Now that I’m a Middle Aged Woman

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Now that I’m a middle aged woman, I shall go out

Singing and drinking and dancing, and not care about who goes with me

And I shall spend my grocery money on ice cream and ding dongs

And other sugary treats then let the kids cheer for dinner without broccoli

I shall jump in public fountains when it is warm

Go out with no makeup and wear shoes without heels

And sing and dance to 80’s tunes

To embarrass the kids

And give me a smile

 

I may wear big funky jewelry or get a tattoo and not have to hide who I am

I can choose clothes that don’t fit or are no longer in style

And let all my roots grow in.

Because I’m too old to care if it’s wrong or it’s right

This is the way that it is.

 

I’ve been a good Mom and I was a good wife and I did everything I was told

to do in life. So now that I’m done I have lots of time left

To do what I want, instead of what’s best.

 

So if you see me in town, don’t be shocked or surprised

If I am at dinner or movies alone. Just be happy for me

And maybe you will feel free, to go for a run through the fountain.

If only men could be more like bananas…

In nature, there is room for things to actually change. Take bananas. Bananas change their mass. They start out green and hard and pasty, and then they change over time. Eventually they wind up as brown watery goo. Bananas change their color like some fructose chameleon moving from green to yellow to brown. As they change, the sugar content in a banana increases, and they become sweeter. When you get a banana, you know that it is going to change. You can count on it; people even time their relationship with the banana based on knowing that it will change. “If I buy the greener ones on Monday, then I can have ripe ones for breakfast by Saturday.” The change is good. We accept it, we count on it, we look forward to it. Nature has it figured out.

People, well, not so much. People pretty much are what they show themselves to be. Which is odd, because the thing we want and count on more than change in nature, is change in people. When I first met my husband, he loved to work. At that time, it was a good thing, because we worked together. So instead of going to that family function where grandma pinches your cheeks, and Uncle Ed gets drunk,  or Cousin Louise delights the family with her kale cauliflower green bean casserole, my husband would calmly excuse himself stating that sadly, his evil awful heartless employer had scheduled him to work. But as time and circumstances changed, his constant focus on work didn’t. Instead of being the good thing that avoided contact with another one of his aunt’s casseroles, it became the bad thing because it meant that he was avoiding contact with me. As our family grew, and our lives changed, he persisted in keeping work as his main focus. But I needed him to change: broaden his scope, focus on home and relationship. In my opinion, these are the changes that make life sweeter. But his refusal to change made our relationship bitter. Rotten bananas are my favorite to bake with, as they are at their sweetest. But a decayed relationship is merely foul tasting.

After my divorce I had a couple of relationships. One gentleman said that kids were OK, but he didn’t want to spend a lot of time with them right away. This kinda worked because I had this week on week off custody arrangement. So every other Sunday night he would kiss me good-bye while I spent time with my kiddos, and we would be apart while I played Mommy. The following Sunday, when my kids went to live with their Dad, I would melt into his arms again. We became very close, and after about a year he wanted to marry me. But the odd thing was, the pattern of week on week off again never changed. I wondered if there was a special tax deduction if you promise to love honor and cherish each other only 26 weeks out of the year. Unfortunately, because there are no take backsies on your offspring, his inability to change the pattern enough to include my children kept us away from the altar.

For some reason I have a strong need to believe in people’s ability to change; to follow through with the things that they tell me they want to do. I believed a man who had no job and no money when he said he wanted to contribute to my household financially. I believed a drug addict when he said that he wanted nothing more than to be clean and sober. I believed a man I met on a dating website who claimed that he was OK with just being friends. And I believed a man who said he would always be there for me, even though we had only just met. 

One gentleman accused me of having trust issues. I wanted to tell him, “You’re right, I do. But not the kind you think.” I have issues with trusting people who have shown me that they should not be trusted. Why did I believe that my husband would choose relationship over work when he clearly showed me that his priorities ran the other way? Why would I sign a two year phone contract with a man who had demonstrated that he couldn’t pay rent for over a year? Why did I think that if I only tried harder and believed a little more and loved a little stronger that I could get their actions and feelings towards me to change?

I find more and more that I am not alone. I meet women who believe that their lover will leave his wife if only they hold on a little longer. Others believe that he will make time for them if only they wait. Men promise money, time, security and affection; and women wait for the relationship to ripen into fruition. 

Life offers many experiences which make it sweeter. A real relationship based on mutual attention and loving support can be the sweetest of all. I don’t know what kind of fruit it is that deteriorates into rottenness as it changes, but like the honey bee, I seem to be drawn to them. Whatever kind of fruit men are, I do know that I sure can pick ‘em!

 

Banana Bread with Almond Butter

I think that the Food Bank received large vats of Almond Butter to dispense as a nut butter substitute. I actually like the taste and texture of the Almond Butter better than it’s pea-nutty peer, but because of the apparent warehouse packaging done at the Food Share, the jars tend to be….uneven. 

I found this wonderful recipe on the Two Tarts website. 

 http://tutti-dolci.com/2012/08/almond-butter-banana-bread/

It was a great way to use up my Almond Butter, regardless of how oily or thick that particular jar tended to be. Image

The Last Sip

The first week of February I came home from work to find my housemate’s mother on the phone with a 911 operator. The police and fire dept. came and found my housemate’s crumpled body on the floor of my rented room and confirmed his passing. He was only 26.

About a year before, we found ourselves with a need for additional funds in order make the rent payment every month. We met this young man through and ad on Craig’s List. He told us that he suffered from seizures and was sick enough to not be able to work, but had help from his folks when it came to paying the rent. He was friendly with us, and close with his family. He, his mom and his sister got together frequently to go out for dinner or just hang out. That day, he and Mom had planned one of their dinner get-togethers, and she came over, wondering where he was.  

What makes his passing so extremely weird is that while we knew that our housemate was sick, he never acted like a terminal person. The day before he died, he was walking around talking about how much fun he had watching the Super Bowl.  Every day, he was cheery and positive. Every day, there were friends coming over spending time with him. He didn’t dwell on not feeling well, but took a yoga class instead. He didn’t just sit because he couldn’t drive; he walked to the store, or found rides. He didn’t become angry or obsessive because he didn’t have a girlfriend; he claimed it was for the best and developed other relationships. And he never martyred himself because of his illness, or the fact that his sister was also extremely sick. He simply did all that he could to support his family. Abraham Lincoln said “Folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” Despite his limited health and resources, it seemed as if my housemate made up his mind to be happy.

I think that it is easy for us to forget how fragile life is. So many of the things that we believe are entrenched and permanent, such as a job, a relationship, or family ties, can fall away at inopportune moments. The loss is never as bad as the residuals. There is always the lingering desire to pick up the phone and call, when you remember that you can’t. People leave piles of left over stuff you would never need or know what to do with. Or else they leave empty spaces where stuff used to be. I believe that we leave traces of ourselves wherever we go, and when we leave, the marks are still there. The other day while cleaning up his room, I came across his shoes. They were just sitting there, under the coffee table, just like mine do when I come home and kick them off to relax. Like a flash, I recalled all of the times I had seen him wearing those shoes as he puttered along with his gimpy gait, walking to the store, visiting us in the kitchen, coming out to enjoy the yard. They were just shoes, but the sensations they evoked were so powerful that after staring at them for a moment I turned and left.  

I had a friend who believed in reincarnation. She explained that souls will occupy the earth for as long as they need to, to work out their issues. She believed that the reason her sister died in infancy was because her soul was near perfection, and it only needed a short stay on this plane to reach Nirvana. Possibly my housemate’s attitude and actions elevated his eternal being to a point where it was no longer necessary for him to exist in this life. 

As bittersweet as the last bite of ice cream in your bowl or the last sip of coffee in your cup, we still feel the residuals of his passing. As much as I will never forget the image of him lying there in death, I will also never forget the sound of his favorite song, the smell of his incense, or the colors of the plaid jacket he always used to wear. We will miss you my friend…may you rest in peace.

 For this post, it was recommended that I post a recipe for Angel Food Cake. 

It’s a good suggestion, but I’ve never actually made one. If you wish to try, here are wonderful recipes from All Recipes.com

 http://allrecipes.com/recipes/desserts/cakes/angel-food-cake/

 

From the Heart…

What does it mean to love somebody? Do you love them because of what they think and how they act? Or do you love someone because of what they have? Traditional fairy princess stories have girls growing up to marry handsome princes, while more modern times have labeled such women as gold diggers, painting them as heartless, empty shells of people who love things more than love itself. So with these two models, it is easy to understand why I often struggled to understand whether loving a man means being with someone who can provide for you, or being with someone who provides attention, support and passion, or rather, just loves you.

So when I met a man who had no job, I struggled. But the romantic independent woman won out, and he stayed. On our first Valentine’s Day, I didn’t expect a gift. I already felt that his gift was that he would listen and be supportive for hours. He would transport kiddos and cook meals, sort socks, delicately wash my lady things, hold doors, carry groceries, fight to defend my honor, and sit through chick flicks by the hour.  And he loved me with passion. But he had no money.

So, on the Annual Day of Love I did not prepare a card or a gift for my love, and intended to settle in for a quiet non-eventful evening at home.

When I walked in the door, the kitchen was busy. Every countertop, table top and non-movable surface was being used for chopping, mixing, marinating, and sautéing. My fella and his son were cooking. Rich, garlicky smells filled the air.

That night we feast. No prince’s ball could possibly cause me to feel more decadent than I did from the savory food and exquisite atmosphere. Candles burning everywhere bathed our meal in a soft light as my love slid in close and secretly took hold of my hand under the table and smiled.

After dinner he presented me with a shimmering deep red heart shaped candy box. Inside were a collection of dark milk chocolates with raspberry filling. Popping one in my mouth felt like an explosion of oral ecstasy.

And, there was a card. It was a heartfelt sentiment demonstrating true warmth and affection.

We lived in a tiny little two bedroom apartment, with a kitchen the size of a cracker box, and the dining area about half that size. As diminutive and cramped as it was, it felt like a five star restaurant. The meal and gift were an extravagance; purchased at the local grocery store with food stamps.

Even though my love had no money and could not take me out to wine and dine me, I did not feel deprived. It was a date befitting the first Valentine’s Day.

chocolate chip pumpkin bread

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

After the holidays, the Food Bank gives away cans of pumpkin puree that didn’t sell during Thanksgiving and Christmas. My absolutely most favorite way to enjoy chocolate is when the chips are mixed in a pumpkin bread, and you slice into the loaf while it’s still warm. 🙂

Check out these recipes on All Recipes.com

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Chocolate-Chip-Pumpkin-Bread

 

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On line dating…. like shopping the circular ads

For a few years after my divorce, I tried dating. Being in the Internet age of course all of my dating began on-line.

One person I knew compared internet dating to the bar scene. You look around, find someone who looks appealing, and approach them. It’s kind of like shopping the circular ads at the grocery store. You look at all of the pretty pictures; delicacies all dressed up looking their best. So you think, “Awesome! This is such a deal!” so you grab your designer environmentally friendly grocery bags and rush down to the store. When reality hits, you find the meat looking pretty small and fatty, the juice 3 times as expensive as the brand you usually buy, and the fruit is just nasty after other people picked through it leaving only the knarly rotted pieces behind. These are my choices for nourishment? I’m surprised people don’t choose to starve, or remain single, whichever kills first.

I thought a lot about Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs while I was cyber dating. He noted that sex is an essential biological function, right next to breathing and eating. Maybe that’s why folks would start in right away with sex talk. It would be everything from crude remarks to monologues describing fantastic sensual pleasures. The odd thing about seduction in print is that spelling counts. While my Don Juan thought that he was sending me into screams of ecstasy, the only thing my head would be screaming was “Punctuation! Oh My God, use a complete sentence for Christ’s Sake!”

People were bizarre about it. Sometimes I met people who were binging, as if their dating profile was a secret stash of Ho-Ho’s. Talk as much as you like, as long as it is during odd hours and kept hidden from the wife. Some folks treated it like a Buffet, gorging on as many different flavors as they could possibly stand in one sitting. One lady would routinely run several different chats all at one time. She was such an incredibly fast typist that my fingers would run out of breath when we talked.

Amazingly enough, those online chat rooms turned out to be like Lays Potato Chips; you couldn’t stop at just one. I had profiles on three dating sites running all at one time. I became an addict, where online chat became my chocolate bar. I would get up and run, literally run, to my computer first thing in the morning. I would stay up chatting until 2am. It was the first thing I turned on when I got home at night, it was what kept me company while I ate dinner, it was my coffee companion, my study partner, my weekend entertainment, my Sunday ritual. I wasn’t the only one, either. I knew people who had the chat running behind their more essential functions while at work. We craved the empty calories of the internet glutting our lonely hearts with hopes and dreams only to wake up feeling bloated.

I suppose that, like our food, we have choices about the quality of sex that we allow in our lives. If all you want is an entrée from the frozen isle, I’m certain that it would be cheap and easy to find. But if you want food made from raw ingredients that was assembled with skill and love, then you have to work at it a little more and give it more time. The payoff is that homemade lasagna always tastes much better than anything pre-made, boxed and frozen.

I learned that whatever choices you make, regardless of the ingredients you choose, your food, and your love life are what you make of it. It’s up to you to decide what spice to add to your life.

Coffee-Cake-with-Streusel-Topping

Dried Fruit Coffee Cake

The Food Bank is responsible for providing items from all four food groups. Fresh fruit spoils easily, so often they provide bags and bags of dried fruit. Prunes seem to be a specialty. While I love these sweet treats, experience has taught that small amounts are necessary, otherwise the results can be pretty sh*tty.

Items marked with a * are from the Food Bank.

2/3 c. white sugar*

¼ c. butter melted*

2 eggs*

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour*

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

2 mashed bananas*

2 cups prunes or dried fruit*

 

Streusel Topping

1tbs brown sugar

1tbs flour*

1tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

¼ c. oats*

1tbs oil*

Mix together dry ingredients until coated with the sugar and spices. Add oil and mix until clumpy. Sprinkle over top of batter before baking.

Mix butter, sugar and eggs until creamy.  Add banana. Sift dry ingredients together, and slowly add to wet ingredients. Pour into a greased and floured 9” baking dish. Top prunes and streusel. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

The Meaning of Means

When you have limited means, it means that your entire life is limited. There is so much that you simply can’t do, like…..see first run movies, or go out for the evening, just because. You can’t buy that new blouse you liked, and shoes are on an as needed basis only. Then there are the kids, who you would like to give anything you can; so you find ways to give them what you can.

For a while I donated my plasma for cash. The money isn’t really in the payment for the plasma itself, but in the incentive bonuses that they give to return donors. My son’s birthday is in the first week of December, so Christmas was approaching rapidly. At that time, the plasma center offered extra incentives. The first donation was $25, but the second was $30. There was a bonus after the fourth donation. My arm developed a definite crater where the needle was repetitiously inserted. I completed my fifth donation, and then the big bonus came after the sixth donation made that month.

My son was waiting for me when I got home.

“Can we go now?” he asked.

Before it was time to take my bandage off, we were coming out of Game Stop with a reconditioned X-Box. We had managed to pay cash.

“This is the best birthday present ever! Thanks Mom!”

My son developed a loving and devoted relationship with that machine for the next three years until the poor thing whirred and sputtered to its death. The hours of happiness that it created for him cannot be reproduced. White blood cells can be.

 

This Weeks Recipe:

Ham and Macaroni Bake

Items marked with a * are from the Food Bank.Mac & Cheese

While Americans have adopted the box of instant macaroni and cheese as a staple carbohydrate, a plain bag of macaroni noodles is cheaper and far more flexible. A can of creamy soup such as mushroom or cheese can help make a good base for your cream sauce. Otherwise a thick creamy sauce can be made with a simple roux.

1 lb. bag of macaroni noodles*

1 cup Cubed ham or turkey ham

1 16 oz. bag Frozen Broccoli florets*

1 Can of cream soup, mushroom, chicken or cheese.

OR

2 tbsp. butter or margarine*

½ cup flour*

1-2 cups milk*

2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated

Boil the macaroni noodles until al dente. Drain and pour into a baking dish. Heat up the broccoli until thawed, and drain. Mix with noodles. Add ham.

On the stovetop mix the soup with some milk and grated cheese until thick and creamy. If you want to use a roux, do this: melt the margarine or butter in a small sauce pan. Add some flour, one table spoon at a time. The butter and flour will become thick and make a paste. Add a small amount of milk, stirring constantly until the milk is absorbed and the paste is smooth again. Repeat. The idea is to keep adding milk to increase the volume of your sauce.  Pace your cooking so that the sauce has a chance to thicken between each addition of milk. When the sauce is about the amount that you want, add the cheese and melt it into the sauce. You can add spices and seasonings such as garlic, seasoning salt or ground pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the noodles, meat and veggie mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Allow to sit for 5-15 minutes after coming from the oven, and enjoy!

 

Minestrone Soup

Items marked with a * are from the Food Bank.

The Italian version of Stone Soup! Minestrone can be varied with any kind of veggies, or even have a mild meat such as chicken or pork added to it.

2 cans condensed Tomato Soup*

1 onion chopped

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 tbs of oil

1 can green beans*

1 can cut corn*

3 carrots, peeled and sliced*

1 package fresh Brussel sprouts*

½ cup pasta*

1 cup red kidney beans*

Add to taste: Basil, oregano, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley, rosemary OR Italian Seasoning

Parmesan Cheese

Place red beans in a pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a hard boil and simmer until soft.

Place onions and garlic in a soup pot and sauté until golden brown. Add carrots and cook until slightly softened.

Add tomato soup and two cans of water. Stir until blended. Add pasta and spices and simmer for 10 minutes.

 Add green beans, corn and brussel sprouts. Rinse off beans checking to see if they are soft, then add to the soup.

Add parmesan cheese and simmer until blended.  Image