Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My Apologies

I'm sure my audience knows that I wouldn't neglect the blog unless something was up. 

And something is up. Two somethings, actually. One very very bad . . . and one very very good. I wouldn't leave this wonderful outlet for the latter, but the former is inhaling all my time and mental energy. 

So I will have to take an unwilling hiatus, but believe me when I say "This is not farewell, but au revoir!"

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ode to Persian Rugs

The Hungarians have a . . . well, how shall I put it? We are known for liking pretty, opulent things. Aesthetic complex? Although I don't see why it is such a terrible crime to have a chandelier in a bathroom. It's my bathroom, after all. How does that impinge on anyone else? 

Creating a beautiful home, daubed in bright paint and bird-themed throw pillows, is a lovely hobby. One's surroundings are a balm to the soul, an uplifter of the spirits. Every time I walk into the living room (from which kinfauna are banned), I sigh in delight. For reals.
Mario Buatta is Ma's favorite decorator.
There is a school of Jewish thought that frowns upon such attachment to physicality. Yet are we not also told that this world is for enjoyment? I heard in a shiur that simchas yom tov for men is in the food; for women, it is in clothing and bling. Good thing too, since I'm not partial to red meat. 

Currently, "minimalism" is in; sleek, functional, modern houses full of sharp corners and cold floors, not a cuddly spot to be found. There's that tidying-up book from Korea that went platinum. People are eager to toss out the unnecessary. 

Yet I am not the only one to find such an outlook unappealing ("The Oppressive Gospel of Minimalism" by Kyle Chayka). 
Part pop philosophy and part aesthetic, minimalism presents a cure-all for a certain sense of capitalist overindulgence. Maybe we have a hangover from pre-recession excess — McMansions, S.U.V.s, neon cocktails, fusion cuisine — and minimalism is the salutary tonic. Or perhaps it’s a method of coping with recession-induced austerity, a collective spiritual and cultural cleanse because we’ve been forced to consume less anyway. But as an outgrowth of a peculiarly American (that is to say, paradoxical and self-defeating) brand of Puritanical asceticism, this new minimalist lifestyle always seems to end in enabling new modes of consumption, a veritable excess of less. It’s not really minimal at all.
Have you noticed that minimalism allows only comes in white and gray? Why can't being minimalist be cerulean blue? Does minimalism mean that it can't be attractive at all?
Today’s minimalism, by contrast, is visually oppressive; it comes with an inherent pressure to conform to its precepts. Whiteness, in a literal sense, is good. Mess, heterogeneity, is bad — the opposite impulse of artistic minimalism. It is anxiety-inducing in a manner indistinguishable from other forms of consumerism, not revolutionary at all. Do I own the right things? Have I jettisoned enough of the wrong ones?
That's why I'm lame at cleaning out drawers or closets; there could possibly be a use for this item in the near future. It always seems that as soon as I donate something I come up for a use for it next week. 

For me, clutter can be delicious. Providing it passes the Hungarian "pretty" test.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sorta Shidduch Lit

Anything by Austen is automatic Shidduch Lit, because it describes a time when courtship and marriage consisted of rules and regulations ("dating" was strictly for marriage, etc.). Yet I have read two books that tackle the other aspect of coupledom—the thought processes, the motivations, why we choose. 

The first is a recommendation from TooYoungToTeach, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. I know it's quite a mouthful, and I'm sure I'm mispronouncing "Guernsey."
It is a collection of "letters" (this is a novel) between various individuals (as well as our delightful heroine, Juliet) in post-World War II Britain, as the nationals were dusting off the dust of catastrophe and plowing forward into the future. It's historical enough that "dating" still had some restrictions, so we can work with that. 

The second is a recommendation from an anonymous commenter on my post swooning over Liane Moriarty: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes. It takes place in contemporary Dublin, and there are certainly no rules and regulations to be seen. Cough, cough, this book is definitely UA ("Un-Aidel").
A few, not just one, couples are featured in this book, and their specific personalities and quirks are described in but a few words. Their needs as individuals, and how that would play out in a relationship . . . mesmerizing. 

There was also a message embedded in there that is my (newish) mantra: You can't make others change. They have to get there on their own. You can only change yourself. (Another reminder to the optimistic souls who think they can heal the broken, angry men with their love.)     

I was offended to see that goodreads parks Keyes' work under chick-lit. How insulting and derogatory. 

What is very important to note is that both books are quite funny while still relaying seriousness. Humor and wit are my catnip. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Actual Requirement

It's really not my intent to talk smack about my Bais Yaakov. Yet so many years later I'm still untangling myself from the binding knots of misinformation. 

Like what a woman is required to daven.
Maurice Minkowski
For years I nourished—and that's on me—an "all or nothing" approach to prayer; for years, on weekdays, I only managed Birchas HaShachar, since if I only had a few spare minutes (as opposed to thirty) I believed that saying something as opposed to all was "no good." 

It was only in the last couple of years I recognized my folly, and I made an effort to ram in what I could—at least birchas Sh'ma, Sh'ma, and Shmoneh Esrei—but feeling like a sub-par Yid in the process. 

And then I hear this shiur

How could us gals have been so misinformed? Ashkenazi women are only required to say Birchas HaShachar, Sh'ma and Shmoneh Esrei. Zeh hu. Not even P'sukei D'Zimra. 

In the old country, mothers would begin davening on Shabbos from Nishmas. I must shamefully admit that when I first heard this, I smugly thought how "they didn't know better," when, er, they knew far better than me, with my official Jewish education. 

I had learned from the family guru about "skipping"—that if, say, arriving late to shul, it is more important to daven with the tzibbur as opposed to starting from the beginning (while everyone is answering Kedusha). Yet as soon as leining began, I would catch up there. But it would seem that I don't have the requirement to say P'Sukei D'Zimra, so it would be more important for me to listen by leining. 

Of course I shlep around Jewish guilt baggage, what I could do better, how I messed up . . . and all this time, I was beating myself up for something I didn't even do wrong. 

When you know better . . . 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Clayface II

"Ooh, you must get this face mask," she gushed. "It makes my skin sooooo soft." 

I went very, very still. I was, of course, proud that my niece was taking care of her skin, but I was reminded how a once integral part of my routine lapsed in practice. 

Products have to be user-friendly, or else they won't get . . . used. When I posted about face masks, I was currently using one in a tube—simply squeeze and apply. But shortly thereafter I purchased the internet-acclaimed Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

Which has to be measured out and mixed with liquid. Even when using official measurements, it never came out right. Too thick or too thin. So I gradually stopped using it, unwilling to wrestle with it, but since I officially had a mud mask in the house, I didn't purchase an alternative. 

Until the recommendation from the teenager. As soon as we parted ways, I fumbled open Amazon and desperately searched. It had to be in a tube—I had bought one once in a tub, and it dried out—and preferably from the Dead Sea. I love the Dead Sea. It's a skincare addict's dream.
There were two I settled on to try. The first is by Adovia, and it spread on easily, sank in, and did its job. After washing it off in the shower—golly! How bad of me to fall off the mask wagon!

This review echoes my experience too—that while it gets nice and tight, it "gives" enough so it doesn't flake like mad when dry. So I can talk with it on.
The next (I like having backups), for one day soon, is by 27 Minerals. But times may change, and new products available by then. (Yum yum!) 

Now, I can breathe easy at not being sandbagged by kinfauna. . . until next time.    

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Cautionary Tale

Jack, my boss, had the greatest of faith in medications. He would stand by my desk and wax poetic about his myriad prescriptions (between ten and fifteen) that "took care of everything," snorting at my "rabbit food" (that I greatly enjoy). 

"If a person is serious about quitting smoking," he would say, "he would take drugs, like I did." He somehow managed to make it sound that a truly selfless individual would nobly accept chemicals churning throughout his system as a means to overcome an addition.

I don't think I ever saw him eat "living food." His standard lunch was from Burger King or a deli. If he "dined" in, I would gag from the smell of the fake microwave "meals" wafting from his office. 

He was a man of intelligence. He was a man of, not quite wit, but humor. He was a man who had been looking forward to his retirement years in a sunny, tax-free locale. 

Note how I keep using the past tense? 

First came the heart operation, that required months of recovery; then the infection, caused by diabetes, seized hold of his limbs. He was in pain—constant pain. He was in and out of hospitals. He blamed it on "getting old." He wasn't old. He didn't take care of himself.

He used to grandly say to me that my lifestyle meant life was not worth living, yet his was not worth living, either. He never made it to his sunny, tax-free locale. He died in his mid-60s, young for today.

When I informed the doorman, his immediate response: "I'm not surprised." All the building staff knew that Jack didn't take care of himself.  

Ma grew up in a bland household. Zeidy battled with ulcers, which meant no zesty spices—no black pepper, no hot paprika. Babi had high blood pressure, which meant no salt. (Ma still believed her childhood to be idyllic.)

Babi was on high blood pressure medication for fifty years. But she never considered it a magic pill. She watched what she ate—and she liked her salt—knowing that the drug can only do so much. 

Her children seemed to have inherited the blood pressure issue. My uncle now officially received his diagnosis, and power to my aunt for calling Ma constantly to ask how to cook for him. Because she knows that you can't eat whatever you want and expect a prescription to fix it.  

We can't predict the future; there are a myriad of ways one can go—like getting hit by a bus. But I would prefer to try, to the best of my ability, to preserve quality of life, and really, the daily donut is sooooo not worth it. 

Ask Jack. Oh, you can't. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017


"The more you know, the more you know you don't know."—Aristotle

"What are you looking for?" 

It sounds like a simple question. If in a supermarket, I know what I'm looking for: "Excuse me, where can I find the dried porcini mushrooms?" 

But with a potential life partner? I can't say.
I see so many different types of couples out there. Some wisely intone, "Opposites attract," but no two people are completely different or completely the same. Maybe they are both introverts, but one has a sense of humor and the other doesn't. 

I used to be more smug about what I knew in my tender 20s, first paddling into the dating maelstrom. I "knew." I knew that I should be open, that connection is a choice, not something that happens. (Again, never a romantic.) 

Then I learned from my experiences. I heard other people's stories. It became obvious that choice is not everything. It's a part of it, but not everything. As time passes further, my "knowledge" fades. Currently, I'm in the "Eibishter, You take care of this because I have no bloody idea" phase. 

Ann Hood relates ("What's Love? Don't Ask the Answer Couple") how her own "knowledge" morphed over the years. With every failed serious relationship, she made a conscious decision where she went wrong, and selected a new partner accordingly. 

First was swooning romance, which eventually went kablooey. She decided her mistake was focusing on love and not comfortable companionship. But the next one ended too (after husband and wife were answering letters in Glamour with relationship advice). No, no, she needed an opposite to balance her out, someone "coolly rational." 

It was after years with her second husband that she realized her error. It's not about loving. It's thinking that you know
What I know now is that I don’t know anything much. I don’t know why men won’t ask for directions. I don’t know how we find the right person to love. I don’t know if he should be just like me or have a different kind of job or cook me dinners or send me roses or enjoy playing Boggle and doing jigsaw puzzles. I just don’t know.
There is freedom, and even joy, in not having the answers. I wonder, if I could write to an Answer Couple today, if I would ask them what love is. I wonder what they would say, but I know they wouldn’t really know. No one does.
It's a delicate balance. There are things in life we have to know in order to function and be productive. But there are some things that we have to surrender to a Higher Power. Do I know what I'm looking for? Maybe, vaguely. But I'm hesitant to say, because God has an ironic sense of humor and I'd rather not look stupid. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"I Whip My Hair Back and Forth"

It's been a long time since I blow-dried my hair. I mean me, personally, actually doing the work. 

A few years back, it was part of my pre-Shabbos prep, like anything else. But it became burdensome and unfulfilling. After wrestling with sopping wet hair (no time so close to Shabbos to let it air-dry a bit) to the point of getting fashvitzed, the results on Shabbos day looked . . . well, disappointing for all that effort. 

Additionally, I became suspicious of heat-styling. My beloved hair, to be mercilessly torched, week after week? I began to shoin it.
So, I packed away my blow-dryers and flat-irons, although every once in a while (like twice a year) I did use my Conair Infiniti Pro. For events, I had my hair "done" (at which time I also had it trimmed). 

For the sake of my hair's health, I enter into the Sabbath with damp locks, smoothed with a few drops of argan oil in half-hearted attempt to prevent frizz. And, as always, it looks great at around 3 p.m. Shabbos afternoon, long after my return from shul. 

So it was I was in a hotel bathroom Friday, with all the time in the world to prep. However, this Shabbos was an event, but I was not willing to have it done professionally with an unvetted stylist who would charge me who-knows-what.

I conditioned thoroughly in the shower (I mix John Frieda Go Blonder Conditioner with a deep conditioner, currently Giovanni 2Chic Avocado & Olive Oil Hair Mask) and let my hair leisurely air-dry for a couple of hours. 

Then, after dithering over which Sephora-issue sample to use, I applied Living Proof Prime Style Extender. Then tugged out from my suitcase The Brush. The Brush and I have been together for years. I bought once upon a time for blow-drying purposes and have felt no need to replace it. It's not around anymore, I don't think, but plenty of alternate versions abound.

I messily clamped one side into layers, and wielding the brush in one hand and the hotel blow-dryer in the other, began.
It didn't take long. The results were great. And, despite a restless night, remained great. No dents at all. It also lasted for the next few days! 

Do you know what this means? I can "do" my own hair! Successfully enough! How freeing! 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Family is Family

There is a branch of the family tree that is firm and adamant: FAMILY is FAMILY. 

It's not that these indomitable siblings happen to get along; they make a vehement point to get along. This fierce connection extends to those who marry in; they may not like you, but they will accept you, fight for you, and actively cherish you. 

When I was little, we were not allowed to fight. There was no "kids will be kids" or "work it out amongst yourselves." (I'm not saying we didn't fight, but it was done quietly and out of parental earshot.) In fourth grade I came home with the idea of "donkey ears"—I actually had no idea what it meant—and how Ta screamed at me after I performed it on an unwitting Luke . . . hoo. 

"Your own flesh and blood," Ma would emphasize. "Your own flesh and blood." 
I'm not saying that there isn't tension and disagreement from time to time. But family is family. 

I'm saddened when I hear tales of rifts between adult siblings. I understand how hurts from childhood can have such long holds (I'm a recovering grudge-aholic, after all), but childhood hurts require adult reactions, not childhood regression.

Ellen Umansky ("The Secret of Sibling Success") initially believed it was her parents' divorce that cemented the bond with her brothers.  Then she wasn't so sure. 
A few months ago, I was at a child’s party, and a mother there was lamenting how her young daughters didn’t get along. “It’s a parenting fail,” she said.
I thought of telling the same divorce joke my brother had made, but I didn’t. I wish I had said what I truly believed, that these things can’t be forced. The best you can do is step back and let alchemy take over.
No, parents cannot force children to get along, as "liking" someone cannot be dictated. But certain behaviors can be verboten—like painful teasing—which could make it more likely that less grudges will poisonously linger into the future.   

There is a difference between close siblings and civil siblings, but civility is a lot better than active warfare. Shooting for that should be enough. 
No automatic alt text available.