Tag Archives: travel

No Candy Thermometer? No Problem!

I went to high school with a girl named Yoshi Nishibara and today is her birthday. I don’t know why mumble-mumble-mumble years after we graduated, I can still remember this. But I can. (The first boy I ever kissed celebrated *his* 32nd birthday eight days ago. I don’t know why I remember that either.)

Yesterday, however, was my friend’s husband’s birthday. And…since last year at this time, I was all about vegan baking, I’m afraid my friend’s husband (and my friend…whose birthday happens to be at the end of November) got stuck with more than their fair share of my vegan experiments. And…since I’ve had tres leches on the brain, I decided there was really no better way to celebrate my friend’s husband’s birthday than with a cake that is decidedly non-vegan — three milks *and* a whole mess o’ egg whites.

The recipe I found on Epicurious said that tres leches is a Nicaraguan cake often served during the holidays…which I suppose makes it even *more* poetic as I sorta, kinda spent upwards of five minutes *in* Nicaragua while I was in Central America a few weeks back.

I don’t think my cake pan was *quite* big enough…as the sponge cake sort of exploded over the edge, giving itself a muffin top. But…no worries, I guess…you’re supposed to cut off the hardened top layer anyway. (And, for the record, it smelled really, really good…like, almost worth eating on its own?)

I think my favorite part of making this cake was the meringue. I’ve blogged before about how meringues are my nemesis…(damn you, you ridiculously clean bowl!) but this recipe called for making it in a totally new way…and I confess I was transfixed! You get four egg whites ready in a mixer…and they sit around and wait while you bring sugar and water to a boil on the stove. As soon as the sugar/water mixture is boiling, you start up your mixer.

Now, the directions say to keep the sugar/water on the burner until it reaches “soft ball stage” on a candy thermometer…and then add it to the egg whites and turn the mixer on really high until it is shiny and cool. But, alas, I do not *have* a candy thermometer…just a meat thermometer. And, you know, sometimes my ingenious solutions work out really well…and sometimes they are absolute disasters. Luckily, this time it was the former. (I told an old coworker about this and he said, “Sure…I mean, candy? Meat? What’s the difference?”) I Googled “soft ball stage” and learned that it’s 235°F to 240°F. And my meat thermometer goes up to 220 (although the highest cooking temperature it has listed is 180 for poultry…). So…I decided that I would wait until it hit 220 and then leave it on the burner for another minute or two…and then surely it would be at 235ish. And…I gotta say I was a little skeptical about the adding-it-to-mixing-egg-whites part…but, it totally worked. Like a charm. A beautiful meringue. (I don’t think it looked *quite* as pretty ON the cake…and I briefly flirted with the idea of tossing it back in the oven to brown those peaks…but…then I decided I should maybe leave well enough alone…)

(Sidenote: Candy thermometers really make me feel like it’s the holidays. That’s because [I am told] my great-grandmother was a whiz at pie-baking and candy-making…and it was from her that my aunt learned everything she knows about pies [I think — I *may* be taking a little creative license here…] and my mom learned everything she knows about candy. And so, in the Decembers of my youth, my mother would make fudge and penuche to hand out to friends and coworkers…making this the one time of year she used her candy thermometer…)

So…fun fact: The milks in question are sweetened condensed, evaporated and heavy cream. You mix all of that up with two tablespoons of optional rum (and, who are we kidding? I *obviously* included the rum…but had to buy a GIANT bottle of it…and so will theoretically have a little Captain in me for years to come…). Then you just sort of slowly pour it all over the sponge cake with the sawed-off top and it soaks it up. I was a little concerned that I was over-liquefying it because my cake wasn’t big enough…but I didn’t actually end up sampling it in the end…so…dunno.

I made the cranberry compote, too…which I thought was supposed to be more like a sauce…but, according to another quick Google, is whole fruit in syrup. (Although I think it is crazy-ridiculous that the recipe says to add four cloves…and then to remove said cloves before serving. It’s a big fruity glob — one could spend hours searching for individual cloves. And, for whatever reason, I totally just flashed on a movie with Pee Wee Herman and the circus — Big Top Pee Wee? — in which there’s a really tall guy with a super-tiny wife…and she sings a song about being a needle in a haystack…which I can only imagine is sort of like finding cloves in cranberry compote…[why do I remember that all this time later, too?])

I *also* thought it was kind of funny that the recipe said to add just enough water to make the cornstarch “slurry.” I think I added a *little* too much and in fact made it “wet.” (Cornstarch is some crazy stuff…going from liquid to solid to liquid…it’s almost a little trippy.)

Then…my friend gave me a copy of the latest issue of Yoga Journal that has a story entitled, “The Joy of Baking,” and includes — get this — a recipe for a vegan chocolate cake. (Aww…while I was assembling the tres leches cake, I also found my disembodied Santa and snowman heads that are supposed to go on holiday cupcakes…and I briefly thought about repurposing one for a happy December birthday…but, in the end, I decided that the disembodied heads will be fine in their baggie for another year…)

So…the writer talks about growing up in a remote town and receiving cakes from church ladies who would go out of their way to deliver them to cheer someone up or to celebrate something. THEN she goes on to say that through this practice she “learned early on the joys of nourishing the heart through food.” And she quotes a yoga guy from Berkeley who says, “It’s not unlike the kind of nourishment that comes from romantic love. Food prepared with loving intention is spiritual.”

And I’d never thought of that before! (Insert the obvious joke about how I’ve been able to stay single for so long…) But, I mean…I think she’s right. There *is* something sort of deep and meaningful and connecting-you-to-the-Everyman and whatnot that happens when you bake stuff for people. It makes them happy. And making them happy makes you happy. And that makes you feel good…regardless of how often you actually flex your overtly spiritual muscles. (And surely being a spreader of joy buys you some leeway in the eyes of organized religion?)

And, I mean, I’ve long known the therapeutic effects of baking — still one of the only things that always calms me down when I’m upset — and…as I put the finishing touches on my book proposal, I am realizing that baking-as-coping-mechanism is a really big theme. No matter what’s going on, I’ve always been able to turn to it…and it *always* makes me feel better. (I am actually trying to think of a good title with a new spin on a common baking phrase. Suggestions welcome.)

And I *totally* know what she means about interacting with strangers on the street when she’s hauling around giant baked good carriers…and then the warm, fuzzy part: After baking cakes as offerings for a year, she says she learned “…when we offer up our labor, time, energy, love and craft — humble and imperfect as they might be — with no expectation of return, people respond in kind, and tenderness opens up in the space between.” (Which almost makes me think I should tackle a similar experiment in 2010…)

And, while I don’t really get the yoga connection that she goes on to talk about (I am seriously uncoordinated and exercising in public is one of the things I fear more than anything)…I really like what she says right there. It actually reminds me a lot about Julia Child in My Life in France…who says you should never apologize for any mistakes…because 1) you were nice enough to make something for everyone and they should be gracious, dammit (my paraphrase); and 2) if you’re making them eat something gross, they shouldn’t have to boost your ego, too.

And that’s something that I’m still learning how to do…whenever I offer up something, I immediately want to apologize for all the imperfections — watch out for wax paper on the bottom…and be careful of those cloves I didn’t remove…and it may be too watery…and the meringue looks a little funny… — it’s not easy to just say, “Bon appetit,” and leave it at that.

(And, speaking of Julia, my own sister just MET Julia Powell at a book signing…and she was sweet and asked ahead of time if I had any questions…and I, of course, sent over about 1,000…and, wouldn’t you know? My sister got them all answered for me. [And — hey — I suppose I could even go to the Meat Hook tonight myself…if I am feeling particularly brave.])

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under birthdays, books, brown sugar, cake, cupcake, eggs, gadgets, holidays, parties, vegan

If I hadn’t been writing about Frank Bruni, I wouldn’t have known it’s Ann Coulter’s birthday…

So…I got home last night around 8:00ish and all I had consumed was coffee and water on the planes (I had, like, the perfect amount of time to get from Terminal A to Terminal C in Dallas…without a ridiculous amount of waiting time *or* having to run with my cat-in-a-bag…but it *also* meant I didn’t have a chance to procure sustenance). So. All of this is to say that I was pretty hungry by the time I got back to my apartment…but I obviously didn’t have anything on hand. (Except milk that didn’t spoil! Like magic! Coffee was SO GOOD this morning!) So…SeamlessWeb! (And, like silver white winters that melt into springs, it is one of my favorite things…)

And, you know what? I really wanted Thai food, so I ordered Thai food…and the Thai place near me is one that the Bartender liked a lot, but ordering from there didn’t make me sad *at* *all* (See?? Progress!)…*and* I saw this thing with peanut sauce on the menu that I *had* to order because I was reading Frank Bruni’s latest book on the plane(s) — Born Round…in which he discusses what it’s like to be the proverbial fat kid with an endless appetite who grows up to be the restaurant critic at the New York Times…and I’m only up to his stint at the Detroit Free Press, so I certainly don’t know how it ends yet…but he *did* have a torrid relationship with cold noodles and a peanut-y sauce that he discovered during one of two internships at Newsweek…and so when I saw the peanut thing on the menu, I couldn’t not get it.

And…Frank Bruni is fun to bring up because…I had a coworker once who knew a guy who works at the Times…and who was being relocated to a bureau outside of New York and so Frank Bruni threw a going away party for said coworker’s friend at his apartment. And…I was lucky because my coworker said I could come with him…(as if, after meeting me, Bruni would be instantly enchanted and ask me to be his #2. Or something.) So…what a strange moment it was to be in Frank Bruni’s apartment…and marveling at, you know, the framed photos of him with George W. Bush and whatnot…and my coworker and I were in his living room because there were fewer people in there (read: none. I am nothing if not antisocial…)…and Frank came in to talk to us for a little bit and that Lisa Kudrow show — The Comeback — was on in the background and I remember Bruni talking about how he thought it was an underrated show…and then his phone rang and he excused himself…and he came back and said something like, “I have this friend and I’m not sure if she’s going to show up, but I really hope she comes…and if she does, you’ll all know who she is.” And so we said, “Who is it?” and he said, “Oh, I can’t tell you that! But you’ll know as soon as you see her.”

So…fast forward a little bit. Doorbell rings. And who do you suppose it was? Why, none other than Ann Coulter! (Ack! I just Googled her and it turns out that today is her birthday! Weird, right??) And, folks, she was the most freakishly skinny blond woman I have ever seen in my life…

My old coworker *swears* that Ann Coulter proceeded to hit on him…but *my* memory of the exchange is merely that she said, “You look familiar,” or the like. And — who am I to judge? — perhaps in old, skinny, blond, conservative ladyspeak it’s the equivalent of, “What’s your sign?” (And, who am I kidding? If Glenn Beck said something comparable to me, I’d be tweeting all over the place.)

And, I mean, sadly, that’s basically the end of my story: I went to a party at Frank Bruni’s place once and Ann Coulter showed up. And peanut sauce makes me think of him now…which made me think of her. Which turned out to be on her birthday, of all days. That’s it.

Leave a comment

Filed under birthdays, dishes, eggs, entrees, feminism, Palin, parties

Julie and Meat/Infidelity

I had hoped to actually post this before Cleaving’s December 1 publication date as I have friends in high places (…sorta…) and got an early copy of Julie Powell’s second book…and wanted to rub it in your collective faces a little bit. (But in the nicest way possible.)

But, alas, it is now December 5, and for all you know, I could have spent the last four days feverishly reading it and composing dark lies.

But *that*, I suppose, is sort of beside the point.

I had *heard* Cleaving got bad reviews…and I understand why. I hadn’t actually read any of the critics until I sat down to write *this.* But as I was reading the book, I definitely thought, “People are not going to like this…”

And because of the kinship I felt with Julie in Julie and Julia (and that I still felt — albeit to a lesser degree — in Cleaving), I’m going to go out on a limb and play a little devil’s advocate here. Which is not to say I liked the entire book. I initially thought it was hard to get into — the text really just goes back and forth between Knives/Meat and Marriage Falling Apart/Affair over and over again. Neither topic is really pleasant to encounter…(especially for those of us who saw Chris Messina valiantly play the role of Eric in this summer’s movie…)

But first I’ll tackle the meat: I’m hardly a vegetarian (those vegan blog posts last year were really just a buddy at HuffPo hooking an unemployed girl up…), but, put lightly, some of those butchering passages were really hard to read. (It was sort of like when I was watching something on TV with my parents about bison that mysteriously died in a national park..and it turned out that they were already sick…and because of the cold weather, they got trapped in some sort of gassy something-or-rather out on the plains…so, it was unfortunate, but they would have died anyway. And the national parks guys proved this by cracking open one of the bones and showing this really gooey bone marrow…and my mother and I saw it and immediately exclaimed, “EWW!” and my dad just said, “What? It’s bone marrow.”) So…Point #1: I may eat steak, but that doesn’t make it easy to read about how a cow *becomes* steak. Which maybe means I *should* be a vegetarian…but that’s a topic for another post.

Point #2: After such phenomenal success with her first book, I sort of have to give Powell props for not following a similar pattern and writing the same thing again, but with Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. I would imagine the temptation would totally be there with something that has already been established as a successful model…*especially* when that model has been turned into a Nora Ephron movie and you KNOW that plenty of people will buy the second book on name recognition alone.

I think London’s Sunday Times put it best, actually, in this review that asked how Powell could possibly top herself after Julie and Julia…and then answers itself: “The answer is, of course, that she couldn’t. But she has had a jolly good stab at it — literally.”

I like that — “a jolly good stab.” We should all be so lucky…

But…it *is* gross. And disconcerting. And, as noted, I basically agreed with everyone who didn’t like it…until D — the man with whom she is having the torrid affair that threatens her marriage — disappears. That was the moment Julie became a sympathetic character to me…and I started to identify with her more and more…and even recognized some of my own behavioral patterns in the things she does for him…even though she knows she’ll never hear from him. This may officially make me a crazy person, but…1. Who among you didn’t think that anyway? And…2. I totally understand that compulsion…and that desire to maintain a connection with someone no longer in your life. Small case in point: There is perhaps no one (aside from myself) who loved my cat more than the Bartender. And so, for example, when I finally got the cat fixed and the vet told me that he was the most well-endowed feline she had ever neutered, I *knew* the Bartender would appreciate the story…perhaps more than anyone else. And so I emailed him about it…even though I knew he wouldn’t respond. I guess part of me is stubborn enough and/or hopeful enough that somewhere out there, he read my message and it made him happy and he remembered that we had good times together. (But when I read Christine Muhlke’s review in the NYT, I felt really bad about myself. I can’t help but feel she’s calling me pathetic, too: “Powell’s not kidding about the ‘obsession’ part: she pathetically texts and e-mails into the ether for almost a year, then fleshes her longing into a book that doesn’t spare the reader a single full-frontal flashback.” [For the record though, I spared y’all plenty of full-frontal flashbacks. So count your blessings.])

However, when I told my friend J that I sort of got Julie’s sadness about D, she said, “But you don’t have a husband!!” which is a fair point. And, Julie, as much as I’d like to defend you (you’re the one, after all, who gave me hope that it *is* possible to be at a point in life in which you feel absolutely nothing is going right, but you can still suck it up and make positive changes and turn everything around…), I gotta say that it *is* hard to have real, total, complete sympathy for you knowing that you have Eric at home. And, sure, he goes out and has his own affair, too…but…I found myself asking, “Why not just get a divorce?” repeatedly. And, sure, he’s been a part of your life for a super-long time and you know each other so well that you’re basically the same person and you always know what the other one is thinking…which is why you can’t hide the affair from him in the first place, but also why you can’t bear to part with him, and…well…I don’t know. It just sort of gets to a point where it seems like a tough decision needs to be made…but nobody is willing to make it and it kinda feels like you guys are making your own beds. Either get divorced or don’t, but, for the love of god, stop complaining about the uncertainty. (Which, ultimately, she does.) (And all of this, “But I love/know him more than I love/know myself…”-business sort of makes me think of the fourth book in the Twilight series and that half-vampire baby that resulted from Bella and Edward’s union. UGH. But, again, another post for another day.)

Point #3 is that when you write something like this, you have to be honest. (Or at least that’s what Dale Maharidge taught me…) And, sure, some of Cleaving is a little saucy and/or, you know, what kids these days (or kids from days of yore) might call TMI…but, at the same time, I also think it’s kind of brave. She wrote about a topic that clearly does not paint her in a positive light…but she doesn’t gloss over any of it. She sort of offers herself up — flaws and all. And that takes guts. And to touch on Point #2 again briefly, all the saucy stuff takes her further out of her Julie and Julia Comfort Zone…and I gotta give her props for being brave enough to do that, too. (But, then again, I don’t know how much of it was actually flexing writing muscles and how much of it was, “See?? I can write naughty words! And lots of ’em!”)

I also think confidence plays a big role in all of this…and it is where, again, I feel a certain kinship with Ms. Powell. I was just at a little J-school classmate reunion-y thing, in fact, when I was talking about making slow progress on my book and one of my classmates grabbed me by the arms and shook me a little and said, “You’re so talented! Do you know that? You have to know that and acknowledge it and understand that someday you’re going to do great things!” and it was sort of like, “Yes! Sure. Okay!”

I like the way the NYT put the confidence issue best: Muhlke writes that D’s enduring power over Julie exists, in part, because his presence in her life “instills the confidence that being played by Amy Adams in the movie apparently did not.” And…I don’t know. But I get that, too. And, heck, I can only assume money is no object for her now and I don’t really see anything wrong with looking around and saying, “Hey! I have a lot of freedom!” and then trying butchering on for size and going to Argentina, Ukraine and Tanzania…in order to clear her head or spark something within her or simply to delay the inevitable. Obviously she’s still a person trying to figure out who she is and what makes her tick…and I’m not sure we should all be so quick to judge. She has an amazing opportunity sans financial pressures to actually figure out all that stuff on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…that a lot of people never get to do. I have no idea what I’d do with myself if I didn’t have to worry about paying rent or bills or anything (aside from blogging for all of you, natch). While visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, I went to a thrift shop with my mother and found a giant silver clock that was lined with velvet and contained a hologram of the Last Supper and some fake flowers. And it was just the most amazing clock ever…but there was a slight imperfection in the velvet lining…so I bought some additional fake flowers and glued them on the inside and then I decided I might as well touch up the silver paint while I was at it, too…and I pretty much had the time of my life. So…perhaps I would fix up old clocks. But would I really be fulfilled by that forever and ever? I have no idea. (See? Creating a fulfilling life for oneself is a toughie.)

Bottom line: I think there’s a lot of be said about pursuing your passion no matter what. And I hate to get up on a feminist soapbox, but…I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to point out that women face this tinge of selfishness when they want to do something purely for themselves that men never do. A man can pursue whatever career/passions he wants and he can still be a model family man. But a woman who puts her career and/or other passions at the forefront at the expense of family and/or children isn’t such a sympathetic figure. And that’s not really fair. (I am tempted to ask the “What if Julie was a man?”-question and bring up powerful men and *their* affairs and follow *that* thread for awhile…but I think Access Hollywood quite thoroughly beat me to that punch last week.)

And, I mean, I totally understand Julie’s excitement in having her own apartment. (Did Virginia Woolf not write that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”?) I’m really not good at sharing spaces. In fact, I think my own apartment may be the ONE thing I’ve done right in my life to date. So…yet another thing that makes me get Julie. If only Eric didn’t exist at all, she might be one of my favorite people ever…(or perhaps I should say, “The idea of her…” I just Googled and found an interivew on YumSugar and realized that she *is*, in fact, a real person and thought, “Yikes! What if she reads this?” Which she won’t…but, still…)

My final plus: It’s hard to travel on your own. Heck, I have trouble eating or going to movies by myself. (That’s one of the good things about working from home — I can go see movies in the middle of the day in the middle of the week and absolutely no one is in the theater…) So — even though I agree with the reviewers that her post-apprenticeship jaunts around the world *do* seem to have been tacked on without a firm idea about how they contribute to the book as a whole — I also think it’s really great she was brave enough to fly all over the world on her own.

The NYT felt otherwise — “She travels to Argentina, Ukraine and Tanzania, a 100-page exercise in self-indulgent writing, in which she dwells on how attractive the locals find her and how much Malbec, Cognac or goat’s blood she can drink…” — but, I mean, c’mon. What is memoir (or foodoir) if not an exercise in self-indulgence?

Leave a comment

Filed under blogs, books, Brooklyn, dishes, entrees, feminism, hot dogs, pork, vegan

Bad Boyfriends and The Lone Wolf: Or, What I’ve Learned from Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Whitney Houston, Theodore Roosevelt and the Wizard of Oz.

I’ve already more or less shared my Bad Boyfriend Theory of Freelancing…but since some time has passed, it may be worth revisiting (…at least briefly)…

Let’s say for the sake of argument that I got a call a few weeks back from a publication I’ve been working with for several months…and it is allegedly looking to hire a full-time writer. Let’s also say I’ve been freelancing in the interim — and getting paid to do so — so it’s a fairly okay arrangement…but, for one reason or another, the actual hire keeps getting put off. And then — when I get a call out of the blue, asking if I can fill in on some breaking news — it hits me: This publication is a Bad Boyfriend. The people there know they can call me with very little notice and I will drop everything I’m doing because I’m looking for something serious and long-term…and they will continue to lead me to believe an actual relationship is possible…but, in reality, they’re perfectly content with the arrangement we have because they’re getting *exactly* what they want with very little commitment and they have no intention of ever making things official. And, I mean, it’s not like the analogy carries far enough that I can actually break up with them…because Lord knows I need all the sources of income I can get…but this realization *did* at least help to temper my expectations…and then it got me thinking about the other Bad Boyfriends in my life.

(Warning: This is where it gets *really* self-indulgent.)

I’ve had a lot of Bad Boyfriends in my day. Or, rather, not even full-fledged boyfriends — just men who are content to exist on the fringes of my life…and who never have any intention of taking on a more meaningful role. And it’s my fault — I’m not a helpless victim. (In fact, I’m an enabler…) Time after time, I could have saved myself SO MUCH heartbreak by directly addressing their unwillingness to be a constant presence from the very beginning…but I get so easily attached and then I have this crazy fear of losing them and all of a sudden I’m willing to sacrifice my own happiness in these crazy over-the-top attempts to convince my so-called Mr. Wonderful that he really wants to be a part of my life. And he never does! It never works! And I have literally wasted YEARS — That’s right! Years! — trying to force these men into my life when they really don’t want to be there in the first place. And I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately…and I don’t know why I’ve done it over and over again.

(So…maybe the buck stops here? [Not my only (quasi-)presidential quote. Just wait and see.])

I guess it was the impending birthday, but I’ve had a lot of epiphanies in the past week or so. This is #1: I’m going to try to be happy with me. Just me. And I’m going to be happy with me before I ever again consider being happy with anybody else. (When I am upset about someone, I have a friend who says, “Protect the heart!” And she’s right! For too long I’ve tried to give the ol’ ticker away to people who don’t really want it. So…I’m going to try holding on to it for awhile now…and to be really, really cautious about who gets it next time.)

When K was here, I was joking that instead of constantly referring to myself as “Lisa Lacy: Tragic Spinster,” I was going to try “Lisa Lacy: Lone Wolf” on for size…even going as far as saying I’d get “LONE WOLF” tattooed on my knuckles (or at least try it out in pen). (I’m not sure if I’m, you know, Tuff Enuff to pull it off. It *would* be kind of fun to see looks on faces if I could find a pen that was realistic enough…but only if I could keep a straight face…like, “Yes, I *do* have tattooed knuckles. What of it?” Sort of like the horrifying sequined top I found at a shop in Cedarburg, Wisconsin once that said, “Dear Santa, I want it all!” Oh, how I wished I could wear it to work and act nonchalant…like, “YES. I am wearing this ON PURPOSE.”)

Because, despite my best efforts to find a special someone, I always end up alone…and I’m always fine. But it always requires this, like, brute force for me to let go of someone…even when that person is a bona fide jerkface. I got really choked up in Sunshine Cleaning in the scene in which Amy Adams tells the guy who has sort of been in her life but sort of not that she can’t do it anymore because he’ll never be a legitimate presence and she genuinely cares about him and she deserves someone who feels the same way…because I know how hard that is to do — I’ve never actually *been* strong enough to let go of someone like that of my own volition. I always wait for the moment when I get hit over the head with a mallet — like, say, that roommate he’s been talking about? *Actually* his girlfriend… — and then I have no choice but to move on.

I just had to go to a wedding by myself…and I felt like such a loser because I was there without a date. And I never have dates to events like that. I always feel like I’m Lisa Who Puts on a Brave Face and Goes Alone. And, in theory, that shouldn’t even be an issue — I should just be Lisa and that should be fine. And here’s where the first of many embarrassing quotes comes in…(I should probably remind you that flying scares me [although not so much lately because I’ve done so much of it] and so my deal with myself is that I can buy trashy celebrity magazines to read on the plane)…and I was reading an US Weekly that quoted Sandra Bullock saying, “I complete me. I’m just lucky that after I completed myself, I met someone who could tolerate me.”

And say what you will about her acting skills or whatever, but I think she hits the nail on the head there. That’s it. *I* should be enough. Whatever comes next is just gravy.

And yet when I think about myself and my life, I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt that way.

And so I guess that’s what New Lisa is focusing on. I’m not sure how you end up with Sandra Bullock Clarity, but perhaps that’s what we’ll call Goal #1.

In the meantime…when my parents first moved to Alaska, I got a call from my mother after they’d purchased snow machines (they call ‘em “mobiles” down here) and snow shoes and the like, saying, “We’re spending money like drunken sailors!” And the same has sort of been true of me lately. I got a haircut…and (overshare) some fancy drawers and some (sorely needed) new bedding. And now not only is my bed super-comfy, but I feel like I’ve exorcised some bad juju.

I had a small lapse last weekend that sort of sent me spiraling and worrying that all of this is horse pucky because I’ve been telling everyone who will listen about my mission to be happy with me…but then I saw the Bartender, who — as if it wasn’t painfully clear before — REALLY doesn’t want to be with me…and I ended up sobbing so loudly trying to get in my front door that one of my neighbors came downstairs to rescue me because he thought I was in mortal danger. But I guess when you’re trying to make positive life changes, you’re allowed to stumble a few steps back every now and again? The whole point is that you ultimately move forward?

Because this is where the second of my embarrassing quotes comes in. When I was getting my hair cut, I was flipping through an old People Magazine and saw a blurb about Jennifer Aniston…which was actually about a spread in *another* magazine in which she “embraced her Lonely Girl image.” But…what really got me was that she said, “[I’m fully supportive of] anybody who is in a place that’s not their strongest [but] is ready to push forward.”

It was like Jennifer was talking directly to me! Because…the past couple of months have been rough. Between the job market and the Bartender, I’ve been struggling…and any sort of strong woman-y thing has really resonated with me. I saw Whitney Houston on Oprah and got all emotional when she sang, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.” That sort of kicked off this whole Whitney phase in which I revisited “Saving All My Love For You” from 1985 (which I don’t actually think sets forth a very good example with its “My friends try and tell me, find a man of my own / But each time I try, I just break down and cry / Cause I’d rather be home feeling blue…)…although she redeems herself a year later with “The Greatest Love of All” (as if I even need to say it – “Learning to love yourself / It is the greatest love of all…”). (I also joked about pulling a “Say Anything” move and standing in front of the Bartender’s bar with a stereo above my head playing, “Didn’t We Almost Have it All?” It would almost be worth it to see the look on his face. If, you know, last weekend hadn’t happened.)

And I sort of thought I had slipped back into the abyss after the latest incident, but I spent a day feeling sad and embarrassed and stupid…and, yes, I’m back to bowing my head in shame when I walk by that damn bar…but, for the most part, I have accepted that things are the way that they are for a reason (I saw a woman-y Web site with a link to Oprah.com and Steve Harvey’s 5 Questions to Ask a Man Before You Get Attached…and realized that, yes, if I had asked the Bartender Question #1, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble)…and now I’m trying to just focus on things that make me happy.

I don’t have my dream job, but I support myself with words…and that’s gotta be something, right? I have my own apartment in a great neighborhood…and I have a landlady who calls me “sweetie” and a neighbor who will come downstairs in the middle of the night in the rain to beat up someone who makes me cry. I have an incredible circle of girlfriends. (Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t gotten married yet because I really don’t know how I’d ever choose bridesmaids…or, you know, I’d have them all up there with me and absolutely no one in the audience.) And I’m basically happy. I’ve done stuff. I’ve lived in England and Alaska. I’ve driven across the country with my mother in a giant trailer. And when I was really unhappy with my job and a career path that I felt led me nowhere I wanted to go, I quit and went to grad school to try to find something that would make me happier…and, no, it didn’t work out quite the way I expected…but, on the bright side, I’m not stuck in a job that I hate…and I *do* have a lot of freedom.

So…Epiphany #2 is to sort of embrace the freedom this lifestyle affords. I’ve spent a year shaking my fist at the universe, determined to force it to give me a job…and I’ve lost this battle of wills every time. So…instead of fighting it, I’m trying to just go with it and say, “Okay…I have a steady stream of income. And I can write this stuff anytime and anywhere…” and I’m going to try to use that freedom to travel more. I was thinking Bogota would be first for my friend’s dad’s birthday…but, in the end, I don’t think it’s logistically possible. But! My oldest childhood friend is finishing her Master’s in speech therapy soon…and so I think we’re going to Costa Rica in November. And then another friend’s family is renting an apartment in Madrid in January…so I can totally pop over there to stay with them and then get a train to London. (How about that?)

And…I’ve also used this I-don’t-have-a-full-time-job period to work on a book and have 70,000 words now. And it’s a giant mess and I really need to find an editor who can help me shape it in a coherent form…and I’ve been kind of reluctant to actually finish my proposal because it’s so scary that one document makes or breaks all the work you’ve done…but, you know, I also read Sloane Crosley and Augusten Burroughs and  David Sedaris and think, “I could totally write that.” And, heck, I may never get published…but…I’ve tried really, really hard to make it happen. And – don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up. I’m incredibly stubborn. But – a little rally cry for myself here — I’m trying to acknowledge it’s kind of a big deal I’ve gotten this far. I wrote a damn book! It’s a mess! But it’s a *book.* (And I’m still not likely to show up at any Columbia Alumni events until I can definitively say, “Why, yes, Harper Collins *is* publishing my novel in the fall…,” but, nevertheless…at this point, I at least know that when I show up at the Pearly Gates I won’t have “But I never wrote a book!” on my conscience.)

One of my classmates just sent me an email quoting Theodore Roosevelt, actually (I told you there’d be another president)…and I think it does a good job of summing up my book feelings: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

So…Epiphany #3 is that my life is okay. But, more than that, is Epiphany #4: I’m okay.

I know, I know…I’m OK, You’re OK…it’s so fluffy…but…it’s something I’ve never really officially declared before. I’ve told the world I’m a boob countless times — and, let’s face it — I am…but…I am also nice. And I am good at remembering birthdays. And I can bake the hell out of things. And there are plenty of people out there who I love and who actually love me back and who, unlike the Bad Boyfriends, I don’t have to force to stick around…so why waste so much time with those who don’t want to be there? More baked goods for everybody else, right?

And, you know, when K was here, we happened to catch the Wizard of Oz on TV…which we have both seen at least 1000 times…but there was a line at the end that really caught my attention this time. I *believe* it’s when the Wizard gives the Tin Man his heart. He says, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” And all I could think was, “Shouldn’t it be the other way around?” I mean, seriously – shouldn’t it be about how much love you put out into the universe regardless of how much you get back? That’s the way I feel, anyway.

Or, on the Monday after Whip It’s release, there’s Drew Barrymore…who my mother saw on a talk show saying, “Happiness is a choice.” So…I guess my whole point (if anyone has actually stuck with me this long) is that I’m trying. I’m trying to be happy with me and my life and to just be more zen about things and to take them as they come and to not worry about my life not going according to plan…and once I get to a point where I don’t have to remind myself about what Sandra Bullock said in Us Weekly (or I don’t, you know, tell bartenders that I miss them and screw up a month’s worth of progress), then we’ll know I’m ready for a Good Boyfriend.

(Although – oops – I thought I had come up with a nice little ending…but if my ultimate goal is to just be happy with myself, the Good Boyfriend comment may be out of line. But, truth be told, it *would* be nice to meet someone eventually. Just after I’ve worked on myself a little bit more. But, by that point, let me tell you this: He’d better be one hell of a boyfriend.)

1 Comment

Filed under Alaska, birthdays, books, Brooklyn