Thursday, September 3, 2015

Everybody's Weird

Our kids will attest to the fact that we have a handful or two of mantras that repeat in a perpetual loop on our parenting playlist:  “Safety first,” “be nice,” “work hard,” “make good choices,” you know, those desperate bits of programming we recite to our kids as we chase them out the door waiving a wayward baseball cleat or abandoned lunchbox.

With each passing day, it seems that our kids take another tiny step towards the edge of the nest and, in the case of our #1, last September marked the biggest leap yet as she spread her wings and flew off to UCLA.

So, each day, whether they like it or not, Carly and Will are served a healthy portion of wisdom we have scraped together over our combined 100+ years on this planet.  We shove each morsel down their throats as if we are carbo-loading a team of marathon runners before a big race and we hope they don’t notice the bitter taste of urgency as we sugar coat our words with happy voices.

It may seem odd (pun intended), but one of the mantras we want our children to adopt is my somewhat unorthodox conviction that, yes, “everybody is weird!”

Allow me to explain. How many times a day do we look at something or someone and think to ourselves, “what was she thinking with that outfit?” “Who eats that?” “You call that music?” And, by reflex, the easiest reaction is to immediately pass judgment and label that person or behavior as “weird”…simply because it’s not the way we are used to doing it.

Well, here’s the caveat. Whenever I catch myself in this place and when I catch my rug rats doing the same, I remind them that…guess what…that person may seem weird to you but you’re pretty weird too...and so am I!
 
It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? What may be weird to one could be second nature to another. And, what may seem perfectly “normal” to our family may be the oddest tradition our neighbors have ever seen. Viva la difference, I say!



Hey, I get it that it is human nature to judge and gossip and there will be times that all of us earth-dwellers can’t help but indulge in the elixir of trash talk.  But, much like after gorging on that whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s, more often than not, we feel worse for the choice.

So, by reminding ourselves and our kids that everyone is “weird” – especially us – we hope that they might stop first and appreciate the fact that we are all not alike then think twice before they give a nudge and roll their eyes.
 

When I flex this muscle in my own life, I find that in a surprising and inexplicable way, it takes almost less effort than going the eye rolling route.  At the same time, a world of possibilities immediately opens up: the potential for new friendships, new flavors and new experiences.  And, the beauty part is that because we are blessed to live in 2015 America, I get to choose for myself what part of today’s weirdness I will take, and what I will leave behind.

My prayer for my kids is that they too will celebrate what makes everyone unique and that they continue to “be safe,” “be nice,” “work hard,” and “make the right choices’” as they venture out into the weird and wonderful world we call home.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share one of my favorite “weird” recipes. Tasty, tangy and light, this snack features, what I think, is one of the most funky ingredients in any pantry: fish sauce. It's light and crisp...nice for while the weather is still hot...and super low fat for those of us (like me) interested in burning off that six pack of Coronas that seems to have strapped itself across my hips this summer.
 
 
Don’t let the fact that it smells like Will’s gym socks fool you. You probably don’t even know it, but fish sauce is that unmistakable salty, slightly fishy flavor you enjoy in most Thai dishes. And, yes, the meat is boiled in salty lime water…weird huh?

Thai Ground Turkey Salad with Mint and Cilantro

Ingredients
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 small head butter lettuce or romaine
  • 2 small shallots
  • 10 ounces lean ground turkey (pork or chicken can be substituted)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Preparation

Chop enough cilantro and mint leaves to measure 2 tablespoons each.
 
 
Discard tough stems from remaining cilantro and mint and arrange sprigs on a platter. Wash and arrange wedges of greens on platter to form cups for the salad. Thinly slice shallots lengthwise.
 

In a small saucepan with a fork stir together ground turkey and 2 tablespoons lime juice and cover with cold salted water. Bring meat to a simmer, stirring with fork to break up, and gently simmer until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. In a sieve drain meat well and in a bowl toss with shallots, chopped herbs, fish sauce, cayenne, and remaining lime juice to taste.
 
I find this to be the quickest and easiest way to juice a small amount of citrus.  Just slice it in half, stick a fork in, and ream away...

 
Transfer salad to a serving bowl and put on platter. Have guests serve themselves or arrange sprigs of cilantro and mint on pieces of lettuce and spoon some salad on top. Close leaves around mixture to eat like a taco.

*Adapted from Epicurious.com