Friday, February 16, 2018

TGIF

Each wolf was doing something different. One was digging, one was pacing, one was howling, one was eating, one was grooming itself, one was sleeping, one was hiding, one was hanging out in its den, one was digging on top of its den and one was intently and seemingly menacingly staring at us.
Cate Salansky, our wolf expert and guide, asked me, “Which one do you think is the alpha?”
Duh, I thought. This woman really took me for an idiot. “The one who’s howling,” I said. “That’s obviously the leader.”
“Nope.”
All right, I thought, then it must be the one that is eating.
Wrong again.
I went on to guess every wolf except the alpha. Turns out, the alpha wolf can usually be found sleeping. Sleeping. Didn’t it need to bark and growl and intimidate people to show everyone that it was the alpha? No; overcompensating is more of a people thing. Ages ago, I read somewhere, probably in a self-help book I bought after a nasty breakup, that truly powerful beings don’t need to prove how powerful they are. This made no sense to me until I saw it in action with the wolves. When you’re truly in control, you don’t need to tap on people’s shoulders constantly to remind them how in control you are.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Treat It, Don't Ignore It

So, um . . . I have dandruff

You couldn't hear me? *Cough* sorry. Well, er . . . I have dandruff. 

Nothing to be ashamed of, you say. But somehow I always thought it as an acceptable male malady, with their Head & Shoulders. When I started getting flakes in my 20s, I focused on alternative treatments that weren't specific to dandruff. 

Like weekly coconut oil hair masks. For my hair's sake, I would say, while working it in my scalp to moisturize. Yet whatever Google claimed, I still had a flakes.

I decided to grow up and face reality. I bought Jason Normalizing Treatment Shampoo, and just like that *snap*, the dandruff was gone.
https://s2.thcdn.com/productimg/0/600/600/79/10546479-1344512426-409301.jpg
I'm so happy with it I bought a second bottle. It is a worthy repurchase.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Romantic Hooey

I am not a typical romantic. Gifts, eh. Chocolates, um, I would like my clothing to still fit me, thanks. After hearing a hilarious story of how a horseback ride on the beach ("where the sea kisses the sand") went wrong, I have merrily discarded that fantasy. 

Romance cannot be forced. It cannot be demanded. It has to be lovingly coaxed into being without stress or tension. 

That's why Valentine's Day is just another invented Hallmark holiday and should be shot. 
https://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/7/70215/5057924-cupid-dead-14.jpg
Sam Sifton, a food writer, describes the anxious vibes in restaurants on February 14, and advocates a home-cooked meal with candles instead. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating, I

I blame "hishtadlus" for this. 

Doing one's hishtadlus becomes an endless, unverified list of "musts," from makeovers to unfounded "segulos." If one hasn't gotten what one wants, that means more hishtadlus is required, from single events to throwing money at kabbalists. But I heard from Esti Rand, quoting Rav Dessler (I think), that hishtadlus is simply: I do my part, Hashem does His. If the desired outcome doesn't occur, that doesn't mean "do more hishtadlus." It means Hashem doesn't want you to have it . . . yet

Han entered my life when the last thing on my mind was dating. I repeat, he was sent—I cannot claim I "found" him, because I wasn't looking. It then became quite, quite clear to me that I was not the engineer of my (married) fate. My actions, beyond the acceptable minimum, were not necessary. 

When one realizes they are not in control, it is both terrifying and freeing. I am not in control! (Panic.) I'm not in control! (Yeeeeees!)

Emunah/bitachon: Emunah is the recognition of God; bitachon is actually trusting Him. I find the latter to be, at times, difficult, especially with my tendency to worry. 

Now, how to go about it? Well, shiurim help. When I'm wound up, a meaty shiur usually unspools me nicely. I recommend Rabbi Ephraim Stauber on this specific topic, especially since he cites Brené Brown. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is also great.

When one begins tackling their relationship with Hashem, there are all sorts of pleasant side effects: happiness, calmness, relaxation. Because here's the thing: You want to get married? You make some basic effort at dating? You don't have to do anything else. But you have to have faith.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Not Your Standard Fasírt

"Do you cook?" 

I'm not sure what these women want from me. I need to eat, right? Plus I never shut up about healthy fare. So yeah, I cook. Like you cook. Like anyone else cooks. I cooked before I got married. Why is this a topic of interest?

"What's for dinner tonight?" one even asked in middle of a conversation, attempting to catch me off guard. 

"Slow cooker minestrone," I replied truthfully. I decided that if asked such a question again, I would lie.

For years I have been organizing recipes in endless word documents, experimenting all the while, but most remained untried. Marriage has provided the perfect opportunity. 

I grew up with fasírt (we pronounce it fush[rhymes with "rush"]-yit). It's a hamburger pattie, fried. The usual ingredients are ground meat of choice, soaked dry bread or crumbs, eggs, and seasoning. 

Ma modified it over the years, of course. Oat bran instead of bread. Chopped mushrooms. If in the mood, a sauteed onion. 

I thought that the only way the meat would stay bound was with carbs and eggs. Then I came across this recipe, that uses only grated zucchini. 

Say WHAT? 

Well, let's give this a try. 

Chicken Zucchini Fasírt (adapted from One Lovely Life's Chicken Zucchini Poppers)

1 lb. ground chicken
2 cups grated and squeezed zucchini
3 scallions, sliced fine and small
2 cloves garlic, minced
ketchup, healthy squirt
sriracha, a dash
salt and pepper

1)  The first rule of ground meat is to not overwork the mixture. Throw all ingredients together and using the flat of your hand, pummel everything together until just mixed.  

2) Heat up a frying pan with oil, medium-ish heat. Wet hands, form mixture into patties and chuck 'em in. The batter will be a bit messy but it's all good, as long as you've squeezed the most of the liquid out of the zucchini. 
3) Every flame is different, so I can't say how long you should cook it. 5 minutes for sure on one side, but if the frying side looks too pale leave it for a while longer. And the oil shouldn't be hysterical, or else it'll burn before cooked through. 

4) Flip 'em over. 

5) When done, drain on paper towel. 
6) Alternatively, though I have never tried it, a grill pan is an option. My in-laws use it for their fasírt sometimes.  

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How To Stay Sane While Dating: Intro

My mother-in-law was approached by a woman who had heard of Han's marriage. "I was so happy to hear the news," she enthused, "and then I heard how old the kallah was, and I was even happier!" 

Aw, gee. 

32. The advanced, decrepit, elderly age of 32. 

"Older" singles? You thought the stupid comments would end with your wedding, right? Oh so cute. Nope. Because stupid comments are a certainty, like death and taxes. 

Han and I (still!) commiserate over our single years. What was most difficult about those times wasn't necessarily being single—we had our health, our family, comforts of the first world. There was a yearning for that which is missing, yes, but the true angst came from elsewhere. 

People. People and their comments. People and their suggestions. People and their condescension. People and their bullying.  People and their well-meaningness that resulted in . . . chaos.

It can drive one to violence. I usually kept a mental picture of Sing-Sing as a deterrent.

I had complete strangers telling me "not to be so picky." I was grilled by self-proclaimed shadchanim about my preferences, redt something else entirely, then berated for politely declining. I went out in the name of "being open," to be held hostage by the so-not-shayach.

It is at this point when one realizes that no one—or, at least, very very few—is on one's side. Excuse my Yiddish, but there is usually a "good enough for yenem" policy. We are born inherently selfish. The secret is to keep it on the down-low. 

The single has to turn inward and alter one's viewpoint, because madness is inevitable.  

And so, I give you our new series: How to Stay Sane While Dating. First segment coming next week.   

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Oh Wise One

"Give her some advice," she said, shoving her alarmed 20-year-old granddaughter forward. 

I blinked. 

It was obvious that she was seeking dating-related insight, but did she really want it from a formerly "older" single who was 32 on her wedding day? Well, here goes nothin'. 

"You have to leave it to the Eibishter," I said, hands waving skyward. "He takes care of everything . . . but, it does take a lot of self-awareness. I'm not the same person as I was when I was 28, 25, 22. You come to know yourself better, and what you need." 

Relief shone from the girl's face, and she nodded. I saw in her eyes that she understood.

The grandmother, however, was disappointed. I'm not sure what she expected me to say, but I suppose I went off script. Well, what did she expect from the "elderly" one?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Don't Think You Are Alone

The irony of stigma-tainted situations is that it has the image of rare occurrences, but they are actually quite common. 

The "older" single. Infertility. Miscarriages. Divorce. Mental illness. Physical illness. Unemployment. Off-the-derech family. The list continues. 

When Ma became ill, we chose not to announce the news from the rooftops, however there were times when in response to a direct question, we reluctantly informed. 

A common reaction, to our surprise, was reciprocation; the other quickly shared their own trials—a parent, a sibling, a child. They were eager to unburden themselves, to make a connection. Suddenly, the viewpoint changed: You think you are singled out in your hardship. You feel alone. But you aren't. 

Jennifer Senior, in her review of The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs, relates the sensations of loneliness: 
. . . what lingered with me is the social isolation she describes during her many years of trying and failing to get pregnant. “Increasingly, our life was less and less like the lives of our married friends,” she writes, “who had entered a new and somewhat exclusive world of playdates and birthday parties and bedtimes.”
You need not be struggling to start a family to identify with this melancholy observation. People who’ve opted not to have children will surely see something of themselves in it, and so will those who are still searching to find a life mate. (Having reached 36 before pairing off with my husband, I felt a familiar heartsickness when reading these words.) There’s something truly challenging, if not excruciating, about being out of step with your cohort. And if you want what they’ve got, what story do you tell yourself as you bide your time? That living without is the new normal? Or that it’s only a temporary spell of distress?
In terms of fertility, the article states that one out of eight couples have difficulty conceiving. That's pretty common. The same would go for the other examples I listed above.

Yet those going through them feel alone. But they very much aren't! If anything, nearly everyone out there has gone through pain of one form of another. Yet we don't want to admit it. 

For good reason. 

I would think that the right person to commiserate with me would be someone who married "late," or who had also lost a parent at a young age. Not so. Very often those same individuals who went through the same trial are eager to condescend, as opposed to empathize. They had been pitied; they wish to correct the balance by pitying in turn. 

Pain is pain, and many have had it. Empathy doesn't require the exact circumstances to be felt. One needn't feel lonely. There is a community of fellows out there, believe me. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sugar Snap Peas with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I am currently making these every Friday, so I think they are "post worthy." 

The recipe below was originally for green beans, yet Ma preferred the sugar snaps. 
I learned the hard way that sugar snaps do not require blanching for this recipe, yet it would be a good idea to trim the ends and pull off the hard veins as much as you can. I start from Step 2. 

I also estimate the ingredients. Safflower or avocado oil instead of butter, obviously. Instead of fresh grated lemon zest, for which only an organic lemon should be used (the others are coated in nasty wax), I sprinkle this on instead. Not too much, though; I once used an entire tablespoon and ick. 

As for sun-dried tomatoes, these were a happy discovery. 
I keep the timing of the rest of the recipe religiously. Three minutes for shallots, two minutes for tomatoes, then about five or so for the sugar snaps. Taste one to see if they're still too firm. There's a magical point where they still keep their bright greenness yet have lost their toughness. Watch them vigilantly.