Franky-V’s Basic Green Lentil Soup

Franky-V's Lentil Soup

Franky-V’s Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 or 2 tsp. curry paste of your choice (we used Thai-style green curry paste)
  • 2-3 tbsp. Miso paste
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 6 cups of water

Instructions

Pour 3 tbsp. of olive oil in large pot and sauté all the chopped and diced vegetables. (Onion, garlic, carrots, and celery) until onions are translucent and/or veggies are soft. Add the 6 cups of water, the curry paste, and miso, and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, add the 1 cup of green lentils, stir, cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Tips

“Simmer on low for 1 hour” actually means: As the soup is simmering, remember to check every fifteen minutes, and stir from the bottom of the pot to make sure the lentils are not sticking. Also, taste the broth to make sure the soup is seasoned the way you like it. (We have a five year old, so this basic recipe keeps the spicy heat and saltiness low).

Near the end, if you find the soup is too thick, add more water, ½ cup or even 1 cup at a time. (Of course, remember to taste and adjust for preferred saltiness each time you add more water.)

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Can’t BS Our Five Year Old

One of our family’s favorite hobbies is poking fun at ridiculous advertising. And at just the age of five, our young girl Annika seems to be mastering our cynicism and sense of sarcastic humor.

Recently, during a chewing gum commercial on television, the narrator repeated how pleasing and refreshing the “icy-crystals” were. Annika was on the couch and playing with her toys, but clearly paying attention to the TV.

Annika responded loudly to the announcer’s hypnotic voice: “Icy crystals: HA! NOT!”

I just about fell off my chair from laughing so hard.

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A Present for Mama

This story comes from my wife Bonnie:

The other day Annika was in the bathroom wrapped up in her towel so that she was completely hidden. At one point she says: “Mama, there’s a present for you!”

Bonnie: “What is it?”

Annika: “An Annika!”

Bonnie: “Just what I always wanted!”

Annika: “Yes, it’s a LISTENING Annika!” (Translation: She’ll listen to me more).

Bonnie: “Wow! I REALLY need one of those!” (Of course, her listening didn’t last long, but it’s the thought that counts, right? LOL).

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Hiding Hands

There was a time I felt ashamed about how different my hands looked. I knew my face and upper torso were not so different looking than those of an average person, but my hands on the other hand, if you will pardon my obvious pun, were a different matter.

Not only are my fingers short and stubby, another side effect of my dwarfism is that the third knuckles in my fingers are fused together. This limits my dexterity, and also prevents me from making a proper fist. As I grew older and began using public transit, I buried my hands in my coat pockets whenever strangers stared at me.

Wedding Hands (Bonnie and Frank)

Wedding Hands (Bonnie and Frank)

I don’t know what the turning point was, but eventually, I not only came to accept how my hands and fingers looked, but also to take pride in the things they can do. And when Bonnie and I went to buy our wedding bands, I also realized my fingers are anything but small. We quickly discovered the jewelry store did not even have my ring size in stock, which is a size twelve, the second largest on most charts.

 

Size Twelve Ring

Size Twelve Ring

But as they say, it’s not the size of your hands that matters, but how you use them! These hands can cook, play music, doodle, type eighty words per minute, do cross-stitch needlework, and so much more. Best of all is their ability to communicate warmth, friendship and love, all things a person can be proud of.

Hands In Love

Hands In Love

Posted in Dwarfism, My Life So Far | 3 Comments

Hip-Hop Irish Dance Stepper

Just before our daughter Annika turned five back in June, she performed in a hip-hop dance recital at school. She did quite well, considering she was one of the youngest in the group. At one point the older kids did some solos while all the other kids stood still.

Of course, Annika was in her own special world, as she usually is. Instead of standing still like she was supposed to, she started doing her own self-taught version of Irish step dancing. We confirmed with the instructor afterwards that Annika had totally improvised her impromptu and unrequested solo.

I’ll always remember those few hilarious moments when Annika, in all her glory, looked like our proud little stank-faced Irish hip-hop stepper.

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Lessons in Not Getting Hurt

There are days I wonder if our parental words of “wisdom” ever sink through the thick skull of our darling young girl. But then once in a while, we get a very wonderful surprise.

Word for word, here is what my five year old daughter told her mother to write in my birthday card this past summer: “Dear Papa, Happy Birthday. You’re so smart you make me learn more and more, and you make me not hurt myself. Love, Annika”

Clearly, Annika has learned some of the safety lessons I’ve tried to teach her, as well as how to melt my heart.

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“Inspiration Porn” or Just a Compliment?

There is an insidious phrase gaining popularity over the last few years called “Inspiration Porn”. Lene Andersen (Health care writer, RA and disability advocate, and wheelchair user) states:

“Porn involves the objectification of one group of people for the benefit of another group. Using people with a disability or chronic illness who are somehow managing to go about their lives as inspiration for non-disabled people to feel better about their lives or motivation to get off their arse meets the definition.“

In condemning what is called “Inspiration Porn”, one argument basically states:

“A wheelchair athlete should not be considered inspiring just because they use a wheelchair, but instead because “they are a world-class athlete who competes on the international level with some of the fastest, strongest, most amazing athletes in the world.“

Oh, pardon, I see, only the very best get to be inspiring. Bull crap! That elitist attitude, “only the best can inspire”, is the very same thing we see everywhere outside of the disabled community: Only superstars get to be considered special and inspiring, while the rest of us peasants grovel admiringly at their feet. If you doubt me, just watch any talk show, or Entertainment Tonight style show, and you will see what I mean.

Every little thing that a star athlete, super model, pop star, and famous actor does is magnified, even the everyday stuff. How often have we seen interviewers coo at their beloved media royalty “OH, you actually cooked a meal/changed a diaper/played with your children this weekend? How FANTASTIC! Tell our listeners more!” What drivel!

For many of us with disabilities, doing daily chores can be like an ultimate chess match, combined with the physical effort of climbing Mount Everest. Should we complain about it? Certainly not! Should we be proud of our efforts? Absolutely!

We don’t ask for medals, or media interviews, but please, don’t get all high and mighty if someone uses our courageous images to put a little inspiration into someone’s life.

Another argument goes like this:

“Inspiration porn is a dangerous thing because, even if the intentions are good, it implies that the average disabled person is weak or lacks independence.”

Really? Couldn’t it be instead when a person with a disability receives a compliment like “You are amazing” that it is just an expression of the fact at least some able-bodied people see their own weaknesses by comparison? Weakness like when they call in sick for no good reason, or do not take a single walk the whole weekend just because of their own laziness?

Personally, I’m thankful when someone recognizes how hard it is for me to get around, and says that I’m inspiring: A lot of pain, sweat and tears went into my rehab when I was a child. Even I forget how awesome an effort I put in to get back on my feet. But just because I forget that fact does not mean others have to ignore it as well, or god forbid, avoid complimenting me for it.

Also consider that overachievers often don’t realize just how hard it is to be doing what it is they are doing. Overachievers, whether they have a disability or not, often feel they are doing nothing special, and that you are being silly, or worse, when you compliment them. What galls me is that it is mostly these overachievers, successful and outspoken in their given fields, that are using derogatory terms for these inspirational images of people with disabilities, as if our lives are not grandiose enough to be considered inspiring.

How each of us responds to any compliment is our own personal responsibility, and reflects our own state of mind much more than the stranger complimenting us. The truth is, just as a stranger knows nothing about you, the reverse is also true: You know nothing about the stranger who is complimenting you. Maybe that stranger has a sibling or even a child that has a disability, and that relative has given up, whereas you have chosen to rise above your limitations.

Sometimes, a compliment is just a compliment, and an inspirational image is just an inspirational image. When we try to over-think things, and come up with clever terms like “Inspiration Porn” it just boomerangs back on us in all the wrong ways, and becomes a public domain label that everyone gets to slap on those of us who have a disability.

I encourage everyone to continue to be inspiring to one another, whether you have a disability or not, and whether your victories are big or small. And to those who would call that inspiration porn I say, “If you don’t think we are inspiring enough for YOU to be inspired, that’s your problem, not ours.”

Posted in Dwarfism, Random Meanderings, The Crooked Looking Glass | 4 Comments

In Tune With Oneself (Or How I Met Dulcie)

I met her in the summer of 1988, at a medieval fair just north of Pittsburgh. While browsing in a merchant’s tent, I fell in love with the sound of her voice before I even laid eyes on her. The merchant approached me, sensing my longing when he asked me “Would you like to try her out?”

Hammer Dulcimer

Hammer Dulcimer

He moved me towards a trapezoid made of beautifully grained wood, with piano wires crisscrossing two angled bridges. I asked the merchant “What is this musical instrument?”

“It is a hammer-dulcimer. Would you like to try it out?” he replied while handing me two small wooden mallets.

He explained to me how to strike the strings with the mallets, and how to avoid crossing my arms while playing. After a few minutes of practicing scales, I tried out a medieval tune I knew. Playing the hammer dulcimer was almost as easy for me as breathing, but much more enjoyable: It was love at first note.

The merchant asked me “Have you ever played the hammer-dulcimer?” and then he continued “I wish I could play as well as you do!”

“Nope, never played the dulcimer in my life”, I replied.

Maybe his compliment was just a sales ploy, but that did not matter to me: I simply had to have this instrument. Three hundred dollars later, I was the proud owner of a three-octave hammer-dulcimer.

After the medieval fair was over, I experienced a very long twelve hour car trip home to Montreal. Our vehicle was so overstuffed with people and camping gear. I stood the dulcimer up on its side, and cradled it, to make sure it was safe for the entire journey. All the pain from my cramped muscles were worth it, because I was in love.

Flash forward a few years, to the time when my first wife and I decided to move from Montreal, to British Columbia. We sold nearly everything we owned, packed up what little remained into our Dodge Caravan, and boldly set forth on a new adventure. My beloved dulcimer I gave as a gift to a friend named Mark, who promised to take good care of my “dulcie”.

Four years after moving to BC, I was divorced, flat broke, and in deep depression. I decided to move back to Montreal, and a few weeks after my return I bumped into Mark on the bus. We had not stayed in touch at all during my four years out west, but his smile showed me it did not matter one bit. “Hey Frank, how are you doing?” he asked me.

After updating Mark on my saga, he then surprised me by saying “Hey Frank, would you like to have your old dulcimer back? I still have it, and it’s just collecting dust.”

Of course, I said yes, and soon my old music partner was back in my life. The depression I had been feeling for almost four years began to lift. Having a hammer-dulcimer in my life again was like getting back a major part of my soul, and being in tune with myself. I even started composing songs for the first time in my life.  I felt energized and alive again.

Soon after that, I met, fell in love with, and soon moved in with Bonnie. We are now married and raising our wonderful daughter Annika, who also seems to share our passion for music. Annika loves to sing so much that we often feel like we live in a Broadway musical, especially when she invents her own lyrics as she plays with her toys.

I realize it would be crazy to say that simply getting my dulcimer back caused all of those wonderful things to happen. But, it did make me realize how important music is to me once and for all, and that I’m happier when I’m in tune with myself.

I would never suggest foolishly giving everything up to pursue your heart’s desire. But at least try to understand what makes you truly happy, and bring as much of that into your life as you can. The energy and joy you gain from being in tune with yourself can be very rewarding in so many ways.

*************

Here’s a video of Annika when she was a baby, sleeping while I practiced music:

Annika_Sleeps_To_Dulcimer

And here is an original song I composed on the dulcimer:  “Why Oh Why”, (C) 2000, Frank Verpaelst

Posted in Blocked Artistries, My Life So Far | 1 Comment

Everlasting Kisses

Annika had been in daycare for about two years when on her first day of Pre-K, I was surprised to feel so melancholy. “My little girl is growing up so fast” I thought to myself.

When she got home, I told her that I really missed her that day. She responded by telling me part of a story they had read that day, and at the end, while kissing the palm of my hand, she said “Here’s a kiss on your hand daddy, and don’t worry, it will still be there after you wash your hands”.

Thank you dear Annika, I love you so much, and will always cherish this everlasting kiss.

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Happy Smarter Day

When Annika woke up on her fifth birthday, she said “Am I five years old today? I’ll stop talking like a baby. As you get older, you get smarter. I’m smarter now!”

To my dear daughter: May you keep getting sweeter and smarter as you grow older.

Happy Fifth Birthday Annika!

Happy Fifth Birthday Annika!

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