Thursday, October 31, 2013

Are You Not Entertained?

My nephew, so very little, can flick his fingers with remarkable dexterity when playing "Fruit Ninja." I am constantly re-amazed how with almost adult assurance he can summon the game, his face bored with lack of effort. 

This new generation, that has been born into glowing screens and constant distraction, have it differently than we did. The ancient television that we kids squabbled over needed pliers to change the channel (Ma had the newer model with functioning remote). Car rides were just plain tedious and nausea-inducing. Shopping trips? Sheer hell, for both parent and child. 

Yes, as a lover of sweet, sweet TV, I who ran home to watch "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Wishbone," can't really sniff in condescension at these kids who have never known a moment's stillness.
I must say, television was wonderfully educational. Because of a little dog with an overactive imagination, I knew all the classics without having to read them. I cannot be anti-television. But there was always limits due to the fact that that wondrous box was immovable, bound to the house.
Steve Almond's article, "My Kids are Obsessed with Technology, and It's All My Fault," expresses his worries quite well. A child television addict, he decided he didn't want his children to be hooked to constant 2-D entertainment the way he was. 
This is the moment we live in, the one our childhoods foretold. When I see Josie clutching her grandmother’s Kindle to play Angry Birds for the 10th straight time, or I watch my son stuporously soaking up a cartoon, I’m really seeing myself as a kid — anxious, needy for love but willing to settle for electronic distraction to soothe my nerves or hold tedium at bay.  
It's how the shallow is utilized, at the expense of reality. 
Back in the day, when my folks snapped off the TV and exhorted us to pick up a book or go outside and play, they did so with a certain cultural credibility. Everyone knew you couldn’t experience the “real world” by sitting in front of a screen. It was an escape. Today, screens are the real world, or at least the accepted means of making us feel a part of that world. And they can no longer be written off as mind-rotting piffle. “The iPad is an educational tool, Papa!” Josie declared last month, after hearing me grouse about Apple’s efforts to target the preschool demographic.
Except now the real world is the technological one. Almond's daughter began to read heavily with the iPad's coaxing. I was the know-it-all kid in school because of PBS, and even Batman got some knowledge in. 
In the course of mulling this question, I stumbled across an odd trove of videos (on YouTube, naturally) in which parents proudly record their babies operating iPads. One girl is 9 months old. Her ability to manipulate the touch screen is astonishing. But the clip is profoundly eerie. The child’s face glows like an alien as she scrolls from app to app. It’s like watching some bizarre inverse of Skinner’s box, in which the child subject is overrun by choices and stimuli. She seems agitated in the same way my kids are after “quiet time” — excited without being engaged.  
To engage, interact—that cannot be executed with an unfeeling computer chip. What is truly worth experiencing will be only with the tangible. 
Because aren’t we just kidding ourselves? When we whip out our smartphones in line at the bank, 9 times out of 10 it’s because we’re jonesing for a microhit of stimulation, or that feeling of power that comes with holding a tiny universe in our fist.
The reason people turn to screens hasn’t changed much over the years. They remain mirrors that reflect a species in retreat from the burdens of modern consciousness, from boredom and isolation and helplessness. 
When I'm miserable, I turn to television, not Häagen-Dazs. By keeping things light and entertaining, maybe the depths of my anguish can be lessened. But Louis C.K. had this great bit on "Conan" about just this. Louis being Louis, vulgarity will have to get in there—I am warning my audience—but for those willing to brave it, he is still very much worth hearing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Times They are a-Changin'

My sister dated for a long time. When I was little I would breathlessly run to the window and peer in excitement at the battered sedan outside as she stiffly walked across the grass with this evening's offering. Once or twice I would lean my head as far as possible through the upstairs banister to catch a glimpse of black hat and a snatch of an unfamiliar male voice before it disappeared into the dining room.

There was also the standard rituals to observe. Ma applying her Face, but leaving her utilitarian skirt on, since she would be sitting behind a table. The bottles of untouched Pellegrino placed on a tray, along with a dish of foil-wrapped truffles, which merely gathered dust over the years. Ta giving his hat a vigorous brush or two before the new victim arrived. Sis waiting at the top of the steps, silently counting to thirty before slowly making her descent
Thirsty? Tough.
As the years passed, I no longer found it scintillating. Yeah, sure, whatever, she's on another date, what else is knew. So it was a complete shock when Luke burst into my room one morning with a goofy grin and told me she was engaged. Apparently, no one had bothered to waken me for the midnight l'chaim

When my turn came around, I put my foot down. Okay, maybe I just tentatively placed it on the floor. He's obviously not going to touch the water or chocolates, I argued. That went. Ma, an early-bird, decided she can't stand to redo her Face in the evenings, and doesn't bother to come downstairs on first dates anymore, happy to take up the spot by the window. Ta just stays casual; the tie is nonchalantly draped on a chair, the hat safe in its box in the closet

As for my waiting upstairs? Nah. I'm going out with the guy; if there is something of interest after the first few dates then the folks can pick him apart. Often I have—gasp!—opened the door myself if Ta couldn't leave the office. C'mon, I'm not 19 anymore, neither are you. Why can't this dating thing be more natural?  

Ta grumbles from time to time. He likes meeting new people, even if they are one-date-wonders, and he tries to insist that I remain unseen for at least two solid minutes. I just want to get this outing going, I insist, my kishkes can't stand this waiting. Twitching silently in the den for two solid minutes feels like two hours.

I like doing things this way, more at ease, less complicated. I probably have horrified more than one guy, but why should I let a ship that passes in the night be grilled and interrogated to no good purpose? 

Never mind teasing him with well-aged chocolate.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hunger is the Best Sauce

"Pleasepleasepleaseplease," he whines, for the shiny toy he sees on the store shelf. 

"Oh, all right," I succumb. 

It's not much of a surprise when all the bits and pieces are scattered about, forgotten and neglected, all too soon.

Let us consider dinner for a minute. I have come to a point that I don't enjoy eating unless I am hungry, since there is a missing element of delicious satisfaction when the juices haven't been stewing in anticipation. It seems that also applies to purchases.
Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton report in "Happier Spending" that thanks to technology, people can buy without marking the cost, also known as instant gratification. 

Ma has nurtured in me a preference of using cash. Whenever I go shopping and I hand over my credit card, I do not even process the price. When I'm using cash, I repeat, "It's how much?" and sadly count out the bills. 
Square Wallet’s chief appeal is that it makes payment essentially invisible. This is exactly what makes it so dangerous. Yes, the app soothes the pain that might be connected to forking over five dollars for morning coffee, but numbing that pain is tricky. Just as the sensation of burning tells you to pull your hand from the stove, the pain of paying can keep spending in check. This isn’t just a metaphor. Paying high prices for goods and services activates the region of the brain associated with the anticipation of actual physical pain.
I always thought my hands felt suddenly arthritic when I have to empty my wallet.
Cash smells so nice and papery . . .
Americans are mired in debt. Sometimes it isn't avoidable, or even can be financially sound, but happiness is diminished anyway. However, prepayment, the vanquisher of debt, is connected to higher happiness.

No matter the item to be purchased, if it was paid for in advance as opposed to on the spot, the buyers were happier. It would seem the physical pain of parting with greenbacks then does not taint the joy of receiving the item later—the sensations are experienced separately, so the happiness is complete. 

It's about anticipation, which even applies to dating. The idea of the first date is usually more palatable than the date itself.
Parents recognize this principle when they wrap Christmas gifts and leave them under the tree for weeks. Wrapped presents are often more exciting than ones that have been opened. We all know a child who pined for some toy only to end up playing with the packaging. Perhaps this explains why research shows that people frequently experience a happiness boost in the weeks before their vacation. Stuck in an office cubicle, the anticipation of the beach is almost as enjoyable as the beach itself. The French — those masters of pleasure — even have a word that helps capture the thrill of anticipating the future: réjouir.  
Additionally, the mind uses the anticipation to gloss over any possible flaws when the union takes place. So in the end, waiting is a win-win. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Masters of Misleading

"Oh, I know just the boy for you," she trills, continuing to gush about his qualities. "Email me!" 

The next morning, I dutifully send her my information. She replies, "Could you go through this organization I'm a member of? Thanks!" 

A month later and $100 poorer, I emerge dazed from the "discrete" location of this dating organization, tucked away in the midst of rambling Brooklyn. Most of the names the tribunal had suggested I had already gone out with, and the few that I hadn't sounded . . . not me. 

As for the specific bachelor originally mentioned? No one had brought him up. 

I have been contacted only once since they took my money, and that was with a fellow so off his sanity that his "What he's looking for" section made me swallow my soup wrong.   

I was a victim of the Nigerian Scam. "You will receive all your heart can ever desire, in exchange for a small fee." Not.
At least if I had kept the money I could have had new shoes for emotional support.    

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Daring Greatly


I was first formally introduced to Brené Brown's work when happening upon her being featured on Oprah's Lifeclass a few weeks ago. I found her insights to be so breathtaking that I sat immobilized for the whole hour, clutching a pillow, jaw slack. There may have been drool.

Sadly, I can't find the entirety of the Lifeclass episode available online for viewing; above is only one of many "WOW" snippets.  I managed to tape it off of Demand for my personal use, though.

I am one who also associated vulnerability with weakness. When in my young gullible state I tried to be vulnerable with others, sharing embarrassing aspects of myself in order to gain friendships, only to be laughed at one too many times. I'm a quick study; I clammed up, and dared not reveal myself. 

But Brown clarifies that vulnerability is the most precious thing one can share with another, and it does not get revealed willy-nilly. Another must earn the right to see it.

My mistake was not being vulnerable; my mistake was not being discerning. 

Any deep, meaningful relationship will mean vulnerability. Tim Kreider's article, "I Know What You Think of Me," clearly illustrates the very same idea.

Brown discusses shame and vulnerability, two connected concepts that aren't limited to relationships; it also has to do with knowing oneself. One has to be vulnerable, and unafraid of shame, to be able to look oneself in the eye and see oneself. To see qualities and faults, and then to take action to improve oneself.

Another Teddy Roosevelt quote: "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty." Any meaningful emotional connection can be fraught with terror and anguish as well. But it is worth having. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nisht a Heir, Nisht a Heen

One date called me a Bais Yaakov girl.

Two weeks later, another stated, "You consider yourself 'modern.'"

I was wearing the same exact getup both times, just to clarify. Nor were they on opposite sides of the "frum" spectrum; they were both of pretty much the same outlook/lifestyle.

I don't consider myself "anything". I am simply an observant Jewess. No hashkafa, no specific rabbanim that I ally myself to, just let's take a look at what halacha says. I live my life pretty close to how my parents and grandparents lived theirs, also lacking identifying labels other than maybe "heimish." (That's hi-mish, not hay-mish. One vowel makes all the difference.)

But everyone prowls about with a label-maker in hand, so they can quickly type in a classification and slap it on my forehead. I have been called everything from modern to yeshivish to chassidish, from frummy to bummy. Doesn't make it so, just 'cause you called me that.

Whenever I travel outside of New York, I am always struck about how the Jews everywhere else live their lives as a true melting pot. They don't recognize N.Y.-area "rules" for what qualifies as a certain outlook; they just do what appeals to them, and may call themselves "yeshivish" or "modern," but there is a lot of wiggle room

When they transplant to New York, they decide they want to continue being "yeshivish" or "modern." But it is different here, very, very, different. For instance, they don't realize that yeshivish people here have "officially" banned television, so talking about the most recent episode of a reality show in public kinda labels one another way.

But I'm yeshivish! they cry. I really am! Sir, your skinny suit says otherwise.
These labels have to go the way of the dodo. Or the way of Alderaan. It's causing too many identity crises.   

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

21st Century Marriage

One of the reasons why I think the so-called "singles crisis" is hooey is because marriage, itself, has changed. 

What was marriage once? Well, most women were unable to support themselves, and required a man to establish her own home, have children, and most importantly, eat. A man needed a woman to keep that home upright, bear his children, and most importantly, make dinner.

A typical couple did not have Starbucks dates. They did not spend myriads of hours discussing their hopes and dreams. Moonlit walks on the beach were not likely.
For Yaakov and Rochel: Not exactly a shared Coke.
Men and women had concrete expectations in marriage. Now, a man no longer needs a woman, and a woman no longer needs a man to live non-starving lives. There's restaurants, social connections, and dry cleaners. 

Marriage today is more about spiritual and emotional fulfillment, which, I must say, sounds pretty great. People no longer have to get up before dawn to thresh, milk, or slaughter something, which is kinda awesome. We have quality time available to learn, delve, strive. 

Stephanie Coontz discusses the modern state of marriage in "The Disestablishment of Marriage." While society may opine that the institution of marriage has fallen to the wayside, she brings data showing otherwise. 

The once rigid state of marriage has evolved. 
Until recently, women who married later than average had higher rates of divorce. Today, with every year a woman delays marriage, up to her early 30s, her chance of divorce decreases, and it does not rise again thereafter. If an American woman wanted a lasting marriage in the 1950s, she was well advised to choose a man who believed firmly in traditional values and male breadwinning. Unconventional men — think beatniks — were a bad risk. Today, however, traditionally minded men are actually more likely to divorce — or to be divorced — than their counterparts with more egalitarian ideas about gender roles. 
It's so nice to have research on one's side. While I know that for the frum world, divorce is appearing in every age group and affiliation, but in terms of the "singles crisis," the longer one stays single means her chances of divorce dwindle. 

I thought of this article when I read of Kelly Williams Brown, 28, who wrote a book on how to become an adult. A 28-year-old, one would think, is already an adult, no? But consider: our generation is maturing at a slower rate than previous ones. In Isaac Bashevis Singer stories, a teenager would be an old married lady. As our life spans lengthen, milestones are reached later than before.
I'm all about individuality, not statistics. But if we opt for that whole bashert thing, we might as well see the pros as well as the cons for the frummies marrying later. 

I thought I was a big girl when I started dating at 19. Then, when I was 23, I was all, "Phew, baruch Hashem I didn't get married then!" When I was 26, I thought I knew all there was to know in order to get married, until one bad date, in hindsight, made me aware of what I am truly looking for. At 28, can I get smug now

I still got some more growing up to do.
All these changes make it an exciting time to research marriage — and a challenging time to enter it. But it’s not that we’re doing a worse job at marriage than our ancestors did. It’s that we demand different things from marriage than in the past. And marriage demands different things from us.    

Monday, October 21, 2013

Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Tremble

Having a stone floor in the bathroom does not bode well for my cosmetics. One innocent fumble, and wham—my Illamasqua Powder Blusher in Hussy is no longer with us. 

I discussed blush strategy a year ago, and I don't have new information to add in terms of application method (some things are timeless). But, I decided that Hussy was too dark for my skin tone. 

I adore Illamasqua since the majority of its offerings are matte with potent pigment. Peering at the online swatches (which are rarely accurate), I zoned in on Tremble. No shades of orange, lilac, bronze, or neutral need apply; I seek pink. That left only Tremble.
It looks pinker in person. 

Remember ladies, a little swipe on the apples of the cheeks does wonders. (Please don't put bronzer there. That's not where bronzer goes.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Found What You're Looking For?

When it comes to successful shidduchim, there seems to be two primary schools of thought.

Tactic 1:  

"I didn't think we would have anything in common, but then I thought, 'What the heck?,' and we are celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary!"

Tactic 2: 

"No guy did it for me, you know? I was open, I tried, but I still wouldn't 'settle.' I stuck to my criteria, and in the end I found everything that I wanted, and more."

What is a dating girl to do? 

There are enough proofs on either end; being admonished not to be "so picky" by complete strangers, yet knowing in my gut that compromising on that won't lead to a happy ending. 

People like tried and true formulas, but in the messy, individual experience that is dating (the only common factor seems to be frustration) there can't be absolutes.
Let us all lower the wagging finger of reprimand, and let marriages occur as they will, as original and unique as the partners themselves. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013


My nighttime routine is sacrosanct. 

I can't watch television past 9, since the blue light stimulation keeps me up. After my tooth- and skin-care regimens, I lay down with a book and read by a dim light sufficient to see the words but not illuminate my room, since synthetic light suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone. Providing I am not stressed about anything (dating, posts that need rephrasing, replayed conversation from the day), I can doze off reliably by 10.
If I make it to when my alarm buzzes at 6 is another story, but now with the later sunrises I'm in a good place. But even then, I get sleep deprived from time to time. 

There are some who can seize the day without sufficient rest. If I haven't slept, I tell the day to stuff it. 

Jane Brody's article, "Cheating Ourselves of Sleep," has the scary message of "harming ourselves with our eyes wide open." There is a veritable laundry list of illnesses spawned by sleep deprivation, longer than the side effects for prescription nasal spray. I can't even tell it over, there are so many. Read it at your own risk of bedtime.

Pretty much every aspect of the body is hit when shut-eye isn't a priority.
Whenever the kiddies visit, I have reasons beyond my desire to finish a sentence when I tuck them in earlier than their scheduled bedtimes. My jet-lagged niece fell asleep this past Shabbos while I read a book (score!) and stayed so for fourteen hours. She was beyond adorable the next day, too.
People have to diagnose themselves when it comes to the type of sleeper they are. Even if I come home late from a wedding, I can't fall asleep unless I read first to slow down my brain, while my brother Owen can simply lay down on his back and not move until morning. In general. I want to hurt him.

Time and awareness is needed to get a good night's sleep, for most. Come to know what individual needs the brain has for optimal dozing off. Keep in mind a steady sleep schedule is vital (go to bed the same time every night); it's often about conditioning.
Sheldon like to be sung "Soft Kitty."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Green Tea Palate

Green tea, as is burbled all over, has a gajillion health benefits. 

I, for one, never liked tea. 

I always loved the idea of tea. The beautiful china tea sets, with the accompanying pot, the sugar holder, the dainty tea cup placed with a delicate clink into the beflowered saucer . . .
When I was a kid I put juice in the teacup and held it with my pinkie in the air.
Jennifer Emery Art
One can't really do that when one is over nine.

I have tried to drink tea, but I frankly cannot understand the allure of a piping cup of flavored hot water. The British are weird. I usually end up searing off tongue skin; they close their eyes in bliss. 

While in the throes of a cold, I reprimanded myself for being close-minded. Broaden your horizons, I thought. The tea with the biggest health benefits is green tea; it is also, to my dismay, the nastiest tasting.

Since I would only drink decaf tea, there are limits on nasty-canceling flavors. For regular tea, variety abounds: pomegranate, raspberry, blueberry, mango, pineapple, jasmine, peach, mint. But for decaf, I was stuck with Bigelow Green Tea with Lemon, and I have to say that the "with lemon" isn't very noticeable.
Day 1: The first sip left my face contorted in agony. Despite the hefty sugar packet, the bitterness left me going "yuch" with every gulp.

Day 2: I brought along a lemon, which took the edge off the bitterness, and made the tea much more palatable, but not tasty enough that I would say, "Hey, I feel like some tea." The added dusting of sugar didn't do much, either. Until, however, I reached the bottom, where most of the lemon juice had congregated. I actually drained the cup dry, rather sad that there was no more left.

Very simple. I had to ensure maybe 50% lemon juice, which has all sorts of healthy properties as well, to make green tea drinkable.

Day 3: I slice off an even bigger wedge of lemon and heartlessly pulverize it in my fist, squelching out every last bit of liquid possible. No sugar today. 

This time, the bitterness of the tea is barely noticeable beneath the tangy tartness of the lemon. I find myself constantly sipping. Ah, polyphenol power! 

Day 4: I cheerfully gulp down my morning tea.

I wonder how long I can maintain this. 

Not long. I fall off the wagon all to soon, while my tea bags glare reproachfully from the drawer. 

A few months later I hear the television blither on about the wonders of green tea (yeah, yeah, I know), and I am prodded to finish my supply. I tediously attempt again, but stop bothering with sugar or lemon. I can't remember to bring a lemon every day to work. 

But now there are more options for the decaf green tea drinker! I present: Salada Green Tea with Purple Antioxidant Blueberry! Whooo!
There's elderberry in there! That stuff boosts immunity! Plus, it totally blocks the exquisite blahness that is green tea taste. Smells pretty good.   

Now I can crack out the tea cups!

Of course there was a snag. 

"Do you drink coffee?" my dentist asked, frowning at my teeth. 

"No! Besides water, I only drink—" 


No dainty tea cups for me. I have to use a straw. In a serviceable mug.   

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mormon Musings

. . . Brent Adams told me that his students’ idealism about reforming the entertainment industry often comes from their recognition, as they’ve matured, of the negative influence that films and games had on their own lives. I wasn’t sure I believed him — he sounded like a father figure projecting his values onto his children. But Strong was a perfect example. We had a long talk one afternoon in the computer lab, and he told me that growing up in northern Idaho, he was an undisciplined teenager — hanging around with girls who drank and hiding those friendships from his parents. His dishonesty unsettled him, but he repressed the feeling. Then, during his freshman year at B.Y.U., his outlook changed.

He saw students who were all striving to be kind and moral people but also having fun and enjoying solid friendships with one another. The uneasy compromises between his principles and his popularity didn’t seem necessary anymore. It was the reverse of the typical coming-of-age-at-college story: he felt liberated enough to experiment, so he experimented with returning to the values he was raised with. “I realized I can be whoever it is that I want to be,” he said. “That thought just hit me like a ton of bricks. And I discovered I want to be a really good person.”

Now, Strong said, he avoids even some PG-13 movies. “You never know what’s going to come up on that screen, and once you see something, you can’t get it out of your head. Ever.” He thought a moment, then asked: “What’s the name of that film?” I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I was surprised when he said, “ ‘Wedding Crashers.’ ”

In high school, a friend persuaded him to sneak into the movie, and the nudity, as well as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s general attitude toward women, shook him. After that, when he saw a girl, his first thoughts would be about whether she was attractive; he felt himself moving through the world essentially casting or rejecting its inhabitants as possible extras in “Wedding Crashers.” You could argue that this was only the harmless awakening of a teenage male mind. But Strong didn’t see it this way. In fact, he feels so uneasy about this stretch of his life that later, when he began dating his future wife, he made a point of discussing it with her. (“I had changed,” he explained, “but I wanted anything like that to be open between us.”) “In the L.D.S. church,” he told me, “a really strong message is that everyone’s a child of God — that they’re a sacred individual. They’re born into this world clean and pure and beautiful.” “Wedding Crashers” altered his vision. He spent some time looking at the world through “Wedding Crashers”-colored glasses, and it was not only disrespectful of other people, he felt, but it also deprived him of experiencing them in a more genuine way. Why couldn’t films subconsciously encourage us to use the eyes that God gave us instead? “To view people through that window puts a positive, beautiful spin on your life,” he said.

The above segment is from an article about Mormon animators called "When Hollywood Wants Good, Clean Fun, It Goes to Mormon Country," by Jon Mooallem

As I say (repeatedly), whatever surroundings the wandering Jews find ourselves in, we absorb some of the local values. Morgan Strong, who was quoted above, avoids racy movies since he finds their messages to be corrosive to the soul. 

But in our world, even those who don't have access to secular entertainment have made physical appearance a constant conversation in the dating world. (In my background's case, that has to do with being Hungarian, television regardless.) 

What I find most disheartening is how this shallowness is given validation, even as a viable excuse for bad behavior when one side "finds out" as to the lack of sought physical attributes. I'm not exactly sure when adult tantrums became acceptable, but there you go. That's without seeing "Wedding Crashers." 

I am not saying that lack of attraction should be ignored; rather, one should give attraction a chance. There are so many people out there whose innards practically shine with personality, but those who live shallow lives, and insist on shallow relationships, don't want to see that glow.

"Only a bimbo wants a bimbo," I firmly told my friend who opined as to male superficiality. "Not all men are the same." I think.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Will Break You

While I was trying to do my nails, my nose kept running. In consideration for the still-damp polish, I grasped a tissue between my wrists. 

Then dawning realization. No, not a cold. Not now

It was the eve of my nephew's bar mitzvah Shabbos. I can't have sneezing and coughing and disturbed nights! 

Red alert!  Attack mode activated! 

First: Neti. I grimly washed out my sinuses. 

Second: Elderberry. I popped three. 

Third: Nyquil. I know the only way I can successfully fight off a cold is with sleep. I gulped down a cupful at 8 p.m., knowing it must have near twelve hours to work its drugged effects out of my system.
Fourth: Go to bed. Thanks to the lovely opiates now coursing through my bloodstream, I was successfully unconscious in record time. 

Fifth: Linger in bed. After 8+ solid hours of sleep (I don't believe I moved at all) I refrained from hopping out at 6, when I usually do, instead rested a bit more. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself, but it requires rest to do so. I lay happily huddled beneath the blankets, visualizing white blood cells nuking the cold virus.

I arose, sniffle-free, and was able to party that evening with nary a tissue in sight. Success!

The months passed. A bare month following a cold, I began to suspiciously sneeze by my office desk. I was adamant: No, I just had a cold. I won't, I refuse, to put up with another one. 

I scoured the wonderful internet, and came across this: Raw garlic. 

Nothing to it, Google burbled. Just chop it up and swallow.

Well, potentially diseased people cannot be particular. I might suggest, however, not to try it on an empty stomach. 

I minced a clove, poured some warm soup on top, and manfully chugged. 

Hoooooo boy. 

I was aware that I had a stomach, that's for sure. No event that night, thankfully, considering the garlic breath. 

But, the next morning, my symptoms were gone, although my belly still twinged.

A few weeks later, the drippy nose came back. Come on

I tried the raw garlic with some yogurt, like someone recommended online. Big mistake; I ran to the bathroom in fear I was going to hurl. 

The drippy nose didn't go away, but it didn't get any worse. I dosed myself again that night, but I tried something else. 

I cooked a potato, drizzled it in oil, and mashed in the raw garlic. (Perhaps I should mention that I am a serious potato lover.)
Sooooooo yummy! 

I had gone to sleep that night with serious garlic breath, with my throat beginning to twinge. Yet by morning, while my throat and glands felt swollen, they didn't hurt. My nose ceased to drip, being replaced by puffy nasal passages, which thankfully did not leak. 

Another garlic potato for breakfast! Mmm mmm mmm.

I think were it not for that garlic, my day would have been terrible. My body felt heavy and achy, my throat thick, my nasal passages all swelled up. But my head and throat did not hurt. I was able to function at work. 

Dinner? Garlic potato!

Breakfast? Garlic potato! 

I was obviously over the worst by the following day; I was able to walk without feeling wobbly, and my nose was non-drippy (I was still practicing neti, and dosing myself with elderberry). 

I felt so smug with this delicious boosting-of-immunity discovery, but quite obviously I am unoriginal
Since my immune system seems to be compromised due to my nervous tendencies, it I must partake of regular garlic potatoes to keep me well (mmm). Flu season approaches, after all.

Friday, October 11, 2013


I'm all for taking the path of least resistance. Why make things more complicated? 

So when a bare week had elapsed following a short romance and I saw the object of my disaffection by a wedding, I obviously did the mature and adult thing. 

I ducked. 

It's kinda ridiculous for a tall girl to stoop downwards using strangers' billowing skirts as a pathetic shield, but I do not regret it at all.
Here's to cowardice!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Your Nearest and Dearest

The Nanny, Pilot Episode: 

Fran: You know, you should be nicer to your sister. 

Brighton (snarkily): Why? Because "We're a family"? 

Fran: That's right. And someday your father's going to be old and sick. And you're going to want him to live with her

My parents never tolerated any sort of violence or verbal abuse between us siblings. The only time we managed to roughhouse was during the one bare hour the folks would have a lie-down on Shabbos afternoon. We had to do it quietly, though; we whispered as we wrestled. "Get off me!" "What did you call me?" "Oooooooow!" All sotto voce

After spending years listening to various shiurim by speakers such as Rabbi Mordechai Becher and Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, I noticed that they focused more on one's relationship with family rather than the rest of the world. They constantly say, "Your spouse. Your parents. Your children." 

It slowly hit me. 

My niece has been rather mock-ulatory lately. "You were all like—," mimicking exactly what someone did. 

"Dear," I began, "we don't make fun." 

"I don't make fun of anyone! I never make fun of my friends, just my family!" 


"Sweetness, you only make fun of your family because you know you can. They aren't going anywhere, so they have to put up with it. If you made fun of your friends, why would they bother being your friends anymore? Of course you don't make fun of them!" 

Well, she wasn't happy to hear that

As Jews, we sometimes like to think that we are impervious to our surrounding culture. After all, we are technically a middle-eastern nation that got a little lost, right? We were just transplanted, like some exotic fruit tree. But the soil and nutrients make its way into the roots, adding its own influence, altering our flavor and texture. 

American society holds family very casually. Parents are "supposed" to be disrespected, siblings are "supposed" to be teased painfully, children are "supposed" to be undersupervised.
"Oh, let the kids work it out," parents say, as they casually turn a blind eye to murder occurring under their roofs, only defending their offspring if a classmate is doing damage. Anahad O'Connor reports that bullying between siblings can have a great detrimental consequences.  
While normal rivalries with siblings can encourage healthy competition, the line between healthy relations and abuse is crossed when one child is consistently the victim of another and the aggression is intended to cause harm and humiliation, said John V. Caffaro, a clinical psychologist and the author of “Sibling Abuse Trauma.” Parents who fail to intervene, play favorites or give their children labels that sow divisions — like “the smart one” and “the athlete” — can inadvertently encourage conflict.
Nationwide, sibling violence is by far the most common form of family violence, occurring four to five times as frequently as spousal or parental child abuse, Dr. Caffaro said. According to some studies, nearly half of all children have been punched, kicked or bitten by a sibling, and roughly 15 percent have been repeatedly attacked. But even the most severe incidents are underreported because families are loath to acknowledge them, dismissing slaps and punches as horseplay and bullying as boys just being boys, he said.
“Our society tends to minimize child-on-child violence in general,” he added. “We have these ideas that if you’re hurt by a child it’s less injurious than if you’re hurt by an adult, but the data don’t support that.”
Verbal abuse is also bullying, like name calling and threats. 
“Parents at times might be thinking that their kids can fight it out or that a little bit of victimization might not be so bad,” she said. “But these findings suggest that the threshold is pretty low. It’s not just the rough stuff you have to keep an eye out for.”
When Rabbi Hillel said, "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary," he meant siblings too.
As Jews, we cherish every soul, and to be aware of their sensitivities. Yes, even my really annoying brother who sometimes just makes me want to—deep breath. He gets the One Foot Treatment (OFT), too. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

To Live Life

I appreciatively inhale the sensuous aromas of my simmering lunch. With sautéed onion as a base, I had added mushrooms, broccoli, sweet potato, frozen peas, kale, then dusted with garlic powder and black pepper. 

A rapturous moan purrs from my throat as I languorously chew a biteful of this simple yet divine composition of vegetation. 

"What are you eating?" she asks. I manage to crack an eyelid, interrupted from this delightful meal, and I dreamily inform her. 

"Vegetables?" she sniffs. "Rabbit food? Don't you ever live?" 

I blink in disbelief. Um, do I look miserable to her? 

"Well," she concedes, "it does smell pretty good . . ." 

When my folks were going out of town for a week, he asks, "So, are you going to have any wild parties?" 

"No," I reply happily. "I'm going to cook myself a little supper, watch The Big Bang Theory reruns, read a bit, then go to sleep by 9:30." 

"You have to get a life." 

"Uh, what exactly did your weekend look like?" 

"This isn't about me!"
How to "live life"; I get speeches about it all the time. Unsolicited. I don't live life because I don't drink excessively, eat out regularly, or stay up until 3 a.m.
I can't protest too much, since people think, well, that I'm protesting too much. But—

I don't think it is considered "living" to make poor eating choices while smug in the insistence that food brimming with health benefits tastes like grass. It doesn't. I am not deprived nor suffering in my pursuit of responsible menu-ness; I eat deliciously yet wholesomely (never mind cheaply) every day, and feel the better for it. 

I don't have to shlep around ten extra pounds in water weight, never mind whatever else in fat. I used to be heavier, so I know what it is like and I would prefer not to gain it back. Wheezing during the slightest exertion doesn't sound like fun to me.
As a self-diagnosed introvert, I do not befriend every lamppost. I have criteria for friendships, and quite frankly my tolerance has a limit. It is not my idea of a good time to hang out until the dead of night with people I have nothing in common with. I don't like it. I don't enjoy it. Telling me that it is the only way to "live" is a fallacy of logic.

There are billions of people roaming this planet, and guess what? Not everybody is the same. I was born with an inbred love of the middle path, devoid of extremes, as for every excess indulged there is the swinging pendulum of payback. 

Alcohol? Hangover. Deep-fried yummies? Cholesterol. Late-night partying? Exhaustion.

I live—yes, live—a life of stability and predictability. I love it. Don't cast aspersions on my life—my life. My choices are no less valid than yours. I shouldn't have to defend myself that, to me, crawling out of bed with a ringing headache due to lack of rest doesn't mean I "lived life" the night before. What about now? Is this whimpering on the way to work "living"?

Occasionally I will stray from my path and eat out with a good friend. I will blithely dance at a wedding of someone I feel close to until (gasp!) midnight. I know while I am doing it that there is a price to pay, but I am aware that in these unique and non-constant situations, it is worth it. But not all the time, every single moment of every day.
I reside with my parents, I don't go out past 8, I consume mostly fruits and vegetables, and I can't stand liquor. 

And I live life.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Strong Wife

Laura Munson wrote a few years back how she persevered for her marriage, and it had, oddly, some critics (she has a book detailing her experience). 

Before I begin, I would like to preface that I would be the first person to walk out of an "abusive" relationship—I don't mean just physically abusive, I mean any sort of relationship where the other treats me as though I am inferior or not worth their consideration. Anytime a playmate would diss me I was out of there, and never went back. I was pretty lonely as a five-year-old. 

Back to Laura Munson: 

After over twenty years of marriage, her husband comes home and says cruel things to her. "I don't love you anymore," "I never loved you," "I don't like what you've become."  

She decided to take his words from another angle: he didn't mean them. It was impossible he could mean them after twenty years of marriage. 

So she calmly responded, "I don't buy it." 
His desire to end the marriage, she knew, didn't have to do with her, but with his own issues. It was obvious he wasn't in his right mind when he said ridiculous things like "The kids want me to be happy. They'll understand." 
I said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break. What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?
“Huh?” he said.
“Go trekking in Nepal. Build a yurt in the back meadow. Turn the garage studio into a man-cave. Get that drum set you’ve always wanted. Anything but hurting the children and me with a reckless move like the one you’re talking about.
Then I repeated my line, “What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”
She refused to let him move out, for the sake of their children. However, he could do whatever he wanted otherwise. 
My trusted friends were irate on my behalf. “How can you just stand by and accept this behavior? Kick him out! Get a lawyer!”
I walked my line with them, too. This man was hurting, yet his problem wasn’t mine to solve. In fact, I needed to get out of his way so he could solve it.
I know what you’re thinking: I’m a pushover. I’m weak and scared and would put up with anything to keep the family together. I’m probably one of those women who would endure physical abuse. But I can assure you, I’m not. I load 1,500-pound horses into trailers and gallop through the high country of Montana all summer. I went through Pitocin-induced natural childbirth. And a Caesarean section without follow-up drugs. I am handy with a chain saw.
I simply had come to understand that I was not at the root of my husband’s problem. He was. If he could turn his problem into a marital fight, he could make it about us. I needed to get out of the way so that wouldn’t happen.
She told herself that she would give him six months. 
And one day, there he was, home from work early, mowing the lawn. A man doesn’t mow his lawn if he’s going to leave it. Not this man. Then he fixed a door that had been broken for eight years. He made a comment about our front porch needing paint. Our front porch. He mentioned needing wood for next winter. The future. Little by little, he started talking about the future.
It was Thanksgiving dinner that sealed it. My husband bowed his head humbly and said, “I’m thankful for my family.”
He was back.
And I saw what had been missing: pride. He’d lost pride in himself. Maybe that’s what happens when our egos take a hit in midlife and we realize we’re not as young and golden anymore.
I found this woman's story to be inspiring. Of course, plenty of people wrote in to the New York Times that she was pushover, a doormat, an advocate for abusive relationships. But that is not what I came away with. 

Her husband's ego was hurt when his role as provider began to flag, and had a midlife crisis. He felt the only way to reclaim his manhood was to cast off his life as he knew it and start afresh. 

Meaning, he went temporarily insane. 

He had responsibilities to his children that, despite what he told himself, he could not walk away from; his wife would not let him. Divorce is beyond traumatizing to children (never mind adults), and she was willing to sacrifice her self-esteem until her husband dealt with his personal issues. 

I find Ms. Munson admirable. Her path, obviously, is not available to everyone. Not every relationship can be saved. But she was able to see past her husband's out-of-character childish behavior, take the long view, and preserve their home.
The Munsons
As yet another neighboring couple goes their separate ways, and all sorts of misinformation hits the phone lines, I ponder. Was this damage to the children necessary? How many men and women misinterpret personal crises with marital unhappiness? If one side held their ground, could this marriage have been saved?   

I also wonder if I, too, she of the "I don't have to take this," could be strong enough to put her ego aside.