Friday, April 24, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Until 100, At Least

Dan Buettner researches longevity. He has discovered certain "Blue Zones," in which the populace enjoy 100-plus years of life. He recently came up with a follow-up, Blue Zones Solutions, to his earlier Blue Zones
One could think, "Sure, but Sardinia, Icaria, Okinawa? Isolated places, maybe it's something in the water." But there is a Blue Zone in the U.S., in California, an enclave of Seventh Day Adventists.
By emulating these Zonies, we can prevent illness, as opposed to treating them (and destroying the body in the process while going broke) after they come into being. 

There are a number of factors that Buettner has pinpointed amongst these Zonies, and as Jews, we meet most of them. Religion, red wine, prioritizing family, lock down a life purpose. 

But we suck in one area: Food. Seventh Day Adventists, following Beraishis, consume a plant-based diet. Humanity was only allowed to eat red meat following the Mabul; it didn't become mandatory. How many of us restrict our red meat consumption only to Shabbos and yontif? (The other regions probably have very little access to red meat in general, and ergo can't binge on it.)
And on Shabbos, only ONE piece should be enough.
We eat TOO MUCH and BADLY. That, I think, is one of our major struggles in how to adapt to too much blessing as opposed to the previous too much suffering.

Each Blue Zone has different superfoods to their region; the U.S. version is salmon and oatmeal (I'll be selling oat bran in another post). Change is frightening, and hard, but if done slowly and gradually, you too could subsist on vegetables . . .  the way I do, wink wink.

Buettner's plan is to subtly alter our environment to casually encourage healthier behaviors; non-exercise exercise and better choices in restaurants. A mayor of a meat-crazed town in Texas is attempting to apply those measures. A doctor in Finland rescued a region from themselves, but they didn't even notice the methods he used to do so. 

There is in our world a steady, yet slow rise in awareness that we have to alter our diet. It is a commandment to take care of these bodies we were given, and it is a violation to harm them in any way. But as we see from ineffectual takkanos, it cannot come from a distant authority, unless he has a magical way of enforcing it. 

On FYI's Arranged, the Roma parents that are marrying off their 18-year-old son cheerfully say that the age of 70 is considered ancient in their world, because their food is so unhealthy. Yikes.

Start with small, incremental movements. Pick one, stick to it for a while, then try another: Drink only water, as opposed to investing in soda and juices. Have red meat only on Shabbos. Cook a hearty and tasty bean soup once a week. If dining out is a regular habit, be smarter with the menu, or cut back a few times a month. Experiment with spices and herbs, abandoning salt and soup mixes as primary seasonings.
The Sardinians live on this soup.
It doesn't have to be all or nothing. In a short while, you'll see food differently, and feel better.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hey, That's My Testament!

"Like my pastor says, 'You just gotta wait for your Bo-az.'" She pronounces the last syllable as though she was saying "ax," so it took me a second to place him. "Do you know Bo-az? Is he from the New or the Old?" 

"He's from the Old," I hurriedly confirmed. It was around Shavuos-time; all the shiurim I had been listening to about Rus was coming to good use.
My co-worker is divorced, and in the dating field, oh, that dreaded place. "Ruth waited, and waited, and then she found her Bo-az," she said. 

"Well, um, according to the commentaries, Boaz was a lot older than her, although he was rich, if that helps. Er, some of the commentaries say, he, cough, he died on the wedding night." 

Her eyes widened in shock. "What?"

Yeah, that is kind of a bummer. 

Also, Rus didn't exactly trip over him either. Naami sent her to that field quite craftily, and then cooked up the means for yibum to take place by providing Rus for her nighttime attack. There's a great shiur by Esther Wein in which she shows that in the Yehuda-Melech dynasty, there are a lot of women seeking out their mates as opposed to the typically ancient method: women = binah, men = chochmah, binah + chochmah = daas. In the Davidic line, binah tends to hunt down the chochmah. 

But, I digress. My initial point is that who knows what messages others will find in the same sagas that we hold dear.   

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Big Fat Imaginary Wedding

I have some plans for my as-yet-to-be-realized wedding. Flowers: Pink and green. Gown: Slight drop waist, exploding into a multitude of tulle layers. Family color theme: None, but there should be a riot of jewel tones, rich blues and rippling greens.
I like to plan ahead. In our world, the time between dating, engagement, and marriage can be a matter of months. Might as well have some idea of what one likes, no? But I don't think of my wedding with any sort of deep yearning; I don't consider a bedazzled do to be imperative. 

When I think about a wedding, I think of it as a separate entity from marriage. When I think of wedded bliss, I picture myself looking like hell in an apartment with too little kitchen space, yelling at my spouse to kindly take out the garbage.

Unless one was royalty, weddings were modest affairs. Couples in old movies would get engaged, then walk around the corner to city hall, wet and bedraggled from the romantic rain they were just soaked in that made them see each other in a whole new beloved light.
Once two people decided they were for each other, that was it. No party-planning. No gown-shopping. No talk about princess- or emerald-cut. Marriage was . . . marriage. Unglamorous, everydayish, but still special to the couple alone.  Even with the garbage. 

I'm not sure who started the big-wedding-trend—5-year-old girls toting nuptial scrapbooks?—but from reality to reality shows, "the wedding of the century" is in. We are into it, too. 

Abby Ellin reports in "Blame the Princess" of women who have no guy, but wedding plans (oh, like me, gulp). 
Never mind the bleak statistics on marriage (about 45 percent end in divorce). Many women still dream, feverishly, about their wedding, even those with no groom or boyfriend in sight. They pin photos of fantasy event spaces, dresses and flowers on Pinterest; they design their ideal engagement rings on sites like; they turn to MyKnot, and Project Wedding for ideas on invitations, gift registries and seating charts. . .
A 2014 study conducted by Brides magazine found that approximately 25 percent of its readers are not yet engaged. In 2013, 37 percent of the brides who visited did not have a fiancé.
Not such a problem, I would think . . . until they ask the bummer experts. 
Women are planning the show before the script is written and “before the leading man shows up,” [Dr. Sue Johnson] said. She understands the desire for companionship. Marriage, she said, “speaks to our longing for connection and our fear of aloneness.” But, she added, the emphasis on weddings and marriage is also somewhat dangerous . . . 
“Weddings are moments when gendered ideas become really clear,” [Emily Fairchild, sociologist] said. “A wedding is a coup for women, because they’ve met their gendered expectation. By having a wedding, you prove your worthiness, your womanness, in a way that a man doesn’t need to. A man can be a man by having a job, in ways that aren’t tied to his family.”
But Dr. Patrick Markey is less alarmist. 
“Women tend to be more selective when picking a mate and have a greater desire for monogamy and a stable relationship than men,” he said. “Thus, they are more likely to dream of a wedding, which symbolizes this desire.”
The wedding-minded women in the article are quick to blame Disney. Every girl wants to be a princess, and all Disney princesses married. But Disney didn't invent the fairy tale. They've been around for hundreds of years to keep women meek and biddable (be a good girl and be an unpaid servant, and maybe one day a gorgeous, rich man will rescue you).
Not so long ago it was the dream of every women to marry, gain social status as a "wife," and run a house of her own with the support of a good provider, as Professor Ruth Bottigheimer observes.

The fuss over marriage isn't new. It's the fuss over weddings. 

Here's the clincher: 
“If I don’t get married, I’ll feel like I failed. I have career goals and my own personal goals, and they are important to me, but on my deathbed, if you asked me whether I wished I’d been on Broadway or had a family, I’d say 100 percent had a family.”
Yeah . . . but you don't need a destination celebration in order to have a family. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Thou Shalt Teach Them Diligently"

"Down a sunny dirt road, deep in Bear Country . . ." 

So went the first days of Pesach. I own nearly every The Berenstain Bears book (I recommend classic Stan & Jan over later Mike versions), and was doomed to read them all.
But how could I be remotely irritated when two cuddly little boys are snuggled into my sides, immobile, rapt? Us three were tucked beneath a down cover (that I thoughtfully fetched) on that chilly day for quite some time. My childhood memories of my siblings' rattling monotone when they would read to me ensured that I availed my voice of inflection; I made sure Farmer Ben was reenacted with a Southern drawl. 

"Lea read us a billion books!" one excitedly informed his mother. 

"A billion and one," I corrected. 

"Lea's so cute," he cooed fondly. 

On the second days, Luke's near-three-year-old discovered the stash of sturdy "board books," and he, too, sagged into jelly on my lap as I read and read and read.
A few weeks ago there was an Op-Ed piece urging women to donate their breast milk to mothers who are unable to provide it, especially in light of studies showing higher academic achievement amongst those who were breast-fed. But, there was a letter from a pediatrician. She wrote that while it is a nice idea, the financial resources needed to screen and distribute the milk would be better spent encouraging mothers to read to their children. 
With scarce national resources for many families in need, and while recognizing that “breast is best,” increased intelligence and opportunity might be facilitated more effectively by community support of the extraordinary nutritive factors in the close, exploratory contact engendered by reading between mother and child.
There is more than one way to increase a bond and to pump up intelligence. The Berenstain Bears are available on Amazon. I have not yet met a child who didn't like them, mussar regardless.    

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Links

1) As a the only idiot who volunteered to sweep the classroom during lunch, I think that our schools, which tend to hemorrhage money, could kill two Stormtroopers with one laser blast by following the example of this private, faith-based school in Tennessee.
For one thing, students wouldn't make the mess in the first place if they are the ones who have to clean it up.    

2) David Brooks, one of my favorite thinkers/writers, came out with a new book called The Road to Character, which I plan on purchasing in the immediate future. He was interviewed in a number of places, including Charlie Rose. He quotes Rav Soloveitchik, giggle.  
In the first few minutes of the interview, he talks about moments when one's heart opens up, "when time stands still, when reality overspills its barriers, and you experience a wave of gratitude . . . you become aware of a higher moral joy that is better than anything you get in career." 

For him, it was when he arrived home on a beautiful sunny day and sees his children playing on the green lawn; for me, it was a beautiful sunny day last summer, when I held Luke's son near a fish pond so he could watch the shimmering orange movements beneath the water. 

The sunshine touched his straight golden hair with a tender hand as he, a small toddler, stood enraptured by the surface. My nose pressed against his ear, I felt such happiness, and completion, in that moment. 

I remember it still, and appreciate it.  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: There is No Comfort Here

Pesach is my holiday. Amongst my favorite foods, hent matzah and potatoes are close to the top of the list. Happy happy joy joy as I consume it, idiot idiot idiot as I wobble out the yontif week. 

Comfort food? According to a new study, no such thing ("The Myth of Comfort Food" by Jan Hoffman).
“People have this belief that high-calorie foods are the path out of difficult feelings,” said Kelly D. Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke, who studies obesity and behavior and was not involved in this research. “But the assignment of the word ‘comfort’ to these foods implies there is a relationship between ‘comfort’ and ‘food’ that may not exist.”
I have noticed it myself. Following an atrocious date, I don't find any joy in mindlessly stuffing my face in cake. It doesn't make me feel any better. It's more along the lines of "Why bother watching myself?" If anything, because I'm in a bad mood, my favorite food doesn't taste as good as it usually does. 

But I would see cartoons of weeping, jilted women tunneling through ice cream tubs, and I figured I must be missing out on some sort of magic cure.
The study points out that bad moods tend to end, without the help of the freezer section or candy aisle. 
Dr. Mann said the study’s findings helped demystify the belief that comfort food is uniquely comforting. “Let’s not say we’re allowed to eat something because it will make us feel better about whatever we’re suffering,” she said. “People are looking for a justification to eat something unhealthy. Just eat the ice cream! It’s not magical. But it is yummy.”  
So it is. So it is. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Two Sides to the Story

Woman 1: She's an intellectual, well-read . . . and I don't think he's her speed. He is very nice, though. 

Woman 2: So send her his information. Let her be the one to choose. You never know. I certainly didn't expect to end up with the type my husband is. 

Woman 1: True. Me neither. 

Woman 3: Same here. 

Woman 2: See? That's what I think the "problem" is. People make the decisions for singles. Let them decide. Let them choose. 

Woman 3: Except . . . except, for some, it puts them in an awkward position. When I was single, I never said no. And I had disastrous dates, because I didn't have the confidence to refuse. Once my neighbor asked to set me up with her cousin, I said, "Ooo-kay," and I could tell from the phone call that it was going to be bad.  And it was. So it's not really fair to singles in making the suggestion in the first place.

I was all for cheering on, if not hugging, kissing, and buying a fruit platter for Woman 3. She understands what it's like. When I get a suggestion, I assume (chances are erroneously) that the other put a lot of thought into this idea, and if I say "Thanks, but no thanks," I am dissing her efforts.  Or, if I say no, then it is proof that I am picky, pedantic, and doomed to die with only cats to my name.

As a result, I have gone on many a horrendous date, emerged angry, resentful, and suffering from PTSD. I have lost faith in mankind (the guy) and womankind (the shadchan), and now bear her a massive grudge for humiliating me via a meeting with an ill-mannered, inconsiderate jerk, or a dim, pitiable nebach.
However, I never quite saw it from Woman 2's perspective. Yes, stranger things have happened. There are couples out there that not only could I not comprehend, no one else who knew them couldn't, either. Who am I to state, for sure, that he and she could never be we?

I guess . . . I guess I have to take it a little easier on shadchanim. But, in turn, they have to take it a little easier on me.    

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"An Ounce of Prevention"

When I would watch the evening news when little, the medical report would usually finish off with: "This condition can be treated with medication." 

In the last number of years, however, the conclusion is different: "This condition can be treated with diet and exercise." 

As Jane E. Brody reports in "Prescribing Vegetables, Not Pills," those struggling financially can get "prescription" produce as opposed to cheaper, unhealthy food. Obesity can launch a laundry list of expensive illnesses, and providing the cure before the disease is a win-win on all fronts.
It has become an invocation in my household, while consuming delicious vegetable soup or heavenly roasted parsnips or luscious grapes, to moan, "Medicine. Absolute medicine."
Before anyone here rolls their eyes at the idea of scrumptious prevention, there was absolutely no talking at the table during Pesach lunch—and I'm including the 6-year-old here—after the zucchini soup was served. There was only the chime of spoons scraping the bowls.