Wednesday, April 30, 2008

with intention

Ed. Note: I originally started this post on Saturday. For some reason I feel I need to finish it before moving on since I have been leaving so many half-written posts unfinished. So just pretend you are reading this Sunday or Monday as a wrap-up of my weekend

After a crazy work week that involved eating nearly every meal at my desk, frustrating work relationships, far, far too much work, very little sleep, the Jazz losing after I arrived home at midnight to watch the second half until nearly 2 am and an incident in the work bathroom in which I narrowly escaped having questionable liquids fall from the ceiling onto my head from the flooded bathroom on the floor above and the pitter patter of scurrying little mouse feet in the ceiling . . . I was happy to walk out of my office building at 6:30 pm Friday night (very early by the way for me to leave the office). After a quick stop at Whole Foods and responding to an urgent email for a conference call (yeah, work needs to leave me alone) which I held on the bus going home, I arrived home just in time for the slumber party I've had planned with my three favorite women in this City for over a month. Four lawyers are hard to pin down.

Originally we had hoped to leave town for a girls' weekend but when that failed we decided to pick a date for an old fashioned sleep over at my place - my apartment being the only male-free apartment of the bunch. My original hope was to make pizzas together. I had this image in my head of us standing around my kitchen kneading pizza dough, laughing and getting distracted by stories as we piled cheese and various toppings atop the wonderful sauce I would make. All week I craved the comfort of not only eating in my own apartment but cooking at home. For some it is a novelty or luxury to eat out. For me, lately it has been a luxury to have the time to cook at home. Leaving work at 6:30 with guests at 7:30, however did not conform to that romantic notion. Instead I resorted to plan B. I picked up a smattering of toppings and odds and ends at Whole Foods - fresh pineapple, sliced olives (black in the can because the smell at the olive bar scares me), fresh mushrooms and tomatoes, milk, eggs, hot fudge and my usual once a week yogurt and cereal purchases. Luckily I already had three frozen pizzas sitting in my freezer - good frozen pizzas with only cheese, perfect for topping. While I was shopping I received emails from my guests asking what they should bring as they left their offices and made their way across town. I suggested snacks or wine if they wanted it since I wouldn't have any and I knew they wouldn't bring it if I didn't specifically tell them they were allowed.

They all managed to arrive at once shortly after I put away my groceries and put on jeans (even though I wanted to go immediately to pjs). Opening the door to these three women brought a bustle of hugs and love and cheery chatter into my home that was so comforting. Despite all being lawyers we are so different in looks, in interests, in religion, in dreams and aspirations, in marital status (ok, so two are married so that is similar) and even in ethnicity. Yet, these women bring me comfort and joy by their long-standing dedication to the friendships that unite us.

Initially there was some clothes changing (I wished I had immediately put on pjs instead of thinking I needed to host a slumber party in jeans!) and some pretzel eating and requests for water and Ruby pulled out the bottle of wine she brought with her and the tiny little cork screw opener she purchased at the liquer store and I complained about my hellacious week. K volunteered to open the bottle and I cleaned out the wine glasses that spend most of their time gathering dust on a shelf as Ruby and Joo joked about a Mormon owning wine glasses - I argued that other less alcoholic beverages can be consumed just as well from "wine" glasses.

After successully de-corking the wine and pouring a glass for Ruby, K spun around as I handed her another glass and announced "since I am a total drunk it will soon be obvious" and we finished her announcement for her that she is pregnant. Hooray! Very early. Earlier than she would normally care to tell but she thought we would wonder. Rub and I then turned to Joo who was sipping water in her pjs and it was confirmed that she too is pregnant. And K pointed out that she is much further along and showing. It was very exciting. This is a first child for both of them.

Part of my vision of the evening came true as I performed the far simpler task of pulling frozen pizzas out of the freezer as stories were shared. We lounged around my living room eating and giggling. After we finished eating I asked if brownies sounded good to anyone. And since no one can refuse a brownie, I jumped back into the kitchen and proceeded to bake, mixing the same ingredients together in the same order I have been doing so for my mother's brownie recipe for close to 25 years. That makes me sound really old. I find great comfort in baking, it is relaxing and soothing in a way I assume most people's hobbies are. My friends predicted how one day I will open my own bakery and I told them how long I had been making these particular brownies and explained that this recipe was my "How To . . ." report when I was 10-years old. I loved cooking shows way back at that young age and loved (to my mother's dismay) to pre-measure and line up my ingredients along the counter so I could explain the mixing process to my audience of stuffed animals or dolls or younger siblings. I vividly remember the 5th grade report during which I mixed up the batter, poured it into a baking pan and put it into the makeshift oven I had made with cardboard and tin foil. I explained it needed to bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick was removed cleanly and "Voila!" I whisked out of my prop oven a fully baked tray of brownies and passed them out to the class. Despite this life-long love of baking I have never had career aspirations to bake. So I bake for my friends and my family and co-workers who find my leftover sweets abandonded in the pantry.

We ate the brownies hot straight out of the oven under a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream and a dribble of hot fudge and crushed pecans. That is the perfect dessert. So simple, so delicious.

Unlike slumber parties of my youth, this one did not involve hair braiding, staying up gossiping about boys until 3 am or games of MASH (does anyone even know how to play that anymore or do we lose that knowledge as soon as we graduate from high school when it is passed back to the silly little 12-year olds as the prepare to maneuver through the scary halls of junior high?). Instead we talked about babies. Having them. Not having them. How many to have. When to have them. Can you work with one? Where is the balance? A topic I read about and hear about and listen to mother's talk and even attend seminars at work on the topic but about which I feel completely unqualified to offer an opinion. They asked to see baby photos of me and I proudly disproved Joo's suggestion that I was a blonde baby with the photos of my thick black hair that stuck straight up at all times. We flipped through more of my childhood memories in a photo album and K caught me off guard by saying "you are so hard on yourself!" as I longed for what I thought were better looking days for me (but seriously, who was not more attractive at 19 than at 32?). She made me think. Eventually I explained to her in the context of another conversation about dating (I'm the only one who should be doing it even though I'm not) that I wind down the slippery slope of negativity so quickly and easily because I get tired of propping myself up with the rare smile from a stranger walking to work or the uplifting beat of a hiphop song as I prepare to go out or kind words from my friends or family. It is hard to be one's own cheerleader. In the privacy of my own home I can feel comfortable in my own body no matter the number on a scale but walking around in this city of small, thin women and socializing in a realm dominated by thin, blond mid-20 somethings . . . my confidence wanes and self-criticism creeps in. I compare myself to others and lose the lightness I felt dancing in front of my mirror at home and worry that my flaws are somehow being spotlighted and are to blame for my complete and total lack of male attention. Everyone needs an external boost and I just don't get them often enough. Luckily these girls bolstered me.

Joo was the first to fade and she fell asleep on my bed. Ruby, K and I tried to press on, reluctant to go through the motions of preparing for sleep but we all managed to find a bed by 1 am. Unaccustomed to sharing a bed, especially with a pregnant friend who requires frequent bathroom breaks, I slept restlessly, as one should at a slumber party I suspect just for different reasons.

The next morning I continued playing hostess by making whole wheat waffles with pecans with fresh berries and maple syrup for breakfast. I have made these waffles two or three times for myself but these girls were my first guests to taste them - and they were a hit. Awkwardly, the satellite guy who was supposed to come between 9 and 1 pm (I was hoping for 1 pm) arrived to install my HD/DVR as I was making waffles. Our conversations became generic and Ruby tried to extract interesting stories from the guy. Ruby gathered up our plates after we had our fill and proceeded to clean my kitchen. Honestly, there is no better way to thank the cook than to clean her kitchen, is there?

Once the cable guy left, the real slumber party games started. We were all so tired and worn out the night before that the sillyness that should have transpired at midnight, instead took place at noon. For whatever reason, Ruby decided to once again take up the campaign of convincing me to try online dating. It scares me for a variety of reasons I won't go into here. I realize it works for many, many others. But it scares me. It feels desperate to me - even though I somehow don't view those who do it as desperate. I think it might be my phobia.

Ruby is a romantic optimist and a mysticist of sorts while Joo, K and I fall more on the practical, cynical end of the spectrum. Although when it comes to me dating, Joo and K are practical optimists rather than cynics. Ruby came up with the notion that I should write a list of 100 things I am seeking in the ideal man. Umm, no. Ok, so she decided that we should write a list of 50 things for my ideal man. I asked if this was something she learned from Oprah and if so I refused to participate. She evaded my question (I thought so!) and insisted I bring her paper and pen. Because I know it is better to play along with Ruby I acquisced to the charade. She cooed over the red pen I had given her - color of love! - and commenced.

Right about now I should inform you all that I have never in my life created a list of what I am looking for in a mate. I know this is a silly little exercise that is rumored to be a frequent activity of many young women - even in church - but I have either blocked out my participation or was sensible enough to never engage. In church I probably did what I usually did when a teacher would pass around a blank slip of paper and ask us to write a list of something or other - I would stare at its empty face and my mind would drain free of thought and nothing would be written down unless it was one of the pat answers of "pray" or "read scriptures" or "get married in the temple." I assumed marriage was far off in my future so I saw no reason to make any demands upon it at 16.

But Saturday morning Ruby convinced us all to play create the perfect man for Alyssa. I offered very little to the list other than clarifications or answers to questions such as "what type of hair do you like?" (the answer is dark, thick and curly - I believe I was envisioning Adrian Grenier). It was fun listening to my friends describe their expectations for me - which in some ways were higher than what I have for myself at this point. I believe the list abruptly ended at #23 or so but I don't actually know since I never got to read the list. One of my favorite items was when Ruby told me I needed a guy who was "bobo" - a term I had never heard before. She described it as meaning bourgeois bohemian and spun it as a positive thing - someone who would go camping but also go to the opera, you know, like me. But just now I looked it up on and the definitions are more hypocritical and negative, so now I think it should come off the list.

Ruby had very explicit instructions on what to do with this list once they left which she relayed over and over as we teased her about them and Joo folded the list like a junior high note. She kept telling me it needed to go in my closet and needed to be "placed with intention", I asked if I should spin three times or hop on one foot with my eyes closed and fling it over my shoulder but she ignored me and insisted that if I do this I will one day forget about it and stumble across it as I was moving in with this perfect boy described on my list. I shattered her imagery by reminding her I wouldn't just be moving in with some guy and she clarified after we were married.

Since we were playing games I decided to pull one out myself and fetched a needle and thread from my linen closet. I told Joo and Katharine that I could predict the sex of their babies. This highly scientific endeavor that I believe I learned about in college in volves dangling a needle over the belly of the mother-to-be and watching the direction the needle swings. If it spins in a circle - It's A Girl!, if it moves back and forth in a straight line - It's A Boy! K was the first and I instructed her to lie on her back on the floor. I knelt beside her and steadied the needle then watched it swing in a wide circle. A girl for K. Joo promptly announced that she believed in my thing more than Ruby's and took K's spot on the rug and the needle moved back and forth in a straight line - a boy, which is what she thinks she is having anyway.

Ruby wanted to see if she was pregnant and took a turn as well and the needle didn't move so I told her I had another method for her and instructed her to sit up and hold out her hand perpindicular to the floor (I didn't say perpindicular - who says that? - I just showed her). I dipped the needle 5 times in front of her palm because that was how we did it in college and after the fifth dip asked her to turn her palm face up as I held the needle over it. The needle spun in a nice neat circle. We repeated the process and the needle didn't move. Yeah, one girl for Ruby. I think K's test indicated she would also have just one girl and Joo's was one boy (the one in utero) and one girl. Then Joo tried it on me and I was told by the possessed needle that I will have a girl and a boy - hopefully by the perfect man we created and threw in the back of my closet!

Once we had completed the requisite slumber party games and Joo had recorded all of our child bearing predictions, we all started thinking of our errands for the day and parted ways.

While I emphatically believe Ruby's crazy list of perfectness is ridiculous, I must admit that hearing them describe what they believed the universe should create for me has given me a renewed hope. I have some cheerleaders after all.


Tiffany said...

My favorite line: "hopefully by the perfect man we threw in the back of my closet!"

You do have cheerleaders, my friend. Lots of them.

So fun to read. (And by the way, I think the dangling needle thing was right for my two boys....)

katie said...

I've never really liked cheerleaders but I'd do my best for you. I'm sending good vibes.

Shannon said...

Such fun friends! I enjoyed reading all about it.

critts said...

What a wonderful weekend! I seriously need some of your recipes (if you share them). I'll be e-mailing soon.

As for the needle's been right for me so far but it also claims I'll have 5 kids and I just don't think I have that in me!

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