Roasted Vegetable + Herb Salad, for the People Who Can’t Do Everything (and for the Ones Who Can)

Roasted Vegetable Salad | FoodLovesWriting.com

I had a lightbulb moment last week where I realized I cannot do everything (including, this post seems to indicate, take a non-blurry photo of a roasted vegetable dinner). I was sitting in the dining room when it happened: Like most workdays, I had my laptop open before me, streaming sunlight to my right, and, just then, I saw the neighbor working in her yard and thought how I’d like to go say hi—right as my inbox pulled in two new emails, my phone rang, I noticed dust collecting on the floorboards and my open Word document reminded me of how much left on this project there was yet to do. In that moment—that split-second moment—where so many of my honest desires, from keeping a clean house to being a productive freelancer, collided, this single thought, clear as day, hit my heart: I am just a person and I cannot do everything.

Thing is, saying there are things I cannot do is humbling. In fact, I’m not sure I want to admit it to you. When you ask me to take on a project, I want to say yes—and get it to you faster than you’d expected. When you invite me to a social event, I want to say sure—and then be charming and easy and fun. I want to meet your expectations and I want to meet mine—and the worst part is that I’m just proud enough to think I actually can. I’ll turn myself in pretzels trying to work good, love good, friend good, give good, cook good, look good, decorate good, budget good. But I can’t. Not all of it, not all of the time.

This is the sort of thing lots of people are realizing these days. Two, if not three, of the articles I cited in the last post hit at this same idea, and there are many others, too. For example, I read a fascinating, funny post recently that talked about the guilt parents experience (I can only imagine!) but then, also, it did the thing that 90% of these articles do in response to those feelings, the same thing most of us do in response to people we view as more talented or beautiful or smart or successful or cool: it poked fun/criticized parents who weren’t struggling in the same ways.

In other words, to make ourselves feel better that we aren’t accomplishing X, we dislike or belittle anyone who is.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and about how it relates to blogging and all of life.

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Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers

Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers | FoodLovesWriting.com

Like businesses, music, vacations and books, most meals begin as ideas—but as ideas that come more quickly down the mental conveyor belt than sonatas or summer getaway plans. A conversation at the office jogs a memory of Grandma’s butter cookies, and the kitchen finds you rolling dough; a blog post inspires dessert and you’re beelining for the pantry; or, unexpectedly on a weekday afternoon, a hunt through the refrigerator, opening drawers and crispers, fills your hands with bright red peppers and cauliflower and recalls a possibility you’d almost forgotten—and then, that quick, momentary thought, incubated right away in discussion and action, becomes a recipe you test twice in one week with your husband, the two of you lost together in discovery, in watching the abstract become something you hold in your hands and eat.

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Cauliflower Fried Rice

cauliflower fried rice

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you sow.” Robert Louis Stevenson

pureeing cauliflower

I hate to admit this but: I think the flowers on our front porch are dying. I know. I bought them back in March, for $7, on a hot and windy day where I had to hold my skirt down just to keep it from blowing, and I repotted them next to our welcome mat, in a place where you could see them from the road, hoping their bright pink buds would add just a tiny bit of color to the green landscape that surrounds our little house.

Since then, there’s been watering, sometimes, like when I’ve looked at them out our dining room window and realized it’s been at least a few days of forgetting. But there’s also been heat, lots of it, enough to make the edges of the flowers brown—just at the tips—prompting me to water them again, until I’d forget again; now, they’re dry and crisp-looking.

I’m a terrible gardener. And not just of flowers.

cauliflower rice and cashews

In an email the other day, my friend Kendra used the phrase “filling my soul” to describe something she was doing, and it struck me: it doesn’t matter if it’s a pet or a person or a $7 flower pot, life needs nurturing. It’s through the feeding and the watering and the loving and the connecting that living things grow. And, while I love seeing pretty flowers or rich harvests, the ugly truth is that I don’t always love the day-to-day work of planting seeds and watering them and, waiting.

Ashley of Not Without Salt posted some beautiful thoughts about vulnerability yesterday, describing how hard it can feel to expose yourself, without pretense and without walls, especially when you don’t know how someone will take it. I read it and liked her more than ever—that’s what vulnerability can do, right? build intimacy. I thought how necessary authenticity is to any kind of meaningful connection. And I thought about how I’ve been blessed to see this here, many times, as you’ve welcomed me in with open arms as I’ve poured out my heart about missing what’s familiar or a period of depression or how much I love my husband, and you’ve told me your stories, and I’ve tasted something nourishing, something real.

But what about when that nourishing response isn’t immediate? What about when you have to take the risk yourself, over and over, and then, wait?

cauliflower rice on stove

I hate waiting. If the minute I planted a seed—or took a friend to lunch, or told you the truth about my insecurities, or admitted the thing about which I’m most afraid—I saw results, some connection, well, then that would be different. That would be easy. That’s what I like about cooking: when I go to the kitchen, throwing oil and spices in the skillet, adding ground cauliflower like it’s rice, I’m almost guaranteed that, win or lose, there’s going to be something to show for it: dinner. Even if it’s a terrible dinner, at least it’s something I can see, something I can look at as proof of my effort.

But when I make the little investments of trying to build new relationships, of putting myself out there to be vulnerable, on the other hand, something I’ve been going at since I moved last year, sometimes all it feels like is slow. Slow and pointless. Slow like it’s never going to bear fruit. Slow like why-can’t-I-go-back-to-the-already-tended-and-thriving-gardens-I-left-in-Chicago?

cauliflowerrice_inbowl

I’ve wanted to stop trying. Just talk on a surface level or, better yet, retreat to my introversion and stay tucked in at home with Tim—and sometimes I do.

As I was thinking about these things this past Sunday, I flipped through a free magazine and, providentially, saw the Robert Louis Stevenson quote posted above, reminding me to measure the seeds, not the harvest, of my days.

The seeds, not the harvest.

Those words brought real relief. All creation cries it out! This is His promise! Be not weary in well-doing, because, you can believe it, seeds will bring harvest, nurturing will bring life, you will reap if you faint not. Waiting may be the hardest part, but you won’t wait forever; just as there are seasons of planting, there are seasons when you watch things grow.

I’m hanging on to that promise today, as I keep on watering and waiting, watering and waiting, and I don’t just mean the plants.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

cauliflower pizza

“When a wife has a good husband, it is easily seen in her face.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

cauliflower

Today is Tim’s birthday, the first one since we’ve been married.

And over the last few weeks, as I’ve been thinking about its coming up, reflecting on what our life together is like now, about how this birthday would be different from all his previous birthdays, sandwiched between our daily rhthyms of working from home and sleeping side by side and sharing breakfasts, lunches, dinners, I’ve been wanting so much to explain to you, somehow here on this blog, exactly what my face would show if you could see it: I have a good husband.

pizza ingredients

I told Tim early when we were dating, I had a little bit of a fear of marriage growing up, a fact I know some people can’t understand and others get all too well. The best I can explain it, I think, is that when you’ve been exposed to bad marriages, or to their problems, when you’re young enough, you don’t know how to take it. And for me, I took it and turned it into fear, the kind of fear that made me read books about marriage in junior high.

tim dressing the pizza tim grating cheese

Even after I met Tim and shared deep parts of my heart with him, moving to Nashville and planning our wedding, a little bit of that gnawing fear hadn’t left. There are so many men who aren’t like him, I would think to myself, there’s no way he can always be like this. Sometimes still, that fear comes up—when something triggers that part of my mind that adds up the realities of broken people (i.e., us!) covenanting their lives together. It’s almost crazy when you think about it. How can anyone really make it work?

pizza on cauliflower crust

And then I look at Tim and I marvel at our life, and I think, that’s it, that’s mystery: how God can take two selfish people and make them one, to push through the hard and the ugly and the wonderful and the unexpected, together. That adventure, that battle, is in itself a gift, a refining tool like my friend Carrie and I were saying the other night, something that changes you whether you mean for it to or not.

But the second mystery, at least for me, is that of all the people on the planet, I get to do it with Tim, a man who is, literally, unlike anyone I’ve ever known.

pizzas

I am married to the kind of man who doesn’t cancel plans at the last minute, because he believes in honoring commitments, even small ones like having coffee with a friend; a man I can go to, randomly on a weekday morning, and say, you know that story in Judges chapter 6? and he knows exactly what I’m talking about; a man who’s been cooking with me since I first knew him; a man who has taught me, and teaches me, to pray about everything, from finding a source of income to resting about an upcoming conversation to writing posts like this one; a man who can humble himself; a man who, above everything else, loves God.

my plate

I feel so blessed to share this simple life with him, to work in our dining room together, to laugh about the things the neighbors do, to make a cauliflower pizza crust and eat it across from each other, next to the window, while the longer April daylight streams inside.

dinner from above

I have a good husband.

dinner

So to Tim, that husband: I want you to know you have a happy wife.

I love you. Happy birthday!

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always, with lemon (roasted cauliflower)

sunday lunch at adam's

While it’s true I’m easily persuaded about most things, whether it’s trying cookies without flour, taking trips to new places or realizing I’d been wrong all along about that crazy thing called meatloaf, you could still say there are a few fixed aspects of my nature, ones I don’t expect I’ll ever shake.

It’s hard to imagine a me that didn’t love the sky, for example, who didn’t stare at the clouds or gasp at a golden sunset. Would I still be myself if I didn’t notice the seasons change? I love the way my dad chuckles when he knows he’s wrong, the way my mom only shows her full grin when she’s laughing hard, how my younger brother is a better driver, planner and cook than I am. And really, I’ll always move towards relationships without pretense. That’s just who I am.

cauliflower chopped

Since they say a person is defined by what she really loves, you might as well also know, in that case, that I like fall leaves and fresh fruit and people who sacrifice without expecting anything in return. I want warm sunshine and broad daylight and to spend time with those who know me.

Also, and no less important, there is lemon.

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