The Library in the Waiting Room

I’ve been spending a lot of time in doctor’s waiting rooms lately.  Not because of my health, thank goodness, but because I have been providing transportation and companionship to various family members as they meet with their health care providers.  It is always a fascinating experience for me.  It was this morning I began to realize it was fascinating because it is like visiting a library.

Each person there has their own story.  Some will share them willingly, like a book on display.  Some hold theirs close to themselves, like an ancient manuscript in a climate controlled case, hiding from light and air and anything else that might damage them.  Some keep theirs quiet only to find their companions more than willing to tell it to anybody around, much to their dismay.  That situation reminds me a bit of gossip tabloids on display.

Some stories are mysteries, where the main character has no idea what is going on and can only hope the doctor is a good detective.  Some are comedies, born of foolish accidents, told with rolling eyes.  Many are tragedies, tales of pain and long suffering, and read with knowledge of the certain sad ending.  Some are stories of coming joy, read in the movement of a child trying to find room in their mother’s womb.  Some are suspenseful and full of fear, told with a parent’s fearful grip on their child’s hand.  Some are adventures, the ending unknown, each chapter full of twists and turns, but with the main character demonstrating determination and endurance.  Many are inspirational, despite bald heads, obvious exhaustion, and trauma evident in the body, but with smiles and lack of fear on their faces.

The range of reactions to problems is amazing, and a true example of human expression.  Fear, joy, confusion, bewilderment, sadness, grief, anger, guilt, compassion, tolerance, endurance.  Those and many more are found in these office spaces.  Some are found in other places, but there is nowhere like a doctor’s office to find so many in so short a time, often with no masks, no self protection, just a community of humans looking for company or not.

If you find yourself in a doctor’s office sometime, look around.  Strike up conversations.  This is the library of humanity.  Some stories are boring, some are interesting, some are riveting.  You will never know which is which until you can read the dust jackets, and if they are willing, to open the pages.

I Wonder…

My life has always been full of “I wonder…” moments.  “I wonder what’s down that road?”  “I wonder what happens if I push that button?”  “I wonder what would happen if…?”  “I wonder how the story would go if…?”  and my sister’s favorite, “I wonder how it would taste if I put this in it?”  Lucky for her, my instincts for cooking are pretty good.  Recipes are just sort of a suggestion as far as I’m concerned.  I am also basically lazy, and I never had much time for involved cooking methods with my work hours, so I came up with a lot of dishes I could leave in a slow cooker all day or cook a huge bunch to last for several meals or just throw together in less than half an hour.  I’ve read cookbooks and watched cooking shows, but no, still too much work.  I just came up with my own, that Julie could eat with her limited range of foods that didn’t upset her stomach.

I have no idea what sets her stomach off.  She has no problem eating bowl after bowl of my “Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup”.  It’s pretty spicy and really opens the sinuses.  We always have a big pot during cold times, like now.  The dish is a prime example of how I cook.

Start with a bag of raw chicken tenders, or whatever.  I usually have at least a five pound bag of chicken.  If you don’t have time to cook raw chicken, use leftovers, or canned chicken.  Throw the chicken in enough water to cover and season.  My cupboard usually has chicken fajita seasoning, because we put it on everything.  We don’t use much salt, and no MSG, and this works for us.  Sometimes if I remember, I throw in some garlic powder and bay leaf.  How much of each?  I have no idea.  I just shake the containers until my brain says, “That ought to do it.”  If you’re OCD about measurements, don’t try my recipes.  Cook till the chicken is done, or if it’s already cooked, until it’s heated.  An hour over medium heat at a boil gets mine done.  Then I cut the chicken into about inch sized cubes with a pair of tongs and kitchen shears.  I haven’t used knives on meat in years.  Pull out the bay leaves if you threw some in. I usually make sure I have enough liquid to throw in a couple of bags of instant rice, minus the bags.  Like I said, I try to make big batches  If you don’t want to risk so much, just put in enough rice to thicken the soup to the texture you prefer.  Then when the rice is done, I stir in a couple of jars of salsa con queso (that’s spicy cheese sauce from the chip aisle for you non-Texan furriners), a couple small cans of green salsa, a couple cans condensed cream of chicken soup, and a couple cans of tomatoes with chilis.  Like I said, this stuff will open your sinuses.  Shrink the amount of ingredients if you’re not using five pounds of chicken. Stir together, let it simmer together for a bit (at least until you can’t stand the wait) and dish it up.  If we have it handy, we throw a dollop of sour cream on top. My sister likes her soup with corn chips on the side for texture.  She can put away a half gallon in one sitting.

If I didn’t have to worry about her stomach and had the time, I’d dice up some onions, carrots, and celery (at least a cup of each), saute them in some coconut oil (or whatever’s handy – like bacon grease!) and throw them in with the rest.  If I think the soup is a little thin because I overestimated the water, I might empty a bag of mashed potato flakes in.  Hot buttered cornbread or your favorite crackers would go nicely, or anything crunchy you enjoy.  This is pure comfort food time, and screw the calories and fat content.  If you manage any leftovers, throw in the fridge and enjoy again.  Don’t cook with open windows, or you may have strangers and/or neighbors showing up giving you a sob story about empty stomachs.

This weather also calls for my ever popular oatmeal bread recipe, which is the only way my sister can get oatmeal past her taste buds.  I posted this on a workplace blog that asked for favorite recipes once, and got rave reviews from all over the nation.  I’ll dig it out and post it here.  It has actual measurements, because baking stuff is a little trickier.  But the recipe is nowhere near what it was when I found it.