Coffee and Parties and Lunches, Oh My!


I was on a roll for a bit, with hosting two parties in two weeks (one was the ladies night of wine and chatting, and then we hosted a party for my husband’s law school classmates, a few of whom have some potential for the FFFE as well. The only problem there will be how to get them to hang out when they ever have any time!

In addition to the parties, I was grabbing Sunday coffees, doing mid-week biostats phone consultations with some friends, and generally living it up for a while – effortlessly doing the FFFE thing, living the goal (or trying to) of networking and meeting people on a regular basis and building relationships based on that.

But now what?by ZirconiCusso

Where has my time gone?  Where have the invites gone?  Where has the will gone to keep checking MeetUp.com for a chance to spread my wings a bit?  And again, where has my time gone?  Work, school, an internship, some volunteer work, a house, a husband, and a dog are surely time consuming enough for two people, but before it was working out relatively well…right?

Taking Stock of the Friends Forever Friendship Endeavor

I am proud overall of my January accomplishments in terms of improving relationships, going the extra mile to get to know people, hosting parties, and just socializing in general.  But reviewing my progress since last September, it’s hard to tell if I would have been any worse off just by being my usual (less outgoing) self…I have never had trouble getting along with people, and despite all of my efforts, life just seems to be so busy at times that having regular time with friends doesn’t even seem realistic.

Maybe its the midterms, I’m-going-crazy frame of mind talking, but I feel like I will have to give myself a major reminder of why it’s worth it to work so hard at friendships if no one gets to see each other anyway!

I hope this down-in-the dumps, laissez faire attitude wears off quickly, because I do enjoy going the extra mile to hang out and build friendships – it’s just tough work.

Maybe another party is in order…

A Party in Summation


I was nervous – and rightfully so!  We had our first major snow of the season, most of the invited guests were unable to attend due to short notice, hectic work schedules, and prior plans.  I cleaned and prepped and planned and slaved over ridiculous appetizers, not to mention the fact that I spent three weeks worth of grocery money on the wine and snacks…

And of course, as any self-conscious newbie in the world of friendship would, I suppose, I worried that people would change their mind at the last minute, due to weather or perhaps a better offer for a way to spend their Friday night.  I fretted and stressed and sent my husband off with his guy friend for the night to spare myself the embarrassment of  having to watch him feel awkward for me if no one showed up.

Luckily, the party was a sweet success!

Exactly the number of people I suspected showed up.  We ate, we drank, we chatted, we played Catchphrase, and we had a great time.  Suddenly we discovered it was already 1am, and everyone was sorry to head home.  Now that’s what I wanted to experience!

I am happy to report that my first attempt at hosting a group of potential Forever Friends at the house was full of fun, and that I got the chance to know many of them much better than school and casual chats between classes or at lunch ever afforded us.  Spending time with people outside of work or school makes quite a difference in how you perceive them and what you learn about them (and how quickly!).

In terms of the main goal for January accomplishments on the Friendship Meter, the event was a success. In addition, I am pleased to say that I have a standing coffee date with a friend every weekend to review homework and catch up on each others’ lives.  It is nice to have a friend that I enjoy seeing regularly and who is interested in taking time to spend with me on a regular basis as well.

Now, onto the next goal for the Friendship Endeavor: MeetUp.com!

How to Plan a Kick-Ass Party


Pardon my French, but I didn’t know how best to describe what I was hoping to do in this post without that key phrase.

I am finally accomplishing my long-lived FFFE plan to host a party next Friday.  Small scale, ladies only, casual and low-key, but a party nonetheless.  I’m thinking wine, unhealthy snacks, decorations leftover from Christmas, and lots of chit-chat.

Party with Wine

Cheers!

But how to put together said shindig?  I figured I would head to the world wide web to get some pointers, and this is what I found:

Get the Basics of Your Party Planning Figured Out

  • Decide how many people you plan to invite or how many guests you expect will attend.
  • Decide what type of food and drinks you will serve.  Cocktails and appetizers?  A sit-down dinner or buffet?  Desserts and punch?

Set the Stage for Your Party

  • Will there be a theme?  What type of decorations will you need?  Will your guests need advanced information on the theme to dress accordingly or bring specific food or drinks?
  • Plan activities if the party won’t just be for socializing.  Do your guests enjoy board games?  Interactive games like SceneIt or charades?  Plan these in advance so you have something prepared in case of a lull in the activity.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help with Your Party

  • If you can’t cook or buy all the party fare yourself, consider enlisting the help of a friend or neighbor who will be attending, or ask each guest to bring a side dish and/or drink.  Alternately, plan your party as a potluck and have each guest bring a specific part of the menu.
Eat up!

Party Foods

  • Ask friends or family to help you prepare the house for the party.  Don’t kill yourself cleaning or prepping, but do make sure that the most visible areas are presentable: little to no clutter, clean floors and counters, dusted eating surfaces, tidy guest bathrooms, etc.  If you have a pet, vacuum to remove pet hair and use a lint brush to clean furniture so that party guests won’t get pet hair on their party clothes.

Prepare for the Party in Advance

  • Cook or bake everything ahead of time if possible, saving only the dishes requiring fresh assembly for last-minute prep.
  • Set out utensils, napkins, and clean glassware in advance to save yourself the stress of arranging these items when guests are arriving.
  • If you will be giving party favors, assemble them as far ahead of time as possible so that you can focus on more time-sensitive issues in the last few days leading up to your event.

Keep the Party Casual

  • Whether your house is packed to the gills or you have a limited guest list for an intimate party environment, don’t stress out your visitors by adhering strictly to formal party procedures (unless a fancy formal is the theme!).  Making guests fret over which spoon to use or whether it is appropriate to take their appetizer plate into the living room may kill the mood. Keep it simple and laid-back to help everyone get and stay comfortable at your shindig.
  • If you are hosting a party and you know that certain individuals may hamper everyone’s experience, consider whether they should be invited. If you are not close with the head honcho at work, or if you have feuding friends, choose carefully whom to invite or make sure the party is big enough that they can enjoy themselves without cramping the style of the rest of your guests.

Be the Gracious Host

  • Smile, and welcome each and every guest graciously – even if they are unexpected!  A party is a party after all, and living by the credo “the more the merrier” will help you go with the flow. Roll with the punches and remember that the purpose of the party is to have fun!
  • Keep an eye on how full the chip bowl is and tidy up if necessary, but don’t be so tied to scrubbing dishes between courses or filling every single glass that dips below half full that you miss out on the party.  People are coming to spend time with you, so don’t kill yourself by refusing to relax. People are forgiving at parties, so enjoy yourself and allow yourself to be present and socialize.  You can always clean up later!
  • Be prepared for the party to last longer than you expected.  When guests are enjoying themselves, or when alcohol is free, guests tend to linger!  Don’t stress over the time and just appreciate the fact that you threw such a good party that no one wants to leave!

 

Now that I have armed myself with the basic elements of planning and hosting a kick-ass party, I am hoping to succeed at doing just that this coming weekend.  Let’s hope these strategies help…Now, on to the party menu!

A Friendly End to a Friendly Semester


Finals are over and I once again have claim over at least some of my time! Spurred on by my numerous attempts to socialize, meet people, and make friends, I have recently participated in or arranged multiple gatherings with potential forever friends. Then again, I have also passed up a few outings to celebrate the quarter’s end. I did so regretfully, but I passed them up nonetheless.

Despite my brief bout with post-exam antisocial angst, I have already scheduled a tentative round of drinks on the town and an outing to dinner and the Nutcracker with a few new friends from school and church.

Today, however, I hatched a crazy idea.

My December task for the Friends Forever Friendship Endeavor will be to host a party. Not just any party – a party with all of the best potential friends doing all the best things: eating, drinking, and being merry.

Considering I do have the continued need to work for a living, a commitment to a school/work internship, the frantic holiday traveling to look forward to, and all of my Christmas shopping to do, it will be quite a feat to organize and host a party within the next couple of weeks, but I dare say my newfound devotion to fostering friendship opportunities will serve me well – motivation and a healthy dose of stress can be a wonderful thing.

I craftily even used my decision today to not attend recent outings as an opportunity to shoot a few ladies a text about tossing back a few glasses of wine at my place sometime in the next week or two.

So now the December To-Do List kicks in:

1. Pick a day for the fearsome fête
2. Buy some wine
3. Choose some snacks
4. Send a few casual invites
5. Clean, clean, clean
6. Party hearty
7. Report on the successful progress on the Friendship Meter!

 

Host a party for friends!

Mine won't be quite this fancy!

All in all, I think I’ve had a great start these past few months toward finding potential Forever Friends. Granted, it has been easy to meet people at school – it is the perfect opportunity to find other people who are also looking to make new friends, and I hope that I am taking well enough advantage of the chances my new degree program has given me.

So beginning the next phase of my journey toward lasting friendships, I will host a party and head to the ballet. After that I foresee some of the general December to February Friendship Plans: 

December – February: Getting into the Swing of Things & Finding Some “Regulars”

I think I have made fair progress on this already for this month, but putting myself to the challenge of being the person responsible for inviting specific people and hosting a party is a bit of a big step.  It means I have to select some potential “regulars!”  Well, here goes!

Having Friends Benefits Your Kids, Too


Friendship isn’t just fun and convenient.  It is perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways to stay healthy, sane, and safe.

What’s more, research shows that not having friends during times of acute stress in your life may not only impact your own health, but also that of your children.  According to a 2008 study by Mickelson and Demmings, women who need social support the most are least likely to have it, and their kids may be paying a high price for it.

Low-income women are more likely to face stressful life events and to have inadequate social support.  Because they do not have as many traditional friends or family members as support to rely on during stressful times, they are more likely to lean on their young children for emotional support.  According to the study, when kids are expected to fill the role of more mature emotional supporters, it can have a negative effect on their wellbeing.

Mother Hugging Son, By David Castillo Dominici

Substituting a child for the role of a traditional supporter is not only less effective at improving the mom’s coping ability, but also contributes to a decrease in health status for her and her child, making both worse off.  In short, the situation becomes a perfect storm, wherein those most likely to experience stressful events are least able to lean on an appropriate support network.  Those who have the least social support then lean on their children, negatively impacting the health of themselves and their kids.

Studies also show that having a variety of social relationships is also important. Be active in volunteer activities, go to a happy hour event after work, chat with your neighbors, socialize after church, join an activity group, whatever. Just do it!

If the information above doesn’t make a tragic case for making friends and improving your social support network, then I don’t know what will.  If you have the means and opportunity to make friends or be social, then do it.

Your health – and that of your children – may depend on it.

Jane Austen on Friends


I hereby admit that I am an unabashed and full-fledged Jane Austen fan.  I have read the novels and seen pretty much every single silver screen and TV version of her books (even the old-school ones!).  She pretty much rocks on every account.

Instead of focusing on her general fabulousness, I have decided to make a brief analysis of her treatment of friends in her books.  Yay, Jane and friends!

The Books of Friendship

Sense and Sensibility: In life, as in fiction, sometimes sisters can be the best (and worst) of friends.  It is no secret that I love my sister like – well, a sister – and that at certain times of my life, she has been the best friend a girl could ever ask for.  From our twenty-minute sobbing hug before I went to Spain for a semester to her wonderful speech as the maid of honor at my wedding, my sister has always been and will always be the perfect Forever Friend.

Scene from Austen's Books

Pride and Prejudice: Lizzie and Charlotte have a friendship, perhaps strengthened by convenience, that allows them to remain friends even after one of them gets married to the man who first proposed to the other!  How many ladies do you know nowadays that would still be cool with visiting their friend and her new hubby when that was hanging over them?

Mansfield Park: Another sisterly tale here, wherein even the distance, education, and circumstances separating Fanny from her younger sister couldn’t erase their bond.  It seems that sometimes the falsity of other friends or acquaintances can make us appreciate the stability and permanency of our siblings all the more.

Emma: Not only do Emma and her old governess maintain a wonderful friendship that surpasses the boundaries of age, class, and separation, but Emma somehow manages to save her friendship with Harriet after they both vie for the love of the same man.  If Emma’s misguided matchmaking attempts hadn’t alienated her poor and simple friend enough, winning the prized gentleman would typically be enough to part them for good.  But true to JA’s happy endings, their friendship remains intact.  Score.

Northanger Abbey: Unfortunately for Catherine, her first tale of friendship is unhappy and brief.  After all, girls can be catty, petty, conniving, and crude.  Thank goodness her young suitor’s sister is the model of a Forever Friend!

Persuasion: Contrary to popular preference, I absolutely love this book.  It also happens to be a delightful account of friendship against all odds on two accounts: that of Anne with Lady Russell (old, proud, and contrarian!) and that of Anne with Mrs. Smith (poor, gossipy, and ill!).

When Jane Austen Writes About Friendship…

Lady A

No matter their station, no matter their situation, Jane Austen had a wonderful way of capturing the many ups and downs of female friendships.  At their best, girlfriends can be our soul sisters, our second selves – true companions during hardship and true joys when life is good.  At their worst, girlfriends can be disingenuous, backstabbers behind smiles – false friends and even true enemies.

It is no coincidence that Jane Austen’s novels covered the best and the worst of women’s relationships, because her novels detailed the best and the worst of human nature.  Although I personally have been most able to identify with her humorous and kind treatment of the sisterly bond, I have also been fortunate to avoid the worst in her stories.  I don’t know if this is because of lack of experience with female friendships (maybe one is less likely to be betrayed if one never gets close to anyone…), or if is simply a blessing I have been granted.  Whatever the cause, I am grateful to have a host of good books, a growing number of potential friends, and a wonderful sister.  I wish all of you the same.

Women of a Certain Age…


OK, so I’m not quite a “woman of a certain age” in the traditional sense of the phrase. Although I suspect that the women the term refers to are getting older and older as those who used to throw around that phrase age themselves, the new “Men of a Certain Age” TV show brought the idea to my attention.

I would argue, however, that the “certain age” can be pretty young! When you aren’t using the term to refer to declining physical or mental abilities, maybe it could be interpreted as something else…

Closing Social Circles for Women

 

 

 

Something like that certain age when:

1. Getting trashed every night isn’t your idea of a good time

2. All of your friends are either working, married, or living out-of-town

3. Your social circle is smaller than you’d like, be it a hectic lifestyle or a changing personality to blame

4. Priorities change from doing homework to paying bills, from hanging with roommates to earning a promotion

Adults everywhere have fewer friends nowadays than they did even just a couple of decades ago. Our options for discussions, confiding, stress relief and relaxation, and enjoyment are more limited, and our time with friends is infrequent.

This phenomenon may only accelerate with future generations, who get much of their social interaction online. Although chatting with friends on Facebook can have its rewards, studies show face-time is more beneficial for us, and personally, I agree. Although it may be easier to write on someone’s “wall” I would much prefer to go shopping or chat on the phone (even for just a few minutes!).

So in closing, instead of women of a certain age getting older and older, I’m afraid that they might be getting younger and younger! I feel like closing social networks and isolation may render us old before our time. That social disconnect is increasingly becoming a problem of young people as much as it can be for those further along in years.

And I know I want to make sure that I delay truly becoming a “woman of a certain age” as long as possible, particularly if it means I have fewer friends and less social time! I’m sure potential Forever Friends everywhere would say “ditto!”

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