I can’t help but laugh as I write the title to this post. Anyone who’s read any of my posts probably knows I love sharing my Dad’s advice and words of wisdom. However I must be honest… his advice used to annoy me. I remember being in high school and dealing with “devastating” high school issues (you know, not having the right shoes, breakups with guys I shouldn’t have been dating to begin with, my inconvenient curfew, or not being able to go to the party I wanted to go to…you know, the important stuff). And in the midst of my teenage crises, my dad would bust out with a line like this “Just keep it simple, Mandy”. In those moments, I did not see this advice as profound, or helpful. I most likely screamed at him “You just don’t understand!” and stormed to my room, as he and my mom chuckled at my immature existence. Now, however, at the ripe age of 32, I can look back and say that “Keep it simple” is quite possibly some of the best advice my dad has given me. Life is crazy, unpredictable, and sometimes bad shit happens, much of which is out of your control. So, when I’m feeling like things are out of my control, I hear his voice in my ear telling me to “Keep it Simple”…and it helps me get back to the basics.
Due to life happening, I haven’t written in a while. Truth is, I’ve been feeling a bit uninspired. Uninspired in the kitchen, uninspired in my writing, uninspired in general. Life is moving so fast and I’m just taking things day by day. I started a new job back in February at Abbeville General Hospital, a small, rural hospital in the town I live in now. I worked here a few years ago, it was my first social work job out of grad school! I loved it then, but chose to leave because of the hospice calling. I was loving hospice, but AGH came knocking for me to return as the Director of Case Management and I accepted. It’s been a learning experience to say the least. The hospital is where I fell in love with social work. It’s also where I was working when I got married, had a baby, and when I lost my Dad. The people there were so kind and open to me, so returning was refreshing. The job and motherhood have kept me super busy without much time for a few things that I love- one of them being blogging.
The last few months have been a whirlwind both personally and professionally. The news has been challenging for me, too. Lately I’ve seen families seeking a new, safe life being torn apart, celebrity suicides that have shook our world to the core, patients in dire need for services they may never get, mentally ill people who are trying to stay well in a broken system, and an ever-changing healthcare industry that I’m working tirelessly to understand. When I think back to why I became a social worker, I remember saying the phrase I think all baby social workers say “I want to help people”. So cute and simple. If I could tell that younger version of me anything, it would be “don’t stop at anything to become that person who wants to help others, and who wants to fight for justice and change. But, take care of yourself in the process. Because you WILL get tired.” The burnout rate for social workers is high. We treat some of the sickest people, and our colleagues, clients, and families depend on us to solve some of the world’s biggest issues, with minimal resources. Since we are social workers, we take this responsibility very seriously, and can sometimes see it as a personal failure if we are unable to help people “get better” when they are mentally ill, or if we are unable to comfort those who are grieving the worst kind of loss. We see unending cycles of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, and death. We are privy to some of the biggest secrets in people’s lives, and take confidentiality very seriously. Not to mention, most social workers or people in helping professions serve as therapist for friends and family. This can mean that when a social worker leaves work, they may have to return phone calls to solve the problems of people in their personal lives, too! And the crazy thing is, we want to help. However, all of this can sometimes make us feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. We are constantly helping others, yet we rarely take care of ourselves. When we hear of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade committing suicide, it hits us like a ton of bricks, because we understand the pain and misery behind mental illness, and sometimes what a poor prognosis some of our own patients have. It can be draining. Lately I have very few people around me asking me “Mandy, how are YOU doing?” Actually, a coworker asked me this week “How do you like the new job?” and I was silent. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that anyone has asked me anything about ME (except for my therapist but I pay him to do that). I’m not trying to whine or complain, I’m just saying that being in a helping profession, or just someone who is a giver, can be exhausting and challenging, especially when we neglect our self-care. Also, I feel as though with social media and other distractions, our society is less likely to ask the person they are with “How are you?”. I’m not talking about the quick “How are you?” that you ask an old associate you haven’t seen in a while. I’m talking about asking someone who is close to you, “Genuinely, honestly, HOW are you?”. After a day of assessing how other people are, it would be nice to hear that sometime.
At the end of my day, I try to fit in a workout, then I pick up my 3 year old daughter, take her home, where I begin my second job: MOTHERHOOD. The hardest job of all. We walk through the door, let the dogs out, fix a snack, make a whole hearted attempt to clean my house (which never happens) and cook dinner, all while trying to not let her watch too much TV, make sure she eat something other than sugar, takes a bath, and has quality time with her working parents all before 8:00 PM when she falls asleep. That leaves me with approximately 30 minutes to myself until I fall asleep. Then, I wake up and do it all over again. Being a mother is so rewarding and incredible…but being a working mother is hard…trying to figure out how to be the best social worker/colleague all day long, then going home and trying to create a healthy environment for my child at home, then feeling guilty because of the lack of time you spent with your child and the things you might be missing out on. Trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting.
Keep it simple. My dad reminds me. Mandy, keep. it. simple. Everyone is experiencing the pressure of life. Everyone is trying to be the best they can. We all have barriers, and we all face challenges. We all feel like failures sometimes, and we all fall of the wagon. But… keep it simple. With this reminder, I am deciding to do just that. I’m ridding myself of the pressure to cook new, incredible things 4 times a week. I’m accepting that work is hard, and that it is literally impossible to please everyone. I’m surrendering to the fact that my child is eating old french fries off the floor board of my car and that she’s spent most of our time together in time out…because dammit I’m doing the best I can and she’s alive. Keep. It. Simple.
This phrase is liberating. Lately I’ve been cooking the same thing over and over (Taco Zucchini boats and shrimp pasta salad, in case you’re wondering), and it’s ok. I’ve spent time away from people who suck the life out of me and insult me, and am spending more time alone, or with people who lift me up. I’ve been going to the gym when I can, but not beating myself up if I can’t. I’m leaving the mess in my house, and choosing to snuggle with Shelby and watch Paw Patrol. I’m doing the best I can to take care of those around me, while I take care of me, throwing all expectations out the window.
This brings me to my recipe, if you even want to call it that. I love Louisiana, especially the gifts our beautiful state gives us in different seasons. For me, summertime means a lot of things, but one thing in particular is fresh vegetables. Terrent’s grandfather plants a garden every year, and he is always generous with his tomatoes and cucumbers. As I’ve posted about before, my Dad created his famous “Johnny Jambalaya’s Herb Dressing and Marinade” years ago. We love the dressing in countless dishes…but the best possible way you can eat it is with cucumbers and tomatoes. It is just so fresh, so pure and most importantly… it’s simple. A few weeks ago Terrent and I were hanging out with some great friends, one of which brought some fresh cucumbers from his garden. Terrent whipped out a bottle of dressing for the cucumbers and everyone loved it. They had never heard of it, and started asking questions about how it began, and requested bottles of their own. It’s moments like that where I feel like my Dad’s legacy and passion lives on. It’s also a reminder of how food can truly bring people together when you least expect it.
Wine Pairing: Rosé!! I am loving trying all the new Rosé that the stores are carrying…it’s the perfect summer wine!
Music Pairing: Kacey Musgraves album Golden Hour. Love this album.
Cut tomato. Cut cucumber. Pour dressing. Enjoy.
Now THAT is a recipe that anyone can do!!
FYI you can find the dressing at Rouses, or you can call Terry to order at 225-776-6480. I think it’s safe to say that most of our best customers like the dressing best just like this. Simple.