Yup, that’s my Andrew. He’s spent most of his 17 years of life absorbing his surroundings and uniquely interpreting them, listening to every word yet hardly speaking, and experiencing life without the societal borders and restraints imposed on us neurotypicals.
That’s why I was not too surprised, but overwhelmingly proud, when last summer I asked him if there were any cute girls in his summer school class. “Well, there is one . . .”, he replied. He went on to tell me her name, that she had brown hair, was very little and very pretty. Having at least seen most of the kids in his class, I couldn’t figure out who this mysterious beauty was. And then it dawned on me. Of course, Andrew doesn’t see a girl with Downs Syndrome and judge her for it. He only sees the obvious beauty of her smile and her kindness shining through.
And while I’m not too surprised that Andrew has recently connected profoundly with a new girl at his high school, I am thrilled at how she is opening up his world in ways I never anticipated. They talk throughout Drama class and get told to be quiet and pay attention by the teacher. He lights up like a Christmas tree when he comes home from school and tells me about her and their interactions that day. After their first “date” at the movies, he said, “I’m just so happy that I got to go out with her and it was so fun and we get to go out again this weekend”. I’ve never seen him so happy.
In my opinion, there’s nothing better in life than connecting deeply with another person and being in love. To me, it’s really what life’s all about. If you are lucky and blessed enough to have found that person, hang on tight and enjoy every moment. If you haven’t found that person, never ever stop looking. If we all strive to be a bit like Andrew, and always keep our hearts open, love is ours.
Now to keep that heart healthy and free from obstructions, eat plenty of nuts and grains! These Nutty Grain and Oat Bars will help keep the bad cholesterol away and make a great snack or breakfast on the run. My daughter, Emma, is vegan, so I make them with virgin coconut oil instead of unsalted butter.
NUTTY GRAIN AND OAT BARS
Makes about 16
· Non-stick vegetable oil spray
· 6 large Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
· 1 cup pure maple syrup
· 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or virgin coconut oil
· 2 cups old-fashioned oats
· ½ cup raw whole almonds
· ½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
· ½ cup shelled sunflower seeds
· 2 tablespoons amaranth, quinoa, or sesame seeds
· ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat an 8-1/2” x 4” loaf pan with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on long sides; spray parchment.
Bring dates and maple syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, reduce heat to medium-high, and boil, stirring often, until dates are very soft and maple syrup is reduced, 8 – 10 minutes. Remove date mixture from heat and stir in butter or coconut oil until it is melted. Mash dates with a potato masher or fork until as smooth as possible.
Toss oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, amaranth, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in date mixture until evenly coated. Scrape half of oat mixture into prepared pan and press very firmly and evenly with a rubber spatula to compress it as much as possible. Add remaining mixture and press until very tightly packed into the pan.
Bake 45 – 50 minutes. When cooled, cut into ½” –thick slices with a serrated knife.