I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this year to look like — really, what I want my life to look like going forward. I know some people choose a word to define their year and while I did that last year (served with a side of cake, naturally), I felt like it would be too limiting for me for 2015. I just wanted to go into it with intentions: To eat well, to love better, to pray more, to obsess less, the list goes on.
But then the word “legacy” recently popped into my brain one slow afternoon, while my daughter played with nesting bowls on the rug in the center of our living room and I, as I often do, sat on the couch scrolling through photos on my Instagram feed. And it struck me, quite aggressively and surprisingly, actually: Is this the legacy I want to leave for my little girl? Do I want her to remember me as the mother who loved her unconditionally, who showed her the beauty of this world and fed her delicious home-cooked meals and took her on adventures and sometimes even just sat on the floor with her playing with her bowls? Or do I want to be the mother who stared at her phone all day, itching to get back on the computer during naptime to clunk out that blog post, edit those photos, scroll through another feed?
I think the answer is obvious. And yet, it’s what I struggle with on a daily basis — evidently, I am not alone. My friend Liz recently spurred me onto this podcast where the guest, who is a writer and a blogger and a mother, felt very similar. She said once she became a mom, her world was turned upside down — and as such, she didn’t know who she was anymore. In some ways, her world as it had been exploded into a million tiny pieces, and she had to slowly reconnect her identity in the midst of late-night nursing and changing diapers and ironing the wrinkles out of collared shirts and unloading the dishwasher. Sometimes, she said, she felt like her new sense of place and purpose wasn’t enough. She obviously needed to be doing more.
I hover between two states these days: In one, I feel incredibly guilty for not spending more time one-on-one with my child, or even my husband. I stop everything and just soak in the present moment, leaving the blinking screens of my phone and my laptop out of sight. In the other, I feel incredibly guilty that I have put so much of my passion, this blog, on the backburner: that I’m not blogging enough, or Tweeting enough, or posting enough “like”-worthy Instagram photos. I squeeze in precious moments of social media interaction, quickly adjusting the white balance on a photo as my daughter stirs on the monitor after naptime or stack some brownies for a photo while burning the midnight oil. Sometimes I hover between these two states on a daily basis; others, on a minute-by-minute basis. It’s enough to make my mind explode right along with my identity.
But then I come back to that word, that nagging word: Legacy. And I remember two things: One, that we have one very lovely but very short life given to us to live on this earth, and two, that we also are given so much grace by our creator. And I strive to keep the latter in mind as I make the most of the former.
I don’t want my daughter to remember me as a really good blogger; I want her to remember me as her mom who cared, who loved, who played, who laughed, who was present and who fed her really simple, yet really delicious food like a saffron risotto with shrimp, pistachios and cheese. I want her to remember me as her mom who took pride even in the dishwashing and diaper changing, who did what she loved and supported her family through it but also knew when family came first. That’s the kind of legacy I hope to leave behind for her one day.
Of course, this legacy won’t be created overnight, and I’ve still got a lifetime of learning ahead of me to do. But I’m starting in the here and now, with what I do know and what I do want. I’m starting by slowing down, by taking the time to stir risotto (even though this one actually takes about 20 minutes to make, if everything is prepped) in my kitchen, to focus more on the faces of my loved ones and less of that of my phone and computer, to find that delicate balance between who I love and what I love to do that helps me not only find my identity again amid the fractured pieces, but makes me feel pride in the legacy I am creating here on this earth, in this one life full of love, laughter and really delicious risotto.
A quick note about this recipe: I know risotto can seem high-falutin’ or too fickle to some, but we have made this recipe a few times now with all sorts of cause for error (forgot an ingredient, didn’t stir risotto often enough, baby woke up, etc.) and the results still remain sound. It’s creamy, rich and flavorful but not in any overpowering way. We’ve made it for date night and as a weeknight dinner and I feel that it fits both profiles well: It’s fancy but not too fancy, decadent but also nourishing. So save it for an upcoming midweek dinner, for a Valentine’s Day in, or make it tonight. I think you’ll love it no matter what or when.
- 6 to 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ teaspoon Spanish saffron threads
- ½ cup shelled pistachios
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 lb frozen (and thawed) cooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat chicken broth to a low simmer. Reduce heat to low. Transfer ½ cup broth to a bowl and stir in saffron threads.
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stir pistachios 2 to 3 minutes until toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.
- Heat a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once oil is shimmering, add onion and salt and cook 2 to 3 minutes until soft but not browned. Add rice and cook another 3 minutes or so until rice is more milky white than translucent.
- Add wine. Cook, stirring often until rice absorbs most of liquid. Transfer 1 cup of chicken broth to rice mixture in saucepan. Stir often until most of liquid is absorbed. Repeat process until 5 cups of broth have been added. Pour in saffron broth and stir until most of liquid is absorbed. At this point, rice should be tender with a slight bite; if it's still too crunchy, continue to add broth ½ cup at a time and stir until most of liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
- Stir in shrimp, butter, ¼ cup chopped pistachios and ¼ cup grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to serving bowls and sprinkle with remaining chopped pistachios and grated cheese.