Your life looks perfect.
Do your kids ever cry?
You make it look so easy.
Over the years, I’ve heard these phrases and many more just like them from friends, acquaintances and people on social media. In the age of Facebook, it seems we are all eager to present our perfect lives to the world. Husbands and wives declare their love for one another, parents only post perfect photos of their kids (do you know how many takes it takes to get a perfect photo of kids? It’s about the same as the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a blow pop), and most of us shy away deliberately from the tough, vulnerable stuff. When we do become vulnerable, it often causes people to worry and rush to our aid. You make one post about crying yourself to sleep (I mean, at least you slept!), and then all of a sudden your mother starts blowing up your phone wondering if you’ve lost it and asking if she should she book a plane ticket. I digress.
Hearing these questions always caused me to cringe. Is my marriage perfect? Is my husband perfect? Are my kids perfect? Of course not. Do I try to share a positive image of my life, but be true to the ups and downs? Yes. But maybe I needed to try harder. The year that George was born, my husband was out of the country for 6 months total on TDY travel. I sleep trained alone, potty trained alone, and celebrated my kids’ birthday alone. I fought to lose my post-partum weight, to feed a massive cluster-feeding child who was never satiated, and keep up with the tantrums of my growing toddler, mostly alone. I say alone, because, #soloparenting, but my village held me up that year, and made it possible for me to thrive.
Still, it was during that year that I started to be more honest about my life on social media, and it was when I felt like I finally developed a voice that said – here are the highs, here are the lows, wouldn’t have it any other way, please come give me a hug if you’re in the area (and could you also pick up a rotisserie chicken for me? kthanks.) That voice is the voice that resonated with so many moms I knew, and in honing that voice, I became a much more authentic version of myself. I’m a recovering perfectionist, here to say, this is my life. I am not editing it for you. I barely have time to pee more than once most days (must work on this), so I promise you, I’m not cooking something just so I can take a picture of it.
A few years ago, my sister-in-law told me about a book she was reading. In the book, it asked the question: what would you do more of, if you didn’t have to do it perfectly?
Talk about a question. It has rung in my brain for years since she posed, it, and I’ve answered it in more ways than one. I would entertain more. I would write more. I would pick up the phone more.
Last week, I took Marilyn to her first dance class in Virginia. She had been missing dance so much this Summer, and then her first class was canceled because of the hurricane. This dance studio is tucked back behind a community pool and a dilapidated Marshall’s, but once you’re inside, surrounded by Nutcracker costumes, pink leotards and ballerina buns (the required attire), you feel like you’re where the magic happens. We moms dropped our littles at the end of the hall as directed, prayed they wouldn’t be the ones who had to pee during class, and gathered on the couches to anxiously await their return.
I fell quickly into conversation with three moms, and before the hour was up, we had exchanged phone numbers. What would I do if I knew I didn’t have to do it perfectly? Start friendships. With our group text established, I sent out a message inviting the families over to our house for Sunday dinner.
In the past, analysis paralysis would have taken over, and our Sunday would have been ruined. Ask my husband about the 20,000 things I have over-committed to throughout the years, and how the whole family is sent into a tailspin because of my stress levels. But, I’m recovering. Through minimalism, and through a more authentic exploration of who I am and who I want to be, I’ve committed to myself and my family not to overdo things anymore. Side note, an excellent book on this topic is Present Over Perfect.
Over the last two years, I’ve honed the art of entertaining (maybe I should call it gathering) without pretense. The secret? Affordable food that can either be 1) made in advance and kept warm easily (aka chili, soup) or 2) food that can be made in advance and doesn’t have to be served piping hot (for me, usually that means grilled meat) and 3) paper plates and 4) tolerance for chaos. Some of the best Sundays of the past year have been spent in our house, surrounded by friends, with kids eating on the floor and adults in every corner. I wanted to recreate that feeling here.
This Bourbon Pork Tenderloin is one of the most versatile, easy, show stopping proteins out there. It cooks in 30 minutes or less, has a ton of gorgeous surface area for soaking up all of the marinade, and it slices up so easily, you barely need knives. I have rarely met a man, woman or child who eats pork who didn’t love the simple tenderness and flavor of a pork tenderloin.
We buy ours at Costco, and they come in 2- 2 packs. Cooking and marinating two makes a nice dinner for our family of four with leftovers. We doubled this recipe and grilled 4 tenderloins for a crowd of 6 adults and 6 kids and still had leftovers. I planned my menu around this recipe, which I sliced and served on a wooden cutting board with simple boiled corn on the cob (with garlic herb butter from Trader Joes) and easy oven sweet potato fries. Guests brought bread, wine and dessert. I took the kids to Target and let them pick out paper plates for their friends. George picked Avengers and Marilyn, shocker, picked mermaids.
Community is formed when we let down our walls. Gathering doesn’t have to involve fine china, perfectly planned menus or months of advance planning. So, what would you do if you didn’t have to do it perfectly?
And finally, add this into your entertaining rotation!
Bourbon Pork Tenderloin
2 pork tenderloins (3-4 lbs total)
4 large garlic cloves
4 tsp fresh ginger
1/4 cup of dijon mustard
1 dash of hot sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos if you’re paleo or avoiding soy
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of a neutral oil (vegetable, canola, or olive oil)
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon – we use Maker’s Mark
Chop your garlic and grate your ginger with a microplane (don’t peel it!). I freeze my ginger so it grates really easily and we always have it on hand. Mix with the rest of your ingredients and marinate your pork tenderloins in a ziplock bag for a minimum of 2 hours, and up to 8 hours.
Grill it on direct heat (medium coals) until it reached it’s an internal temp of 135 and then place on hot coals for a sear for 5 minutes, turning until all of the sides are well-seared. Alternately, you can cook these in the oven at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until they reach an internal temperature of 145.