Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Marriage Soup

I was working on a couple of things at the same time during working hours, testing some changes that should go live for my customers at the Day Job in July (yay! They work!), nervously checking data that got rearranged like an enormous bag of runes, stirred, shaken, tweaked, oops-ed and fixed from the weekend (holding my breath because that seems to have worked too), debating the pros and cons to adjusting that success, and—the phone rang.

It was my husband at the grocery story.

“What should I get for that Italian Wedding Soup you make?”

I don’t like to tell him to call me back when I’m not busy, especially since he’s seen fit to go grocery shopping. It’s just that he’s taken me by surprise, again. I thought he was going to help an elderly friend of ours understand some paperwork. In the back of my mind, I expected he would be home in time to watch the baseball game tonight, whenever that was. I didn’t have time to look.

“Italian Wedding Soup, huh?”

Lately in the late afternoons when nearly everyone at work leaves me alone, all those east coast people having gone home at a reasonable hour so I can concentrate on more tedious or analytical work, I’ve been listening to some of my CD’s. I have indulged in some purely selfish choices in that they are selections that the HUBS does not savor the way I do: country, folksongs, colonial “fiddle” tunes, Irish and Gipsy music, Alison Krauss, Garth Brooks, The Gipsy Kings and more obscure stuff. There was one very interesting meditation collection but that ended up being unsuitable for working on spreadsheets. The one thing I learned to do really well in my college Yoga class was how to make myself fall asleep; as it turns out, working on spreadsheets has the same effect accidentally. Adding meditation music makes the problem worse, so I’d rather hear howling blues or a lively tarantella to keep the eyeballs open.

Today, I had put on a CD of Virginia work songs, taken from chain gangs and slave traditions. Something about that seemed right for the afternoon. I was at least accomplishing something, or was until the HUBS called. I turned off the music.

I probably don’t take enough breaks, really. Most people at least get up and get their lunch out of the coffee room refrigerator or look with irrational hope at the snack bar at the office to see if something inspiring has graced the menu. Get up, stretch, take care of what’s necessary, focus your eyes on something more than 17” to 20” away or whatever that measurement is from your nose to your computer screen. I don’t usually. I get on a roll and lose track of time, writing what I’ve done down in a notebook in case I need to remember later that my friend Jill is on vacation this week so I can’t show her the changes until next week or whatever.

I’m not sure if this is just a quirk or a symptom of something, but I get flustered when I hear too many things at the same time. There’s no way I can listen to talk radio, for instance, and work. Even Binket bringing me her beanie-baby toy stuffed kitten for my expert care and leaving “Puff Baby” outside my office door throws me for a loop. I’ve marveled at a former boss who could actually keep track of at least three spoken conversations at once. I can’t. I can multi-task just fine with visual stuff, multiple Instant Messages at the same time, plus editing a document, but while I have two ears, I have just one channel for sound. I can listen to music, especially instrumental music and work. That's it for the sound channel for me.

I found this out when I had my second “real” job working for a major telephone company in the Midwest. I had a data entry job that consisted of typing all numbers and the letter F. And I happened to be the fastest one in the state at this particular mind-numbing task. The keyboard and transmission set up I had were so noisy that they disturbed the customer service representatives, so they put me in the closest thing to my own office: They stacked up soft-sided, high-walled dividers in a corner and plugged me in there. It was stark and ugly and a weird job, but I was, after all, the fastest in the state. One of the secrets to the speed of that job was that I could type the numbers from eyeballs to fingertips and somehow seemingly bypass my conscious mind; after all, the numbers and letter F were nonsense for the most part. So I sang to myself while I typed. And I went like the wind. I was in the zone.

That was a long time ago. What I found over the years is that I reach zero-to-60 in about 2 seconds of shrieking flake-out if someone tries to talk to me in the room while I’m trying to talk on the phone. I don’t know what that is, but audible input must take a number for me, one at a time.

A little interruption from my Sweetums is greeted with just enough choochie-coo to let him know I don’t hate him but also with clear instructions about what I can handle at the moment.

“Just a second, slow down now, I have to write this down to be able to tell if I have everything,” I snarl, well, is it snarling really, just to be clear?

The dog howls, deaf as he is and believing we must all be deaf also, to alert me that he must come into the house right NOW.

“I am setting the phone down, Darling,” I say through my teeth. “Your dog,” for Quincy becomes his dog when I’m at my wits’ end, “must come inside now.”

Dog happily sacked out on the living room rug, I return to the phone. We finish the ingredients list. The HUBS assures me we have half a bag of frozen meatballs. We end the grocery list and phone call and I try to reassemble my focus.

The 7 of Cups is about as foggy a card as I can find in the Tarot. All of the choices swirling around the character that represents you or someone else, depending on context of the reading, make the ability to choose confusing at best. Oh, sure, the cups are different but how do you know that the part below the rim isn’t something you definitely do not want? Everything seems like the same priority. What to choose? What to choose?

Thank goodness my 7 of Cups moment was brief and allowed me to move on so I wasn’t stuck in a swirl of confusion, anxiety, or even a “spoiled for choice” moment. I finished work, ran my own errands, and made soup, which is pretty good, I have to say. So here’s my soup recipe, good for what ails you, especially if you’re spoiled for choice!

Marcia’s Italian Wedding Soup

Frozen meatballs (or make your own if you have time)

2-3 Large carrots or a handful of baby carrots

Half a big red onion or one whole smaller red onion

Fresh baby spinach

Fresh parsley (I like the regular curly kind)

6 oz. dry tiny shell pasta

4 boxes of chicken broth or 2 big cans of chicken broth

Olive oil

Shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese (powdered is OK too, but fresh is better)

Dried basil if you don’t have fresh, 5 or so leaves of chopped fresh if you have it

Dried Italian Seasoning or fresh oregano is better

1 tsp. Powdered ginger (this is the SECRET INGREDIENT)

1 tsp. Pepper

In your favorite soup pot on medium heat, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil (1-2 tablespoons should do it). If you bought the big bag of frozen meatballs, just use half the bag which should be 25-30 little meatballs or so. Who counts? Pour those into the sauté (yep, frozen and no, don’t get the kind with sauce…that would be weird). Just swish them around for a little with your wooden spoon. (I mean, you have to have a wooden spoon, right?)
Pour in the chicken broth (seriously the low sodium no MSG kind is better but you do what you can do, right), all 4 boxes or 2 cans or whatever. Turn up the heat so the broth will boil and before it’s gotten to the boil, add the pepper, ginger and basil and most, not all of the chopped parsley. Save some for topping the soup.
When your soup is boiling, add the shell pasta and some of the cheese (save some of that for topping, too). When the pasta is cooked, add two big fistfuls (I cook like this, what can I say?) of the fresh baby spinach and the Italian Seasoning or fresh oregano. Set your timer for 5-8 minutes and have a Mike’s Hard Lemonade; check to see what time the ballgame is on. Sit down a minute.

When the timer goes off, don’t spill the Mike’s but get the bowls out and that soup ladle you thought you lost and dish it out. Sprinkle some of the chopped fresh parsley and cheese on top. Turn the heat down in case he wants a second bowl. When he gets up for that second bowl, have him turn the heat off so it doesn’t scorch. Makes enough for tonight and probably tomorrow, too.

Good with bread. The Mike’s wasn’t half bad either.

Best wishes!

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