Sunday, September 27, 2015

Milestones & Millstones...Two Years Later

Having been married for 39 years and divorced for only two, I'm not sure if the date the marks the thud of a judges gavel, should be acknowledged like the date that marks the sound of wedding bells. I'm pretty sure it shouldn't. Either way, both dates cast a shadow on my calendar.

Two full years into a life gone solo, I have learned so many things about myself. I don't wish anyone the pain of a divorce, but I hope everyone gets a chance to understand the "me" in their selves and not just the "us". I believe now that in the end, it would actually make a better coupling, a better "us". If I can get passed the hesitation of offering up my heart again, I will definitely remember this.

Admittedly, when I was married, I wanted to be Olivia Walton, making applesauce cake when company was coming. And then, defer all difficult situations to my husband, John, who would look at me and say "I'll take care of it Liv." So it's rather surprising that my marriage lasted three times longer than that show.

But what is even more astonishing to me is that I had, within, the ability to handle the hard stuff the whole time. Just never felt the need to own it. I don't feel that way anymore. Am I tougher? No. My heart is always firmly on my sleeve. Stronger would be a better word. Like a piling beneath the bridge, I can handle the far.

During the weekend of the second anniversary of my divorce, Pope Frances was visiting Philadelphia,  just 15 minutes from my home. Now, I'm a Methodist by baptism, and not a very good one at that. I am, however, a believer. I have prayed more in the past two years than I have my whole life. As I watched hundreds of thousands of pilgrims make the journey to see this man, I felt solidarity. I may be alone in my prayers, but not in my beliefs. In my heart I knew that, but it was sure good to see. Maybe that is what church is for. A celebration of common faith.

So, two years in and I'm not only standing, I'm still moving! For the first time ever, I purchased a car! I know women do this everyday, but it was my first time. When the transmission on my large SUV started racing, I started researching! In the end, I downsized my car, my payment and my gas mileage. And then refused to sign the paperwork until the dealer offered an extended 5 year bumper to bumper warranty. Not too shabby!

I've become my own accountant, handyman (um..handywoman) and care taker. I'm also a slimmer version of myself. Not thin, by any means, but I eat healthier than I ever have. Egg white omelet with spinach and goat cheese is usually dinner once a week. Or, grilled chicken and a salad work too! I seldom cook a starch...potatoes, pasta, rice, items used to fill the three males in my former life. (If truth me told, after a long day, a bowl of cereal can be dinner.) Plus, I prefer to save my carb consumption for really great bread - anytime! Cooking is different now. Not bad, just different. And, when I feel the need to open up the kitchen a little, I arrange a family Sunday dinner!

Family has always been, and remains, my catapult to a life well lived. And now, a grandson who actually makes my heart beat faster with each step I take toward him, is the realization that all of those silent prayers have been answered. The love surrounding me as grandmother, a mom, a mother in-law, a sister, and aunt, is more than enough.

If there is a scar left from the dissolve of a 40-year marriage, it is my inability to trust. I stumble every time in this area. Sometimes in the darkness of the night, I think back on all the signs I missed, and think, "what an idiot I was." The inability to trust someone new in my life hangs around my neck. Until I can break free of this albatross, I can't bring it into a new relationship. If time truly heals all wounds, this one needs a little more time.

And, until that time comes...I must admit to enjoying the "me" I've become.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

There is a Definite Change in the Air...And I'm ready!!

It starts slowly. First, the warm days fall from the mid-80's to the mid-70's. And then the nights cool into the low 60's, sometimes, blessedly, 50's. There is almost no better feeling then an
cool autumn breeze blowing across your sheets. It's late September, the first noticeable sign of fall is not the changing of the leaves. That comes later. And even though you know it's coming, watching the shadows grow longer at four o'clock, and the street lights come on by seven at night, is always a reality check. Now, the days will only get shorter. But I'm okay with that.

The transformation from summer to fall may seen subtle, but its most famous icon, the pumpkin, started making its appearance with the back to school ads in August! I actually tried to avoid looking at farm stands loaded with pumpkins and mums on my way to the shore on Labor Day weekend. It was my only summer vacation and I was intent on riding it to the end!

Pumpkin, or at least its flavor, has become the "now" product. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's and WaWa all rushed in the end of August with their fall varieties of pumpkin coffees. When I was younger (no remarks required here) there were two versions of anything pumpkin...pie and carving. That was it, a Thanksgiving desert and a Jack-O-Lantern. That has changed.

An office discussion, last week, is was started me thinking about the pumpkin's rise in culinary popularity. Admittedly, this antioxidant rich fruit is loaded with beta carotene which kind of converts to vitamin A in the body. And in the conversion to vitamin A, beta carotene performs many, many important functions to our overall health. Probably none of which are found in the coffee versions.

However, as someone in the office proved with the following recipe, pumpkin is not just best served in a mug or a pie. Without adding sugar and cinnamon, this large and moist fruit still easily adds flavor and definitely holds its own in an entree, such as the stew below:

Chicken Stew with Pumpkin

·         1 tbsp. canola oil
·         1 1/2 lb.chicken thighs, skinned, chunked
·         1 medium chopped onion
·         1 chopped red pepper
·         1 tsp. minced garlic
·         1 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup chicken broth
·         2 cups diced tomatoes
·         1 tsp. salt
·         2 tbsp. paprika 
·         2 tbsp. cornstarch
·         1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (this can be left out if there are allergy issues, but initially hesitant, I found it really added a unique flavor).
·         3 cups pumpkin, peeled, cubed and seeded 
·         2 cups fresh string beans, halved. (I used a small bag of mixed vegetables since I think that is what makes a stew - either way is fine.)

Heat the canola oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken, onion, red pepper and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent and soft. Set aside.
Combine 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, diced tomatoes, salt and paprika in a stock pot and bring to a boil.
Add the pumpkin and green beans.
Add saute of chicken, onions, red pepper and garlic.
Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 12 to 15 minutes.
While the stew is simmering prepare the thickening agent. Gradually add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to 1/2 cup chicken broth. Mix in the peanut butter.
After the stew has simmered and the pumpkin is fork-tender, stir in the thickening agent. Cover with a lid and let is idle for a few minutes.
Serve in a hallowed out pumpkin. (Okay, I didn't do this, but it is an option if trying to impress company.)
In the coming months there will be many other recipes that celebrate the harvest, but I really wanted to start out with a rather unique celebration of this autumnal favorite..the pumpkin. 
And since, in my research, I found beta carotene offers protection from some degenerative aspects of aging, I may be working it into many recipes!!