I am not the first working mom to pine for a “wife.”
Hell, even in college I knew that if I were to pursue the ambitious ass-kicking agenda I’d dreamed for myself, I would need a house-husband.
The miracle is that after putting marriage and kids so low on my list of priorities, I still managed to find myself a fully evolved, committed husband who does (at least) 50% of the heavy household lifting in time for me to still breed with my own genes. I am absurdly fortunate.
And so it is with a blanket of sheep that I admit that there is STILL too much damn work to be done in running a house and raising children while earning enough to sustain my family.
I don’t think this challenge is unique to a city-living, alpha mom like me.
And so I ask you – will you be my sisterwife?
Ok, ok, I don’t mean move in and sleep with my husband – (though he is pretty much the best of his gender and deserves a whole lot more lovin’ than he’s getting these days.) Let’s use “sister” more colloquially – as in, can you please help a sister out?
So maybe what I should say is “Will you be my NEIGHBOR-wife?
My neighbor is mom of our doppler ganger family across the hall – Cute & fun-loving couple, with kids around the age of ours. We even had chocolate labs that were around the same age.
A few weeks ago we talked about doing a freezer meal share and I think we might have stumbled upon genius.
On Sundays, we will both make a casserole or freezer meal and double the batch: one for our family and one for theirs.
A few friends have asked for the recipes we’re using.
To that end, I have started a Pinterest board: Fab Freezer Meals for Sharing
If you’d like permission to post to the board, let me know.
It takes a village, yo.
To start this tradition, I whipped up a batch of Cajun Shrimp and Quinoa Casserole (from This Gal Cooks).
Against tradition, I followed her recipe pretty closely (with fewer jalapenos for tiny tongues and the addition of kale and leftover zucchini because green is good. I also used regular mozzarella because hub couldn’t find Fontina cheese – yes, he does all the grocery shopping. Told ya… he’s kind of a big deal.)
Another of my favorite sharing recipes is Chicken Enchilada Casserole:
- Chicken – breasts or thighs or whatever your budget allows. We use six thighs for a family of four.
- jar salsa (or homemade pico)
- southwest/ taco spices to taste: cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, chipotle, red pepper, paprika, etc.
- enchilada sauce (yes, I recommend the can unless you’re a SAH with way too much time on your hands.) I like a mix of green and red.
- cheddar cheese
- mozzarella cheese
- sweet potatoes
- cilantro (fresh – only way to go)
- red onion
- corn tortillas
- can whole tomatoes
- Mixed bell peppers (frozen ok)
I like to slow cook my chicken – toss in some salsa and let it cook all day on low or half the day on high.
Put sliced red onions into a skillet with evoo on medium heat and cover. When onions are soft, add bell peppers – whatever you think your family will eat. They will be turned into sauce so it’s a great way to trick them into eating their veg. Once peppers are floppy, remove mix from heat and set aside. Add more evvoo and add diced sweet potatoes. Stir to prevent burning/sticking until the sweet potatoes begin to soften. DO NOT make them uber mushy.
Mix (I have a wonderful, tiny food processor from Sur la Table that was a special treat with some gift cards I had collected) the enchilada sauce, whole tomatoes, and onion/pepper mix.
If you use chicken thighs, you might want to skim the grease from on top of your chicken. Either way, shred the chicken in the crockpot with two forks.
Dip your tortillas into the sauce and cover the bottom of a 9×13 glass pan (I used a foil pan for my neighbor because I only have one glass).
Layer the shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, and a mix of the cheeses.
Spoon over some of the sauce.
Repeat the layers: dipped corn tortillas, shredded chicken, sweet potatoes, cheese until you’re out of ingredients.
If you’re freezing this, put a layer of plastic wrap down onto the last layer and then foil cover before freezing.
If you’re cooking immediately – cover with foil and heat through – I put it in at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so. (You’ll see the sauce bubble.)
If your kids aren’t going through their anti-green phase, sprinkle with chopped cilantro, avocado and sour cream – even more cheese if you like!
In hopes of sharing my talent, I plan to post a few more of my life hacks, including more Freezer Recipes.
I hope you’ll share some of your own!
Lately I’ve heard too many stories of people being awful to each other.
I probably need to edit my news feed but it certainly feels like there is just a little more meanness around these days. Doing ‘mean’ empties our emotional buckets, whether we’re the doer or the been done to. Even if we’re not actively evil-doing, I think many of us are just going around in survival mode, too wrapped up in our own funk to give much to anyone. Or worse, are faking through life, hurting our own spirit and showing that phony facade.
We deserve more. We deserve to feel and to share awesome.
Even when I should have plenty of time on my hands, I find myself racing through each day with a to-do list that never gets done. In hopes that writing it down can make it more real, I’ve collected a few simple thoughts on how to be an addition to others’ lives without subtracting from your own.
Share Your Talent
So many of us are busy (pretending) that we’ve got it all under control that we forget to ask specialists about their trade secrets. We might free up time/money/stress by adopting a tip or bit of training from someone who is a natural.
But how many of us struggle with asking for help?
So lead by example, as the saying goes… everyone has something to learn and something to teach. Is it a skill like blog formatting and or video editing? Is it a craft like knitting? Is it a tradition like baking bread? Is it a talent like writing?
Don’t get hung up on the word “talent.” Instead – think of yourself in life-hacking terms. Are you an amazing meal planner? Do you have the most ingenious way of archiving and displaying photos? Are you a great amateur photog? Do you make amazing party food? Do you have a fool-proof method of keeping your house tidy? Have you mastered kid’s parties? Are you a self-taught home media master? EVERYONE is a genius. Share yours and be awesome to someone.
Let People Be Who They Are
This may sound more like a passive option than a simple one. It isn’t.
To let someone be who they are, you may need to adapt to their style and that requires thoughtfulness and sacrifice – at least some of the time. It means getting out of your own self-interests to recognize how other people process the world and not making them feel like an arse for that.
If you need an example, here’s mine: I am not a planner. Most of the time making plans makes me feel boxed in and trapped.
But so many of my friends and family feel very anxious about leaving plans “loose.” They like to know the process, the agenda and the order of things. To me, this feels rigid and restrictive. To them, it keeps life from spinning out into chaos and allows them a comforting feeling of control.
If I want to see them regularly, I need to commit to a date and time with enough advance that they don’t over-schedule themselves right out of my life. It may not sound like a big deal but it is. My planner friend texted me the other day a thanks for making plans with her in advance. She noticed. By planning an outing much farther out than my comfort zone prefers, I was awesome to her.
There are also times when someone’s habit just annoys the crap out of you. Making it clear to them that they make you want to pluck your hair out when they do that doesn’t fix the problem, it just empties their emotional bucket. In these times, remember: it isn’t about you and it isn’t personal. Think about WHY someone might do something and find the compassion/humor/blinders to see over and around that tick to the vulnerable human behind it. Because they are still awesome. Show them that by reducing eye-rolls and harumphs.
Give a Genuine, Spontaneous Compliment
This one comes easy for me but I see daily how difficult it is for others.
One of my many criticisms of our society is the zero-sum mentality. It is the game theory behind mean girls. It is how banksters justify their morally devoid behavior. And it is how otherwise professionals fool themselves into thinking that the ends justifies the means in their climb to the top stomping on the careers of others.
If you can only win by making others lose, you just aren’t very creative.
On my most evolved days, I am impervious to someone else’s bad mood. But when sleep, or polar vortices, or money stress or whatever creep in, I can be a sponge absorbing other people’s mess. I see it on other people too. The over-crowded bus or the 14th internal meeting request of the day can send you into the Jungle of Boo.
But watch the change on someone’s face when you mention how much you like their bag or their shoes or their style or the way they handled that call or their presence in a meeting or their patience with a child. Don’t overthink it or make a big fuss – but when something someone does catches your eye, let them know. I like to thank or complement cleaning crews or grounds keepers. There is almost always someone on the bus who has a hat or glasses or something that I admire. I don’t need anything from them, and I’m not interrupting my or their momentum. Never once has it failed to brighten someone’s face. Just maybe, their day was a little more awesome.
Ask For What You Need
This is the only simple solution that revolves around you… but it is also a way to be awesome to others.
Too many people have the romantic idea that people who love and care for you should just intuitively KNOW what you need and give it to you in the way you most need it.
No one, and I mean NO ONE, pays that much attention to you. Except maybe your kids… and that is actually a pretty good example.
If you’ve been around a two or three-year old lately (or five-six year old if the parents are indulgent jackholes), you know that fit-throwing, whining, and fake crying abound. This is because two and three year olds do not have sufficient command of language or emotion to properly eloquate what it is that they desire.
If you’re expecting magic, you are likely to be seriously disappointed and in feeling that, making those people who love and care for you feel like poop for not delivering on your expectations. Because guess what? The likely want to.
People LOVE to feel useful. Most LOVE to make others happy. But no one has time to go around wasting effort in the hopes that they do. Rather, it is the most direct path to getting and giving what is desired if you spell it out in a way that is helpful and humble. Be clear, be honest, and be practical. Give others all the tools they need to do right by you, because when they succeed, it makes them feel awesome.
Couch Your Crap
While each of us is the protagonist in our own life, we’re merely supporting characters in others’ lives. And since the grand play is all happening simultaneously, sometimes we need reminding that it isn’t all about us.
I wrote a little bit about this here, but even when there is legitimate drama, angst, and woe going on in your world, you can be awesome to others by putting your stuff on a shelf for a beat and being present for theirs.
Just like you can’t effectively listen when you’re coming up with what you want to say next, you can’t really be there for someone else when you are playing mental Stratego hoping to avoid whatever bombs are set up in your match. Press pause. Take a deep breath. And focus on someone else for as long as you can without upsetting the flow of the universe. Chances are you can return to your own bag o’ crap with a fresh perspective that might just be the solution you needed in the first place. And in the process, you were pretty awesome to someone else.
Be a Happy Memory
I don’t mean to adios yourself from someone’s life.
I mean that people sometimes need a memory jog. When you share an positive experience with someone, you two are each other’s happiness keepers. Whether that memory is 5 days or 50 years old, being reminded of it can make someone relive that emotion.
When you see an old picture of them as you’re flipping through an album, or notice a post from them on Facebook, or bump into them in the hallway, or just happen to recall that happy/funny/silly/ hilarious/charming/smart/inspiring/joyful moment you shared – let them know.
Does a certain song always remind you of a friend? Or what about a restaurant? A vacation destination? Your orange sweatshirt? In the age of constant updates, we more or less keep up on the lives of way more people than we would have without the aid of technology. Most of the time we’re just narrow-casting our lives to the audience of acquaintances (and their acquaintances, and theirs…). Being a happy memory for someone means planting and watering your positive experience with them into their “timeline” because you think it will make them smile. Maybe you call someone you haven’t seen in years or maybe you show up in an old familiar place to surprise the old crew, or maybe you just tag the guilty in a carefree picture from the past.
Post it, tweet it, email, telegraph, or smoke signal them. Do it public. Do it private. Just, you know… do it.
Remind people who gave you great memories that you shared them together. You never know who needs to know that they are in your thoughts, or that they made a difference, or even that they mattered.
That gift is yours to give for free and will make someone feel pretty damn awesome.
Do you know Story People?
It’s a beautiful collection of child-like art with simple, witty, heart-wrenching quotes like this one:
I was never good at hide & seek because I’d always make enough noise so my friends would be sure to find me. I don’t have anyone to play those games with any more, but now & then I make enough noise just in case someone is still looking & hasn’t found me yet.
I was given the book years ago by a friend and devoured it during a time I needed something a little less cheese-tastic than “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Story People fit the bill. The quote above has always been one of my favorites.
I remember myself always being loud. I write it like that “remember myself” purposefully. (Don’t we all color our memories?) I watch young girls with their friends with one or more of them inevitably shouting out her words so as to draw attention to herself. I see friends or even strangers at bars or parties being audacious and looking around the room to see who is watching them. I used to be just that way.
It really doesn’t take any great psychological mind to figure out why people do this.
Everyone craves recognition. Not just being seen and heard but really being known. It is among the greatest gifts we can give another person – to know them. I think people seek that out in myriad ways but mine was usually to act out loud, to create my own spotlight, to shock and awe.
It strikes me that writing is a new extension of that behavior. Writing is nakedness. It is opening up one’s mind and soul for others to inspect. (You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting.)
There is both selflessness and greediness involved in revelation. I think each circumstance and each relationship require a slightly different balance of each for success. Inevitably we get it wrong sometimes. And the hope is usually that we learn to get better at what to show and when.
I married a man who knows me. He doesn’t just tolerate some parts and secretly wish there were less of those. He celebrates me for the whole of my being. He knows bits about me that I’ve never revealed to him. Insight is a rare and amazing gift possessed by few. They are the true people-persons. It is this insight that enables one to be compassionate in ways most of us will never be capable of.
I remember my younger self with compassion – all that showy, bravado. I’m happy she lived through it and came out the other side.
Compassion, though, is difficult to come by most days. An Aunt of mine signs her emails with a beautiful quote, “Be kinder than necessary. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle. ~Billie Holiday” It makes me pause every time I read it because of its simple wisdom – a reminder that you are not the protagonist in others’ lives. Everyone you meet is someone’s daughter or son, mother, father, brother, sister, friend…
I believe wholly that everyone is loved by someone. There must be some good in them. No matter what they show you.
Recently, a classmate of mine reached out to introduce himself. His approach was cautious and unconventional but his delivery was kind. According to his note, if he had never read my writing, he’d only have known that young, showy girl who was just a little louder than necessary in case someone was looking for her. He was glad to meet the rest of me, he wrote.
Have you seen the new series on HBO, Boardwalk Empire?
It’s all about some seriously ridiculous sh*t that happened during Prohibition in Atlantic City, New York & Chicago. But mostly Atlantic City.
I have only one experience with Atlantic City. I went there for a bachelorette weekend for one of my all-time best friends. She invited about 12 or so of her all-time best friends. Unfortunately for me, I was at an all-time fat and being the girl NOT from Philly or New York, was kind of like the cousin from HeeHaw. I was always inappropriately dressed. When I didn’t try, everyone else was immaculate. When I tried, everyone else was carelessly perfect. It was maddening. If I hadn’t had such a stick up my bum about watching out for a dozen drunk, silly girls, I would have gotten extraordinarily drunk and laughed it off with some scary codgers at the losers bar. As it turns out, I was practically a mother hen, clucking at the girls that belonged to me (I drove) regularly and making sure they hadn’t been carted off by the medium-rollers trolling for plucks.
From what I saw, Atlantic City wasn’t anything to die for.
But evidently I missed the hey-day.
“Mr. Pink” plays the head bad-guy in Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson. He is kind of a self-made mob boss. So far, he’s kept his hands clean by having his people do the dirty work for him. That’s how it goes, right? When you’re at the top of Maslow’s Heirarchy, you get to be squeeky clean. In the first episode, one of the muscle guys revealed himself as “Al. Al Capone.”
I got a shiver.
What is it about the Gangsters of that era?
How have they been romanticized into legends and heroes-of-sorts? (I mean, it’s not just me, right?)
They were criminals, right? They did break the law, contribute to thefts, murders, etc. etc?
This show has my mind racing about a myriad of things: prohibition, conservativism, revisionist history, immigration, entrepreneurship, the legal system, law enforcement, corruption, power, money, bravado, testosterone, and morality.
I am a woman who likes to know a little about a lot, so I’ve been sneaking in searches when I need a break at work, and after my daughter is asleep. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far:
- The Volstead Act (Prohibition) was the 18th Amendment to the constitution.
- It was passed in 1919 and became law in 1920.
- Prohibition lasted THIRTEEN YEARS. (How the bloody hell?)
- Among the unintentional consequences of this folly were: bootlegging, racketeering, increased organized crime, increased prostitution, increased theft, increase murder, and the spread of speakeasies and jazz music.
In retrospect, this seems like a joke. Like the smart people took their hands off the wheel of our country for, like, a second and it went to sh!t overnight. But isn’t it more likely that I feel that way because alcohol is legal now? Temperance was a pretty big movement. Prohibition was enacted by a fairly significant margin in Congress. The reports I could find said that Democrats voted 140 to 64 in favor of Prohibition, and Republicans voted 132 to 64 in favor.
Of course, as the Great Depression wore on, the belief that prohibition was a local issue (and not one that should be legislated by our consitution) grew in popularity. In addition, the lost taxes, jobs, and temporary relief of a good stiff drink seemed to outweigh the importance of having a sober society, or at least a society that was legally supposed to be sober. With all the trafficking of liquor across borders, home distilleries, and smuggling, people who wanted to drink still did. I mean, evidently.
So what I can’t help wonder is Will we feel this way about drugs someday?
I mean, drugs were legal before they were illegal. We’re spending a bajillion dollars on a “war” against them that is totally unwinable. We have criminalized possession and use and STILL our jails fill up. We’re missing out on, I would guess, trillions of dollars in taxes. It is widely believed to be the source of significant crime, including theft and murder.
And though I keep my nose clean these days, I know too well that if you want to find drugs in this country, you can.
The illegality of drugs seems like Prohibition deja vu all over again. You know, if I’d been around in the 1920s.
So I keep thinking to myself, those who don’t learn from the past, are destined to repeat it. And, well, aren’t we? I wonder if our grandkids will watch movies about drug runners and think, “Man how stupid was that era?”
I don’t know. But I can’t stop thinking about it.
One thing I do know – Boardwalk Empire has made me fall in love with Supper Clubs. I know it’s hollywood and entertainment but how aaaahmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing is the idea of a big open club where everyone dresses up to eat, drink and dance?
Ok, we go to restaurants. Yup, we go to bars too. BUT WHERE DO WE GO TO DANCE?!?!??!!
And to do all three in once place? Heaven.
I’m not talking about those OONZ-OONZ-OONZ clubs where people chew glow sticks and dance with their cell phones. I’m not talking about hooker gear or girls night out or bachelor parties with “hostesses”. I’m talking about groups of couples – marrieds & nots, groups of friends – men & women – going out to share a night of laughs while consuming and burning calories. Why the hell did that go out of style?
Where’s Al when you need him?
Some weeks ago, I posted an observation someone shared with me that small(er) town folk smile at each other whether they know each other or not.
Back in Chicago now, I noticed not one person whom I encountered on my walk this morning initiated a smile. Only about 30% responded to mine. About 1/3 of those who responded saw my smile and raised me a “good morning.”
It was very curious to me.
For one, I wondered how my random smile impacted their morning, or if it did. Even if they didn’t respond, did they wonder why the girl in the Wrigley shirt smile at them? Did they analyze why I was in work-out clothes at 7:30a instead of a suit? Did they wonder if they knew me? Did they settle on the idea that my smile was just a gesture of friendliness?
Did they pass that gesture on later?
I remember why I stopped smiling at random people. Too often, it ushered in unwelcome attention. Some people are idiots. This is an unavoidable truth. They cannot distinguish “Hi. Good Morning. Nice Day Isn’t It?” smiles from “Hey, you’re hot, wanna do it?” smiles.
I say, don’t let these fools stop you from being a smile-slut.
But, there’s one caveat. Do not, under any circumstances, accompany your smile with the up-down glance. You will either look skeevy or judgemental.
Women do this all the time. We dress up for each other and then eye one another over like cannibalistic sharks in a tank. Here’s the thing… we don’t need to fight over chum(ps). It’s not a competition, ladies. There is enough beauty, charm, grace, sex-appeal, wit, humor, and fun to go around. Honest.
The other thing I wondered was why it was easy for me to smile at strangers and hard for me to smile at my husband or other family members when they happen to be irritating the goodness out of me. (I have clearly not yet tackled my “Accept Others” month on my Happiness Project.)
Hub pointed this out the other night after a particularly nasty look, saying, “You don’t treat people you love like this. You may think what I’ve done is personal and deserves this, but it doesn’t.”
I hate him when he’s right.
I should probably show him a smile today. No, the other kind.
Yesterday, I had lunch with my cousin who reminded me of one of my favorite sayings about dysfunction.
She spoke my thoughts exactly saying, “It can’t just be everybody else’s problem, right?”
Well, yes. Right.
Our discussion was about mental health. Or, to be more specific, mental illness. We talked about depression, addiction and bi-polar disorder, each having affected someone we know. Each a dark, personal fear.
Depresson seems to be the disease du jour if you pay attention to advertising. Within four types of medications for depression, there are no fewer than twenty-six brand names. It would seems that depression pays. I’m still waiting for my check.
Post-partum depression was my most recent dance with the devil.
It pounded me like nothing ever has before and I’m no stranger to the dark side. I was six months into the pit of despair before I could even ask for help. There were signs, of course, but between new-mum hormones and my self-imposed isolation, who was to catch them? It was finally my husband who mandated that I get help. It took more than a year for me to get better and drugs definitely helped me on my path to recovery.
Have you seen the commercials for Bring Change 2 Mind? Glenn Close is the spokesperson for the organization advocating against the stigma, misconceptions, and bias surrounding mental illness. I cry everytime I see it.
The site says that 1 in 6 adults are living with a diagnosable mental illness. Actually “suffering” is the word they use, and the difference is not semantics. I don’t know their methodology for that statistic but it stuns me.
How many of these people go undiagnosed for their entire lives? And what are the ramifications of that?
Therapy seems like a great idea on paper. In practice, however, it feels like a money pit. Out-of-pocket expenses and unending treatment plans are daunting at best, prohibitive at worst.
I can remember when I was an adolescent, my parents took me to a few different shrinks to find out what was “wrong” with me. I would venture that I was suffering from “teenager” but my perspective is skewed. When I refused medication for my real or imagined malady, my parents expressed their pride in my decision.
This seems odd to me now that I know depression is not indicative of weakness – mental, physical, or spiritual.
Perhaps “Mental” illness needs a rebranding effort.
Would “Chemical Illness” be less difficult to say? That sounds like radiation sickness to me. What about “Hormonal Illness”? That could be confused with menopause.
What about the word “Illness?” Diabetics don’t make enough insulin but get to use “deficiency” to describe their body’s betrayal. Why can’t I have just been diagnosed with a “Seratonin Deficiency?”
My aunt, who has spent her career in nursing and hospital administration, pondered aloud why psychological care wasn’t treated like dental care? Everyone should receive preventative/restorative treatment every six months – whether you need it or not.
Can you imagine the cavities that could be filled?
The definition of insanity, according to Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. So the dysfunction definition, while funny in a cynical way, alludes to an inability to self-assess, an ignorance of culpability, a blindness to our own responsibility for our happiness, or lack thereof.
Whether the decay is of the mind or of the spirit, Billie Holiday had a beautiful suggestion: “Be kinder than necessary. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.”
May you win yours.