Thursday, January 14, 2010

Improving Ourselves

Salmon Shirred Eggs2 I had a disaster Wednesday, similar to what you’d find in one of my Myrtle Clover mysteries.

I realized after my daughter had been up for several hours, that her cough sounded different than it had the last few days. I called the doctor and quickly made an appointment.

I was already halfway through my preparation for Salmon Shirred Eggs for my blog today on the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen. Since the recipe involved eggs and we didn’t need to leave for the doctor’s appointment for 30 minutes, I decided to go ahead and pop it in the oven.

Naturally, I was in a hurry. The recipe itself is very easy. It can be made complicated, however—if you dump the contents of the cups onto the floor of the oven. Which I did.

I was well-behaved and used absolutely no profanity. My 8 year old was standing right there, so I just bit down on my tongue. I scraped out the salmon and eggs and cream from the bottom of the hot oven very quickly, hopped in the car and we drove off for the doctor.

We’re in the pediatric waiting room and my mind is spinning. I’ve got to get more eggs for the recipe. Oh shoot…and some smoked salmon. I need to pick up that book at the library for my other sick child to read. Oh—I needed to email my agent about that one thing. And then, ideas for my book started flooding into my head at the same time—unwelcomed. I got a pencil and jotted them down on the back of a receipt. My cell phone buzzed me. I tried ignoring it.

“Mama? Let’s play I Spy.”

I Spy is the game my daughter and I always play in waiting rooms. It’s a good sit-down game.

“I spy something…gold!” she said.

Really? In the doctor’s waiting room? All I spied was a polka-dotted floor, primary-colored chairs, and some really upset babies in blankets.

“That lady’s watch?” I asked. “The outlet cover? No? The…well, the doorstop over there?”

“Mama! That’s brass. Not gold.” This around her hacking coughs.

Try as I might? I couldn’t find anything gold. Or, for that matter, pink, aqua, or tan. I also couldn’t find the correct brown object she was looking for.

“You’re not even trying,” she said.

But I was trying. And then it struck me that it wasn’t that I’d suddenly been struck colorblind. I was so distracted that I couldn’t even focus on the task at hand. I was definitely trying to play I Spy. I was looking at my daughter and looking around the waiting room. But my mind was in and out of contact. It was too full.

My daughter? She was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, following the bout of seasonal flu. Me? I diagnosed myself with observational failure.

I do really well with big observations (like the fact my daughter’s cough had changed), but the bitty things—the small sounds, bits of color, warm breezes—they can get lost in the shuffle. Or lost following an epicurean disaster.

I dropped off the antibiotic prescription at the pharmacy. I drove to the store for more eggs and smoked salmon. And I tried to empty out my head from all the noise in there. Quiet the voice that reminded me of the things that needed to be done that were not getting done. I slowed down. And found, despite two sick children and an oven waiting to be cleaned, that it was actually a pretty nice day.

Next time I play I Spy? I’m going to ace that game.

Is there anything you’re working on? As a writer or as a person?