Don't Compare yourself to others

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

The Better Me Project—Day 24

Last day of “Lower Your Expectations”…I swear. Damn, that seemed to go on forever, didn’t it? Anyway, I want to talk about one of the easiest ways I’ve found to lower my expectations—don’t compare yourself to others.

That Green-eyed Monster

Jealousy…yikes. I’m sure we can all attest to a time in our lives when we felt jealous, dating way back to childhood. Your brother got the toy you wanted, your sister got to sleep over your grandmother’s house, maybe both of them were allowed to stay up way past your bedtime. When you got a little older, this didn’t end. Maybe your sister got the car you wanted, your cousin’s hair was nicer than yours, your best friend’s boyfriend was sweeter than yours. Even as adults, the green-eyed monster seems to rear its ugly head, despite the fact that we have much more control over our lives than we did when we were seven and seventeen. We drool over the pool our neighbor is putting in, we feel a stab of longing while scrolling over our friend’s vacation pics on Facebook (another reason to limit our time on social media), we wish we could get a kick-ass book deal like an author friend of ours.

A Little Bit of Jealousy is Good

It’s totally normal to feel this way sometimes and despite the fact you’ve heard otherwise, jealousy can create positive outcomes. * Yup, it’s true. It can help you strive for the goals you want to accomplish by giving you incentive. It can also give you direction and ideas on how to accomplish what you want. If I’m jealous of a friend with a book deal, I need to evaluate what she did to get that deal. Being jealous can actually open doors in this way.

But It’s Bad Too

Jealousy can cause a lot of internal conflict (and external as well) when we start comparing ourselves to others and beating ourselves up because we’re not measuring up. Making comparisons to other people can make us feel crappier about ourselves than we already do.

So this is what I vowed to stop doing when I said I would lower my expectations. I would stop thinking of myself in terms of how I stack up to others and instead I would only compare myself to ME. I will ask myself, “Am I doing better than I was yesterday?” instead of “How am I doing in comparison to her?”. The grass may be greener, but it’s always greener when you water it.

Life is a Journey

We are all in different places in our journey. It’s really not fair or productive of me to compare myself to someone on a different journey. I really don’t know what they’ve been through to get there. For most people, all I am seeing is this point in time. I have no idea how they got to this particular part of their life. And I can’t make assumptions that they’re journey has been easy. People might see me and think that I’ve got everything. They don’t have any idea what I’ve been through to get there.

Caveat: While it might seem productive to compare yourself to others who seem WORSE off than you are (kind of as a motivator, like, oh at least I’m not as bad as so-and-so), that’s not a good idea either. Mostly because of that whole “Everyone is on their own journey” thing. Since you don’t know what is going on in someone else’s life, you really can’t evaluate what they’re doing based on yours.

Obviously, it’s not too easy to do this—and sometimes it is a helpful reminder of what we should be thankful of—but the best thing to do is to be mindful of negative thoughts.

I’m Doing the Best That I Can

So, I guess my whole takeaway from Lower Your Expectations is to examine what I’m doing and realize that I really AM doing the best that I can. I need to STOP beating myself up by comparing my life to the lives of others. I need to STOP expecting myself to be Superwoman—I’ve got to SAY NO, ASK FOR HELP, and DO LESS. And I can’t forget the fact I need to STOP seeing my mistakes as permanent failures. They’re opportunities for growth.

I really AM trying and I need to take everything one day at a time, one step at a time. It’s a journey, right? I am going to sit back and enjoy the ride.

*”5 Reasons Why Jealousy is a Good Thing”, Huff Post (7/1/14)

Photo Credit

 

 

 

accepting failure

Failure is the Key to Success

The Better Me Project—Day 23

So a few days ago I introduced the precept of Lowering Expectations. Initially, it sounds like I’m setting myself up for failure, but it turns out that the opposite is true. By lowering my expectations, I’m allowing myself to be successful because in the long run, failure can be the key to success.

Maybe I Sound Nuts, but Hear Me Out

What is failure? According to Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, failure is defined as a lack of success in some effort. It can be one-time or it can be repeated. The thing about failure is that it simply means a lack of success for this particular endeavor at this particular time. It is not necessarily all encompassing. Despite the way we feel when we fail, it does not mean success is out of reach.

In fact, failure is merely a predecessor to success in many cases. You’ve seen those memes about how Edison tried a bazillion times to create the light bulb and how Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected and how Steven Spielberg didn’t get into film school. None of them let their failures stop them and they all eventually became successful. These stories are supposed to boost morale and get people to see that failure isn’t permanent.

Plus, by failing, we get a glimpse into how NOT to accomplish something…making it less likely to repeat the same mistakes in the future. Failure helps us learn how to be successful.

Yeah, Well Failure is Still a Tough Pill to Swallow

It’s really hard to look past the sting of failure when you’re right in the thick of things. It is difficult to pick yourself up after you’ve failed and remind yourself that this failure isn’t a permanent thing. Especially if it is something that you’ve been trying to be successful with repeatedly, or something that you’ve invested a lot of time and effort into.

That’s why it’s good to start off with lower expectations. When you start off with a task you want to be successful at, it’s sometimes best not to expect too much…at first. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put in the same effort you would normally, I’m saying that sometimes you (and I) need to accept that you’re not going to be successful right out of the gate. Success takes time and patience. Sometimes, very rarely, something works on the first try. But mostly life is a game of falling down and getting back up. And falling down. And getting back up. And repeat until you’ve gotten it right.

I Have to Remind Myself of This CONSTANTLY

Confession time. I’m preaching about this, but I am the worst offender. I beat myself up when I fail or even when I don’t do things exactly the way I want to do them. Or when things don’t work out, despite my hard work or incessant planning. As soon as something doesn’t go the way I hoped, I start badmouthing myself and making myself feel terrible. I convince myself that I’m useless and I’ll never get it right (even if it’s my first time trying something). I throw my hands up in the air and say, “That’s it! I’m no good! I quit.”

I am awful to myself when I should be my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this type of behavior. A lot of people beat themselves up over their failure, forgetting that it just means we have to try again.

Lowering My Expectations

So this is where lowering my expectations comes in. I’m subscribing to the motto of “Hope for the best and expect the worst”. That way when things don’t work out, I am not disappointed. But by “hoping for the best” (and trying my best…that’s an important key), I am not dismissing the possibility that I can be successful.

Despite my Better Me Project, things haven’t been completely rosy lately. I’ve had a string of failures followed by some moderate success and then more failure. The part that strikes me as funny is that I’ve actually been trying harder than I ever have in the past, spending more time and effort in my endeavors. And yet, failure. Or at least, not the success I’ve been hoping for.

A lot of times I will find myself replaying events in my head. I’ll start obsessing over my failures, wishing I could go back in time and fix where I went wrong. Sometimes it’s helpful for the future, but mostly, it’s exhausting. It makes me want to climb into bed and pull my covers over my head and wave my white flag.

Pick Myself Up By the Bootstraps

Does anyone ever say that anymore?

I have to say it to myself now. I cannot allow myself to be defined by my lack of success in certain things. What I need to do is remind myself at how far I’ve come and how far I will go if I keep pushing forward, if I keep getting back up when I fall down. I. Need. To. Learn. From. My. Mistakes.

The author of You Are a Badass reminds me that I can do what I want to accomplish if I continue to work toward it, not if I give up on it. I obviously can’t achieve my goals if I give up on them, can I? It’s not like someone else will accomplish them for me. Only I can do this.

Just Keep Swimming

Every time I burn dinner, each time I say the wrong thing, every time I get rejected by BookBub , and each time I’m not the perfect wife and mother, I have a I have to remember life is a process and I can’t get mad at myself or punish myself when I’m not perfect. As much as I want to be successful, I can’t let myself feel like a failure, even when I fail. I will succeed…just not this time. One foot in front of the other, one success (and failure) at a time. I have to be like Dory and just keep swimming. 

 

 

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Nebraska

I cringed last as Hubby pulled another middle of the country state. To me, Nebraska was equivalent to farmers, football, and amber waves of grain. I would have never dreamed that one of my favorite foods actually originated in Nebraska.

Legend Has It…

Reuben Kulakofsky, a Jewish grocer from Omaha, Nebraska is credited with inventing a sandwich for his weekly poker game at the Blackstone Hotel sometime in 1920. The owner of the hotel was so impressed with this sandwich, he put on the hotel menu. According to sources like Wikipedia, that sandwich was the first Reuben, born not out of New York or New Jersey as one would expect, but out of a hotel in Nebraska. Nebraska! Nebraska-ians (?) love their Reubens. In fact, March 14 isn’t just Pi Day in Omaha—it’s Reuben sandwich day.

Or, It Could Have Happened This Way…

Unfortunately, no one knows if that story is completely true because there are many other “Reuben” origin stories, including one that claims the Reuben originated from a deli in New York City called Reuben’s Delicatessen. Supposedly, it included “Reuben’s Special” on its menu as early as 1914. The earliest references to the sandwich in print are from the mid-20s and are New York based. There’s also speculation to whether the sandwich was invented for an actress or something just whipped up by the cook. So, not so clear.

What’s Even Less Clear is What’s on the Sandwich

The “classic” Reuben has corned beef, swiss, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. There are many variations on this recipe, including pastrami in substitution of the corned beef (Hubby and I argued about this one—they’re PRACTICALLY the same thing), Russian dressing or mustard in lieu of the Thousand Island, and coleslaw instead of sauerkraut. Some people even use turkey instead of corned beef or pastrami. Anyway you slice it, people call this sloppy sandwich a Reuben. (In NJ sometimes a similar sandwich is called a “Sloppy Joe”—turkey, roast beef, coleslaw and thousand island dressing.)

We’re Eating a Reuben for Nebraska and That’s the End of the Story

Any way you slice it, the point is, Reubens are really popular in Nebraska, so that’s what we had for our Nebraska meal. There was a collection of groans when I announced this fact. (Notice that no one else does the state research so I ALWAYS have to be the person who picks and I ALWAYS have to deal with the moaning and groaning from the members of my family who are unhappy with my decision.)

But I ignored them. I like Reubens. Child #2 gets a Reuben panini whenever we get subs. TFB if Hubby and Child #1 aren’t fans. After our very labor intensive Louisiana meal, a Reuben that could be whipped up on a busy weeknight was perfect.

First the Meat

The only way I could get Hubs to agree to eat a Reuben was to let him make it with pastrami. *Sigh* Although corned beef and pastrami taste almost exactly the same, a Reuben with pastrami is called a “Rachel”. But whatever. Let him eat the pastrami. At least he was trying something new.

The meat gets warmed up on the griddle while the sauerkraut warms up in a pot on the stove:

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You butter the rye bread* and toast the one side and put Thousand Island dressing on the other:

*Seedless rye—Rye bread with seeds is the devil. I hate biting into one of those seeds. Yuck. Whenever I got a Reuben in a diner, I would order it on a roll because I hated the seeds. Until I discovered seedless rye…GAME CHANGER!

 

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Then top with the meat, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut:

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Cover with a second piece of toasted bread (with Thousand Island dressing spread on the one side). Grill both sides like you would for grilled cheese. Serve when cheese is melted and meat is warmed throughout:

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While the sandwich was messy as it always is, I added less meat than they would in a diner or deli, so it was more manageable. The sandwich was delicious and I enjoyed it. Child #2 was pleased with it as well. The other two grumbled, but ate the sandwich because they knew they weren’t getting anything else to eat for dinner. I would definitely make a homemade Reuben again in the future…just maybe not when the Reuben-haters are home.

 

say no and ask for help

Say No and Ask For Help

The Better Me Project—Day 21

The last time I posted, I talked about lowering my expectations. I am often way over my head with things that I plan to do, causing myself anxiety and unnecessary stress. By lowering my expectations, I could really lower my stress level and ultimately become more efficient (and happier). But it’s not so easy to do. It’s going to take a step by step process to allow myself to not expect miracles. I decided that over the course of four days, I would take steps toward this end. Yesterday I vowed to “Do Less”. Today I am going to learn to “Say No and Ask for Help”.

Say No? Are You Smoking Something?

Let me explain to you how painful it is for me to say no. I honestly don’t think my mouth can form the words. In fact, when my kids were little, I hardly ever would actually utter the word no. I would just say “we’ll see”, which the kids quickly came to learn was code for “no”.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to say no, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I realize that I put more stress on myself that way. No only do I expect myself to complete whatever task I won’t say no to, I’m setting myself up for not being able to say no in the future as well. People will start to expect me to say yes. I would disappoint them even more. See how that works? It’s a vicious cycle.

And Ask for Help? Seriously, What Are You Smoking?

Asking for help is akin to admitting defeat to me. If I can’t do something on my own, what good am I to anyone? At least, that’s been my thought process. (And besides the fact that no one really does it the way I want it done…). Okay, so maybe I’m just a little bit of a control freak.

I’d also like to point out that I have a hard time asking for help from my family not only because they do what I’m asking incorrectly (only slight exaggeration—I think they do it on purpose), they complain that I’m nagging. And who needs to hear that they’re being a nag? Especially when 99.9% of the time it’s just easier to do it myself in the first place. Hence, why I end up doing so much.

I may be a little bit of a control freak, but here’s an example. My son used to empty the dishwasher. It would take 97 hours to get him to empty one batch between reminding him and getting told “in a minute”, and him never being home. The dirty dishes would pile up and start stinking up the house because I couldn’t put them in the full dishwasher. Then when he did empty the dishwasher, he would pile half the dishes up on the counter because he never “knows where they go”. I call bull$hit.

I’d Be Even Less Likely to Ask Someone Outside the Family For Help

Admit I can’t do it all? I would feel guilty that I can’t get it done or I can’t help someone else out. I feel guilty and selfish and a whole bunch of other terrible feelings. So guilt + incessant need to be in control= constant stress.

But Yesterday You Vowed to Do Less, Heather…

And so I did. What’s the easiest way to do less? Commit to less. Ask for help more. Ughhhhh. I guess I have no choice, right? I’m going to have to do this.

I had a list as long as my arm on Sunday. For some reason, Sundays aren’t as relaxing as I would like them to be because I am usually beating myself up for slacking off on Saturday and running around like a madman to get it all done on Sunday. And in this case, I had a WHOLE week off and I somehow left everything I needed to do for the last day.

Well, this precept came up on Sunday and I decided I would see if I could execute it. Hubby and Child #2 were bored and wanted to “do something fun”. Remember that list I mentioned? The one as long as my arm? Normally I would say “Sure, I can do everything,” and then I would knock myself out trying to figure out how to please everyone and still get done what I think I need to get done. And I wouldn’t accomplish half of what I wanted to do and I would end up stressed and anxious and generally miserable.

So…I Said No

Sort of. I said they were more than welcome to go out on their own—I wasn’t stopping them. I couldn’t spare the time to “do something fun” because I had too much to do. BUT, if anyone wanted to help me out, I WOULD be able to spare time. See what I did there? I tried to both say no AND ask for help. 

Believe it or not, hubby stepped in. He folded the towels for me. A tiny little thing, but it was enough to offer me some relief. And then later he cooked dinner instead of leaving it on me. I still didn’t get everything on my list done—in fact, I didn’t even get close, but then again, I’ve got to learn to start lowering my expectations. Do less. Say No. Ask for Help.

This May Just Work

The good news is, on Sunday I didn’t have to have a nervous breakdown to make my point. I had to say no and ask for help. It didn’t feel as icky as I thought it would either. I didn’t have heart palpitations and break out into cold sweats. I think I could even do it again in the future.

Will that work every time? Probably not. It probably won’t even work next time (see, I’m lowering my expectations already). But I’ve made a start with my  first “just say no” campaign. I think I would make Nancy Reagan proud.

 

 

Photo Credit

 

Lower Your Expectations (and Do Less)

The Better Me Project—Day 20

Like so many of us, I can get completely overwhelmed at times. My list of what I need to do and what I expect of myself never seems to end. Home projects, responsibilities and book ideas all seem to pile up at alarming rates, the list growing longer than the hours in a day. (If I’m honest, the list is probably longer than the number of years I have left to live on this earth.) I want to accomplish so much and at the same time, I want to do everything right. But that voice in the back of my head is screaming at me, “Lower your expectations, Heather! This precept of Lower Your Expectations is actually four parts (and four days) long. Today is the first part—Do Less.

Do Less

I really should start listening to that nagging voice that’s telling me to lower my expectations. It may hold the secret to my complete and utter happiness. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it think it may be on to something. It seems crazy to tell yourself to lower your expectations, though, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t most people think you should expect more to get more? If you set the bar low, you won’t work as hard. And you could actually make yourself fail if you don’t expect to succeed. Like if you expect to fail your driver’s test, you could psychologically cause yourself to fail the test, right? If you don’t have faith in something you want to achieve, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy to not accomplish the goal. Why bother to tell yourself that you can do anything if you don’t expect to do it?

Because you shouldn’t expect to do everything. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean that you should. Sometimes Less is More.

You Can Do Anything, But You Can’t Do Everything

No wiser words have ever been spoken. I saw this meme on Pinterest the other day and it hit me so hard that I couldn’t breathe for a minute. Okay, slight exaggeration, but you get it. Sometimes you stumble upon something that is so relevant to your current situation that it stops you dead in your tracks. Words that can turn your head around and make you really evaluate what you’re doing.

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately. Forget both ends, I’ve been burning it at all ends.

Not only do I need to blog daily about The Better Me Project, I have to actually carry out the precepts that I’m talking about. I’m trying to start an online magazine for writers. I have three books half finished right now. There are at least another two book ideas banging around in that cluttered brain of mine. I’ve been researching SEO, Pinterest algorithms and other internet nonsense in order to make my blog more visible and reach more readers. I’m writing a book proposal based on this project. We’re still doing the The Bad Mommy Cooks the USA tour. I want to put all those recipes and disasters into a cookbook. Oh, and I have to go to work and clean my house and feed my family and the dog and work out and generally make sure everything doesn’t fall apart in the meantime.

Yikes!

I do this to myself A LOT. I mentally catalog a list of what I NEED to accomplish that is so unrealistic I have no choice but to fail. I’m going to fail at something on that list, if not everything on that list, because it’s too much. I cannot logically expect myself to achieve any of it—Superwoman herself couldn’t do all that. (Somehow, my expectations of myself are more than I would expect of Superwoman.) And while I have to admit that I’m pretty damn awesome and I do get a lot done, I’m still setting myself up for inevitable failure.

I’m sure there’s so psychological reason that I do this, but I don’t think I should waste any time trying to figure that out. What I need to do is STOP. Well, not stop altogether. I need to lower my expectations and allow myself to DO LESS.

How Can I Do Less?

Prioritizing. Ugh. It’s like a dirty word. How does one prioritize exactly? I mean, if I make a list of things I need (want) to get done, everything on that list is important. Certainly there are things that MUST get done immediately—like eating dinner—but in my mind, everything else on that list is pretty damn important. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have put it on the list in the first place. Duh. And sure, some items on the list are dependent on others (like I can’t schedule my blogs before I write them), but how do I say, “okay, this item comes before that item?”

The best way for me to do this is to evaluate my goals. What is it that I’m looking to accomplish? And on a hierarchy of needs, which goals are most important? Obviously, I want to keep my dog and family alive, so feeding them and making grocery lists need to be done. Along with laundry and going to work so I can make money to do laundry and feed my family. I mean, it’s one thing to disappoint my adoring fans everywhere if I don’t put out a post every day—it’s another not to go to work and have clean clothes.

So yeah, it’s all important, but what isn’t helping me accomplish my goals?

I started this Better Me Project because I truly wanted to mold myself into the best version of myself that I could possibly be. And not only for myself, but for my family and friends and pretty much anyone who ever had to deal with the “not better” version of me. Right now, this project is at the top of my list. Therefore, my blog posts and actually doing the project is one of my most important goals at the moment. Stuff like working on my newsletter and my running and the four thousand book ideas that are swirling in my head need to take a back burner. So does marketing and figuring out how to get more readers. I have to actually complete the project before I worry about that.

These are all things I want to accomplish…eventually. But I also need to take this one step at a time. And for me, that’s REALLY hard. I want it all and I want it yesterday.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

I think the most difficult part of not being able to see my goals accomplished as quickly as I want them to be is the fact that I am seriously worried that I won’t get to them at all. Our clocks are all ticking and we never know when we’re going to run out of time. It’s scary to think that we don’t know what we will have time to accomplish in this lifetime. Just thinking about that causes me anxiety.

Yet, if I lower my expectations and realize that I am not a failure if I don’t do it all, it gives me comfort. I have to allow myself to take a break when I feel overwhelmed. Like with this blog. Three weeks of non-stop blogging with all the rest of my responsibilities is quite a load to take on. Did you notice, no Better Me project post yesterday? I didn’t do it ***gasp***

I can’t beat myself up for needing to hit the pause button for a day or two or ten. I have to remember that I’m putting one foot in front of the other. I am doing the best I can do.

I CAN do ANYTHING. I just won’t do EVERYTHING.

(I’ll see you soon blogging world…just maybe not tomorrow…)

Photo Credit

Louisiana Gumbo

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Louisiana

First, a warning. This blog post will be long. Between talking about Louisiana and the actual making of this meal, I’ve got a lot to say. But I assure you that it’ll be worth it.

Louisiana History

While every state has some rich history, there are not too many with such deep rooted FOOD histories as Louisiana’s. The main cuisines of Louisiana are Creole and Cajun…a combination of French, Spanish, West African, Native American, German, Haitian, and Italian influences, in addition to Southern US influences. Louisiana was founded by the French, hence the slow and complex cooking found in Louisiana cuisine. I’ve discovered that the main difference between Creole and Cajun cooking is that Creole uses a tomato base, while Cajun does not, and that Creole is considered a little more “high brow-city food” while Cajun is more “country food”. Here’s a handy Pin that outlines the differences.

Full disclosure: Hubby went through an “I Love Emeril” phase quite a few years back. At that point in time, despite the fact that visiting New Orleans has been a bucket list item for me for quite some time (I had a teacher in 5th grade describe the above ground graves and I was instantly morbidly fascinated), I did not share his enthusiasm for New Orleans cooking.  I wasn’t big on trying new things. I wasn’t big on spices. That was the old me. New me wants to shake old me and tell her not to be such a weenie and try new foods!

Don’t Be a Weenie

The purpose of this State Food Tour is to experience the cuisine of other states and try new things. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a meal that we want to try and that we haven’t really had before. Not with Louisiana. There was soooooo much to choose from when we had to pick what we were making for this state. Did we want Jumbalaya? Crawfish? Gumbo? Etouffee? Shrimp Po’Boys? There aren’t too many other states with such an overwhelming selection of choices.

Even though I really wanted a Shrimp Po’boy (soooo good) we decided to go with a Cajun Gumbo…one that was loosely based on a recipe by the Great Emeril himself (we made some changes based on preferences and availability of supplies).

Gumbo is a bit complicated…

After pinning a few recipes and reviewing them, I realized that the gumbo was going to be a little more complicated than I’m comfortable with. Over the course of this project I’ve come to learn a thing or two about cooking, and I would even dare to say that I’m actually improving. That’s not to say that cooking doesn’t scare me. Complex and time consuming recipes paralyze me with anxiety. I’m always afraid I’ll ruin the meal or have to perform too many steps at a time and I’ll get overwhelmed by that.

I didn’t have to twist Hubby’s arm to get him to do most of the work with this recipe. This is him enthusiastically watching a You Tube video about making a roux:

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While the idea of stirring a pot of flour and oil for an hour overwhelmed me, it excited him. Weirdo.

Do the Roux

Anyway…on to the roux. Apparently another difference between Cajun and Creole is the way the roux is made—Creole uses butter, Cajun, uses vegetable oil. You need to heat it over low heat and stir in the flour it until it turns a chocolate brown color. It LITERALLY needs to be stirred CONTINUOUSLY for an hour. Like you can’t do anything else at all. Because you’ll burn the roux and then you’ll have to start over. Seriously…you can’t even scratch your nose.

Hubby set up the roux and we took turns stirring it—I had to stir while he chopped up the onions, pepper, and celery for the gumbo. If there’s anything I dislike more than stirring a roux, it’s chopping up onions. (Really, how do people do it without crying?) He stirred while I used the garlic press to squeeze and entire bulb of garlic in order to get the 3 TABLESPOONS of garlic. And then I wondered why my hands were sore the next day.

Here is our roux in stages:

See the chocolate color in the last picture? Hubby was practically swooning when he saw that. These were taken at 10 min intervals—it turns out that we only had to stir for about 40 minutes because we had 1 cup of flour and oil instead of 2. If you ever want to make this recipe, I would highly suggest watching one of those roux making You Tube videos to help you out.

The roux was the most difficult part of the whole recipe. I’m glad Hubs did most of that because I probably would have had a nervous breakdown worrying about messing it up. Now that I know how to do it, I would feel comfortable doing it on my own. The only problem would be if I had to go to the bathroom. I guess I can’t drink any water before making a roux by myself.

The Easy Part

Once the roux was the right color, the veggies, garlic, sausage, and cayenne pepper were added and cooked while stirring for about 5 minutes until the veggies were soft. The chicken stock was added directly to this pot, along with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Then the pot was reduced to a simmer for about 2 hours. (During that time you have to check the pot to skim the excess oil off the top every once in awhile.)

After that, we added shrimp*, green onions (yuck), and parsley to the pot and allowed it to simmer until the shrimp was cooked, about 20 minutes. We served it over rice with a sprinkle of file powder**.

*Shrimp was a deviation from the original recipe—Cajun cooking more commonly includes Crawfish, while Creole tends to use shrimp. Crawfish is a little harder to come by around these parts.

**This was fun to find. Two different grocery stores on a Sunday afternoon in search of a tiny little bottle of powder. When I told Hubby that the powder was an optional garnish, he didn’t seem to care and still insisted on having it. Ugh.

Don’t forget the wine

I did a little research on what wine pairs well with gumbo. My choices were a Riesling or a Chenin Blanc. I had never heard of Chenin Blanc (it’s French…fitting) and in the spirit of trying something new (on my expedition to retrieve file powder), I picked that up to have with the gumbo:

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It was a nice crisp taste, not too dry and not too fruity, either. It paired well with the meal.

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Bon Appetite!

The Bad Mommy Cooks—Lousiana

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP of minced garlic
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb of andouille sausage (cut into small pieces)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 boxes of chicken stock (8 cups)

Instructions

  1. Make roux with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Stir continuously until roux is a chocolate brown color. (This will take between 35-45 minutes.)
  2. Once the roux is the right color, add the veggies, garlic, sausage, and cayenne pepper, stirring for about 5 minutes until the veggies are soft.
  3. Add the chicken stock directly to this pot, along with salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours. (During that time you have to check the pot to skim the excess oil off the top every once in awhile.)
  4. After that, add shrimp, green onions, and parsley to the pot and allow it to simmer until the shrimp is cooked, about 20 minutes.
  5. Serve it over rice with a sprinkle of file powder.
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Forgive Someone Who’s Hurt You

The Better Me Project—Day 18

Is this starting to sound like a 12 step program yet? No? Okay, well how about this for today’s precept—forgive someone who’s hurt you. I’m pretty sure almost every recovery program includes a step of that nature.

It doesn’t matter if this person has apologized and you’ve refused to accept their apology in the past, or this person is completely oblivious to the fact that they’ve even done you wrong. This day is all about being forgiving.

Why Should I Forgive Someone Who’s Done Something Wrong To ME?

Did you ever hear the saying that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die? Well, the reason that saying is so true is because of the anger and negativity associated with holding a grudge. That negativity eats away at the person who refuses to forgive, causing them unnecessary stress and sometimes even illness. Yes, you can make yourself sick from being mad at someone. I think I’ve done it before.

I Hold Onto a Grudge For WAYYYYY Too Long

I admit it. I’m notorious for this. If you’ve pissed me off, I may not say anything, but I’m silently seething underneath. And I will keep it in till the end of time. I’m not saying that I’m mad at everyone who has ever hurt me. That would be a little ridiculous (and that list would include people I care a lot about). If I’ve have it out with someone who’s hurt me, chances are they’re forgiven. But many times, if I haven’t hashed it out with someone, I may still be mad at them, even if it was eons ago. Someone who wronged me in kindergarten may still be on my $hit list.

This isn’t to say that I’m not a forgiving person. No, I think quite the opposite. I like to believe in the best in people (although I have found myself often disappointed and kicking myself for trusting certain people in the future). If someone is genuinely apologetic for hurting me, I will most likely forgive them.

But What if Someone Has Done Something Really Terrible to Me?

While I want to be accommodating and understanding, I don’t want to be a doormat. I don’t take a lot of crap from people—this is probably why I tend to hold onto my anger unnecessarily. There are some people on this earth that have done really abysmal things to other people. While I’ve been heartbroken and bullied in the past, I’ve been fortunate enough to never had anything that is truly unforgivable done to me. But I understand that there may be readers out there that have been in such a situation and they’re carrying around that pain for a tremendously long time.

I can imagine that it would be pretty difficult to forgive in that situation. And I can imagine that such a feeling would eat away at you for many years and end up controlling your life. You might miss opportunities because you are too upset to confront them or come in contact with them. You want to punish them for the misery they’ve bestowed upon you. Why should you forgive them?

Forgiving someone is not giving them a pass for what they’ve done to you, though. Forgiving someone is mentally telling yourself that you’re not going to be held hostage by your feelings created by this person’s actions. This is for you, not them.

The Great Part Is, You Don’t Even Have to Tell Them You’re Forgiving Them

Maybe this would work a whole lot better if you told the person you were mad at them for whatever. And then the person would actually apologize and you could say to the person, “Okay, I forgive you.” And you hug and go get a drink and forget you were even mad in the first place. I bet that’s the most cathartic way to go about this.

That’s probably not the way it’s going to go down, though. Sometimes you really can’t talk to the person who’s hurt you. They may have passed on. They may be in prison. You may have completely lost touched with them. Or maybe not. Maybe you just don’t want to confront them about it, but you still want to forgive them.

At least that isn’t the way it went down for me.

She Had No Idea

So I was carrying around this grudge for about three years. The person I was mad at was once a really close friend for about ten years until she did something really crappy. If I told you what it was, you would probably say, “Wow, that is a crappy thing to do, but I wouldn’t end a ten plus year friendship over it.”

Well, I didn’t end our friendship over it, but it started opening my eyes to things that she did that weren’t very friend-like. And weird. Every little thing that she had done for ages suddenly annoyed me to the point of exhaustion. Stuff I wouldn’t have even noticed before drove me so nuts that I found myself rolling my eyes at every one of her Facebook posts or texts. The stupid anger I had was brewing inside me like a tea bag that had seeped too long, making me as bitter as that tea would be.

I kept my distance as not to get bent out of shape over it. I knew deep down inside that her personality flaws that had never bothered me before weren’t even the source of my anger. It was that one stupid, little thing she had done (or not done) three years ago.

I Said To Hell With This

I woke up one morning towards the beginning of my Better Me Project and meditated like I do. The night before this person had texted me and asked me to do something for her that I didn’t want to do (that was another thing, she only contacted me when she wanted something…grrr). It made me so mad. I ignored her texts. I even bitched and moaned to another friend about her. I went to bed vowing not to get upset, but I was still stewing about it the next morning. So much in fact that I couldn’t even clear my head to meditate properly. She was getting in my brain and making it difficult for me to be happy. I needed to let this go.

Should I call her up and say, “Hey listen, I don’t want to be friends anymore?” No, I couldn’t do that. She would want to know why and to be honest, whenever I voiced my reason out loud, it seemed so insignificant and irrational that I knew I would look ridiculous. And in a way, it was a little over the top, but what had started out as this little seed of anger, had blossomed into this out of control weed growing inside me.

I Forgave Her Without a Word

So with trembling hands, I picked up the phone that morning and I called her back. I said, “Sure, I’d love to do that favor for you!” And even though I really didn’t want to, I did it without a single complaint. It turns out it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be, either. My judgment was so clouded when I was mad that I couldn’t even remember why we were friends to begin with. By forgiving her, it suddenly became clear. She wasn’t as bad as I thought she was—we all make mistakes, after all.

I allowed myself to forgive her, without saying a single word about why I was mad in the first place—I let go of all that built up anger I had been holding onto. And do you know what? It really felt good. It did nothing for her (since she didn’t even know I was mad to begin with), but I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest and I could breathe again.

Day 18—So do yourself a favor; make a list of people you’re holding a grudge against. Take pen and cross them off, one at a time. Forgive them for you.

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