line standing tickets (by accident in a moment of sheer excitement) for the Justine Timberlake concert at the Ziggodome.  I am the one who’s wide awake at 7am checking my email and phone for messages, making breakfast for 2 or 8, rushing to dance class, then back home for lunch in time to prepare for a remedial class, give the class, make dinner for 2, then go out to play 3 hours of bridge and finally coming home to catch the last bits of the 11pm news.
The reflection I see in the mirror is my mother. That can’t be me.
But the hands tell a different story.   The blue green veins embossed  on the thinning and ever dry skin. The wrinkles that the best hand cream cannot erase.  The tendonitis creeping at the wrist and making its way all through the elbow and upper arm.
All right then, it must be true.  The lady in the mirror with this hand … is me.
 Yes, it does take getting used to.  Acceptance is a hard pill to swallow.  But the only way to get through this transition from middle age to senior age is to actually go through it.  To live it every single day.
Yes, I am living the third act of my life.  This is the part of the play where the character is more defined. We know what has happened in the past and we know that the ending is inevitable.  The question is: what will the denouement be?
Who knows?  It will come, when it will.
Jane Fonda and all the other women who write about this third act of life are right.  There is a sense of empowerment in being 65 plus. And it feels good!  I can now choose to let some things go, relying on my sense of empathy and compassion. My mothering instinct magnified by the grandmotherly one. 
I can also choose to confront and say exactly what’s on my mind.  Like telling a man in my bridge club that I had had enough of his comments.  They were unnecessary and unkind.  To which he responded with an apology. It was just a joke, he claimed.   Really?  My 40-year old self would have meekly left the table and cried in the bathroom. Not at 65! I can now move from doormat to feisty. And, yes … it does feel good.
I look back at the years behind me and I know what I have accomplished.  I can say in all honesty, that there are many reasons to be proud. I also recognize the mistakes I have made.  The regrets and the what-ifs.  But they are few and by now, immaterial.
I am moving on and living the third act of my life.  There is still so much to accomplish and so little to give up. If only, I looked the way I feel. The mirror image is a constant reminder.  But the spirit will triumph.  That 40-something woman is alive and well.  Stronger. Enriched by all the years and experiences amassed in her lifetime.  Ready to rise to every occasion.
 In-between naps, of course!

Here's an easy-to-prepare recipe that can be a starter, an extra dish in an Asian theme dinner or a spicy chicken burger sandwich! 

Thai-style Chicken Patties
Preparation time : 10 -15 minutes!
500 gm. minced chicken
1 tsp – 1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste (depends on how spicy you want this to be)
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. fresh coriander, chopped fine
3 tbsp. breadcrumbs or 1 slice of white or brown bread, softened in water
1 egg, beaten
Oil for shallow frying.
Procedure and other suggestions :
Mix all of the above and form into small patties.   I usually fry a little bit of the mixture to see if the seasonings are enough. If not, add more fish sauce or salt according to your taste.
This recipe makes at least 12 good sized patties.  They can be shaped, frozen and fried when you're ready to serve them.
 A simple Mango Salad, inspired by my friend, Alma, gives this dish an extra kick!
Mango Salad
1 mango, peeled and sliced into julienne strips
1 tbsp. lime juice
1-2 tbsp. fresh coriander, chopped fine
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 fresh red chili, sliced or a pinch of red chili powder (optional)
a dash of sugar
Mix all of the above.  Chill and serve with the patties!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Finish Line
I made it!  After 21 Wednesdays, 57 hours of lessons, at least 124 hours of preparation, 6 hours of rehearsals and the seemingly endless messages between myself and the 20 sets of parents of my 23 students ranging from 7 ½ to 12 years old.
Was it worth the sleepless nights worrying if I had enough material or if the YouTube films were age appropriate?  Was it worth the rise in my blood glucose level and my blood pressure as I juggled home, work, social life, church commitments and the responsibility for 23 souls? Was it worth the fear that many of the children will never really understand that the host is more than a cookie and that all of the lessons had been in vain?  Was it worth the anxiety that I caused in my husband whose only fault is to protect me – even from myself? 
Was it worth it?  Several weeks after the event, I can look back and smile. No more palpitating heart.  Just a sense of contentment and tranquility. 
I have prepared 14 sets of children for First Holy Communion in the last 18 years.  It was my way of giving thanks for all that I have received in my life.  It is my testimony to the faith that has seen me, and those I love, through good times and not so good ones.
This year was my last class, my swan song.   It has also been the most difficult.  Not only because of the size of the class.  But principally because of the children’s age range, their varying levels of fluency in the language, as well as their actual knowledge and exposure to the faith of their elders. 
I have always believed that God gives me gifts along the way.  Telling me I am on the right path, encouraging me as I falter.  And He has done it again.  This is the year that I have felt most connected to the parents of the children. Nearly everyone came for an hour each week to stay with me during the class providing me with an extra pair of eyes and hands.
He also sent me a friend. Someone who came not only to help with the activities that I had organized, but who came for me.  Someone who listened, who helped make things right and made me laugh.  Someone who understood that I had taken on too much. 
On the 21st of April, I reached the Finish Line. First Communion Day.                 
And FINISHED was what I thought I would feel.  But as I watched my 23 boys and girls, nervously gripping their white, long stemmed roses walk down the aisle towards the altar under a canopy of yellow and white paper flowers, I sensed instead a tremendous surge of energy, much like an Adrenalin rush.  I did not even notice the pinch of my ½ size too small high heels as I led them to and from their various assigned tasks. 
What I felt was pride.
Pride in each of these beautiful children who came every Wednesday, who proudly showed me their homework, asked me questions many of which I could barely answer and opened my eyes to a child’s view of the world and of God.   Pride in the way they conducted themselves through the 2 ½ hour service.  Pride in my role as mentor.  Praying that having brought them this far, they will continue their journey of faith and love.
Am I truly finished?  No, I am not.  I am taking a break and then starting a new project – introducing young adults to the Sacrament of Confirmation. 
Right now, I am a long way from the next starting line.  But I am getting ready for the challenge. 

    Sometimes, even good girls can be bad! 

Rocky Road

Preparation time : 15-20 minutes

  • 100gm butter, cubed
  • 300gm milk or dark chocolate ( I usually do 100 gm of dark (70 %) and 200 gm of milk chocolate)
  • 4 tbsp corn syrup or honey
  • 200 gm digestive or wholewheat cookies, crushed into small pieces 
  • 75 gm marshmallows (in Holland, they are called spekjes and are pink and white) sliced into small cubes
  • 75gm dried fruit like raisins, mango, apricot …
  • 75gm salted peanuts or walnuts, roughly chopped

Procedure :
1.     Line a baking tray or a rectangular baking dish with baking paper. 
2.    Put the cookies, marshmallows, dried fruits and nuts into a bowl and mix well.
3.    Fill a large pot 1/3 of the way with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.
4.    Fill a second pot with small pieces of chocolate and place it on top of the first pot. They should fit together in a way where the top pot rests in place about 1/2 inch above the boiling water.
5.    Stir the chocolate constantly. As soon as the chocolate begins to melt, lower the fire and add the butter to the chocolate.  Blend well.  
6.    Turn off the heat and then add the honey. Stirring it until the honey is completely dissolved.
7.    Pour the chocolate into the bowl with the cookie-fruit mixture. Make sure that the chocolate coats all of the mixture.
If you wish, you can save a small portion of the chocolate for the topping.
Fill the prepared baking tin with the entire mixture. Press evenly to cover the whole tin.
8.    Using a rubber spatula, spread the rest of the chocolate on top.
9.    Let it cool.  Then put the entire tray into the freezer for at least 30 minutes to harden.
Remove from the freezer and slice to serve. Or transfer to the fridge until ready to serve.

This keeps for at least 2 weeks in the fridge.  Longer if you keep it in the freezer and just defrost about 2 hours before serving.