“Don’t (Be Afraid to) Ask, Don’t (Be Afraid to) Tell”
I asked my husband to guest-post this entry; he didn’t hesitate to tell me ‘no’. My plan was for him to tell the story and then give you his signature recipe: Buttered Toast. Yep, buttered toast. His response to my request wasn’t surprising or at all dismissive, it was just honest. He explained to me that he wasn’t comfortable with this style of writing, and I respect that. To be frank, I was a little nervous that he’d agree to the deal and you’d never want to hear from me again. He’s a really good writer. Actually, he’s a really good everything (except basketball player…he’s a dreadful basketball player).
So you’re stuck with me. I’ll go ahead and share his recipe anyway, tell my version of the story, and then share another recipe for good measure. Tim’s World Famous Buttered Toast-Step 1: Toast desired number of bread slices in toaster. Step 2: Spread toast with butter. Step 3: Spread buttered toast with jam (optional). Step 4: Cut diagonally and then cut one side diagonally again (this is what makes it extra special…you can eat the big triangles and your 3 year old daughter can easily eat around the crust of the small triangles). Step 5: Laugh at mom as she cleans up the world’s biggest kitchen mess ever created by a few pieces of toast.
I adore their messy morning routine and here’s why–the incredibly simple gesture of making and sharing buttered toast with his daughter is representative of something far more profound: his desire to nurture his girls’ most basic needs. Aside from being a master toast engineer, I don’t exactly know how to adequately describe my husband to those of you who don’t know him. Sure, a simple list of trumpian adjectives (great, strong, awesome, smart) would be accurate, but it wouldn’t do him justice. I’m afraid anything more detailed than that would be hard for you to believe. This I do know, I owe life as I know it now, to him.
Following Evelyn’s birth, something was amiss. My smiles and laughter were rare and painfully forced when they did occur. I found the slightest inconveniences to be overwhelming. At first I blamed it on exhaustion, but when it didn’t go away after a couple of months I just blamed it on everything and everybody else. Less than three weeks after having my baby I caught a glimpse of my flabby belly and milk-soaked nursing bra in the mirror and nearly vomited. My body was disgusting and it was ruined–Evelyn’s fault. I didn’t have time or energy to bond with Evelyn–Annabelle’s fault. I was trapped in a self-perpetuating nightmare, squandering my quarter million dollar college education while my super fit husband got to go run his company and interact with adults everyday–Tim’s fault. My mom was too chipper, my dad was too stressed, my best friend was too compassionate.
Every time I came close to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was among the ~1.3 million women per year who experience postpartum depression in the United States, I’d quickly dismiss the idea. Me? No. Hell no. That’s just for women who sit at home all day; they wear sweatpants; they cry and think of ways to harm themselves and their children. That’s not me. I’m a Marine. I compete in 50 kilometer trail runs in mountainous terrain. I can do 30 pull-ups. I was fine after the first baby. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Nothing is wrong with me. The problem is with everyone else. Yeah, people suck! Mind over matter.
Well, my mind was the matter. For almost 10 months. During that time and despite outward appearances, I thought very negative things about myself, I struggled to bond with my new baby, I all but ruined a family trip to Australia, and worst of all I completely alienated myself from Tim. My husband, my pillar of strength, the other half of my heart was slowing becoming a stranger with whom I begrudgingly shared my house.
Around month eight of this (most unheroic) saga I started yearning for another woman to knock on my door and pour her heart out to me about her experience with PPD. In this fantasy the woman wouldn’t ask me how I was feeling, she wouldn’t ask me anything, she’d just share her story with this unbridled desire to let me know I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t crazy. I felt so alone and so crazy.
For me, the knock didn’t come in the form of some strange female crusader, but rather my husband. And he came bearing questions. I distinctly remember the night he finally sat me down and asked me what was going on. The way he asked the question was blunt, but it saved us, me, everything. I said nothing for a long time. He sat there and listened to my nothing for just as long. When I started enumerating all of his flaws, all of the ways he’d been hurting me and neglecting me, he listened with both pain and sympathy spread across his face. My stabbing words were untrue, and he knew it, but they still hurt. I was well past the point of hysterical by the time he stood up and wrapped my convulsing, sobbing body in the most sincere hug I’ve ever received and just held me there.
Together, we sought help. After months of enduring my cruelty he sat with me in the doctor’s office and held my hand, wiped my tears, and encouraged me not to be afraid to tell the truth. I know I’ll never get a chance to relive those dark months, but because of them I can live out the remainder of my life as a (WAY) happier, stronger, and more compassionate person. Tim, my love, thank you.
Up to this point I’ve shared my story, or parts of it, with six other people (healthcare providers included). I decided to uncage it today with the hope that I can be the knock on the door for someone else. Someone who just wants to know he/she’s not alone. You’re not alone.
Switching gears. A friend of mine recently asked for a healthier spaghetti recipe and this is what I came up with. It’s loaded with veggies and protein and if you choose gluten free pasta and bread crumbs, I think just about anyone can eat it. If you decide to give these vegan meatballs a try, do NOT add them to the sauce (like I did in the picture). Unlike their meaty brethren, they don’t get better after a long hot soak in the sauce. They get mushy, and quite honestly a little gross. I adapted them from this recipe on vegan goddess, Dana Shultz’s website Minimalist Baker.
Finally, this recipe is like a big husband hug. It’s healthy and comforting; it holds on to you and without a single word makes you feel like everything is okay. The recipe isn’t difficult, but it requires a bit of work. If you let the people you love most help you with it, it’s infinitely better. Happy cooking. XO!
- 3 medium Carrots
- 1 small Yellow squash
- 1 small Zucchini
- 1 Red bell pepper, seeded
- 1 large stalk Celery (keep leaves on if they're there)
- ½ medium Onion
- 3 Cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- ¼-1/3 cup Red wine (or sub vegetable liquid--see instructions)
- 2-28 oz cans Crushed tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon Sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup Cooked brown rice
- ½ cup Walnuts (or sub panko bread crumbs)
- ¾ teaspoon Olive oil
- ¼ medium Onion, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon Brown sugar
- ¼ cup Fresh parsley
- ¼ cup Fresh basil
- 1 large Clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dried oregano
- ¾ cup (about ½ can-sorry!) Black beans, rinsed and well drained
- scant ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb Spaghetti
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- Cook the brown rice according to package instructions.
- For the sauce:
- All of the vegetables need to be shredded or very finely chopped. I find the easiest and quickest method of doing this is to roughly chop everything and then toss it all in the food processor and pulse it 5-7 times or until the vegetables are quite small and uniformly sized, but not pureed. If you don't have a food processor you can use the large holes on a box grater. Give the chopped vegetables a light squeeze to release some of the excess liquid. Reserve the liquid if you don't plan to use the wine. Rinse the container of your food processor, but don't wash it. You'll use it again for the meatballs.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shredded vegetables, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Saute the mixture for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add the wine or ¼ cup reserved vegetable liquid and use a wooden spoon so scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the skillet. Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and another ⅛ teaspoon black pepper. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour. Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.
- Meanwhile make the meatballs:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place oven rack in upper third of oven. Heat ¾ teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until onion is fragrant, soft, and lightly golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Add walnuts, minced garlic, brown sugar, parsley, and basil to a food processor (a blender will work too). Pulse 5-7 times or until the mixture looks like large crumbs. Add drained black beans and pulse 3 more times. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rice, sauteed onion, and panko bread crumbs. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Form mixture into about 14 evenly sized balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle very lightly with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The balls should be crisp to the touch and lightly golden brown.
- While the meatballs are cooking bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain the noodles, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Place the drained noodles in a large serving bowl. Top with sauce and toss to coat. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water and toss to combine. Serve the meatballs on top of the individual plates of pasta.