Friday, October 31, 2014

Dating Lingo

"7:30, then?" 

"Sounds good." 

"Looking forward." 


The question is, what does "7:30" mean? 

Does it mean "Of course I'm feeding you, it's dinnertime!" or does it mean "I'm assuming you've had supper already, how about some coffee?" (This quandary applies to any time frame between 4 and 10, come to think of it.)

One 7:30 date matter-of-factly took me to Starbucks while I attempted to hush my growling belly. Therefore, prior to the following 7:30 date, I stuffed myself with two bowls of whole-grain cereal, only to be ushered into a scrumptious milchig restaurant. Not wanting to dissuade such chivalrous conduct by claiming fullness, nor desiring to appear anorexic, I fell upon my sword—I mean my gnocchi. 

That left me woefully unprepared for the next 7:30, since I did not wish to strain the waistline of my skirt yet again, but he hustled me into—you guessed it—Starbucks. 

Perhaps the guys could make it simpler if the exchange went as follows: 

"7:30, then? We'll get coffee." 


"7:30, then? We'll have supper." 

Three little extra words. Makes a world of a difference. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

V'Ahavta L'Reacha B'Simcha

We are born, we are taught, all yetzer hara. My wants, my needs, now, now, now! There is no, "My word, poor woman, you must be exhausted. Go to bed, I shan't bother you for eight hours, really. I'll be fine." 

Have you ever tried sitting down while holding a baby? Even when they are but a few minutes old, they know the difference. They want some suffering fool to walk with them, endlessly, and preferably somewhere with a pleasant, sufficiently entertaining view.

When we are old enough to be warned that this selfishness isn't cute anymore, the concept of the yetzer hara and the yetzer tov—the shoulder devil and the shoulder angel—are hammered into us.
The yetzer hara, in its simplest explanation, is the id. Thanks to wikipedia, I can firmly state that it operates on the "pleasure principle." It's primal and instinctive: All about ME. 

The yetzer tov is the super-ego, the id's opposite. It seeks transcendence from the grubby, animalistic physicality. What makes us different from our fellow four-legged earthlings are ethics and morals, which dictate acceptable behavior between human and human. It is there, so sayeth the "Love People, Not Pleasure" article by Andrew C. Brooks, that happiness can be found. 

My father has clients who are ruthless, successful businesspeople. Their spouses were divorced, their assets are zealously guarded even though it is enough to live a few lifetimes on, and they have the love of a big guard-dog. Then one day, they realize that they confused power with happiness. And they are unhappy. Familiar much with the tale of Midas?
Brooks cites studies which show that the typical lusts of fame, money and the flesh do not bring joy.
This might seem totally counterintuitive. After all, we are unambiguously driven to accumulate material goods, to seek fame, to look for pleasure. How can it be that these very things can give us unhappiness instead of happiness? There are two explanations, one biological and the other philosophical.
From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that we are wired to seek fame, wealth and sexual variety. These things make us more likely to pass on our DNA. Had your cave-man ancestors not acquired some version of these things (a fine reputation for being a great rock sharpener; multiple animal skins), they might not have found enough mating partners to create your lineage.
But here’s where the evolutionary cables have crossed: We assume that things we are attracted to will relieve our suffering and raise our happiness. My brain says, “Get famous.” It also says, “Unhappiness is lousy.” I conflate the two, getting, “Get famous and you’ll be less unhappy.”
But that is Mother Nature’s cruel hoax. She doesn’t really care either way whether you are unhappy — she just wants you to want to pass on your genetic material. If you conflate intergenerational survival with well-being, that’s your problem, not nature’s. And matters are hardly helped by nature’s useful idiots in society, who propagate a popular piece of life-ruining advice: “If it feels good, do it.” Unless you share the same existential goals as protozoa, this is often flat-out wrong.
Which ties into another Judaic ideal: Through slavery to God, we are free from the binds of nature. It turns out, we'll be happier that way. The laws of bein adam l'chaveiro appear to be, on the surface, merely about justice, respect, and love, but they are also the guarantee to our internal happiness. 
Love people, use things.
Easier said than done, I realize. It requires the courage to repudiate pride and the strength to love others — family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, God and even strangers and enemies. Only deny love to things that actually are objects. The practice that achieves this is charity. Few things are as liberating as giving away to others that which we hold dear. . .
Finally, it requires a deep skepticism of our own basic desires. Of course you are driven to seek admiration, splendor and physical license. But giving in to these impulses will bring unhappiness. You have a responsibility to yourself to stay in the battle. The day you declare a truce is the day you become unhappier. Declaring war on these destructive impulses is not about asceticism or Puritanism. It is about being a prudent person who seeks to avoid unnecessary suffering.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Repurchased! II

Okay, about time I shared a few more repurchased favorites! The ones listed in my first "The Repurchased!" post I am happy to report have remained beloved, despite the stiff competition.

 Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner in 01 Black. When I began to apply daily paint, I tried pencil but ended up looking rather terrifying as kohl tendrils would dribble down my cheeks. I used pressed powder liner for years until I tried all the top rated pencils at Sephora. This one is quite affordable and performs the best. Creamy, easy application, then smudge it in, and I look smashing until I take it off at night. (Disclaimer: Great for everyday, but not my option for Shabbos Face.)
 Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15 PA++. I have combination skin, which means my cheeks feel deprived of moisture while my t-zone gets greasy. This, somehow (maybe I don't want to know), keeps the oil in check while the dry areas are soothed. That's right, it's also a moisturizer. I always have a spare tube of this lying around. It must, and I mean must, go underneath any major Face.

  Smashbox Be Legendary Lipstick in Electric Pink Matte. Apply it with a lip brush on top of balm, lips are prettily enhanced; full on application for strong, feisty pigment. It's not as drying or hard to work with like other matte lipsticks, and can be made appropriate for any occasion. Although, come to think of it, the coral pink shade may not be the go-to for fall. Oops. Should have put this in an April post.
 Too Faced Shadow Insurance. Without primer my shadow makes a run for it; on weekdays, tinted moisturizer on my eyes does the trick, but I use this to keep my shadow on for simchos. A must before Shabbos and Yontif, obviously, but I do admit that on Shabbos morning there is a 50-50 chance that one eye's shadow will be gone. "A Clockwork Orange" look, sadly, has not yet taken on. (I'm currently experiencing with face setting sprays on top for bulletproof wear. Reviews soon.)
 FAIRYDROPS Scandal Queen Mascara. I originally discovered this in Sephora, but then they stopped carrying it; bless thee, Amazon. If you aren't a fan of bodacious lashes, this may not be for you; the brush packs a lot of product. But it is ideal for Shabbos and Yontif Face, when applied in layers and with other alternating mascaras. Some mascaras leave a sticky finish that can result in clumped lashes Shabbos morning, but so far, not this baby. Ma and I get a little panicked if we run out. 
So, my frumanistas: Anyone want to contribute their "Repurchased!" loves? C'mon, I know you want to . . . 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Think Again

We no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust. . .
It’s motivated by Elliot Rodger’s rampage in Southern California, by Jill Abramson’s exit from The Times, even by Cliven Bundy’s antics in the Nevada outback. Utterly different stories, yes. But they share a dynamic: Each event was overtaken by the jeremiads about it; impassioned interpretations eclipsed actual information. Why slow down and wait for clarity when there’s an angle to promote, a grievance to air? Damn the torpedoes and full screed ahead.
This article ("Full Screed Ahead" by Frank Bruni) is from May, so there are new "crises" since then in current media, but the premise is the same. 
News has always been paired with analysis, and a certain degree of assumption and conjecture rightly enters into the laudable attempt to make sense of things. What has changed over recent years are the platforms and the metabolism of the process. Twitter and other social media coax rapid-fire reactions from a broad audience, whose individual members stand out by readily divining something that nobody else has divined, by fleetly declaring something that nobody else has dared to, by bringing the most strident or sauciest attitude to bear.
And for every journalist peeling away at the layers that Auletta mentioned, there are many more of us pontificating about what’s been revealed so far, no matter how little of it there is, no matter how shakily it’s been established. Americans have seemingly grown accustomed to this. They may even hunger for it. With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the remote, they find something to confirm their prejudices, to validate their perspectives. And the gratification is almost instant.
We have our own pet "crises." Flipping through a Jewish periodical is enough to make one scream. Since this one tends to get thrown in my face a lot, like "the shidduch crisis." I can't rail against it enough. 

"Everything's bashert, until it isn't" is, in essence, its tagline. Despite the fact that is swamped in engagement announcements, OMG, OMG, we're all going to die alone.

Pat answers (such as the overused "everyone's picky, I married someone mediocre and I'm happy, no offense to my spouse") are flung unhelpfully in response, but words words words, I'm so sick of words, to quote Eliza Doolittle (ironic, coming from a wannabe "writer").

Our world is not immune to outside influences, including the contemporary methods of thought. Think again. Get more information. Just because everyone is bugging out doesn't mean it's important, or even true. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: The Spontaneous Green Soup

Now with the fattening holidays behind us, let's recuperate! 

I decided to aimlessly assemble a green soup, which eventually consisted of:
1 bunch kale 
2 zucchini
1 eggplant 
3 carrots
1 parsnip 
3 stalks celery
8 mushrooms
1 can aduki/adzuki beans 
1/2 onion 
4 cloves garlic, minced
a little oil 
boiling water 
sea salt
black pepper 

Sauté the diced onion in a soup pot, then add the chopped veggies except for the mushrooms, beans, and kale. (Slice and sauté the mushrooms separately until gorgeous.)
Add boiling water to vegetables in the soup pot, along with sprinkle of salt, pepper, and the garlic. Simmer until veggies are tender, then add the kale, which should wilt on impact. Give a few pulses of an immersion blender for blended smoothness; three should do. Then add the mushrooms and beans.  

It took practically no time to prepare and cook. Ten minutes, maybe?

On motzei Shavuous, I was quite concerned as to my cheesy indulgences of the past two days. Rummaging about the fridge, I threw together a green soup composed of:
1 cabbage head 
1 onion
4 stalks celery 
1/2 bag frozen cauliflower
1 parsnip 
1/2 head garlic
1 can navy beans
boiling water
sea salt
black pepper

Begin with the sautéed onion, then add the messily chopped veggies, simmered with boiling until the vegetables were tender, pulverized with the immersion blender, threw in a can of navy beans.
Then, after a busy Shabbos, I unearthed three large cucumbers that needed some love before they rotted. I wouldn't recommend doing this unless one has cucumbers that are decomposing, but the soup still tasted quite good.
3 cucumbers 
2 zucchini
1 cup frozen broccoli florets (courtesy of Costco) 
3 carrots 
1 parsnip 
4 stalks celery
1 head garlic 
1 can aduki beans 
5 mushrooms 
1 onion
sea salt
black pepper

In a separate pan, I caramelized the onion, and sautéed the mushrooms and beans. Everything else went into the pot with some water and sea salt, simmered for about 15 minutes, and yes, again immersion blender. Finish with pepper, add the onions, mushrooms, and beans.

The point of this long, rambling post that a redemptive soup requires no recipe, barely any time, and the results (scale-wise) are divine. A soup can be thrown together with whatever is lying around—please do not consider the above as recipes. It's just what was left in the fridge. The soups, no matter what they are made of, are (usually) delicious, and great for rectifying any diet fiascos. 

I had thrown myself upon it's mercy on motzei Succos, and really, that was fast. 

Like I said, it's easy being green.         

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our Fashion Ambassador

In this past Thursday Styles, there is an article on Adi Heyman of Fabologie! ("Modesty is Her Best Policy.")
I want that skirt.
When I googled her name for some more info, I came across this article on Times of Israel. Although Ms. Heyman has been offered, more than once, a reality show, she refused as our faith could be easily misconstrued based on the whim of the director.  Isn't that amazing?

She's wearing those Valentinos that I loooooove . . .

Friday, October 24, 2014

Guest Post: Luke is Taking All My Screen Time

Science is (yet) another of Luke/Eilu v'Eilu's interests. You have been warned.

(For those who require clarification, Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, has already claimed that based on his calculations, God does not exist. If I have it right, he states that the field of science was initially created to comprehend God, but now we know better and no longer require that "construct.") 

Mr. Hawking is perhaps the most intelligent individual to grace this universe. He and people like him seek to prove the unprovable. 

But, the ever-changing definitions of the physical realm have absolutely nothing to say regarding that which is purported to exist beyond our finite universe. Our minds and definitions of the phenomena that surrounds us are limited to the current rules that we believe govern our finite physical realm. 

We cannot prove the existence or lack thereof of a supreme being that is beyond physics and beyond time. In a hundred or perhaps a thousand years new ways of thinking will perhaps transcend the limits of our current understanding. 

How can we arrogantly say that we know everything there is to know when every generation new discoveries comes to light and trump our old ones? The discovery of the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall or the Higgs boson clearly test the limits of our understanding.
The irony is that within our finite universe exists a infinite system of numbers that were developed as a direct result of the two groups of digits—that were developed over four billion years simply by chance?—that we use to grasp the physical, and yet our minds somehow think that we can define the things that we can’t grasp, that which exists just beyond those limits that we ourselves conceptualized.
Hey, he said it, not me.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do What You Gotta Do

In this season's The Big Bang Theory, Penny (finally) abandons her dream of becoming a famous Hollywood actress, gets a job as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company, and can actually pay her bills and live comfortably.
She looks so responsible now!
I found this shift to be interesting. Usually, television will boost the belief that one should follow her dreams, and no matter how many times one fails, one will reach the stars (or something like that). 

Gordon Marino is an occupational counselor, who used to ask his students what they love to do when they seek his guidance. But now he is rethinking that method ("A Life Beyond 'Do What You Love'") and unleashed television memories in my mind's eye. 

Yes, there are people who rocketed to success while clinging to their calling. But there are as many individuals, if not more, who didn't, and elected to put aside the struggle by undertaking pragmatic, stable employment. Does that make them quitters? Does it mean their passionless work is meaningless?

The 1995 episode of The Simpsons "And Maggie Makes Three" flashes back to when there was only Bart and Lisa, and Homer achieves his dreams by leaving the power plant to work for less money in a bowling alley. Life is great. But when Marge becomes pregnant, the bowling alley salary is not enough, and Homer has to beg Mr. Burns for his job back. He's miserable. 

To add a final, devilish touch to his evil overlordness, Mr. Burns hangs up a sign that says, "Don't forget: you're here forever." Homer gives meaning to his misery by plastering every photo of Maggie around his cubicle, even over the sign, so now it reads, "Do it for her."
Yes, you may cry now.

But what if one isn't as selfless as Homer (that doesn't sound right), and one seeks only personal satisfaction. What if that someone can do so much for so many, but decides to reach for the petty-by-comparison dreams instead? 

An episode of House, M.D. called "The Greater Good" deals with just this: the patient is a prominent cancer researcher who opts to become a chef. After her illness she is still a chef—she chose happiness over greatness. 

Marino cites Kant, who operated on the belief (as philosophers did at that time) that one's abilities were gifts from Above, and so one should use their divinely ordained talents for the greater good. But today, God is no longer the first thought; "self-fulfillment" now reigns.
The faith that my likes and dislikes or our sense of meaning alone should decide what I do is part and parcel with the gospel of self-fulfillment. Philosophy has always been right to instruct that we can be as mistaken about our views on happiness as anything else. The same holds for the related notion of self-fulfillment.    
"Self-fulfillment" kinda sounds a lot like the yetzer hara, doesn't it? It's about, in essence, what I want to do, and to heck with anything else. Yeah, that always turns out well.

Marino's father toiled at a job he hated because he wanted to put his children through college and, in turn, have a better life. Some would call that meaning, Marino says, but his father would have seen it as simply doing what had to be done.
Dr. King taught that every life is marked by dimensions of length, breadth and height. Length refers to self-love, breadth to the community and care of others, and height to the transcendent, to something larger than oneself. Most would agree with Dr. King’s prescription that self-fulfillment requires being able to relate yourself to something higher than the self. Traditionally, that something “higher” was code for God, but whatever the transcendent is, it demands obedience and the willingness to submerge and remold our desires . . . Our desires should not be the ultimate arbiters of vocation. Sometimes we should do what we hate, or what most needs doing, and do it as best we can. 
"What has to be done" is different than "meaning"; "meaning" is a pleasant perspective, "what has to be done" is an obligatory directive, outside of our own selfish selves. If there is a way to combine what has to be done and what we like to do, that's nice. But in the end, we gotta do what we gotta do.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What To Marry For?

'. . . Jane and Albert were there, just back from Paris.'

'Where they, now?' said Paul with interest. 'And how are they? Happy?'

'Wretched, I believe. Did they expect anything else? What a silly marriage that was, to be sure.'

'Oh dear,' said Paul gloomily, 'it really is rather disillusioning. When one's friends marry for money they are wretched, when they marry for love it is worse. What is the proper thing to marry for, I should like to know?' 

'The trouble is,' said Amabelle . . . 'that people seem to expect happiness in life. I can't imagine why; but they do. They are unhappy before they marry, and they imagine themselves that the reason of their unhappiness will be removed when they are married. When it isn't they blame the other person, which is clearly absurd. I believe that is what generally starts the trouble.' 

'I expect that is quite right,' said Paul, sighing. —Nancy Mitford, Christmas Pudding 

Well, this segment got me nervous. Now I had to analyze my reasons for wanting to marry. 

I'm not a romantic; I harbor no fantasies of teddy bears or flowers or slain dragons. Cross that one out.

Is it because another human being will "complete" me? Well, I feel rather complete. I think maybe the word I'm looking for is "compliment." Like how ties shouldn't match the suit and shirt, but compliment them; a blue suit looks ho-hum with a navy tie, but pops with red. 

I don't wish to marry just because "everyone else" is; "everyone else" chooses to don a number of unflattering trends, so that has never been a reason for me before (thank the Bashefer that the tunic era is drawing to a close). 

A ruminator by nature, my musings began to get a little hysterical.

Those couples that divorced—no one really knows why. Is it something I can avoid? Is it based on my awareness, my making the right choice? Would the state of my marriage function strictly in terms of my motivation, which could doom it from the start? If my will is selfish as opposed to selfless, would that corrupt my so-far nonexistent future relationship? What if my inducements are noble, but his are not?

Deep breaths, deep breaths . . . 

Perhaps one wants to marry simply because we have been crafted to, the same way we were designed to breathe air. By my programming, my circuits have been wired to flash "Helpmeet."

So it's the Eibishter's fault; He molded us gals to want to marry, that's why He didn't bother to give us the commandment to. 

I'll blame Him, then.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


This past Sunday's NY Times Magazine featured "The Beggars of Lakewood," by Mark Oppenheimer, about the concept of schnorring.
Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times
It was actually a very nice article. The whole piece is a pleasant read, but I would like to highlight a couple of points. 

It mentions one of the wealthiest men of Lakewood, Rich Roberts. 
Roberts, who is married with six children, moved to Lakewood seeking a religious community within commuting distance of Philadelphia. But when he got to an Orthodox community, he discovered the downside of living with his coreligionists. “In the secular world,” Roberts told me, the rich live “in estates that are away from the public. They’ll have gates, they’ll have guards. People even buy their own islands.” But because religious Jews don’t drive on the Sabbath, they must live within walking distance of their synagogues, no matter how wealthy they are. Roberts clearly lives well. His large house was decorated in a style you might call South Jersey riche: overstuffed sofas, late-model kitchen, huge dinner table for Sabbath guests, giant exotic aquarium dominating the living room. But it was not in an exclusively rich neighborhood. “I am a well-to-do person,” he said, “but I live in a poverty-stricken area.” 
The non-Jewish or irreligious millionaires seclude themselves from the rest of the rabble, unable to see the difficulties, first-hand, of their fellow human. In order to be empathetic, there must be exposure. Just by having to be able to easily reach a minyan by foot, a financially diverse community is guaranteed. And Roberts is very, very generous, always listening to the stories being told. 

The current Aharon Kotler (Reb Aharon's einikel) was also interviewed. 
I asked Kotler what he thought of the culture of begging. “I think that people of quality want to live in a place that has a flavor of doing chesed,” or kindness, he said. He questioned whether the door-to-door begging was “the most effective way to raise money,” but ultimately he looked on it favorably.
“There’s a certain warmth and trust to it,” Kotler said. “In a big city, in Manhattan, you see indigent people collecting on the street. That doesn’t feel as dignified as this. Here, a person knocks on the door. And tells you their story.
People want to be seen and heard. They want to count. They want to be recognized. Often that can be just as valuable to them as the money they are attempting to raise, that they were looked in the eye and respected. 

Brené Brown (b'sheim amra) wrote on this. The barista who brews the coffee, your waitress at the restaurant, the fellow who pumps the gas—see them. Hear them. It makes a big difference.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eewok's Bashert

"Aren't they cute together?" I sigh. 

My niece Eewok, 7, ambles by with my nephew's friend, Jawa, age 9. The two look like an old married couple, comfortable in each other's presence, no need to speak. 

The funny thing is Eewok is quite the talker. She's also the family worrywart, and gives me instructions on how to not break the baby. "Small pieces, you give him," she tells me carefully, "like this."  Her voice can be stridently heard as she hovers over the family, packing up everyone's spare change of clothes and underwear when they go swimming. Even for Luke.  

My nephew is not like her at all. But Jawa is. While the nephew ambles about at a shul kiddush splattered in orange cholent stains, Jawa stands to the side, keeping a watchful eye on the smaller ones that Eewok has herded together.

The two manage to sit next to each other on the couch while watching SpongeBob, with my nephew, the supposed link between the them, on the outskirts.

"Eewok and Jawa are just made for each other," I tell Luke. 

"Oh, they have it all worked out," Luke agreed.
If the NY Times regularly announce the weddings of couples who met in nursery school, there must certainly be hope for these two.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Stjepan Inspiration

Europeans are just so interesting. So often when I hear an interview or read a blurb about 'em, I feel like a dumb, unexposed American. 

I just finished reading “The Book of Ego” by Osho. I was blown away by this book. After reading it, I became aware that people are wearing so many different masks in life and on social media. Very often people are obsessed with what others think of them. It’s like if a flower wants to be a cactus or a palm but it’s not. A flower is a flower and that’s enough. That’s all you have to do is be a flower.
How many of us live our lives based on a script that we chose to pick up?
Walking is my big passion. I love walking for hours and hours every day. Everywhere I’ve gone, I walked so much, I can say I walked the entire planet. It relaxes me and gives me time and space to think about things. Once I walked 12 hours nonstop in London. I walked the whole Thames; the whole river.
It's not just about the walking; it's the ability to walk alone, for hours, consumed with only one's thoughts. So many refuse to give themselves a moment to think, simply because they don't like what's rattling around in there. 

Now that would be an experiment: How long can any of us walk without any other distractions? 

But anyway, here is the original AC/DC "Thunderstruck": 

And the 2Cellos version:  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Night of the Iguana

How calmly does the olive branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair

Some time while light obscures the tree
The zenith of its life will be
Gone past forever
And from thence
A second history will commence

A chronicle no longer gold
A bargaining with mist and mold
And finally the broken stem
The plummeting to earth, and then

And intercourse not well designed
For beings of a golden kind
Whose native green must arch above
The earth's obscene corrupting love

And still the ripe fruit and the branch
Observe the sky begin to blanch
Without a cry, without a prayer
With no betrayal of despair

Oh courage! Could you not as well
Select a second place to dwell
Not only in that golden tree
But in the frightened heart of me?

—Tennessee Williams