Wednesday, December 6, 2017

What Comes First

"You have to put the husband first," she said firmly. 

She was not Ayelet Waldman, but a frum married woman of 60. For those who do not recall, Waldman was vilified a number of years ago for her Modern Love piece in which she rather bluntly informed the world that she loved her children, but was in love with her husband.
Meaning: He came first in her affections and focus. 

She could have spared herself some vitriol, I believe, if she eased into the topic rather than bulldozing into it. Because I do think she has a valid point. 

Parenting—or is it mothering?—has taken on a competitive edge. Movies joke about obsessed soccer moms and terrifying PTA meetings, but the example doesn't have to be so extreme. 

I have been around children. A lot. At a recent Shabbos meal, I was able to tell from the decibel of kvetching emanating from the crib that the toddler could go back to sleep, so take a seat, soft-hearted Zeidy. 

Adults forget what their needs and wants were as children. Kids, when small, are usually not so complicated. Consistency is key: solid bedtime, healthful meals, and knowing exactly what they can and cannot do, and definitely affection. I would go further that they crave united, cheerful parents. 

I remember the episode of Oprah where Waldman was sandbagged by furious mothers, who were the opposite extreme. They spent hours frosting cupcakes for Little League, their husbands vague memories. Do kids want frosted cupcakes for Little League? Not really. And if they do, they certainly would rather do without if their parents will fight over it. 

I wouldn't say, "The husband comes first," but "The marriage comes first." I have heard of adults being bitter because their parents had miserable marriages or torturous divorces; have you ever heard anyone complain that their parents had a wonderfully close relationship? 

Her piece ends off: 
And if my children resent having been moons rather than the sun? If they berate me for not having loved them enough? If they call me a bad mother?
I will tell them that I wish for them a love like I have for their father. I will tell them that they are my children, and they deserve both to love and be loved like that. I will tell them to settle for nothing less than what they saw when they looked at me, looking at him.
That sounds pretty awesome to me.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

There is Hope for Happiness

David Finch's marriage was on the rocks. His wife, Kirsten, was bewildered; she thought her husband had changed, when in reality he had reverted to his original form. Because of her specialty, she figured it out: Asperger's.
Oddly enough, that diagnosis helped immensely. Kristen was the perfect candidate to help. 
Autism spectrum disorders are not cured with medication, but their associated behaviors can be worked with. What I needed initially were communication skills and a sense of empathy, neither of which, in my case, had been factory-installed. Fortunately, I was living with a highly qualified therapist with a strong motivation to help. Her objective: re-invent our marriage. Her first mission: figure out how to get me to communicate.
They tackled that. And empathy, too. 
Acquiring empathy seemed a taller order, given that my Aspergerish point of reference is myself in every circumstance. (Someone just slipped and killed himself in the men’s room? I see. How long until they get him out of there so I can go?) But I’ve learned that people can develop empathy, even if by rote. With diligent practice, it can evolve from a contrived acknowledgment of other people’s feelings to the real thing. . . Soon these started to feel like real rather than manufactured emotional responses.
If someone who is born incapable of communication and empathy can learn these skills, I'm sure those who are "normal" can perfect them as well.

Modern Love celebrated an anniversary by reprinting this article, along with a follow-up with Kristen. A woman writes to her in frustration and sadness, that she believes her husband has Asperger's and she's depending on his changing for her happiness. 

Kristen, however, drops some unpleasant truth on her: He is not responsible for her happiness. She is. 

During one particularly frustrating encounter with David's "quirks," Kristen was able to pull back. 
I zoomed out to see that Dave was a human being, someone’s child, someone’s brother, someone’s father. When I took that bigger view, I found compassion. That may sound like a simple revelation, but it’s anything but. . . until [then], I hadn’t once told myself the story of how I had been so judgmental. I had to zoom out to see that story line unfolding, and once I did, I wanted to revise it.
I knew for sure I didn’t want to feel mad all the time. I didn’t want to be so resentful. And I really, really wanted to figure out how to like my husband again.
I discovered this myself a few years ago, with family members. People are different, and they aren't cognitively trying to torment others, they see and react in other ways than I see and react. 

I learned that I can't relate to people on my terms. I have to relate to them on theirs. That means not saying what I want when I want in the name of "honesty." It means holding back and revisiting issues from a place of calm and thought (Rabbi Tatz says this too). 

Personal happiness cannot depend on others. It comes from within. It means flipping the perspective, valuing others strengths instead of harping on their weaknesses. We are all human. We all have both.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Fave Muffin

I'm currently on a muffin kick, despite my years shunning them. They have this image of being healthy, but they aren't, really (like how frozen yogurt is pretty much ice cream). Why opt for mystery ingredient store-bought offerings when it takes very little time to churn out homemade?
I found this recipe for Pumpkin Oat Muffins by Making Thyme For Health, and quite frankly, they are dope. Thanks to Alton Brown, I am familiar with "the muffin method," and since I hate to take out the food processor, I did them by hand (as much as possible).
For my first attempt, I actually had oat flour, so I used that instead of grinding the oats. The second time I ground the oats in the spice grinder. It's a matter of preference in terms of consistency. Both are quite tasty.
I also opted out of the chocolate chips. Seemed rather . . . wrong with pumpkin. 

My muffin tins seem to be on the small-ish side as I make about 16 with this recipe. I discovered silicone cupcake liners in the baking cabinet and they are delightful. 

And don't leave them at room temp for longer than a few days. Mine got moldy. The freezer will accommodate. 

I won't tell you yet about the banana white bean muffins. I don't think you are ready to hear about them yet.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

BB vs. CC

I'm still recovering from Sephora's recent VIB 20% promotion, an annual delight. I tend to stock up on favorites at this sale, as well as experiment with new products, secure that returns are painless (yes, you can return cosmetics! To Sephora, and to department stores, and yes, USED. So try!). 

Wintertime is a thorny issue for me in terms of everyday makeup. In the summers, my combination skin favors mineral makeup, but that's too drying for the winter months. Tinted moisturizers are too moisturizing, leaving me uber-shiny by noon. 

What usually happens when I buy two similar products, I either become attached to one and spurn the other, or I find both disappointing. In this case, I'm actually torn.  

I like them! Both! There are pros and cons, however. 

In terms of performance, both provide enough coverage to even skin tone and shield minor boo-boos. Both do not make my skin oily—no need to blot my face midday. Both go on light, and do not smother my skin, yet it feels . . . nourished, dare I say? 

The cons of the Smashbox is the packaging. Products, ideally, should not be exposed to air and contaminants until application; the rather liquidy cream dispenses with an annoying dropper, opening the whole bottle to contamination.
Whereas the IT is a breeze in sensible, responsible, easy-to-operate tube.
In terms of color, though, the Smashbox in Fair/Light is probably a better match for my skin than IT in Light. The IT goes on looking ideal, but it is slightly too dark. Yet perhaps the touch of extra warmth is flattering? She hopes? Looking a tad orange?

And so I dither between the two. Worst come to worst, I suppose I can be hedonistic for once (ha!) and keep both.    

Friday, November 17, 2017

I ♡ Germs

It it obvious from my previous posts that I'm no germophobe. In fact, I'm more of a germ lover. I can say this after a round of antibiotics killed off all my good gut bacteria and is still continuing to wreak hellish havoc. 

So of course I'm going to push Aaron E. Carroll's article, "I'm a Doctor. If I Drop Food on the Floor, I Still Eat It." The title makes his opinion clear. The dirtiest place is not the floor. There are way nastier surfaces, which we mindlessly eat off of and yet, miraculously, survive.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Art of Friending

"You're awesome!" 

"You're awesome!" 

The two of us had a grand time chatting, even over the blaring wedding music. We really hit it off. 

At least I thought we did. 

Having succeeded in securing her cell number, I proceeded to text. Her replies were short and noncommittal. I braved her chilly responses for a few more rounds, then gave up. 

When I crossed paths with her again, she was downright frosty. I skittered away. 

Making friends, for some, can be a difficult enterprise (this post is brought to you by: TooYoungToTeach, who not only sent me the below article but inspired the rest of the content). I'm one of those annoying people who can't befriend anyone. I require a meeting of minds, a shared vocabulary, and most of all, loyalty. 

So when I meet someone new who seems to have, at least, the first two (near identical) qualities, I am awash in hope. But then, inexplicably, episode 2 flops after the pilot. 

I am not alone. Alex Williams blames it on being over 30 ("Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?"), but I find that age has little to do with it. You bump into a stranger, you have a glorious hour or two in their company, but there is no successful follow-up to that promising romance. 

Once upon a time, they would have just called it "ships passing in the night," or something. Maybe there was magic in the air, or hooch in the drinks, but whatever it is, it was not meant to be forever. It was meant to be for that moment in time.  
. . . it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Proximity. Can't get away from that. Nor vulnerability. But it also takes two to tango. If one doesn't want to put in the work to maintaining a relationship, there is only so much the other can do.   

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Space Between Breaths

I'm not sure when I got into it. Was it when I began to dabble in yoga? Was it a recommendation from Dr. Oz? Whatever it was, now I am on automatic pilot: When tense, I exhale slowly, in order to inhale slowly. In so doing, I'm calming my nervous system
I've gotten gold stars from my acupuncturist for breathing correctly: inhaling deep into the abdomen, so it expands. I try to teach Eewok how to breathe, but she only so far has managed to hold her breath, or to forcefully shove her belly out. 

Breathing "properly" seems like a subtle change. Yet it has helped me tremendously.  

When gripped by a crisis, the lungs feel it. There is an elephant that inconsiderately parks itself on the chest. 

When Olivia Gagan entered therapy to deal with post-breakup trauma, her therapist insisted she focus on breathing first. She was skeptical. Wasn't she supposed to talk about it? Nope. He recommended an app to help her breathing.

In the space of breath, she became aware of her mind, body, and surroundings. By breathing, she was present. Not only did she deal with the lack of sleep, she soon discovered her own voice.  

Friday, October 20, 2017


The film features a representation of the mobile home where you grew up in Michigan, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before. It was very ... um. ... Spit it out, Dave. Yes, it’s very, very small, and later I realized how much that did for me. I learned harmony with other people early, and that was absolutely vital and paramount. It was only when I went into the larger world that I realized the world isn’t like that.

Peaceful relationships don't just happen. It takes two, and if you want to get along, you'll find a way to get along. The art of harmony is a skill, indeed, and worth cultivating. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ugh, That Word

Americans are obsessed with happiness. It's in the Constitution, for crying out loud. Yet it is this very frantic pursuit that is making us anxious, according to Ruth Whippman. British by birth, she never gave happiness a thought until she moved to the U.S., and it became a never-ending conversation.

There are two anecdotes of Americans clashing with the French over happiness—the book reviewer, Hannah Rosin, being called a "stupid American" for smiling, and another from Pamela Druckerman, an American living in France. When her daughter's teacher asked her to give a presentation on being American, she concluded her talk by teaching the children "If You're Happy and You Know It." The teacher, puzzled, asked "What does it mean, 'appy?" 

Is happiness like kavod, that the more one runs after it, the more elusive it is? How does one achieve kavod? By sitting quietly, a letting it approach one gingerly, on little cat feet. 

Judith Newman analyzes a pile of books on the subject. She's happy, she says, because she is "The Queen of Low Expectations." Now that she mentions it, that has been working for me, too. 
The various titles she slogged through recommend different methods for happiness achievements: linking happy pastime with to-dos; witnessing moral good; gazing into a doggie's eyes; love yourself and everyone; live within your means; stop comparing yourself to others and just don't give a hoot.
Via simplifiedbuilding
As Jews, we just emerged from Sukkos, when we are commanded to be happy. A lover of yuntif, I'm glad to report I perhaps not the divine simcha that our greats are able to achieve, but certainly happiness of sorts. To be commanded to emote is interesting. But isn't it a joy to celebrate Him?