Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: One Portion is Enough

My life seems to be the same exact cycle. 

I'm careful the whole week, weighing myself, watching what I eat, and find scale nervana on Friday morning. 

Then there's Shabbos. More importantly, Shabbos meals. 

If it's just me and the folks, the damage isn't too bad; I have my weekly cake visit following a larger than weekday lunch. But if there are guests, or if I am invited out, oh dear. 

And then it begins again. 

Frank Bruni makes it simple in "Hard Truths About Our Soft Bodies." In a nutshell, the reason for American obesity is that we go über-portion. The middle path has been outsourced for limitlessness. 

The Italians cuddle up with pasta, but they aren't overweight, despite the fact that we all "know" that noodles are a perfect storm of pound-packing carbs. With this land of bounty, we have lost the talent to cease and desist when nearly full, as opposed to unbuckling belts to make room for more. 

It concerns me since we Jews have super-sized Shabbos to such unnecessary lengths. We troll the supermarket aisles to buy all those items that we think we "need" to have. We take a number and patiently wait by the ready-made foods counter. Just an hour after a lunch of all-you-can-eat proportions children expect "Shabbos Party."

Here's a tip: Let's see what happens if we cook for a Shabbos geared towards satisfaction, not leftovers. If the family asks for thirds but the pot is empty, that's okay. No one is hungry. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Way

Facebook is a gem of, as Hungarians put it, "yenta-shag." One can find info on potential dates, on the lifestyle of someone I just met, and how classmates from a hundred years ago live now.

It never ceases to amaze me how little import elementary and high school has. 

For myself, I was molded by my parents, not my teachers. Often, the two would clash. 
"Lea, you are a growing girl by leaps and bounds," my high school principal purred when I was in 10th grade (yes, I know I'm tall, thank you). "However, your skirt can't quite keep up. Have the hem let down, please."

I came home and told Ma about the edict. "Your skirt is fine," Ma said firmly. "I'm not letting it down." 

A few days later, principal beareth down upon me, her voice a trifle less breathless. "I thought I told you to have your hem let down." 

Of all the excuses, she wasn't expecting mine. 

"My mother says it's fine." 

She freaked, for lack of a better word. "It doesn't matter what your mother thinks!" she snapped. Score one for kibud eim, lady. Teachable moment, gone. 

Ma's response was unchanged. "I pay the tuition," she decreed. "I say your skirt is fine." 

This battle of wills, with me as the inept middleman, went on for a bit until I wept for mercy. 

"Ma, please," I begged, "she won't leave me alone. Could you just let it down?" 

Grumbling not-so-under her breath, she painstakingly let down the hem, carefully pinned the pleats, and neatly ironed them into place. 

The principal's face beamed with the satisfaction that I wasn't happy to give her; she was just lucky that I can't stand confrontation.

Yet a mere few years later I was out. Free. I didn't go to seminary, and I was as unchecked as the flying birds in what I wanted to wear. Which was a skirt that ended right below my knee, not mid-calf, which is, like, the most unflattering length ever

Why do they push so hard when they know it will be for naught? As Facebook tells me, a number of my former classmates are in miniskirts, jeans, v-necks, tank tops. A few even post photos swapping spit with their significant others (gross). Some of them are still frum, while others are not.  

What was the far-reaching point of that small victory? That I would behave forevermore as though she were looking over my shoulder? 

Her job was to teach me the basics of Jewish beliefs, not to replace my parents. My entire Bais Yaakov years was an infomercial for the sitting and learning lifestyle, but I was raised to prefer the path of the employed husband. My upbringing held its own despite the teachers' factually weak yet no less energetic attempts to insist that the kollel lifestyle is a biblical mandate.

There are three shitfim: Abba, Ima, and the Eibishter. While school provides necessary education as to the technicalities of Yiddishkeit, that does not give them the right to take over another's family mesorah. My parents made sure of that.

I came across an article a few years ago (and had no joy trying to find the online version) of a frum family who made the choice to homeschool their son when he could not be accommodated at the local one-size-fits-all yeshiva. That is a major undertaking, and I wouldn't choose it for myself (it's so much work!) but it is wonderful that it is now a growing option.

No school is supposed to take the place of parents, or say that the way of life a child was raised should be swapped for another. After wandering around for 2,000 years, there is no "right" way of being a Jew. Who is to say one's background is better than someone else's?
Via ou.org
And my Zeidies would have no problem with anything I wear. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: Bon Appétit

Uh oh, I thought. He thinks I'm anorexic. 

The Battle of the Bulge never ends. There is no white flag, no surrendering of swords, no peace treaty. It is an ongoing, relentless, exhausting fight. 

Then dating gets in the way. 

Even if the choice of venue is an innocent coffee shop (and I don't drink coffee) tasty, sugary delights surface. 

I happily slurp away on my beverage that is composed of 98% sugar, but figure this is the last "fun" I will have for the rest of the week, logging in the expense under calorie arithmetic. 

"Would you like a snack?" 

"Oh, I'm fine, thanks." (No mystery ingredient muffin will pass my lips).
He looks at me worriedly. 

"Do you eat?" 

"Yes! Of course I do! I love food!" 

His eyebrows contract, reflecting his disbelief in my protestations.

For dates I do allow for some wiggle room, yet I have erected a mental drill sergeant to compensate for my indulging.

I am a big fan of the restaurant date (it just seems as though the fellas are more serious) but I began to fret when a courteous bachelor fed me awfully well when he took me out twice in one week. Oh, my kingdom for a fettuccine alfredo. 

An affianced female I know of was gradually getting bigger and bigger during her engagement. "Oh," sighed a romantically inclined middle-aged neighbor. "They go out to eat together, and he says, 'You look so beautiful . . . ' " 

I backed away slowly. 

I like it when my weight is in check and my wardrobe fits. While a love interest may hypothetically compose ditties to the perfection of my waist as-is, I'll tell him to kindly go away. And throw the mandolin after him.

I come home from the solo-drink date and heartily polish off the leftover sweet chicken from Shabbos, carefully labeling it "dinner" in my mind's eye. 

Look, guys, I know you want to feel important, but if I watch myself it is not for you. I know you don't really care about five pounds here and there (you haven't been known for being the most observant). 

This is for me.    

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Your Story Is Not My Story

It is sometimes hard to remember that Jews do not pasken from maaselach

One example of how we erroneously do so is this little tale from the old country, about how a man's daughter (probably all of 15) was still unmarried, and he tearfully ran to his Rov who asked if he ever made her a kiddush. Kiddush made, gal gets engaged. Woo. 

Nowadays that story seems to percolate under the surface of every kiddush for a baby girl. Despite the fact that the sins of the parent are not visited upon the child, an infant's chances of marriage is already based if her folks gave their neighbors some dried-out sponge cake and grape juice. 
Via tabletmag.com
We take one story, meant for one person, and arbitrarily apply it to the world at large. Perhaps it was the Rov's incentive to calm down this man, to give him something to do. Maybe this man was known for being unfriendly and aloof, so a round of brofen warmed up his reputation. Who knows? But I doubt it had to do with the kiddush itself. 

In terms of dating and marriage, Melanie Notkin expresses it well in "The One Sure Way to Get Married." Every couple out there has a story. But it is their story, no one else's.

Same to here. I am happy for her, I really am. But again, despite her claims that her long-time datehood has left her sensitive, she is falling into the same trap. After all, since she knew her husband from work she had years to get to know him, and even then the first date didn't go so well. So how would her story be a how-to for singles? Are we going to give a "meh" shidduch date months to become something more? Of course not.

It is a lovely story. It is a romantic story. But her story is her story.

Hashem set it up that her bashert would be her coworker! Bishvili nivra haolam: "The world was created for me."  

She is also assuming that every single girl has, like her, an endless list that must now be torn up into teeny tiny bits. I have like three items on mine, and even then I often go out with just one criteria: Male.

And then she only scolds the girls! What about the guys and their supposed "lists"?
I'm sure they had a great story too.
I love a good story. I always ask a couple how they met. But it's not because I am taking notes on where I have been going wrong. I use it as proof that everyone is a world onto oneself, and that Hashem plots a story for us all.    

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

As Countless as the Stars

For a glamorous charity dinner, I was feeling rather shortchanged. 

All of the other guests at the table would spectacularly fail a breathalizer. One even tried that old line, "Are you two sisters?" on Ma and me. So smooth, ugh.

I had him pegged as a gay Irishman. But then he turns to Ta and launches into the halachos of a non-Jew serving non-mevushal wine. 

"Rabbi Joseph Cairo: What a showman!" he says. 

He is a child of survivors, and a father of four. 

Ta has a client who tended to have romantic relationships with Jewish women; he even had a child with one of them. He is very proud of his Jewish son, who has now become more religious, donning tefillin every day. 

Born in the Middle East, he was raised quasi-Muslim. Then one day he tells Ta that he was circumcised at eight days. Ta, stunned, tells him, "You must be Jewish as well! Only Jews do that!" It turns out, he is. His parents, fearful of reprisals, suppressed their Jewish identities.

"So many Jews, lost!" Ta says. 

"Not lost, Ta. He 'accidentally' had a son with a Jewish woman, who is now frum. Nothing was lost!" 
Where there's life, there's hope.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Upsy Daisy

My nephew is not your typical kid. From birth, he loves to help. He loves being useful. He loves being a contributing member of the household. 

If I would ask him to help me by sweeping the floor, he happily hauls out the broom and shovel, even though there's a chance they may tip him over. With grit and determination, even though he can barely manipulate the broom, he manages to get the job done. Then he marches about, his chest puffed out with smug accomplishment. He swept the floor, y'all.
Kids know when they have earned merit, and when adults are humoring them. Speaking from experience, trying, even if one doesn't succeed, is not always a letdown. There is satisfaction just in applying oneself. 

Ergo, "Losing is Good For You" by Ashley Merryman. In the unprovoked terror that a child may not feel included or "special," awards are flung at them in the desperate attempt to instill a healthy ego. One problem: Children are not stupid. 

When my morah picked out my picture of Har Sinai to hang on the wall, I felt like a million bucks. If she papered everyone's drawing on there, would I have cared? Obviously, no. 
The college kids who were once little-leaguers who got trophies just for playing feel that showing up class is all that is needed. When they enter the workforce, coming in to work is effort enough. 
When children make mistakes, our job should not be to spin those losses into decorated victories. Instead, our job is to help kids overcome setbacks, to help them see that progress over time is more important than a particular win or loss, and to help them graciously congratulate the child who succeeded when they failed. . .
This school year, let’s fight for a kid’s right to lose. 
Brené Brown is emphatic on this: 
Children are “hard-wired for struggle when they get here . . .When you hold those perfect little babies in your hand, our job is not to say: ‘Look at them, look at her, she’s perfect. My job is just to keep her perfect and make sure she makes the tennis team by 5th grade and Yale by seventh grade.’ That’s not our job. Our job is to look and say, ‘You know what, you’re imperfect and you’re hard-wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” 
Not so long ago children were not treated with kid gloves (no pun intended). A lot was demanded of them. Life was not easy, and parents saw no need to shield their offspring from that. How else were they to survive?

As Brown said, we are born to struggle. We are not here to suddenly pick up the gauntlet when we reach the arbitrary age that heralds "adulthood."

As Jane Brody writes ("Life's Hard Lessons") hard times are beneficial for adults as well. 
The point: often faith in oneself prevails over temporary obstacles . . . True, sometimes we have only ourselves to blame for these obstacles. Yet mistakes, if dwelled upon, can easily erode a person’s ego. My late husband once told me he remembered every mistake he’d ever made, which may have contributed to his propensity for depression.
“Mistakes are our best teachers, so don’t waste them,” Dr. Rosenthal wrote. “Acknowledge them, learn from them, and become more competent because of them.”
The only way to have faith in oneself is to have proof that one has come across difficulty before and made it. The best time to learn that is when one is young.     

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Glad Game

My elder sister and I are quite different. 

For instance, she has no idea how to be crafty. When she wanted something, she came straight out and asked my parents for it. They would consider the matter (or immediately respond), often saying, "Well . . . you don't really need it . . ." 

Then she would watch in surprise how I would "magically" be showered with all sorts of things. She would claim favoritism, but I explained it to her. 

"The secret it is, my sweet, that you don't ask. You stay quiet, yet grateful, biding your time. Then, eventually, they say, 'Mammelah, isn't there something you want?' and I reply, 'Oh, no, I have everything I could possibly want. No need to get me anything.' And then what happens? 'Oy, what a gittechkeh,' and out comes the wallet."

Well, if it works with my parents, why not with God?

Maybe we are going about it the wrong way. Maybe we aren't supposed to be asking. Maybe, we are supposed to be thanking.
Take, for instance, the story of Channah. I always thought Elkana was a trifle clumsy when he says to her, "Channelah, aren't I better than ten sons?" But there is a reason why that statement is in the text. It must have meant something significant, rather than a husband's awkward attempt to comfort his barren wife. 

According to Yemima Mizrachi, what it did was change Channah's perspective. 
"Listen, Channah," her husband tells her, "you can't keep crying over what you don't have. Start singing about what you do have." 
"But what do I have?" 
"You have me. Walk around all day singing." 
"OK, I've tried all the segulot; I'll try that too." And Channah starts walking around the house, singing: "Elkana is better for me that ten sons. Elkana is better for me than ten sons." 
And Shmuel was born.
Do you want more? Then sing about what you do have. You have so much—sing!
Rather than weep for her unfulfilled womb, she rejoiced in her happy marriage. She sang her gratitude to God. And, well, the rest is history. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Clear that Clog

There is much frustration when a clogged sink will refuse to be accommodating.  

My bathroom sink hasn't been very cooperative. I had purchased "healthy" drain cleaners, which only seemed to compound the problem. If driven to desperation, I will use bleach, but remain in terror of it corroding clean through the pipes.

After a little searching, I came across the drain snake.
I purchased one for $4 at my local hardware store (available for less at a larger chain), and, brandishing my weapon, launched to battle.  

It wasn't pretty. I saw things I never wanted to know existed down my drain. But afterward, no lingering liquid remained in my sink, simply scurrying down to the mysterious yonder with a satisfying "glurp."

I chucked the now grimy drain snake, which was cheaper than the many used up bottles that had claimed to be drain cleaner. In a matter of minutes, my sink was hospitable again, without fumes or chemicals.  

Months later, it is still behaving itself. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Aren't We All Foodies?

Mollie Katzen is the author of a top-selling cookbook from way back when (The Moosewood Cookbook? Anyone heard of it?) Anywho: 
 “I personally do not like the word ‘foodie,’ because as human beings we are all innately drawn to food, so to make food a niche thing is wrong,” she said. “I don’t even like the word ‘chef.’ I think they can take the food and sometimes themselves very seriously.” Of many of the superstar chefs on TV, she said, “I consider them to be entertainers and media personalities rather than cooks.” 
Those television chefs tend to make everything look daunting. Take even public television's America's Test Kitchen; every recipe is unnecessarily precise, involving a tedious litany of overcautious steps. Such grand food-ery gave rise to satires like Posh Nosh (there are eight episodes, all hysterical).

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like food? Anybody? Feel free to chime in. But I will assert that anyone who claims they don't like food, well, you simply don't know what food is supposed to taste like. Thank the good Lord my mother is Hungarian. 

The more pretentious television chefs I am exposed to, the more I snuggle up to an episode of Jacques Pépin. When watching him cook next to Julia Child, it is obvious that Jacques is a true French chef. He focuses on the finished product and technique, whereas Julia tends to get bogged down on minutiae. He demonstrates where one can cut corners and where one can't. 

No, I'm not stalking him.     

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reference Me Not

I have mentioned before about how I don't dig references. 

Consider: One day you are feeling not quite up to speed. You didn't get enough sleep, or you are worrying about something, or you just smashed your toe on the way out the door. Meaning, you are rather preoccupied, focusing on simply getting out of the house to do what has to be done. 

Your neighbor in the driveway next door calls a cheery "Good morning!" However, due to the aforementioned reasons, you don't hear, or are not aware. You clamber into your car without flicking a glance to the other driveway, while your neighbor feels a little stupid. 

Now, you may say that was a completely harmless "oops" moment. But that sort of incident can color the other's perception of you, or your child. So when providing "info," he/she may not be so zealous. You have been demoted from "great people" to "okay people." 

Or, say you were a rather rambunctious child, and in the innocence of youth trespassed a bit on someone's good will. Sure, you are a reformed adult now, but do they see that? Not really. They see the hyper kid who was constantly overturning their garbage cans or prank-ringing their doorbell. 

My aunt, a social worker, once explained the premise well: "Sticky paper." You know how when you open a drawer to get something, and the paper lining sometimes comes along with it? 
Via the thehotpinkpolka-dot.blogspot.com
Pandora's box, or when they say in Law & Order, "They opened the door, Your Honor." 

Deep buried memories can have a way of surfacing in the oddest of places. While no one intends to be unkind, sometimes tales from Christmas Past, so to speak, can haunt us.

The references a guy puts down will obviously only say glowing things, right? That's why he's giving out their phone number. But let's say I called someone who lives in the area, who hasn't been vetted? Then, let the sticky paper fly.

Therefore, I abstain from references, unless I have sneaking suspicion about a criminal past. Relationships are messy enough without dragging in the opinions of random strangers.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Twister Stepper!

Yes, I hate, loathe, despise working out. The word "gym" makes me shiver in terror. The idea of churning up a sweat is abhorrent to me.

But I am a walker. Ah, walking. Placidly plodding away, no pulled this, no strained that. During the three-day yontifs, I tossed my giddy nephew into the carriage and circled my neighborhood for two hours. We were both happy, never mind his parents. 
Studies have shown that it is primarily what and how much you eat, and to a lesser extent how much one exercises. To clarify: No, marching about for 180 minutes did not magically melt away my belly. But I did feel as though it helped mitigate some of the effects. 

According to an article by Gretchen Reynolds, in regards to the heavy eating associated with the holidays, exercise is able to blunt some of the physiological damage of the seasonal binge. Meaning, there are times when we overeat. When we do, exercise can help "recovery." 

As a walker, it would seem I am an ideal candidate for the treadmill, which my parents purchased when I was in high school. I used it religiously then (not that it particularly had an effect on my weight until I examined my diet) but it was a bit awkward. For one thing, it's pretty boring to be on a treadmill, unless one is watching something, but the treadmill faced the wall and the television was on the side, plus the treadmill made a racket so I couldn't hear the dialogue . . . You get my drift. 

After ten years of disuse, a local Chabad organization cheerfully carted it off. But when weather was bad and I wasn't able to clock in my usual walking, I browsed Amazon for other options. 

The Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper was my salvation. It's not powered by electricity, so there is no loud motor. It's small and light, so it can be tucked away anywhere, not taking up any space. It has adjustable tension, so I can keep it in the range that's comfortable to me. 
Going on it initially, it can be a little stiff, but then it warms up in no time. After a few months, one of the steps began to squeak, but after pinpointing which screw it came from, a little shpritz of WD-40 shut it up. 

It has a dinky little pedometer of sorts on the bottom, but I don't think it's particularly accurate when it comes to calories burned. After all, depending on weight, people burn calories differently. The heavier a person is, the more they burn. I don't take it too seriously. 

It comes with two exercise bands that can be clipped to the machine, and while I find them too short for my use, I give them a tug every once in a while for upper body stuff. 

For those out there who can't (or won't) commit to a tri-weekly trek to the gym (like me), this is a cheaper, more convenient option.     

Monday, December 16, 2013

My Nighttime Routine

I reference my nighttime routine often, but I never have gone into detail what it involves. My bad. 

OK, it's 9 o'clock at night, and I head for the bathroom. After a thorough brushing, flossing, and mouthwashing: 

1) I shake Philosophy Just Release Me Dual-Phase Oil-Free Makeup Remover, dab some on a cotton round, and carefully take off the day's eye makeup.  (Yes, it is pricy, but after purchasing it during a Sephora sale I can't go back to my previous product. This takes everything off without any effort. None. No rubbing, no lash fallout, no tzipping, just bare eyes. Whatever one pays for in this one saves in really expensive eye cream since it minimizes rubbing, ergo wrinkling.)
2) I have no loyalty to facial cleansers, but I am currently using Alaffia African Black Soap Tangerine Citrus. After wetting my face, I rub a dollop in. 
3) I work in the cleanser with my electric face brush. (My model has been apparently discontinued; it's only a matter of time before I plunge for the Clarisonic.) I utilize an electric face brush because I once I began using it, my usual blemishes hit the road. 
4) Rinse face. I try to shoot for warm water, but I'm not going to run the sink endlessly. It's usually cold. 

5) Pat (not rub) face dry with a towel reserved for that purpose alone. 

6) AHA moisturizers! For the face, my current love is M2 Skin Technologies Skin Recovery Moisturizer. Oh, the alpha hydroxy acids! My skin tolerates it well since I have been throwing such stuff at it for years; but even then I blend it with Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion for extra moisturizing and to take away any "sting." Moisturizing is important even for oily skin types—mine is combination. I slather it on to my face and neck. 
7) The eye area could use a little extra love; many advocate the application of a serum as well as a cream. I tap on the entire eye area (including the lid) with my ring finger (the weakest of all the fingers, so it does not tug the skin) in an outward motion (to draw pooling blood away from my dark circles) Reviva Labs Firming Eye Serum, topped by Derma E Hydrating Eye Cream with Hyaluronic and Pycnogenol
8) My lips are dabbed with a lip balm of sorts. I'm not crazy about it, but I tend not to throw away anything, so I am currently applying Rosebud Perfume Co. Rosebud Salve. I don't like it because it is made from the same pore-clogging petroleum grease as Vaseline. I try to make sure it doesn't stray onto my skin at all. 

Shea butter works pretty well as a lip balm. I'm probably going to stick with that next.

9) I moisten a q-tip with castor oil and run it over my lashes, as expounded on before. It nourishes the lashes and removes any residual makeup.
*Every once in a while, I preface this regimen with a face-steaming. The Conair Facial Sauna System that's still around. I've probably had for ten years. 

I am never one to advocate all or nothing; for those who have no regimen at all, do not be discouraged. Just adding one step can make a big difference. 

Washing the face is of paramount importance, no brush needed. Cetaphil can also be dabbed on the eye area, which always thirsts for moisture. As for easy-access products, Olay's anti-aging line is always highly praised and recommended. 

Try to buy products that come in tubes or pumps as opposed to tubs, since dipping in germy fingers contaminates the product.

But for any results to be seen, regular, specifically nightly, activity is needed; five minutes before bed (as opposed to my ten to fifteen), and then "someone" will be looking quite gaw-geous when she turns 50 (or even 60. Dare I say 70?).   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Merry Mohel!

My niece Eewok was happily flipping through the Toys 'R' Us catalogue, eagerly racking up a list of must-have items that she will never get. 

She stopped by the Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set. 
"Look, Lea, a bris!"

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy Face

I was watching an old episode of I Found the Gown; a mother and daughter team came in. The daughter wasn't probably that old, but her face was carved with deep grooves. She was obviously resentful of her happy-go-lucky mother, who smiled cheerfully while her angry daughter, mother herself to nearly grown children, barked "We're bonding!" in a way that felt a tad violent. 

When one reaches a certain age, the refusal to smile has visisbly left its mark. There aren't just wrinkles, there are crevasses. Bitterness doesn't just percolate below the surface; its festering juices gnaws away at the epidermis. 
No lipstick can save you now.
In my hope for happy skin, I must be happy myself; potions alone won't do the trick, as Jane E. Brody informed me in "A Youthful Glow, Radiating From Within." 

Since I have gentically anxious tendencies, I have become aware of the concept of cortisol, that harrowing hormone that bubbles away in times of stress, reeking inflammatory havoc on the body. I have therefore attempted to de-stress my life as much as possible, of course factoring in unavoidable nerve-wracking situations, but my produce-based diet hopefully churns out enough antioxdants to neutralize the worst of the damage. 

Remember to smile, dammit!    

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Cell Phone Still Has Buttons

"How could you not want this?" Owen asks in disbelief, displaying his iPhone in its full-apped glory. 

I began to foment my reply, only to give up when I realized his nodding was sarcastic in nature. "Thank you for pretending to listen to my reasons," I dryly returned. 
I think I am on the internet enough as it is when I am in front of a computer, whether at work or at home. I really enjoy reading, and if I transferred that pleasure to an e-reader I would have to pause mid-book come Shabbos, and I am not willing to do that; the library fulfills all my papery needs. The few times I tote my cell phone about, I find my focus leaching away as my ear automatically strains to hear a potential "ding-dong" ring from my bag. I just don't want to be tempted. It's bad enough trying to keep my portion sizes in a normal range.
I want to be able to keep my attention where it belongs, and a snazzy phone jeopardizes that ability. For instance, while I am tech-free, my compatriots are not. They emit insincere "mm-hm"s as they reply to texts in middle of my enthusiastic retelling of a very entertaining story. If I step away from a table, I come back to find them absorbed on their phone, unwilling to click back to our previous repartee. 

Sometimes I'll be falsely maligned, like when I was fishing through my coat pocket for a tissue while on a date, and the rather impolite fellow across the table had the gall to frostily state, "I thought you were getting your phone." I wasn't, obviously blowing my nose.

It seems I am not the only one to notice that smartphones are a detriment to social outings, as there are now penalties in place, as reported by Caroline Tell in "Step Away From the Phone!"

As described, people are becoming aware that constant connection is causing Disconnect (haven't seen the movie, but it was mentioned in the article). So they lock up the phone in a tin, chuck it into a fish bowl, leave it in the car, so the people before them will get all their consideration. 

It would seem, that I am of the new age of chic: 
But maybe the best way to curb cellphone overuse is by preying on people’s social insecurities. In some circles, being inaccessible is a status symbol.
“Public cellphone use has reached an uncivilized fever pitch, so now it’s chicer behavior to exempt yourself from that,” Ms. Blume said. “You’re not answerable 24/7, and that’s a powerful and luxurious statement.”   

Monday, December 9, 2013

Storm's Comin'

What exactly compelled me to read Laura Munson's This Is Not The Story You Think It Is? I don't usually have an interest in memoirs. She's writing about riding through a rough patch in her marriage, and I don't have a spouse. 
I have mentioned Laura Munson before, in terms of an article, but I wanted to get a broader view, if possible. 

Ma for years attended a shiur featuring a psychologist, and one of the peanut gallery piped up, "Why are we constantly talking about depressing things?" He usually discussed the mind, reactions to situations, and the like, but because she wasn't in a bad point in her life, she had no interest. 

My perspective is that life rarely smooth; it is a matter of when, not if, something nasty hits the fan. It's not that I am suspicious of happiness, that it must come to an end. I'm simply all about preparation; whenever I travel, I tuck in every "just in case" available up to tsunami conditions. 

The same way one is supposed to save money in their youth so they can grow old with some sort of comfort, so to one should review the theory for coping mechanisms. Because something unpleasant will show up, one day. Everyone has some form of aggravation in their lives, as well as the bliss.

When the nasty does show, I don't want to run around like a harried hostess, "I didn't know you were coming! I can't deal with you now!" I want to casually offer it a seat at the kitchen, pour it a hospitable cup of tea, and try to calmly figure out which bedroom I should put it in since it's going to be here for a while.

I don't think the means to deal differ as to the situation at hand. As Munson writes, "Pain is pain." Being able to handle pain, no matter what the situation is, tends to dwindle down to a few truths. Truth is truth, no matter the source.  
Munson's greatest agony, which she expresses over and over (and over and over) is that she wrote a myriad of novels but was never published. Well, her writing style is not the most purple of prose; she repeatedly uses the phrase "We were fun" to describe her early relationship with her husband. And considering the financial crisis her family is in, she seems to do a lot of unnecessary spending. 

But Munson, as a self-professed "seeker of wisdom," delves for knowledge of the mind and soul in any avenue. She does learn and grow during this time. She writes of how, according to many philosophies, the end of suffering comes with the end of wanting. 

While still in the midst of her book, I was scrolling through the most viewed talks on TED, and watched Dan Gilbert on "The Surprising Science of Happiness." 

Guess what? Truth is truth.

The same way pain is pain. 

Munson's book is conversational, drags a bit, and she does curse to herself in frustration, but she proves the validity of taking the long view. To choose not to react to childish lashing out by not accepting it for face value. To opt for steadiness and ride out the storm. 
Because a storm's always coming. Better have the cellar ready.   

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nourish Your Lashes

I am big on moisturizers and treatments, and not just for the skin. My hair gets a weekly coconut oil hair mask, for instance. 

Browsing online, I came across the idea of oiling up eyelashes. Why not? I mused. After all, if I moisturize my skin after cleansing, why shouldn't I moisturize my lashes after washing off my eye makeup? They have been looking forlornly dry.

Any natural (or even unnatural) oil can be used. Users have been happy with extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, and jojoba oil, to name a few.  

In the case of castor oil, there is some internet chatter about the potential hair-growing benefits of castor oil. So I bought myself a bottle

Castor oil is thick, viscous, and a little sticky; some combine it with other oils to make it more malleable, like when applying it to the scalp. 

I place a drop of it onto my finger, and thoroughly douse a q-tip into it. I run it slowly along my lashes, making sure to apply it to the root, where the magic happens.

I gently moisten the q-tip, since applying the oil heavy-handededly will lead to runoff into the eyes, and as a myopic individual, having my vision compromised even further is not entertaining when I'm trying to do my nighttime reading. 
It also removes any mascara or shadow that may have been missed by after cleansing. 

Any oil that strays is a plus, unless one has very sensitive skin. The dermis around the eye hungers for moisture, and moisture means plump, happy, youthful skin.

By morning all the oil as been absorbed, leaving nourished, happy lashes. 

I used to do this only occasionally, but recently I began to do it every night after thinking my natural lashes were looking rather sad lately. But after a week they appear to be thicker and longer.      

Thursday, December 5, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Having it all. Sounds good, doesn't it? But what does "all" mean?

Well, it means that a woman tackles a successful career, meets male version of herself who has an equally successful career. Then they establish an egalitarian household where they split laundry and dinner duty, and have two children at perfectly scheduled intervals.
That does sound like "all." But it's not my "all." 

My "all" is different, and so is yours, I'm guessing. Except the only "all" we hear about is the above one.

Delia Ephron made me think with her article, "You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake." She begins with a rambling description of her love of bakeries, and the reader does wonder where she's going with this. 

She then jumps to Sheryl Sandberg and her premise of having it "all," which echoes the above scenario. But, Ephron points out, Sandberg's "all" differs by individual, situation, choices, even by society.

For instance, in my case, I seem to take after an ancestral quirk in that I occasionally believe that I must be deathly ill, but no way would I actually go to a doctor. In that time span, my "all" is simple, beautiful, august, life. Grant me that, O Lord, and I shall never bother Thee again, I pray. Then it turns out that the malady was caused by my own overwrought nerves expecting the worst. 

Well then. My "all" is now health, and tripping over an eligible bachelor who is witty, confident, learned, and employed in the manner which I have become accustomed. Oh, and can his mother be reasonable? How about flat-out lovely? Could he not have younger siblings that I have to humor? While I have You, I am in dire need of chic winter boots . . . 

My "all" changes, based on my own choices. "All" can be big, or it can be small. 

On top of that, we don't even know what we want.
Never underestimate the power of high school. It’s the identity everyone wants to live down, the approval everyone aspires to. Being able to check the boxes — marriage, children, career — is more important at a high school reunion than anywhere else, which is why I think that high school, not feminism, is the reason an idea of happiness got framed this way. It instantly creates the social world of high school: haves, have-nots, wannabes and freaks. Freaks are those who aspire to other versions of life, who want to march to their own tune. Thanks to this definition of success, they will always be freaks.
My friend Molly graduated from high school in 2003, and keeps bumping into her classmates on Facebook, even those she hasn’t spoken to since high school. Daily she is bombarded by photos and news of the have-it-alls. She keeps redefining what she wants, she says, by seeing what everyone else has.
Getting away from high school is supposed to free you from the pressure to conform. But now that there’s no getting away, high school is forever. Perhaps Sheryl Sandberg is not Queen Have-It-All. She is Prom Queen Have-It-All.
What do we want? What the popular Shprintzy in high school has, which is the fast-paced, glittering career? Is the only man worth having is one who knows how to competently fold clean t-shirts? Better yet, is that the man you really want?
Before one can have it "all," one must actually figure out what one's "all" is. 

Ephron notes that having it "all" relies on living in the moment, reveling in small pleasures, as opposed to the gradiose. That's why she loves bakeries. 
To me, having it all — if one wants to define it at all — is the magical time when what you want and what you have match up. Like an eclipse . . . This eclipse never lasts more than seven minutes and 31 seconds.
 . . . Having it all are moments in life when you suspend judgment. It’s when I attain that elusive thing called peace of mind.
Not particularly American, unquantifiable, unidentifiable, different for everyone, but you know it when you have it.
When I can't wait to go to bed because I have found a perfect book, that is an "all." When it occurs to me look up at the sky on a clear night and see the stars in their timeless glory. When a niece throws her arms around my waist and squeezes the stuffing out of me. When she goes to sleep without a fuss ten minutes later and the house is quiet, leaving me and the aforementioned book.

Sandberg, your "all" ain't my "all."     

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Battle of the Bulge: NDD

When receiving an invitation for a wedding scheduled after a three-day yontif, I could have sworn I heard a dun-dun-DUN!

Even though I was a good girl (relatively) over the yontif, my problem area (meaning my belly) was protruding.

Whenever I consume a hearty lunch, whether it be Shabbos, Yontif, or weekday, my plan is to then abstain from food for the rest of the day. Supper is either non-existent or a modest amount of fruit; a hefty mid-day meal usually keeps me satisfied until the following morning. But being in the house with a fully-stocked kitchen sometimes proves too much a temptation.

But, holding out results in a major shortcut. To illustrate: 

One Shabbos my self-control had an extra boost; I had gone to a shiur that afternoon and ending up shmoozing nearly all the way to os, and I takkeh only had a banana for supper. 

The next morning, my stomach was caved in. Oh, happy day!

It's amazing how good one feels when going to bed with a somewhat empty belly. I sleep great, I feel great, and breakfast tastes great. 

There is sufficient chatter to prove that it is not only what one eats, but when one eats it. 
I know that my appetite roars into being in the mid-morning, then tapers off as the day goes on. The digestive system isn't open for business 24 hours a day. Even if one eats less-than-ideally, it makes a difference if it was a sinful lunch as opposed to a decadent dinner. 

I found a post advocating "The No-Dinner Diet," ("NDD") by Paul Nison. Don't let the copious amounts of beard scare you.
Studies have been done to show even if a person doesn’t change anything in their diet, but fasted at night after 5pm, giving up dinner, that nighttime fasting causes 15 percent loss of body weight in obese woman on average. So even if a person consumed the same exact amount of food throughout the day but avoided late-night eating, their health will improve.
. . . Our body works more efficiently during the day to digest food and starts winding down towards the end of the day. Everything begins to slow down as the body gets ready for rest and sleep.
He even has Biblical proof! 
In the Bible, the daily offering times of the Jewish people and eating times were around 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. 
That ties into: 
According to the Ayurvedic system of medicine, the time of optimal digestive power is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
If I don't have to get to work in the mornings, I won't eat breakfast until 9 or so. I'm just not hungry yet.
Even if I don't eat bad foods late at night, but rather copious amounts of the good stuff, I still don't sleep so well. My stomach feels like I swallowed a lump of cement. I just can't eat at night, and apparently, for optimal health and weight management, I shouldn't. It just does a number on the body, which isn't designed to work that hard at that time.

If the body is working on digesting when one is sleeping, than the body isn't fully resting. Then the next day's energy is affected. 
Another post of Nison's gets into technical detail about when to eat (the rambling bit about Yahweh aside, it's quite informative)—he says snacking between meals or eating small meals throughout the day isn't good for the body; it needs rest periodically from the digestive process. He advocates only two meals a day, which I could technically do if I was able to lug a cooler to the office every day, but in the meantime:
If that is too hard, try to eat just two (or three only if you must) meals a day but not within one hour of waking up and 5 hours of going to sleep. That doesn’t mean, eat late at night and stay up later. Your last meal of the day should be no later than 6pm to start, but the earlier the better.
The best time to fall off the wagon is around noon, not at 9 at night. I had to keep that in mind for this holiday week (motzei Shabbos Chanukah party, no no; Sunday Chanukah brunch, have fun).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Braveheart's in the Kitchen

I spent my childhood waiting for supper to get ready, which meant I stood at Ma's elbow, enraptured as her magical hands wielded knives and spatulas, chopping, dicing, and pounding. 
Via theguardian.com
I picked up a few things from those days, like when making a cake the sugar and eggs are mixed together first. After an unfortunate incident when I left a tupperware lid to melt on the stove, I was banned from kitchen duty until only recently. 

Even though I am always happy with a bowl of cereal if there is no "official" supper, there is that glow of satisfaction and accomplishment when I can successfully bend and bind once separate, raw ingredients to my will. 

Yes, there can be an element of penchant, that child prodigy who gravely approaches the stove whilst accompanied by divine trumpets, but I am not she.

In order to cook, one does not need innate abilities; one just has to be willing to try and to listen. It's not about recipes only, it is about technique, and relying on the insight of the elders while experimenting with new ideas. Result?   

Jim Sollisch's article title says it all: "Cooking is Freedom." I am not dependent on a generous income or need to humor a waiter so that he doesn't spit into my salad or hope for a speedy metabolism I don't have. 

Yeah, girls are "supposed" to know how to cook, but Sollisch's story is different. As a hungry adolescent, he petitioned his school to open another home ec class for the boys so he could eat his homework. He learned the skills, and felt absolutely emancipated. 
I think of those bachelors I have gone out with that live on their own. None knew how to cook (at least, none were going to admit they did). I shivered at all the greasy takeout they must subsist on, upping their workouts to burn it off, when they could eat more healthfully and exercise less violently. 

First suggestion: Proper, reliable cookware makes all the difference. To illustrate, my sister-in-law bought a cheap, no-name frying pan for Pesach; obviously, for one week a year, she wasn't going to splurge. But that pan wouldn't warm up for no money. I stood there with my niece for ten minutes, watching the stubbornly raw egg eyeball me back as the pan refused to heat. 

Hard anodized non-stick cookware can be found, with a little effort, reduced in many stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx, or even online. Calphalon used to be the major non-stick contender, but new competition has arisen like the Cuisinart Chef's Classic Nonstick Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Everyday Pan or the Cuisinart Dishwasher Safe Hard-Anodized 12-Inch Everyday Pan or the Cuisinart Contour Hard Anodized 12-Inch Everyday Pan (I can't really tell the differences between these, but I tend to be drawn to whatever cost the most originally). 
Via confessionsofanover-workedmom.com

If one is feeling particularly solvent, there are often non-stick sets that are radically reduced, like the Anolon Professional Hard Anodized Nonstick 12-Piece Cookware Set. Look how much that baby cost originally, over $800, now under $250! Plus all those glowing reviews! Or the Cuisinart Dishwasher Safe Hard-Anodized 11-Piece Cookware Set! Over $500, now yours for under $165!
Oh, my, I'm becoming faint. 

A cheap person pays twice, Zeidy always said. Investing in cookware is always a financially sound plan.