Tuesday, February 27, 2007

real quick



My sister put this great photo of my cousin on the family blog and labeled it "PJ the rock star", it was so cute and funny I had to share. Look at his face! I don't think I've ever seen anyone, let alone a 9 month old rock out with a morrocca like that before. I keep opening it up to have a little giggle. Makes me miss being around family.

Nothing too interesting to write. I spent most of the day on a train to Delaware (for a hearing) and then on a second train back to NYC, I have a lot of work left to do tonight so I should get to it.

But first I will just share this quote of the day:

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?

Henry Ward Beecher (1813 - 1887)

Monday, February 26, 2007

a little feminism, a bit of egoism and other Monday ramblings

This weekend I accomplished absolutely nothing. I did not even manage to leave my apartment building. And I feel really good about that. Mostly because the one thing I managed to do other than flip channels and create new playlists was go to the gym. Beginning Friday morning I met with my pilates instructor, then Friday evening I abandoned everything at work at 6 pm to make a 630 yoga class. Then in an unprecedented move (okay, at least unprecedented in my recent memory), I went to the gym both Saturday and Sunday. Then met with my pilates instructor again this morning. I believe this is why I was unable to focus on anything else of substance this weekend. I started two different posts that are sitting in my edit box but I don't have the heart to look at them - afraid I will be sucked into incompleteness once again.

So all this exercise gave me something I have sort of forgotten about - confidence. This morning as I got dressed I reached in my closet and came up with an entirely new outfit based entirely around a single belt I recently purchased and items that have lurked in my closet for years. Quite often when I engage on such experiments I spend the rest of the day full of remorse, wondering why I didn't just put on a turtleneck and one of the 4 colors of flannel martin banana republic pants I cycle through each week. No today I wanted something fun. I pulled out the navy pin stripe pants that don't allow me to lazily shuffle around the office in flats - high heels are a must. Then I reached for a rose colored button up with the fun detail of buttons down the sleeves. Looking in the mirror I went against my norm and tucked the shirt in, grabbed my new wide brown belt that I was convinced I would be returning because I could never pull it off and strapped it around my hips. I paired this with some croc brown heels and a cream velour jacket and Voila! A fun new outfit! Too bad it was wasted on the office!

In less egotistical news, a friend forwarded me this article from the Boston Globe (by the way, about half-way through the article I had to complete a free registration to complete the article). The introductory paragraph states:

Pity the overschooled old maid and the lonely career woman. Highly educated or high-achieving women are less likely to marry and have children than other women. If they do marry, they are more likely to divorce. Even if they don't divorce, their marriages will be less happy. And, oh, yes, they'll be sexually frustrated, too.
Sad, no? Luckily, the point of the article is to debunk this myth and ultimately concludes that college-educated, highly successful women now "triumph in matrimony." Including going so far as to say college grads have better sex. . . Here are some of the interesting statistics included in the article:

Intelligence as a Desirable Trait
1956 - ranked #11
1967 - ranked #10
1985 and 1996- ranked #5 (ahead of good looks)

Median Marrying Age
1960- 20 for women
2007 - 25.5 for women, 27 for men (higher for those with graduate degrees)

I am really curious about how these statistics would be skewed by the more conservative view on families and gender roles subscribed to by the church (despite the increasing emphasis on advanced education for women). My gut tells me that while I won't be so pessimistic as to think intelligence would still be ranked as low as 10th, I have a suspicion that it wouldn't necessarily make it in the top 5. Especially when (in my limited experience) I often hear sweet, spiritual, attractive and sense of humor as the traits most desired. I'm never quite sure what to think of "sweet", mainly because I am quite certain I have never been described with that word. Loud and opinionated girls are rarely termed "sweet." Anyway, maybe I'm underestimating men. Or maybe that would rank intelligence in their top 5 but qualify it in some way. I admit intelligence is in my top 5 desired traits but my guess is that my definition of intelligence could differ significantly from someone else's definition.

As for the median marrying age, a quick google search revealed that based on the latest Census Bureau study, Utah couples wed at the earliest age - surprise, surprise! Women marry at 21.9 and 23.9 for men. While I realize it isn't fair to make the leap to say that Mormon women across the board marry at 21 or 22, my guess is that number is fairly accurate. I have no idea what the statistics are on Utah women with higher education and their marriage rates. The question that always comes into my mind when I'm reading articles explaining how many "career minded women" delay marriage, is are you sure? Especially when you look at the smaller subset of educated, "career minded" Mormon women. Are they really passing up good marriage opportunities despite the fact that everything they have been taught since they could listen was geared toward getting married? Or is it more accurate that these are women who decided not to wait for marriage to happen upon them but instead got out there and made something of themselves and intimidated potential husbands away with their degrees and salaries? Just a thought.

I think this sort of data is pretty fascinating but I also know that whether statistics tell me I have a 10%, 50% or 95% chance at getting married at my age, education and salary level doesn't matter. For the same reason as it really doesn't seem to make a difference to me whether the male to female ratio among Manhattan single mormons is 5 to 1 (which I think it is), 1 to 1 or 10 to 1. The bottom line to me is the numbers don't matter - it just takes one man who values the traits that I have, regardless of how he might rank them in the abstract. And if that breed of mormon males is rare (which in my particular case it seems to be), then he will ultimately be that much more valuable if I ever find him.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

friday night movie

I just watched Billy Elliot.

Loved it - definitely recommend adding it to your netflix queue if you haven't seen it yet. Touching story, convincing kid and fun dancing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The funeral

Tuesday was a day of mixed emotions. On the drive to the funeral Howard expressed his uneasiness about attending claiming he didn't receive an invitation. After I explained that no one gets invitations to funerals I discovered this would be his first funeral ever. Wow. And I thought I was inexperienced with death. We arrived at the same time as some of our law school friends and we spent the first 20 minutes outside the church catching up in the sunshine. No one really mentioned the reason we were all there. Howard and I asked each other names of unfamiliar classmates, marveled at how old some of the others looked, reassured each other that we look the same and Howard expressed his surprise at how several brought their kids. As we moved into the church it became obvious that this would not be a Mormon service. Dan was a convert and I'm not sure how active he was - it was a Catholic service. Upon entering the church we signed the guest book and followed the others to the front of the church to the casket. I've never been so struck by viewing the body. Inside I was confused and shocked and hurt all at once. It wasn't Dan lying there. It couldn't be him. The body did not look real - the coloring, the bloated shape of his head. No laughing eyes or wry smile. I didn't recognize him. It made me sad that I could not recognize him.

The service felt like it was taking place at a bit of a distance. A priest was the only person to speak other than a scripture reading by a co-worker. Although the priest did relay thoughts and memories conveyed to him by the family, I missed the personal touch of a friend or family member who could stand and speak from their own experiences and interactions with Dan. The brief tid bits were teasers of a life I knew little to nothing about. I would have enjoyed hearing the stories first hand.

Afterwards, we moved out of the church and discovered other classmates had wandered in after we had taken our seats. Including John. I should have expected to see him but for some reason I wasn't prepared. John and I had a brief thing that never amounted to anything our first year of law school. I then turned into his dating confidante and later when he married another classmate he only spoke to me when his wife wasn't around - she appeared to dislike me immensely for reasons I only guessed at (perhaps she knew he liked me at one point, maybe she was jealous I got certain job interviews she wanted, etc.). I was not invited to their wedding despite my friendship with John and the fact that unless he told her there was no way she knew we had ever hooked up. Not long after law school they divorced. Unfortunately I wasn't surprised. He contacted me not long after or perhaps even during the separation and indicated he was thinking about visiting NY. I told him that would be great thinking it was some future non-event. Then he emailed me the dates and suddenly he was staying at my apartment. Awkward. I wasn't sure of his intentions so I kept him at arms length - literally - at all times. We haven't spoken since then. So I was surprised to see him. He was complimentary and appeared anxious to talk to me but restrained. I could see he had questions but he settled for indirect comments hinting at them instead. We caught up in a group and only briefly spoke directly. Part of me wanted to suggest we get together that afternoon but I held back, not wanting to encourage anything I wasn't interested in. I gave him my card but he hasn't emailed or called.

Over lunch Howard and I discussed the funeral and the people we saw. He questioned my feelings toward John and our history and I quizzed him more about his girlfriend. But ultimately we discussed what kind of funeral we don't want to have - one where we have died alone. I want to be remembered for my personal relationships, not my degrees, accomplishments and career. I want to feel like someone is left behind - more than siblings with their own families. That probably hit us both harder than anything. Dan was alone. No matter how many friends you have, no matter how close you are to parents and siblings, no matter how generous you are with nieces and nephews, it doesn't compare to having a spouse and children of your own. Perhaps this was a motivator for me to get on a plane and fly to California for the funeral of a friend I hadn't seen in nearly six years - to show my support, to show he touched my life, however briefly. A common question I have received in discussing Dan's death has been "was he married" or "did he have any children" and while yes, in many ways it is good that he hasn't left a mourning widow with small children to raise alone, it does leave a gap in his life.

The last funeral I attended was for my great uncle Leon. Uncle Leon was in his late 80s or early 90s when he died a few years ago. Up until only a year or so before he died he lived alone in his small house on the outskirts of Idaho Falls surrounded by farmland. Although he was married at one point, briefly, Uncle Leon didn't have children so it was nieces and nephews who helped him out. I have only sporadic memories of him growing up. One includes me learning to drive my parent's van along the empty roads near his house with my dad. But the most saliant memories are more recent. During my first semester of law school I received a check for $500 for Uncle Leon. I barely knew him and he was sending me money because he had always wanted to be a lawyer. Each semester of law school he sent me the same check with his scribbly signature. At some point in law school I made the trek to Idaho Falls with my dad for a quick day trip to visit him on a bitter Idaho day when your nostrils freeze together with each inhalation. When we walked into Uncle Leon's old house he called me Barbara (my mother's name) several times before realizing who I was. So I attended his funeral to thank him for his support. At that funeral, despite the love expressed by his nieces and nephews I was struck by the fact that he was alone. His individual line had ended. It was terribly sad despite the fact that he had lived a full and rich life.

Dan was more than half a lifetime younger than my Uncle Leon when he died but I was once again struck by how important marriage and family are in this life. In Relief Society it is often thrown out there as some sort of comfort statement that even those who don't get married "in this life" will be married in the next. Whether that is true or not, I just don't know. What I can say with certainty is - it's not the same. Call me short sighted but I crave a deep and fulfilling relationship in this life. A couple of times during our discussions on this point Howard mentioned that he would rather marry someone who wasn't Mormon than not marry at all. Of course this hit me hard. I debated this idea over and over when I was deeply in love with the closest thing to my ideal but for the fact he wasn't Mormon. If I had to make the choice again - I don't believe that would be a factor.

I didn't intend for this post to meander quite the way it did and I'm sure it is riddled with type-os and poor syntax. But as usual it has been therapeutic so I'm going to leave it as is because otherwise I won't hit the publish button.

La La Land

I surprised myself this week and actually liked L.A. Maybe it was the sunshine and the non-freezing weather, maybe it was the low-key atmosphere of hanging out in a spacious college apartment, maybe it was the cheap and tasty Mexican food or maybe it was just the fact that by luck I didn't end up in any particularly heinous traffic snarls. Whatever the cause, I lightened my animosity toward So. Cal. on this trip and despite the somber purpose and short duration of the trip, I'm glad I went.

I arrived Monday on less than 4 hours sleep and a few brief and uncomfortable naps on the flight. I was in a middle seat which is really bad for me. I think I have a phobia related to sitting in the middle seat on airplanes. Before we even left the ground I was feeling claustrophobic and pressed in from all sides with not even one arm rest to call my own. I knew the flight would be long. Luckily my lack of sleep resulted in some brief naps and The Office kept me company for a bit on my ipod as well as music, a book (for work) and my In Style magazine. Near the end of the flight I also passed the time away by talking with my very attractive aisle seat mate who I immediately discovered was gay. Too bad, he was very friendly and attractive - so I should have guessed even before he divulged he was returning from spending Valentine's Day with his boyfriend in NYC.

Despite the fact that I didn't check any luggage it took me well over an hour to get out of the airport - first there was the excrutiatingly long line at the one and only bathroom near the baggage carousel that had only three stalls, one of which was occupied by a woman who eventually came out shutting her novel and one occupied by a woman who appeared to be trying on everything in her suitcase while the line stretched out the door and around the corner waiting for the one and only available stall. Afterwards I took the Hertz shuttle to the car rental center with yet another ridiculous line. Thankfully traffic was clear on the 405 or I would have lost it before I met Howard. I spent most of Monday napping between errands and catch-up conversations with Howard.

Monday night Howard set me up on a blind date. When he initially proposed the set-up I was wary. But I honestly haven't had a really close friend ever set me up. Usually blind dates come from randoms - a relative, casual acquaintance or ward member. So I felt like this one had a little better chance of success although Howard did leave himself the out that he didn't know the guy too well. When I asked if he would go out with the guy he said sure. So I agreed.

Howard debated over the details of the date - his new girlfriend wasn't able to go and should he go or just have the two of us go or should he meet us after, etc. Ultimately the plan was the guy picked me up, we went to dinner and Howard and his girlfriend met us after at the Santa Monica pier. This worked well. The only real description I had of the guy before I met him was "you know that guy from King of Queens. . . " Yes, and as some of you know I already dated the Kevin James act-alike so that was kind of an interesting description to me and I wasn't sure if he meant personality or looks or both. While not my ideal male specimen, the guy wasn't bad as far as blind dates go and upon meeting him I was pretty optimistic. In fact, I actually enjoyed dinner and thought the conversation flowed well and wasn't awkward. But there really wasn't any spark which is probably a good thing since, after all, he does live in LA. It was nice to discover that there are seemingly "normal" single 35 year old mormon guys out there to date. Plus, I think it was a sweet gesture on Howard's part because he seemed genuinally interested in figuring out what kind of guy I'm looking for. I think this is at least partially motivated by the fact that his new girlfriend is the result of a blind date. I liked the girlfriend and would have liked to have had the chance to get to know her better but our time was limited to the arcade phase of the date when we were competing against each other in the "Arcade Couple Olympics" Howard dreamed up wherein each "couple" competed against each other on the basketball hoops (I rocked!), skee ball, whacka mole and shoot out (I'm very bad at this one but since I'm pretty anti-gun, I'm really okay with that - my date was shockingly good) games.

Other than the funeral (which I will discuss in a separate post), LA was great. I did some shopping and then met another friend in Old Pasadena for dinner. Next time maybe I will actually be excited to visit LA.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

a phone call

I've had several things bouncing around in my head for the past few days: Gratitude for the hugs & kisses bouquet my mother sent me for Valentine's Day; Sadness and Regret for the loss of a friend; Fear and Loneliness as I anticipate attending the funeral; COLD from the weather; Fatigue from work; Indulgence after spending Saturday afternoon getting my hair cut and a facial; Excited after getting a retroactive bonus paycheck and my bonus check two days in a row; Frugal for being afraid to spend anything at Bloomingdale's as a reward; Loneliness for not having anyone to celebrate with; and Tired after finally getting up early enough to attend all three hours of church (I took a few months off, but it looks like I'm back now).

As usual, it is getting late on Sunday night and rather than preparing myself for bed (and making my bed since the sheets are still in the laundry basket), I'm here playing on my computer despite my drooping eyes. Which of the above listed feelings and emotions sparked my posting? None of them. While I have been feeling a need to spell out the bubbling fears about my trip to LA and the unanticipated dread about seeing people from law school, I feel it is best to keep those emotions squished down below the surface for now. No, tonight as I finished packing (my flight is at 7 am tomorrow which means I'm leaving here at 5:30!) I received an anonymous phone call from an 801 number. This isn't terribly unusual - I assumed it could be someone in the ward. I answered, not knowing who to expect.

A male voice that was somewhat familiar but seemed disguised greeted me without identifying himself. I asked who it was and he joked about how he's been watching me and has a crush on me and I could not place the voice for the life of me. A few minutes before the call I had left a message with my friend in LA with whom I will be staying tomorrow - this wasn't his voice but since he really likes playing practical jokes on me by disguising his voice or showing up in NYC without notice, I assumed he was hanging out with some guy from Utah and put him up to calling me. So rolling with that instinct I asked "are you Howard's friend?" A familiar laugh echoed back from the other end just before my mystery caller identified himself. Even with the laugh and the name, my reaction was delayed. . . it was AT. The target of my longest lasting and most crushing crush.

I'm not sure I've ever written about AT here, although anyone who has known me in the last 4 or 5 years has probably heard some mention of him. I don't even know where to start or what to say about him. We met at a singles camping trip north of NYC. My non-member friend Ruby was with me and we were sitting at this flag pole talking and joking around, trying to figure out what group of chattering singles we should approach in the dark or if we should just stay put. AT approached us. We immediately hit it off and Ruby went to work as the best wing-man ever - playing up my good traits and searching for compatibility with this random guy who could be cute but who could tell in the dark. We hung out all that evening, laughing. The next day, with the sun shining brightly - Ruby learned how aggressive single mormon girls can be. Each time we spoke to AT, another girl or two or three swooped in and interrupted us. I gave up. But somehow, over the next few months our lives intertwined.

For well over a year he was my best and most reliable friend in NYC - he lived in Connecticut and would drive down on Friday nights to drive me to whatever social events I had planned out. Saturdays he planned day trips to "get me off the island" - up to the outlet mall or a winter drive to the Hamptons. On Sundays he sat next to me in church every Sunday (a big deal in singles wards) and then came to my place where I would make dinner for a large group, small group or just the two of us. The boy could make me laugh like no one else. Smart, funny, attractive - I fell hard. The trouble was he didn't, at least not in the same way I did. He was unlike any of the other guy friends I have ever had - we had chemistry. Chemistry that was noticed by others. A number of people have confessed that they thought he was my boyfriend since I moved back to NYC. He accompanied me to many of my non-mormon parties and social events and one confused boyfriend of a friend said, after I explained he was not my boyfriend, that our body language said we were sleeping together -- I asked if it was the kind of sleeping together where you don't actually touch!

Anytime a situation arose where we started to really get close - he ran. Sometimes literally. Like on New Year's Eve when he was supposed to spend the night with the 6 other people cramming into my 1 bedroom apartment (he had spent the night before - on the couch without even a hug!); or on his February birthday when we were standing outside on the top of the Empire State Building and he put his arms around me to guard against the arctic blast winds, then ran inside; or the day we were supposed to book our trip to Costa Rica that we had been planning for weeks and he suddenly got sick and drove home before we could book and then made up an excuse as to why he couldn't go the next day. He even gave me the When Harry Met Sally girls-and-guys-can-never-be-friends speech once. He was a rocky emotional roller-coaster ride I never figured out. But he was also my closest friend.

Moving back to Utah did not cure the crush. Instead, he took me on a double-date with his dad and his dad's girlfriend. And they asked questions like "how did you two meet again?" Very confusing. AT joined the Air Force around the time I moved and soon left NY himself. While he was in boot camp I sent him packages and letters and emails and I was one of the few to receive phone calls during his limited phone time. One Christmas he was home in SLC and took me to dinner in Park City and during that date everything made sense to me. After spending most of the year apart, I finally received some clarity. He cares about me too but something is holding him back. I have a number of theories - most of them do not include speculating on his sexual orientation although others have freely shared their own theories on this point with me. I knew it wasn't all my own delusion and I was finally okay with the fact that it wouldn't ever work, it was good enough just being friends.

Shortly after this epiphany, I was on the verge of embarking on a heart breaking romance and AT made a big gesture that confused me but reassured me about the new guy. AT and I could spend hours on the phone without saying anything but the new budding romance made me realize how little we actually communicated. I knew I was really over him. That was exactly three years ago this month (I have a freakish memory for dates).

Since then AT moved to Japan and our communication has been reduced to infrequent emails, a Christmas card and birthday card (okay, the cards are just me). In the last email he sent me he said he had heard a rumor I was engaged - I decided this was just his way of asking, without asking, about my dating situation. I think we may have had one phone conversation in the last three years but if I remember correctly it was rushed.

So talking to him tonight brought back a rush of memories as we laughed and joked and talked over each other. He renewed the open invitation he has extended numerous times to visit him in Japan and explained that he will probably only be there until December of this year. I don't know what it would feel like to see him. I know we would have fun but emotionally I'm not sure if I would hang onto that clarity of him not being the guy for me. He said he is coming to NY to visit his brother in the spring. I guess that will give me some indication of how I feel around him now, so many years later. Then I can decide if a trip to Japan is in my future.

Oh, and the phone call - it was from Japan. He got a vonage phone which means he now has an 801 number where I can call him regularly if I so choose - as long as I take the 12 or 14 hour time difference.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Red Velvet Valentine

As many of you are well aware, I enjoy baking. Enjoy is perhaps an undestatement - I thrive on baking. I believe baking is probably the one true hobby that I have stuck with from the time I was old enough to do more than just help my mom lick the bowl after baking a birthday cake (a ritual I still enjoy). Because it has been mentioned so often on my blog, you may also be aware that I have a specialty - red velvet cake.

There is an article in today's NY Times entitled So Naughty, So Nice which is all about this lovely cake. Red velvet has a pretty interesting history that is often attributed to the south, which is why I have often had people ask if I have southern ties after they try my red velvet cake - not your typical Utah favorite. So here is the short but sweet story of the red velvet cake in my family - a neighbor gave my mother the receipe when I was very young. The end.
Okay, there is a bit more to it and it is interesting to me to weave it into the history described in the Times article. The recipe is actually for The Waldorf-Astoria Cake, which makes the debunked story of the woman distributing the Waldorf's recipe to all her friends after purchasing it for $100 in the 20s all the more interesting. Next time I'm in a bookstore I am going to have to check out the new Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook to see how true my family's recipe is to the original Waldorf-Astoria red velvet cake.
For as long as I can remember red velvet cake has been the most requested birthday cake in my family. Last year I even made red velvet cupcakes for my own birthday. There were times when one child or another (never me) would try and switch things up by asking for an ice-cream cake or even a carrot cake for variety - especially during our family's busy birthday months of June (my sister and me) and October (both my parents and one brother) - but eventually we all come back to red velvet as our birthday cake of choice. I started baking the cake on my own pretty early on and worked through some of the more complicated steps involving combining one whole fluid ounce of red food coloring (no beets in my recipe) with a tablespoon or two of cocoa and water (this step can easily lead to red stains all over the kitchen if one isn't careful), alternately adding buttermilk and flour and mixing vinegar and baking soda in a frothy side bowl before adding to the other ingredients by slowly folding it in to maintain the proper density of the cake. My recipe is stained with red food coloring as were some of my kitchens and utensils in my less than careful years.
But the true triumph came not in baking the cake but in mastering the frosting. As my siblings and I enjoyed this cake to count our passing years, it was most often topped with a standard thick buttercream frosting. However, I was always curious about the frosting that was set forth just below the cake recipe - the Waldorf-Astoria frosting with its strange ingredients of flour and granulated sugar and its use of a double-boiler. My mother explained that the frosting was impossible so we usually didn't even try to attempt it. But my curiousity won out because even the failed attempts tasted incredible. So I started experimenting with th frosting and eventually perfected this tempermental topping that can turn gloopy in seconds, have a grainy texture or terrible little flour balls if one is not exacting. The frosting is what makes the red velvet truly amazing.
In general I have a difficult time trying red velvet cake in bakeries because they are so often just a chocolate cake with red food coloring and leave me disappointed. But following the extensive taste tests conducted for the referenced article, I think I am going to have to do some sampling of my own. Although, I just have to say, I am disappointed no one asked me to submit my red velvet cupcakes for the taste test. Secretly, I must confess, I think I could win.

my commute

If you watch the Today Show you may be aware that New York is getting its first real snow storm of the winter today for Valentine's Day. I was initially pretty happy about it, although I was disappointed that there wasn't more snow. I bundled myself up and hopped on the shuttle that takes me to the half-way point to work. On the shuttle I pegged my pants and tucked them into my pants to avoid enduring slushy, wet cuffs for the rest of the morning. I wasn't worried about the walk to work at all; until I stepped outside and was greeted by tiny ice pebbles pelting me in the face. I pulled my hat low over over my face and walked as fast as I could through the slush and muck to the bus - which slowly made its way across the 4 avenue blocks, but it was dry and warm which is all I cared about. I like being able to walk to work every day but ice pellets really are my limit.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dear SLC,

I have been mourning with you from my distant position on the other side of the country since I learned of last night's tragedy at Trolley Square. As far as I know I don't know anyone who was killed or injured or even there last night but there is something so personal about a tragedy happening in a familiar place. Each news article I read recalls vivid images of the halls and restaurants and stores so distant but so much a part of home. All of you who were touched by this tragedy are in my prayers.

Monday, February 12, 2007

surreal

I have often said that I am inexperienced and ill-prepared for this type of news. I've watched it come closer and closer to me these last few weeks and something inside me kept saying I should be more prepared while at the same time another voice asked how. This is the sort of thing that even when expected, it is difficult to comprehend. So the unexpected feels even more surreal.

A few weeks ago my secretary told me that she had to leave early because her sister-in-law's brother had been killed in Iraq. A young soldier with a bright future who was intimately connected with her family who was just starting his own family. I hugged her and listened to her and told her to take as much time off as she needed.

After a week or so had passed another secretary I work with frequently got the news from her sister that her teen-age nephew had been murdered. An innocent kid with no drug or gang connections killed with a friend in the friends home in an extremely violent, highly publicized homicide in Texas. When she returned from the funeral we spoke at length about the tragedy.

Each of these deaths in the lives of those with whom I interact every day reminded me that I have not been forced to deal with death in such an intimate way. My grandpa died when I was 13 after a long battle with cancer. I was you and I wasn't very close to him. I have had an increasing number of conversations with my parents about the advancing age of my remaining three grandparents and the deteriorating health of each. I have wondered how I will react when I pick up the phone to receive the news. Just yesterday, I had a rare voice message from my dad and I wondered as I returned his call if something might be wrong with his mother - we had just discussed that her cancer is back and she isn't strong enough for chemotherapy. But my dad was chatty and goofy as he often is in the morning as he procrastinates getting ready for church.

I've also wondered at times how I might react when I hear the inevitable news of the passing of my dog Malcolm. He will be 11 years old in a couple of months, a ripe old age for a black lab. I'm not sure how to prepare myself other than just reminding myself that it is on the horizon. Of course, no thoughts or rationalization can prepare you for the unexpected bad news phone call.

I think death has been on my mind recently as it is intertwined with the superstition that bad things come in threes and I feared number three would touch me personally.

*************************************************************

About an hour ago I received a call from a friend from law school with whom I hadn't spoken in six to nine months. I didn't think much of the unexpected call other than a welcome excuse to ignore what was on my computer screen for a while. He had recently switched firms and I asked him various questions and as usual, we joked about things the way we always did.

Then he said "unforutnately I'm calling with bad news." Immediately I was concerned about his wife who had a bone marrow transplant while we were in law school. No, it was our friend Dan. Dan died of pneumonia on Friday. Died. On Friday. The details are fuzzy. No funeral details as of yet. No specifics about how, in 2007, a late 30s/early 40s man could die of pneumonia living in sunny Palm Springs. No details. Just that he's gone.

Over the last hour I've been reflecting on my friend Dan and regretting not keeping in better contact. We have only exchanged periodic emails since graduation nearly six years ago. The last contact I had with him was an announcement that he was made partner in his firm last fall. I'm glad I sent him a congratulations card and a Christmas card. I don't remember the last time we exchanged emails. I thought a card would be nicer than an email.

Dan was not your traditional BYU law student. I'm not sure that Dan was a traditional anything. I don't think any of us knew how old he was but he had a number of degrees, had previously owned his own company and had mystious wealth that could have been due to the sale of his real estate business or a trust fund or something else. He owned a condo in Orem and unlike the girls I went to school with who owned their own condo, daddy didn't foot the bill. He also owned a place in Palm Springs and made frequent visits. The first time I visited his condo for a study group I was surprised by how adult it was and as I was surveying the wall hangings I discovered a collection of Disney cells and a small Chagall painting. On closer inspection I realized the Chagall was real and when I turned to ask him about it he just smiled and laughed. Like I said, mysterious wealth.

The law library at BYU has a unique feature of personal study carrels for each law student. The first year these are assigned and during the second and third year you get to choose by some random priority system. During my second and third years at law school, I sat in what came to be known as the "loud corner". There were six carrels tucked away in the corner away from others where we could be our own isolated crew - Dan, Troy, Tige, Mike, Rachel and me. We all studied together at times but mostly we procrastinated, joked around, complained, argued and by our third year we ate lunch together nearly every day. Sometimes we went to the Cougar Eat but none of us really liked it there, especially since none of us went to BYU for undergrad, we were generally uncomfortable leaving our fortress of solitude and literally crossing the bridge to the main campus of BYU world. So we generally went to places like Leonitas, Souper Salad and some Crown Burger-like place that always left my hair smelling like grease but I can't remember the name of it . . . Burger Supreme, maybe? I was often the chauffeur on these lunch expeditions and my last semester when I didn't have a class before 1, lunch with my crew was my sole motivation for getting to school before noon.

I didn't go on the spring break trip to Dan's house in Palm Springs with the others - probably due to the ill-fated spring break cruise I took with my boyfriend at the time that sped up our ultimate demise. Dan teased me about my dating life and inability to commit to my boyfriend who frequently sent me flowers to my carrel. I have a photo of Dan and me at graduation, I will try and pull that out and scan it in tonight. I didn't take a lot of photos during law school so I'm glad I have that. Dan didn't spend a lot of extra time at school and took frequent trips to California. I think he had some health issues but like a lot of details, he kept that to himself. I recall a number of jokes about his Hooters girlfriend the crew met when vacationing with him. He was full of mysteries. He was also dripping with sarcasm. Dan could tell you the most outlandish stories without batting an eye and you were never quite sure what was the truth until he started laughing, and even then you were left wondering. Dan was one of the few law school classmates who emailed me after September 11th to see if I was okay. Dan collected one of his degrees from NYU and offered a lot of advice before I made my first trip out here for the summer in 2000. He was one of the rare people I knew who had contact with this city before I came and he helped give me guidelines on the reality of housing costs.

Thank you for being my therapeutic confidante, Dan was a good friend and even though I haven't spoken with him in years it is a shock to hear that he is gone. Depending on the logistics I'm going to make an effort to attend the funeral. I think it will help take this from a surreal Monday afternoon to reality.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

100 things about me

  1. I have small feet
  2. I love pie but only eat it at Thanksgiving
  3. I was awarded "most improved" piano major as a freshman in college
  4. I was very granola/hippie/crunchy in high school and college and I miss that
  5. I am impatient with people I find irritating and I can't hide my impatience
  6. I wore braces for 6 years
  7. I started wearing glasses when I was ten
  8. I hate when people say "anywayS" there is no S on the end!
  9. I'm extremely independent but I like being able to let go and rely on someone
  10. I am an optimistic realist - meaning I hope for the best but prepare for the worst
  11. I can't decide if I'm getting more liberal the older I get or if I'm just getting braver in terms of admitting it to those around me
  12. I love speaking in public
  13. I love to dance
  14. I am overly sensitive to perceived and real slights from friends
  15. I am quick to forgive the slights, real or imagined
  16. I have no fear of heights
  17. but I do have a fear of jumping off things (boats, cliffs, diving boards, etc.) into water
  18. I love dogs
  19. I once said I had no desire to ever even visit NYC, let alone live there (in my anti-urban, pro-live in the mountains phase)
  20. I think my eyes are my best feature
  21. I don't know how to respond to compliments
  22. I miss wearing sleeveless shirts and tank tops
  23. I wish I exercised more
  24. I've lost count of how many boys I've kissed
  25. I was on the 9th grade basketball team at Union Middle School
  26. I'm often embarrassed when I read my thoughts and perceptions from journals of my youth
  27. I never really made much academic effort in high school
  28. I don't think I fit the "grew up in Utah" mold
  29. I have only been to church once in close to two months
  30. I'm extremely self-conscious of how I dress and how I look
  31. I don't eat hamburger
  32. I have a vivid fantasy life full of normal, everyday things I'm hoping for in my future
  33. I miss the mountains
  34. I am tough
  35. I learned how to cook a meal in a dutch oven camping before I figured out how to put a decent meal together in a kitchen
  36. I miss camping
  37. I named my dog after Malcolm X because I had just finished reading a biography on him when I found my puppy
  38. I bury happy memories of my ex-husband so I don't feel any regret
  39. I often wish my life could be more simple
  40. However, I get bored when I don't have a lot of stimulation
  41. I would like to teach yoga at a remote eco lodge in Costa Rica
  42. I regret quitting the piano
  43. I wish I could sing like Norah Jones
  44. I find it difficult to believe I will get married again
  45. I am really good at growing house plants
  46. I sometimes talk to my plants and myself
  47. I'm extremely competitive
  48. I've had two knee surgeries yet I sometimes convince myself I made it all up and I really don't have any knee problems
  49. I enjoy wandering through museums
  50. I get pedicures regularly
  51. I generally feel caught between two different worlds (utah/new york, mormon/non-mormon, urban/outdoors, professional/hippie, etc.)
  52. I love to read . . . wish my job let me choose the material more often
  53. I believe everything has a soul - animals, trees, rocks, everything
  54. I like getting artwork from my friends' children
  55. as a teenager I once ate an entire package of EL Fudge cookies on a family vacation before anyone had a chance to try one
  56. I had lots and lots of dark hair as a baby that stood straight up and someone told my mother "anyone who can have a baby that beautiful should have a dozen."
  57. law school was the first time I really pushed myself
  58. I've been absolutely in love 3 times and still have tender feelings for each
  59. my hair used to extend below my waist
  60. I love college football
  61. I have been staunchly against all franchise food (McDonald's, TGIFridays, Chevy's, etc.) for over a decade for their large portions, greasieness and lack of flavor
  62. I like that my birthday is the longest day of the year . . . summer solstice
  63. I love brunching with friends
  64. I love wandering through the plant district just looking at all the green
  65. I love thunderstorms with animated lightening shows
  66. online dating scares me
  67. I wish I was more artistic
  68. I hate ball point pens
  69. I have a filing cabinet drawer full of approximately 12-15 pairs of shoes in my office
  70. hiking gives me peace and brings clarity
  71. I only had one job offer coming out of law school - I feel it was fate pushing me to NY (my one offer was the only firm I interviewed with in NY)
  72. I love popcorn
  73. I want to be a better mormon but feel unmotivated
  74. I learned to snowboard as an adult
  75. I have asthma
  76. I walk to work
  77. I like walking past flower stands and breathing deeply
  78. one of my favorite memories from high school was a snow day
  79. I have been scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef
  80. I fear I've lived alone too long to easily adapt to marriage
  81. I have terrible handwriting
  82. my family moved a lot when I was young (4 elementary schools, 3 junior high schools and 1 high school)
  83. If I have children, I will strive to be like my parents
  84. my mother is my best friend
  85. I have the greatest siblings I could ever ask for
  86. I was a daddy's girl - I went to most of my dad's orchestra rehearsals and concerts starting at age 6, I loved going to work with my dad on Saturdays and I loved watching sports with my dad
  87. I am jealous of my sister's hair - color, texture, all of it
  88. I love sappy, romantic movies
  89. It takes a long time for me to let people in
  90. I hire someone to clean my apartment
  91. I haven't had so much as a flicker of twitterpation in years
  92. I am bad at memorization
  93. but I have a very accurate memory for dates - especially inconsequential ones, or the ones best not remembered
  94. I wish I kept up my French
  95. I want to learn Spanish
  96. A full moon with an open expanse of star-peppered sky always grabs my attention and inspires me
  97. I think holding hands is the most tender romantic gesture
  98. I wish I received more phone calls
  99. I love deep, insightful conversations with friends
  100. I strive to be my most authentic self as much as possible

going for a record

I really should go to bed but I feel compelled to whine for a second since it is nearly 1 am and my brain has clouded over and I'm just too tired to go through the effort of following my nightly routine to get to bed. . .
Today was my 15th Day in a row working. Yes, weekends no longer exist in my world and I'm really afraid this weekend might get eaten up as well even though it is even Monday. Please wish me luck in avoiding hitting a 26 day record by NOT working this weekend - at all. Thank you and good night.

Australia Day

It was now over a week ago (January 26th) but my friend just emailed me the photos today so I decided to post one. The tiny girl in the middle is the lone Australian of our crew and the one hiding behind her hair did that on purpose . . . in every photo! The party was at Tonic in Times Square and was initially full of tall, attractive men with fantastic Aussie accents but we either got stuck in the wrong corner or they all left because as the night progressed they all disappeared and were replaced with unattractive, irritating creeps. Our Australian sponsor almost immediately ran into a friend of hers from Western Australia who currently lives in London! Small world. He was definitely in the attractive category but also married. He had a lesser attractive buddy with him who turned out to be pretty fun and we spent the better part of the evening talking and dancing with these two boys. They left once the bar ran out of beer (not sure how that happened!) and a couple of us tried to play wing man for Kath - unsuccessfully. At one point we were cornered by an extremely irritating Brooklyn boy trying to pass himself off as Australian then British with a terribly accented "'ello love!" We weren't buying it and he wasn't taking subtle hints to leave us alone. At one point he literally had me cornered up against the bar asking me where I was from. Of course the next question was "are you Mormon?" By this time his hand was resting on my waist just above my hip and I was not having that. I told him yes and before he could ask another question or get any closer I unleashed some sarcasm and he started to back off apologetically but I wouldn't take it and he scooted away and happily avoided us the rest of the night.
The low point - and by far the most exciting part of the night - occurred when the place was particularly crowded and dancing became nearly impossible due to the inability to move more than a few inches in any direction without hitting someone or something. I was contemplating leaving when Nicole (the one with the hair in her face) got in a territorial positioning war with a girl who looked like a stereo-type of Queens - short, dark hair, acrylic nails, big boobs and dressed in an ensemble made for someone a couple of sizes smaller with a large attitude. It was difficult to see some of the fray but at some point the girl shoved Kathleen out of the way. Then she kept backing her butt into Nicole to shove her out of her dancing space. Nicole just backed herself right back in and the girl got really pissed and a guy from her circle of people placed himself between her and Nicole. My favorite part was listening to Nicole rant - "You don't know how ghetto I am!" she yelled and then explained to me that "when a black girl takes off her earrings and shoes, you know some ass is about to be kicked." It was so funny to hear her threatening with her ghetto roots in her silk work blouse and ann taylor suit trousers. We left shortly thereafter.

Monday, February 05, 2007

I hate to brag but. . .

yesterday I concocted the best cookie recipe ever! Seriously. What was my inspiration for such a feat? The cold weather.

Due to ridiculously bitter sub-zero wind chill factor temperatures, this weekend I made every effort to avoid being outside and then only long enough to catch a cab to whatever essential place that removed me from the warmth of whatever indoor space I was abandoning. Yesterday I made the horrible mistake of not wearing long johns and fleece pants under my jeans with 3 sweaters, my sleeping bag and a face mask when I walked two blocks to the store and back. I'm not sure what I was thinking but I had serious regrets in the last downhill block when I swear microscopic icicles were piercing the skin on my face and despite the multi-layers I did think to wear, I felt naked to the wind and fully comprehended the term "bone-chilling cold".

I volunteered to take cookies to the Super Bowl party I was attending and I think my cold walk to the store sparked a subconscious instinct to fatten up to ward off another miserable experience. So I decided to play with my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe and see if I could come up with something different. I started with my standard recipe, which is quite tasty on its own:

1 pound butter (real unsalted butter is key, and yes that is a whole package)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla (I prefer mexican vanilla)
6 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
chocolate chips - my favorite are the large Guittard milk chocolate chips

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes depending on your oven

I started by mixing together the butter and sugars then separated the mixture into three roughly even portions in separate bowls. I should have also added the eggs, salt and baking soda before splitting everything up but didn't think ahead that far so I got a bit confused in my division of 1 1/2 tsp but managed without any fatal over- or under-doses.

In the first bowl, I finished the recipe as usual but with almond extract rather than vanilla - a variation I use quite often with milk chocolate chips. (not pictured below because I only baked one batch and froze the rest for those cookie dough emergencies that may be lurking down the road, but they really are the most photogenic of the three - perfectly rounded tops with big chocolate chips).

In the second bowl, I swapped out the regular flour for whole wheat flour. I haven't had much wheat flour around in recent years so I have been out of the habit of this variation that I used to make a lot in my high school and college years. The cookies don't round up as perfectly as the white flour version and are slightly browner than regular cookies which may lead some to believe they are overcooked (see photo below) but they are soft and a great variation taste wise.

In the third bowl, I got a little more creative. I used mexican vanilla and the rest of the original ingredients but used oat flour and a small amount of rolled oats as a variation. The oats made the mixture far too dry so I wasn't sure what to add . . . then I thought of peanut butter. I didn't add a lot, just enough to hold everything together. I added chocolate chips - some milk, some semi-sweet for variation and baked away. I fell in love with the first bite. The cookie baked in essentially the same shape in which it was dropped onto the sheet (see photo) and crumbled slightly as I took a bite, then melted on my tongue. My taste buds danced with pleasure.

I'm not the only fan. All three varieties went quickly last night (lucky for me) but I believe I had the most comments for the oaty goodness version. I took a few more of the extras (be forewarned, the recipe makes a lot of cookies) to work and after my friend tried one she IM'd me "Oh. My. Goodness!! I could eat 20 of those!!" Unfortunately I probably have eaten 20 of them in the last 2 days (okay not quite 20, but close!)

I did not write down all the potions of what I was concocting and it was only a third of the above recipe but here is a rough guesstimate of how to make a full batch of these currently nameless pleasure bites.
1 pound Butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
6 cups oat flour
1 to 2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups or so peanut butter - enough to get everything to just stick together but not too much
chocolate chips - I like semi-sweet in this recipe, again Guittard is my favored brand

While I am looking forward to testing this recipe out again, I am also looking forward to experimenting with more variations - maybe a multi-grain cookie! Any suggestions?
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