Ever since I can remember I have been one step behind. I am rarely on the cutting edge of anything, which doesn’t bother me exactly, for the most part. I mean, my iPad is over five years old, I thought midi dresses were called “tea-length”, and while I have heard of Chewbacca Mom, I have not seen the video. For the most part, being on the tail end of trends like these does not bother me too much.
When it does bother me, though, is when there is something I really do care about, something I really am interested in and I find out someone else had that exact same idea, or that someone else beat me to the punch on putting their spin on whatever “thing” it is that’s taking up space in my dreaming heart. I think that fear has kept me from making the jump from dreaming to doing.
Stay with me: let’s talk shoes for a moment.
When I was in Junior High (back when it was still called Junior High), I was behind on what was cool and what wasn’t, not for lack of caring, but because by that time keeping up with my friends came with a price tag that my babysitting jobs couldn’t cover very quickly. I either had to save up for the things I really wanted or beg my parents for them. Take shoes, for example. There was this pair of black velvet Vans that I just had to have. I knew I would wear them with everything if I could only just get my hands on them, a vow I swore to my mom when I begged her to upgrade my Payless knock offs to these much cooler originals. I don’t remember if she put out the cash for them or if I did, but what I do remember is that when I finally got a pair, another girl at school had already gotten the same ones–and this girl was older, prettier, and far more popular than I was. To my insecure heart, this was a fate worse than not having the shoes at all: it made me look like I was copying her.
Not much has changed. This sort of thing happened to me again this year, more than 20 years later. I rarely shell out money for new shoes these days (a scar from long ago perhaps?), but when I laid eyes on a pair of slip-on white Converse, that all changed. I pined after them during pregnancy, knowing that as soon as my feet shrunk back to their normal size again (fingers crossed), I would treat myself to a pair. That day finally came, and I wore them all the time. But not long after I got them, I spotted them on a fellow preschool mom during morning drop off. As we waved hello in passing, I smiled and silently prayed she didn’t think I was copying her.
How silly am I for thinking anyone gives that sort of time and energy to thinking about my choice in shoes? Who cares? They are cute shoes and a lot of people like to wear them. End of story. Right?
I’m not sure. I think there is a deeper issue here, one that I am still trying to figure out and understand. I want to be original and affirmed for being a cool kind of different, but I do not want to be so outside the norm that I am weird–in my style, sure, but more than that, what I do with my life, how I create art and live a life in keeping with that.
For some reason, shoes sort of speak to that. What sort of people wear socks with sandals? Ballet flats? Platforms? Gladiators? Tom’s? Crocks? Running shoes (without the slightest sign of being used for running)? Impossibly high pumps? Converse? I bet you could take a room full of random people, sort them by their shoes, and within each group there would be many similarities among the people therein. They probably share a lot of the same basic personality traits and values.
But when I think about it a little more, the girl in Junior High who had those Vans and the fellow preschool mom both were a little similar to me. I remember the girl in Junior High as being somewhat soft-spoken, easy going, and down to earth. The fellow preschool mom is warm, kind, and laid back. Both balance out their louder and more gregarious counterparts. These are my sort of people, in other words. Perhaps I ought to see them as kindred spirits, people who share the same sort of values and ideals I have.
Which brings me to the whole idea of comparing myself to women walking the path in their professional lives I keep dreaming of walking too. It seems anytime I get a good idea, I come to find out that someone else has had that idea too. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn from them and add my two cents to the discussion, I shy away and figure the topic is already covered. The world will keep turning if I don’t share my favorite new recipe, right?
What if I renewed my thinking, so that the proverbial competition became companions walking along the same path with me–not in front, nor behind, exactly, but beside. The world will not change, but maybe I will.
Slow Cooked Italian Sausages with Lentils
When the weather took a turn for the worst (read: hot), I heeded Joey’s plea and did my best to keep the stove turned off–a difficult task with a broken grill, I might add. I started using my Crock Pot instead, even though I find the flavors and textures of slow cooked meals tiresome during the summer, when things should be fresh and light, not laden with warmth and comfort. But this recipe. I made it ages ago, on the stove, during the winter, but inspiration struck me in the middle of a hot July day and I cooked it in the Crock Pot. Easy, flavorful, fancy even (for essentially being a peasant-style dish), and perfect with a glass of our favorite wine. It would be a simple freezer meal to throw together too (in which case do not bother browning the sausages first. Skipping that step will change the end result slightly, but sometimes a short cut like that is worth it on a hot day). To make it truly dairy free, skip the garnish of cheese at the end.
1 1/4 cups French lentils (also known as Puy lentils, or lentilles du Puy)
2 cups water
1/2 cup red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
6 Italian sausages (mild or hot; uncooked)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley and crumbled feta cheese (or shaved Parmesan) for serving
First, brown the sausages on at least two sides, but all four (or close to all four) is best. Meanwhile, rinse and sort through the lentils, making sure to remove any stray little stones. Then, combine lentils, water, wine, onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper in the bottom of a slow cooker. Give it a good stir, and then nestle the sausages on top, submerging them just a little bit (as best you can).
Cook on high for 4 hours*. When ready to serve, adjust seasoning as needed (need salt? Stir some more in. Flavor taste a little flat? Stir in a splash or two more of red wine vinegar). Sprinkle fresh parsley and crumbled feta (or shavings of fresh Parmesan cheese) on top for serving.
*Alternatively, cook on low for 6 hours (or so). Crock pots seem to vary in their heating power, so keep that in mind and keep use these cooking times as a guide. Lentils cook much faster than a big batch of beans, so be careful not to overcook them (they turn mushy, and of course, could burn–even in a crock pot!).