Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Rewards Program – No Big Screen TV, but …

Sometimes the rewards appear. Unexpectedly. Going by almost undetected in the never-ending cascade of minutia that seems to fill most days. Like something mixed in with all the junk mail that comes every day. Unremarkable, nondescript, something to toss.

Or maybe the rewards pop up when I am busy thinking about something. Like how to jazz up that piece of salmon in the fridge, and what about those tomatillos going bad. The rewards get pushed to the side by the seemingly urgent present.


It’s not so much that I can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s more that I don’t always notice the forest because the mind has numbed to all the seemingly meaningless trees flashing by. So when a meaningful one pops up, it can go unnoticed. For a while.

I used to know every airport from Tokyo to Prague. Both ways. From Stockholm to Johannesburg. Where to eat. Where to kill time. Where the restrooms are located. How to get quickly from one gate to the next. With what currency. With the few phrases I know will be needed in that part of the world. And how to get the upgrades - every time. And who serves the best food / drinks / has the best movies / etc. Which planes have plugs for my notebook power adapter. And I have a few million frequent flier miles to prove it – the reward for non-stop flying is the privilege to fly some more.

I still get monthly statements listing obscene amounts of frequent flier miles available for big screen TVs or more travel.

It took a long time to figure all that out. But it is not useful now. Those goals and rewards, once so important, don’t carry value anymore.

For a long time it’s been about transitioning. Not just in terms of what to do from 9 to 5, or more appropriately from 4 till midnight. But also transitioning to new goals and rewards. As well as helping others identify and achieve their goals and rewards.

Getting a driver’s license without killing me and everyone else on the road (I’m oddly calm and Zen-like in the passenger seat, I don’t understand it either). Scoring well on the PSATs and ACTs and SATs. Improving the GPA semester by semester so that community college is not the only option. Getting a little confidence and self-esteem to keep things moving in a positive direction. Finding the energy and courage to try a lot of different things to see what one is good at or likes beyond algebra and grammar. Even if they seem difficult or intimidating. All with me trying to play a background role. Subtle (that’s a new one). Trying not to be my normal overbearing self.

Not as ‘exciting’ sounding, at least to some, as sitting at the front of a pressurized cabin at 30,000 feet, breathing in all the flu germs from a few hundred fellow prisoners, knees cramped against some luggage conveniently stowed under the seat, for up to 24 hours per trip. Or waiting hour after hour for the thunderstorms around Atlanta to clear up and the runways to open, hoping that my contact at the million miles desk can reroute all the international connections with some upgrades intact, knowing that eventually some airports will just close for the night, meaning an additional several hour delay getting shuttled to my eventual destination from some remote airport. The very definition of fun. My only salvation – an iPod with a 17 hour battery life and a few thousand songs.

But this new life has its rewards.

They’re just more subtle to find.

Like when I finally looked at the mail that had been sitting on the table for a few days. Junk, junk, junk, junk, wait, not junk – school junk. Hmmm.

Since it was one of those days like many others, filled with mindless unceasing minutia, and, probably due to the orientation of the planets or something like that, a particularly low energy day in general, it took a few minutes to even realize what I was looking at.

Some report cards were there. Hiding innocently amongst the junk. With the best grades yet. The forth straight semester of improvement. The majority A’s, with just a B or two. One from one of the most challenging high schools in the country. A distinguished school – whatever that means. The other from a junior high school who is now making recommendations for advanced placement classes at that same distinguished high school.

So maybe this is the payoff. For all the years of checking homework. Asking about tests. Buying books and supplies. Visiting teachers. Making sure some studying took place before basketball came on TV or soccer practice. The daily reminders to work for those As. Not settle for a B. Day after day after day.

You can’t trade this reward in for a big screen TV. Or a vacation in Hawaii (ouch!). Plus it doesn't pay nearly as well (yet). But it seems like it was worth a few frequent flier miles just the same.

Well, no time to celebrate. School night. But we did come up with a nice finish to the salmon tomatillo problem. And there’s always a bottle of Médoc, 2000 vintage of course, laying around somewhere. So all in all, a pretty good day.




Adapted from recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

Salmon:
4 salmon fillets (8 ounces each)
Olive Oil
Cumin
Cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Slices of lime for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Rub salmon with olive oil, then season salmon lightly with cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Place a salmon fillet skin side up on baking pan covered with parchment paper. Broil, skin side up, until skin is well browned. Turn, and finish broiling until salmon is just cooked.

Place a layer of tomatillo sauce on a warmed plate. Place a salmon fillet on top. Garnish, and serve. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatillo Sauce:
8 medium tomatillos, husked
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 canned chipotle
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the tomatillos, garlic and onion with olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes or until the tomatillos are soft. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth, season with salt and pepper to taste.

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