Saturday, April 11 2020

focus, chicken blood, fire lessons, and college friends

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Ah, I love Saturdays. I slept in hard this morning. My 9 AM weekend alarm didn't stand a chance today. I have to conclude that I must have an internal anti-alarm that is sophisticated enough to cancel out the sound of my phone during mornings where I really need extra sleep.

And I needed the extra sleep today. Yesterday, I worked like a maniac. I spent the morning coding in my room, leaving my chair once to grab a coffee refill and a stroopwaffel.

Then sometime around 10, there was a incident in our staging environment. Our staging environment doesn't affect any customers, but as it's a shared environment meant to be kept stable enough for developers to stage changes to their software, it was important enough to drop everything and fix.

I joined Nate on a Zoom call, and we dove in. Shell commands. Pull requests. Skimming through tickets. Google searches. Before I knew it, it was already two in the afternoon before we finally put the fire out. Marissa walked into our bedroom holding a plated sandwich, a beer, and a slice of cake, and the sight of it was like watching the clouds part for a chorus of angels. I ate, wrapped up the workday, then made my way into the kitchen to make dinner.

"Thanks for bringing me lunch," I said to Marissa, grabbing a thawed chicken out of the fridge and heaving it into the sink.

"No problem," said Marissa. "I finished lunch, and I realized you hadn't come down to eat yet. I don't think you left your chair all day."

I replayed my day in my head. "You're right," I said. "I think I got up once to get a coffee refill and a stroopwaffel. But seriously that sandwich, beer, and cake was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

Marissa smiled, dragging our dining room office chair into the kitchen and plopping down. "I have to do this now," she said. "I'm too big to sit on the counter like I normally do."

I was grateful to have company in the kitchen. After such a busy work day, I appreciate the intentional connection.

"Was it an outage?" she asked.

"Yeah, but just in staging. No angry customers, but still kind of urgent," I replied. I removed the chicken from plastic, dabbing it with a paper towel and flopping it onto my cutting board.

"Also, I had a day off yesterday. So I feel like I was coming into today with like the kind of hustle you have on Monday. But even more because I still had a weekend to look forward to. It was just like this explosion of focus."

Marissa looked visibly squeamish as I dug the spine out of the chicken with a knife, fingers dripping with icy blood, cutting board speckled with drops of gooey cartilage. "I'm pretty good at getting the spine out, but I'm not going to lie, when it comes to getting the breastbone out I kind of have to make it up as I go."

"Is this going to ruin frosted flakes for me?" asked Marissa, glancing down at her snack bowl of cereal.

"Haha, it just might. Don't worry, I'm almost done with the bad part," I said. I salted the chicken quarters and moved them to a clean plate, sliding them back into the fridge. "I think I'm going to grill these."

Marissa got Rodney up from his nap, and together Rodney and I made our way to the back porch to light the grill. He helped me fill the chimney lighter with charcoals, and together we wadded up a piece of cardboard and doused it with lighter fluid.

"Are you ready for the cool part, dude?" I said, kneeling low by the grill. I cautiously reached my arm into the open grill, flicking the lighter with my thumb. Rodney watched with wonder as a brilliant orange flame leapt forth.

"Fire is cool, but it's very dangerous," I said. I locked eyes with him to make sure the lesson landed. "Never play with this stuff unless I'm around." Rodney stared back at me blankly. "YES DADA," I said sharply.

"Yes dada," he replied. I smiled, dismissing Rodney. He happily skipped away into the backyard.

Meanwhile, Marissa practiced agility with the dogs. She ran tight circles with Ziggy between two metal jumps, egging her own with her favorite rope toy. The excitement got too much for Ziggy, and she took off like a rabbit running in circles around the back yard. Ollie followed her, weaving in and out of Rodney's toys littered throughout the backyard.

Closing the grill, I wandered inside to select a side from our pantry. I took out two cans of speared asparagus, opened them with a can opener, and dumped them into a strainer. There were some pieces that actually resembled asparagus, but it was mostly unappetizing green mush. I probed through the mound of vegetable mash with a fork before finally deciding it was a lost cause. "Corn it is," I muttered to myself. I guess canned asparagus was too good to be true.

Rodney wanted to eat dinner outside, and even though the sun had started to go down for the night, making way for an evening chill, we decided to bundle up in hoodies and coats to oblige him. Marissa set the table while I seared the chicken thighs over the fire for some last minute color and flavor. After plating up the chicken, corn, and focaccia bread, we commenced dinner.

"I feel like such a carnivore," said Marissa. I laughed. "Yeah, there's no tidy way to eat a quartered chicken, is there? It kind of reminds me of when we used to eat at Boston Market. I would get so messy that I would have to immediately wash my hands, wrists, and arms in the bathroom after eating."

We cleaned up from dinner and made our way upstairs for a Zoom call arranged by our friends from college. I signed online, greeted by a large grid of tired faces, headphones, and evening drinks. "I barely recognize some of you," I laughed. "Beth, who is that really grizzly looking dude sitting next to you," I teased pointing at Ben.

It was refreshing seeing every one again. Marissa and I led an informal round of questions, but I feel like I spent more time laughing than talking. And even though these people are all now esteemed professors, counselors, pastors, parents, and professionals, we have a special chemistry together. They make me feel like I'm in college again - care-free, capricious, and cheeky. "I think this was a hit," I said before wrapping up for the night. "Let's do this again really soon."

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Hope you have a wonderful Saturday.