Thursday, December 19 2019

work, focus, meditation, fish stew, and mussel puppets



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! I hope wherever you are reading this, you are well-rested and staying warm. We’re really descending into the meaner weeks of winter now, aren’t we? Yesterday I tried to break up the day by taking a quick walk around the square. Despite wearing my winter coat and my thickest hoodie, I had to turn back around after walking only to the corner.

But I’m feeling warm and well-rested myself. Yesterday was a pretty good day. I had a lot of work to do, so I spent at least a half hour making a list for the day and mentally splitting up the work load. Aside from our morning stand-up, my day was wide open, but if you have a lot to do, sometimes filling the time is it’s own kind of challenge, isn’t it?

I worked through the morning, then took a break to eat lunch at my desk. I hat some leftover hutspot, which also hat some sliced sausage in it. I ate with some buttered toast and those delicious little yogurt covered pretzels. After lunch, I changed to a different location in the building. Sometimes I can prolong my focus on one thing if I move somewhere else in the middle of the day. I went up to the ninth floor just outside the mediation room so I would be ready for Ki Gong class in the afternoon. After a couple more hours of writing, I shut my laptop and head inside to start class.

I was secretly dreading exercising. But having committed to Ki Kong, I was ready to put the sleepy sensation of digesting a stomach full of potatoes and sausage and trust the process. And it paid off. When our instructor Justin entered the room he grinned and opened with “We’re going to do something a little different today,” as he often does. Justin explained that we’re going to magnify the three minutes of quiet meditation that takes place at the end of each session and extend it to last the whole session. In short, all we had to do was lay on a mat and think about nothing for a half hour, and while on some days that may have been a challenging undertaking for me, after staying up late baking cookies and writing all day, nothing sounded better than laying on the floor and thinking about leaves falling into a river. Twenty-five minutes of mental space travel later, the five of us sat up and we left, parting ways to finish the work day.

I worked until four, catching up on my team’s ticket duty question queue, then used the rest of the time at my desk to pick a recipe for the evening. The night before, Marissa and I had sleepily watched a recipe for a spicy Brazilian fish stew. Warm, soupy fish sounded good, but Rodney wouldn’t like the sliced spicy peppers, and Marissa wasn’t keen on coconut milk. Snooping around my saved YouTube videos, I found a “Five Minute Fisherman’s Stew”, which satisfied my desire for hot soup and hot fish without the peppers or coconut milk.

I took the bus home, then leaving Marissa to nap on the couch, I extracted Rodney from his warm blankets and jumped in the car. We drove to the Jenny Street grocery store. As advised by Chef John, I was planning on springing for the best seafood in town. In fish stew, there’s nowhere for the fish to hide - it’s the star of the show, so I wanted the best stuff we could get. Rodney and I bought frozen mussels, a strip of haddock, a cod fillet, and a half dozen shrimp, along with a can of tomatoes, lobster stock, clam juice, fennel, garlic, and a nice fresh loaf of sourdough bread. We also picked up a box of frozen corn dogs and a bag of twizzlers - not for dinner, but just because Rodney was insistent. Wanted to see where he was going with these ingredients, I indulged him.

Rodney and I head home and, leaving Mom to continue napping on the couch with the dogs, we starting cooking soup. Rodney and I blended tomatoes with lobster stock and clam juice and strained out the seeds. We sliced the fennel, setting aside some of the stringy leaves for garnish style points later on. We peeled a head of garlic. Rodney actually managed to get all the paper off of one of the cloves. And even though he then proceeded to lop of chunks of the clove with a butter knife, his skill progression in the kitchen impressed me.

Into the dutch oven went butter, fennel, garlic, and olive oil. I added white wine, simmered it, then introduced our fishy tomato juice. After it had reduced for five minutes, I slid the cubes of fish meat into the stew, then added a half dozen frozen mussels. I blasted the stove heat and covered the pot for five minutes. I opened the lid, and ladled the stew into some bowls and set the table.

As we ate, we talked about the day, the impeachment trial, and our plans for the evening. “No fun tonight,” I said. “I have a CRAP ton of chores. I skimped on yesterday’s so we could bake the cookies, and Wednesday is a heaver day anyway where I do the fridge, microwave and stove anyway.” Marissa grinned in anticipation.

“I did all your chores,” she said breaking her smile. “I wanted to take a giant nap today and feel like I earned it.” I leaned back in my chair to process the news. Suddenly my evening opened up, and my plan to busily scrub the kitchen and stay awake with loud hip hop music became plans to put Rodney to bed, and take a nice nap myself - after of course we spent an extra twenty minutes at the table with Rodney pretending the empty mussel shells were puppets. I was grateful that Marissa had done my chores, and then with a happy belly full of fish and garlic, I put Rodney to bed and took an hour long nap upstairs. When I woke up, I cleaned the kitchen from dinner, then Marissa and I started a movie. It was a great night.

This morning, my day is a bit rearranged, and I’m doing my best to keep on rhythm. I have a meeting with an engineer from one of our teams in Europe, and to time the cross continental remote chat with their afternoon before leaving work, that meant committing to 8 AM my time. So the plan is to shower and get ready for the day after the meeting, then work from home until lunch. In a few minutes, I’ll boot up my work laptop and brush up on context while slamming another cup of coffee.

So that’s what I got today. Hope you have a wonderful day. Stay warm, lay on a yoga mat, and eat fish.