Friday, June 27, 2014

Matisyahu "Akeda"

Without my knowledge, Matisyahu dropped a new album, Akeda!
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DuSoDHHDL._SL500_AA280_.jpg
It has a distinctly different tone than Spark Seekers, which was more . . . 

Wait, I'll let Netanel Miles- Yepez phrase it: 
Matisyahu's new album, Akeda, is almost pure roots music, with a little dancehall sprinkled in the mix. It's the kind of album you put on when you need to get away, or shut the bedroom door and just kick-back, soaking in the music. If his previous album, Spark Seeker, was like a joyful leap into the mosh-pit at Red Rocks on a sunny day, Akeda is all on the ground, like a slow walk through lonely streets in the early morning or at night, letting one's thoughts churn with every step. It is music that comes from the inside-out, and that somehow makes you feel cleansed in the listening.
Spark Seeker was combative, with a who-cares-what-the-world-thinks message of defiance, while Akeda is more contemplative. The lyrics are soulful, full of yearning for connection and understanding. 

The bummer is, I like dancehall music. I'm kinda peasant that way. My gauge for music is if it makes my head bop and my foot tap; I, sometimes, cringing, find myself downloading a popular song. I'm like a two-year-old; I like my music to be fast-paced. 

While I adored Spark Seeker in its entirety, for Akeda, not all songs got my gut on the boogie-level. But I really dug the lyrics of the whole album, especially "Vow of Silence."

"Watch the Walls Melt Down"
"Champion"
"Ayeka"
My favorite, "Confidence"

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's Not About Me

"You should go to shiurim more," Ma was telling a friend of hers, who was midway in her weekly diatribe of all her frustrations in life. "Sometimes, you just have to get out of your own head." 

I adore torahanytime.com for just this purpose. There are times when I wallow in self-pity, in the same futile, ruminative loop, immobile in petty contemplations. 

Then I click on a shiur, and whether it be something I agree with or something I don't, it provides that necessary reminder that there is a big world out there, there are many people in it, and they don't all share the same thought process. 
http://www.ktmmtl.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/wedensday-shiur.jpg
Via ktmmtl.org
Instead of delving on the individual, one is nudged towards the communal whole. Instead of obsessing about how the world should be serving me, I am prompted to focus on how I should be serving the world around me. 

That is what I thought of when I read Akhil Sharma's "The Trick of Life," about how, as an author, he was able to lift himself from the despair of the unfinished novel by looking outside of his mental confines. 
I sat on a bench by the river and rested. I stared across it to the tall apartment buildings in New Jersey. Thinking of how people were living out their lives in those buildings comforted me somehow. I looked at the gray rushing water and its movement, the fact that it was coming from someplace and going someplace else also consoled me. It was then that I realized that I needed somehow to always be outside myself. My mind had become uninhabitable . . .
So, sitting on the bench by the river that day, I remembered having read in Reader’s Digest — a periodical my family has undue reverence for — that when you are feeling bad, one way to make yourself feel better is to pray for others.
I began to pray for the people who were passing by. I prayed for the nanny pushing a stroller. I prayed for the young woman jogging by in spandex. I prayed for the little boy pedaling his bicycle. I prayed that each of them got the same things that I wanted for myself: that they have good health, peace of mind, financial security. By focusing on others and their needs, my own problems seemed less unique and, somehow, less pressing.
The world population is currently over seven billion, which I can't wrap my head around.  If we all remained glued to our own lives, where would we be then? 

The three kidnapped boys, nebach, has drawn us all closer; they are now part of our own families, now our own sons and brothers. But why must we wait until children are abducted for us to feel commonality in our nation? For every joy, for every sadness, we are, always, one.   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dodge the Sirens

"I'm reading The Iliad for the second time," he said proudly. His tone seemed to imply wonder on my behalf. Except for one little glitch . . .

In elementary school the students would receive the state-issue reader, which usually had a Greek myth tucked in somewhere that I would read on the sly, hidden from my teachers, since Hellenism and Judaism have long been historic enemies. But I figured it could be no worse than any other fairy tale, and I found them fascinating as well as morally instructive. 

My parents were quite entertained whenever I could pull a polysyllabic name out of the air, and encouraged this fixation. On a family trip they purchased The Odyssey for me at a used-book store. I was ten or so, and slogged through; I eventually re-tackled the Homeric classics at an older age, when a college class helpfully broke it down. 

Meaning, I was excited to have stumbled upon a mutually interesting topic with a date! He's re-reading it, right, so we can go into detail! 

"I love Homer! Doesn't that scene kill you, when Priam goes to Achilles to beg for the return of Hector's body?" 
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He nodded politely. 

"I also find the Greek perception of prophecy as compared to the Jewish to be so odd, y'know?" 

I enthusiastically continued with my hypothesis, and being a little on the dim side it took me a while to realize he wasn't jumping eagerly into this discourse, which was obviously one-sided. There was also a touch of panic in his eyes. 

"Then when Agamemnon and Cassandra . . ." I slowly braked to a halt. Relief crept into his irises. 

Oh, I see.  

That's why I don't claim to be knowledgeable about anything that I'm not on a date, unless it has been already been definitively proved he doesn't know it, either. 

Well, this awkward moment could have been completely avoided.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Write Out the Fire

One time, I was quite angry about an article written in a Jewish newspaper. I marched to the computer and typed up three pages of a scorching, raging critique. After the last tap on the keyboard, I leaned back, spent. 
http://www.implicante.org/wp-content/uploads//2011/04/Angry_keyboard_t440.jpg
Not simply exhausted, but, well, content. I was calm. All that fury I had channeled unto unfeeling paper, and, oddly, I felt no need to mail this letter in. 

I whittled down my work into three diplomatic paragraphs, and sent that in instead. 

I have numerous posts marinating in my drafts folder; the posts that get posted, and the posts that were simply the expressions of a lady scorned. They won't get screen time. But when I was in a place of hurt and limbo, that private railing against that idiot gave me peace, rendering me fit for human consumption once again. 

Maria Konnikova's "The Lost Art of the Unsent Letter" proves that once again, I'm not that special. Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, you get the picture, all utilized the unsent, unseen, unsigned "hot letter."

Since writing used to be a more laborious process—quill and ink—the ease of social media provides platforms for immediate gratification, and the ensuing remorse. If I am going to send a heated e-mail, I try to remember to save it first, then revisit the matter later. I'm often thanking God that I had the presence of mind to do so.
Now we need only click a reply button to rattle off our displeasures. And in the heat of the moment, we find the line between an appropriate response and one that needs a cooling-off period blurring. We toss our reflexive anger out there, but we do it publicly, without the private buffer that once would have let us separate what needed to be said from what needed only to be felt. It’s especially true when we see similarly angry commentary coming from others. Our own fury begins to feel more socially appropriate.
We may also find ourselves feeling less satisfied. Because the angry email (or tweet or text or whatnot) takes so much less effort to compose than a pen-and-paper letter, it may in the end offer us a less cathartic experience, in just the same way that pressing the end call button on your cellphone will never be quite the same as slamming down an old-fashioned receiver.
Perhaps that’s why we see so much vitriol online, so many anonymous, bitter comments, so many imprudent tweets and messy posts. Because creating them is less cathartic, you feel the need to do it more often. When your emotions never quite cool, they keep coming out in other ways.
Ah. Since we don't really know how to "bring ourselves down," we never achieve the mellow-keit needed to let issues go.
 
I had to squirm a little as the article went on; even when making a point to make the transgressor anonymous, Konnikova says, the result is usually thinly-veiled.

Perhaps there is out there an unchivalrous date or a tactless "shadchan" who may see themselves in my posts, whether it is them or not them. But I don't claim to be the best-behaved of them all. We are losing our verbal discretion, me included. 

For those who hurt me, I hope they won't hurt anyone else. For those I hurt, I hope to do better. I hope the tales of hurt I tell achieve their purpose. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Life-Transforming Diet

Years ago I had attended a shiur featuring Rabbi Jonathon Rietti, and his subject matter differed from the usual "Gateways" fare; he spoke about the healthy habits the Rambam guaranteed will result in a long and doctor-free life. 

I fear doctors, so I immediately perked up. But I was messing up in a number of ways—I struggled with chewing thoroughly, I certainly overeat. I tried to stay on target but my new-found enthusiasm swiftly waned.

But recently, I discovered the shiur on torahanytime.com ("The Art of Healthy Living"). In terms of my eating habits, I have certainly come a long way, so this time the precepts weren't so terrifying. 

Yet I wanted more information; due to time restrictions, Rabbi Rietti was not able to go into full detail. I did an internet search for a book on the Rambam doctrine, and up popped: The Life-Transforming Diet by David Zulberg.
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This book breaks down the Rambam's criteria into consumable, slowly-does-it steps. The focus isn't about a faddy diet, it's about overcoming bad habits by active good habits ("sur mei'ra v'asei tov"), week by week. The author even warns the reader, repeatedly, not to jump ahead, or else the changes will be temporary, not permanent. 

My first step: He really hammers in that fruit should be eaten by itself, and certainly not as a dessert after a meal. This was really bad news for me. Yet, a fruit platter is considered ideal for breakfast. I thought no protein would leave me famished by mid-morning, but I'm not.

Sounds, if I may pun, fruity? This isn't a solo-Rambam conclusion; Indian medicine concurs, identically, amongst many other sources.

Since I have already cultivated pretty good eating habits, I was amazed how consuming the same amount of food, sometimes even more, but in a different order, made such a freakin' difference. 

Additional awesome? Because the author is frum, he explains how to deal with that dreaded diet day: Shabbos. That is one aspect of Jewish life few diet programs address. 

While I have come a long way in terms of good habits prior to LT, I have found myself floundering as of late. I didn't know how to progress further. 

A shiur is especially good when the speaker simply describes how the world works. So to with this book. According to the Rambam and other ancient doctors, health is in not only what we eat, but how we eat it, in what combinations, at what times. This is how your body works, and what works best for it.

Results? Oh yeah.         

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tempting Food

With childhood obesity becoming an increasing concern, researchers have been trying to figure out the best parenting strategies for raising healthy eaters. 

The title of the article, "The Lure of Forbidden Food" by Tara Parker-Pope, amused me. After all, I would think that us Jews would know everything there is to know about forbidden food, no? 

You wouldn't catch many frum-from-births dreaming about BLTs, because in essence, you don't miss what you never had. I have heard more than one baal teshuva or convert wistfully reminisce on the lusciousness of shrimp and lobster. FFBs only blink in response. 

The same way one would never find a stash of the other white meat in a religious Jew's freezer, then find him telling his son, "We keep kosher," so to when it comes to "bad" foods: Don't have them in the house, then tell a kid "You can't eat that." 

Restriction, with temptation within reach, is too much for certain children (such as I was/is). My nephew executed suicidal gymnastic feats in order to grasp the bin of purple Laffy-Taffys perched atop the kitchen cabinets; he wasn't exactly appeased by my alternative, sliced apples.

Sure, there will always be that child who totes a bag of straight sugar and fat to school who can expose an unwitting wee veggie-consumer that there is a life beyond cucumbers, but parents have the greatest influence at this point. That's the fun when they are young and impressionable; they actually believe everything their caregivers tell them. Take advantage! 

As for the adults, the same premise applies. Don't buy that which cannot be resisted. It helps not stepping into the supermarket hungry. And sticking to the outer perimeter.   

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Author: Jan de Hartog

One day I was watching TCM with my mother and this movie came on, "Lisa," about a Holocaust survivor whose burning desire is to get to Palestine, and a Dutch policeman who helps her achieve her dream. 

The movie stayed in my head for a few days, so I googled it to find more information about it. It was based on a novel called The Inspector by Jan de Hartog. 
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As I read on, I was touched by the knowledge that Hartog's family hid Jews during the war. Despite my principles, I decided to take out one of his novels. 

Why is it against all I hold dear? 

I don't do World War novels. My usual cut-off date for historical fiction is around 1900, before half the world population died. There is something futilely depressing about the Great War, and as for World War II, it cuts too close to home. I can't bear to read about survivors, as a grandchild of them myself. 

What I was pleasantly surprised by is that even though Distant Shore takes place most firmly during the war years, it was hysterically funny. Jan de Hartog is a riot. While he does delve into his anti-violence beliefs (he was a Quaker) more graphically in The Captain, I was cracking up in public reading the sequel, The Commodore. I can count how many books have made me laugh out loud on one hand.

You make me laugh, I love you. 

Not only is de Hartog a riot, his prose is quite exquisite. Funny and poetic? He's won my heart. 

On to The Centurion!   

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Penny for the Pushka

When I first began to receive a salary, I decided to whip out my newly acquired checkbook and send money in to various tzedakah organizations. 

A few days later, my refund check from the government arrived in the mail, for the approximate amount of my donations. I decided to view that seeming coincidence as a divine boost. 
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Judaism possesses that inherent understanding that it is impossible to become impoverished through giving charity. That's why I found Andrew C. Brooks article, "Why Fund-Raising is Fun," to be quite entertaining:
In 2003, while working on a book about charitable giving, I stumbled across a strange pattern in my data. Paradoxically, I was finding that donors ended up with more income after making their gifts. This was more than correlation; I found solid evidence that giving stimulated prosperity.
It is quite understandable that giving charity makes one strut one's stuff . . .
In one typical study, researchers from Harvard and the University of British Columbia confirmed that, in terms of quantifying “happiness,” spending money on oneself barely moves the needle, but spending on others causes a significant increase.
Why? Charitable giving improves what psychologists call “self-efficacy,” one’s belief that one is capable of handling a situation and bringing about a desired outcome. When people give their time or money to a cause they believe in, they become problem solvers. Problem solvers are happier than bystanders and victims of circumstance.
If charity raises well-being, there is no obvious reason it would not also indirectly stimulate material prosperity as people improve their lives.
Yes, but how

I read through the the article more than once, but while he explains quite clearly the psychological benefits to generosity, he still doesn't explain how one can gains a higher income from a charitable disposition. Meaning to life, of course, but how exactly does more money come gushing in?    

We frummies may have an opinion on the matter. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ode to NEF

It does change things. It should change things. 

I am dazzled by the thrill in her voice, the brilliance of her smile, the light in her eyes. It contrasts all too poignantly with the not-so-long-ago hopelessness in her words, the trembling of her mouth, the fighting back of tears as she was crushed from yet another disappointment, wondering: What was she doing wrong? 

As I wonder, What am I doing wrong? 

But now, the bliss radiating into a palpable aura, she has found someone that she feels completely comfortable with, someone she can express herself with without careful editing, someone who accepts her as is, as she him. 

Like when we first met. 

We would share our dating horror stories, venting and laughing and commiserating. Now, I cannot; she feels guilty for having locating the missing puzzle piece, and hurries to tell me that she is searching through the pile for me, she really is. 

But I don't want her sympathy, I want her empathy, the way it was before! Bare months previous we would howl our frustrations then hug in understanding, bracing each other with hope in God. We would wallow together with shaken faith, then, with tightly gripped hands, clamber up to conviction once more.

Things have changed. 

Yet I couldn't be happier. 

For she and he have granted me more inspiration than any platitudes could. 

During her courtship she softened, at peace with the universe again. She is so grateful, so very grateful, thanking Hashem for this fulfillment despite her previous wobbly trust, apologizing for her moments of melancholy.

No, we cannot share as we used to; that time is over. But I shall smile at her chuppah, knowing that as she has found her equilibrium, so can I. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Story of My Life


This was the story of my life. Anytime someone was mildly attracted to me, I told a lame joke and he ran away screaming. Dating me was a fairy-tale trial-by-fire designed to allow only the most tenacious of suitors inside the castle. If a potential boyfriend could keep up with my witticisms, then he might have a chance. It’s a tribute to my husband that he was able to prevail.

Golly, does that sound familiar. 
 

Friday, June 13, 2014

"I Love Your _______"

I was in the supermarket, idly screening the selection of butter with the faint hope there would be one claiming to be goat-issue and organic. 

It had been a longish day, there is always dating tension, my basket hung heavily on my arm. I wasn't in a bad mood, really, but I could have been more chipper. 

A woman walked by in a cheerful red sundress, white wires dangling from her ears, flip-flops thwacking. Without breaking her stride, she flashed me a big grin and said, "I love your shoes!" 

Broken from my revery, I managed to stammer in reply, "Thanks!" She then disappeared down the ice cream aisle. I turned back to my dairy analyzation, but I found myself standing straighter. My chest felt lighter. I think I may have even been smiling to myself. 

I left the store with my head held high, humming a tune under my breath. I then realized what was going on. 

You are kidding me, I thought. A complete stranger makes a casual compliment about my footwear, and that's it? I'm good to go? 

It made me think of the other way, how an early mean-spirited comment can totally ruin my day. I'm a morning person; when I first wake up (close to dawn) it's as good as it's gonna get. To have that buoyancy compromised, with a few words, is a feat of language. 

Choose your words wisely.

I have to compliment more.   

Thursday, June 12, 2014

With Pen and Paper

Routinely there will arrive by mail the stunted envelope shape announcing, "I am the thank you card!" Even though most of them contain an atrocious scrawl with a rote statement, "Thank you for your generous gift and may we always share in simchas," it is the occasional one that gushes in detail that touches the heart.

"Baby Avrohom Zev loves his new teddy! He sleeps with it every night. Thank you so much!" 

Aw. 

It was with a jolt when the thank-you card from a bar mitvah boy contained not the cramped, laborious efforts of a grateful 13-year-old, but bland, pre-printed words. Yeesh, how touching.

The thank-you card, I always believed, was a rite of passage, as much as that oversized black fedora the new little men are so eager to don. With privilege comes responsibility; get a present, you have to sit down and tediously express thanks. 
http://cdn.digisecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Thank-You-Pen-Card-1.png
Via digisecrets.com
Of course, as the tapped word overcomes the written word, composing a mannerly missive is in a state of flux, as Guy Trebay observes in "The Found Art of Thank-You Notes." But there are still some who wave the snail-mail flag with one hand and a Papermate in the other.

Additionally, handwriting, as recently reported in the Science Times, has import beyond good behavior. Maria Konnikova reports in "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades" that writing by hand, as opposed to by keyboard or keypad, activates the learning process.

When I attend shiurim, I insist on toting along a notebook and penning down the speaker's thoughts, as then I truly hear and remember. It's not the same when typing, since then I focus on simply getting out each word, rather than the concept as a coherent whole.

To all the parents out there, make sure to emphasize old-school writing. It guarantees good learning skills and good manners.         

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Just Because

"I have trouble getting dates because _______________." 

So opine men and women, putting forth their theories as to their seeming lackluster dating streak. Both genders write in to "Ask the Shadchan" in local papers, or say to others as such. 

Well, many of us are in a position to say that. 

Take myself. A usual comment will be, "Oh, I know of a great guy for you, he would be perfect, except he is probably a head shorter than you.

Again, my leeriness of avoiding shorter men stem from my desire not to be stabbed by an insecure date. But it would seem I can be in a position to say, "I have trouble getting dates because I am tall." Or, after being informed of a "no" following a date with a charming fellow who I can look in the eye, I could say, "I have trouble keeping dates because I'm tall."

Except I don't. 

Firstly, there is this biased assumption that quantity equates with quality. Throw enough darts, one is bound to stick. There are enough cartoon gags that show that is not always so. 
http://sidoxia.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/darts.jpg
My sister, bless her heart, was "perfect" date material. She was the "right" height, for one thing, amongst her many "right" qualities. She racked up an impressive roster of first dates, outnumbering myself, before she was set up with bro-in-law. No matter how others may insist, successful dating isn't a "numbers game."

Secondly, my height, along with my shoe size and eye color, was bestowed upon me by that higher power, to Whom we give credit for marriage anyway. If He made me tall, then I am sure He also created either (1) a tall enough man or (2) a man able to deal with it. My height is so much a beloved aspect of my identity that I find no fault with it. 
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-JxSQKwPYJ-0/T2LtObiFCDI/AAAAAAAAADo/UdUBd9xu0K4/s400/jfa2203l.jpg
As for those who say "I can't get a date because I work and I'm not a full-time learner" or vice-versa or variations of that theme, please. As long as one did not choose to be a disgusting human being, one shouldn't have problems scoring a date with a bashert. Even the disgusting human beings manage all right. God worked it out like that

If one is making a point to represent oneself to the fullness of one's true identity, there is no need to write in to the latest version of Emily Post whining how one can't get a date. Frankly, I can't understand how that it going to help. Is the plan that enough people will see it and say, "I'd go out with that"?          

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Find God in the Dark


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"Let There Be Night: Darkness is often treated as evil, a vast unknown and the ultimate spiritual enemy. But as Barbara Brown Taylor believes, it may save us all." By Elizabeth Dias, TIME Magazine.

As impossible as it is to imagine faith without light, it is equally hard to imagine a world without darkness. We are taught to fear the darkness as children, [Barbara Brown Taylor] says, when parents line the halls to the bathroom with nightlights to scare away closet monsters. As we grow older, the monsters take a different shape: darkness descends with the call that a loved one has cancer, a child with an addiction or an unanswered prayer. . .

On a very practical level, she says, we pay a high price to shut out the darkness. We glue our eyes to screens by day, while electric light hampers our ability to sleep at night. Then, when we lie awake with all our fears, we turn to solitaire or to sleep aids to cope. Our spiritual avoidance of the dark may be even more dangerous. Our culture's ability to tolerate sadness is weak. As individuals, we often run away from it. "We are supposed to get over it, fix it, purchase something, exercise, do whatever it takes to become less sad," she says. "Turning in to darkness, instead of away from it, is the cure for a lot of what ails me. Because I have a deep need to be in control of things, to know where I am going, to be sure of my destination, to get there efficiently, to have all the provisions I need, to do it all without help - and you can't do any of that in the dark."

Taylor is reviving an ancient idea in Christian theology . . . darkness holds divine mystery. As she writes in her book, "I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light."

The preacher in Taylor points out that darkness was often the setting for humanity's closest encounters with the divine. God appeared to Abraham in the night and promised him descendants more numerous than the stars. The exodus from Egypt happened at night. God met Moses in the thick darkness atop Mount Sinai to hand down the Ten Commandments . . . "If we turn away from darkness on principle," she asks, "doing everything we can to avoid it because there is simply no telling what it contains, isn't there a chance we are running away from God?". . . 

"If you are in the dark, it does not mean that you have failed and that you have taken some terrible misstep," she says. "For many years I thought my questions and my doubt and my sense of God's absence were all signs of my lack of faith, but now I know this is the way the life of the spirit goes."

Barbara Brown Taylor is a preacher who has turned the religious perspective from literal enlightenment to discovering God in darkness. 

As Jews, why do we cover our eyes to say Sh'ma, the core statement of our faith? The simple, practical reason is focus. In the darkness, there is nothing that can snatch away our attention. 
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That is why it is absolute torture to be sleepless at night, since the world is black and still, leaving one in the grip of one's own thoughts. It's not a pretty place to be. Worries become magnified—gleaming sunshine tends to soothe harried souls with optimism and noisy discourse—but in the quiet of midnight there is no escape. 

Maybe that's why children (and adults, in my case) imagine monsters. We can't stand the void darkness provides, so we fabricate tentacled creatures lurking in nooks and crannies. I still tuck my blanket around my feet every night, ensuring no exposure to the boogeymen.
http://www.wellaware.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Monsters-Under-the-Bed.png
We fear the dark because we fear our fragility. Shouldn't it be, therefore, that when one cannot evade the internal, she should be able to whole-heartedly open oneself to emunah and bitachon?

I am supposed to recite and affirm Sh'ma in the darkness. Think what other possibilities are available there.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bugs Begone

"Back! Back, you misbegotten bloodsucker!" I manage to whack it away, but too late. A swelling, itching spot has appeared. 

After discovering the highly effective insect-repelling power of lavender, I bought a few bottles of lavender spray. However, it was only this past summer that I did not get a single bite. (I'll cop to two half-bites. You know, like the mosquito changed her mind in the middle, so there was only some momentary itching and a teeny blemish that went away in no time.) 
http://img.21food.com/userimages/sooshinecorp/sooshinecorp$314174634.jpg
Method: Every morning, I sprayed my legs and neck with lavender spray, and managed to get to the office unattacked. By my office desk, there is a second bottle of lavender spray, and before leaving in the evening the legs get a second dose. 

On occassions when I wear stockings, such as Shabbos, I spray up my bare legs first, let them air-dry for a few minutes, then sidle into hose.

Last summer mosquitoes were apparently a problem, as I saw many with bleeding sores on their legs after they had scratched themselves to pieces, and my area was even sprayed to combat West Nile. But I knew nothing; the devilish blood-suckers kept their distance. 

Products: 

Alba Botanica Very Emollient Natural Sunblock SPF 45 Pure Lavender: It was when I was using this sunblock that I noticed that I was getting less bites, and made the leap that lavender was a repellant. (By the way, Alba Botanica's Emollient SPF line is great. It blends in easily, and my sister, who has tried every single sunblock out there on her brood, price regardless, hails this line as the best.) 

Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Mist Calming Lavender Harvest: This has a distinctly high concentration of lavender oil, which some brands seem to skimp on.

Heritage Products Flower Water Lavender: I didn't think this would pack as sufficient punch, but it did.

Or, get lavender oil, add a couple of drops to water in a spray bottle: Aura Cacia 100% Pure Essential Oil Lavender.    

Lavender is also known to be soothing to harried souls, so spraying it about the room before bedtime is an idea, or using it as a laundry mist. It's also great for taming curls—give that a google. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fixer-Upper

Nieces always want to hear bad dating stories, and I am often able to oblige. After rehashing some recently atrocious episodes . . .

"Have you seen Frozen?" she asked. 

"Nope, not yet." 

"There's this song . . ." She sang some of the lyrics. I cracked up. 

 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Essie Watermelon

The Essie website has started to incorporate more adjectives in its color descriptions, so "a creamy and refreshing juicy red," does not clarify the actual tone that clearly. If it helps, it is actually the color of watermelon innards. 
http://i259.photobucket.com/albums/hh296/kascryder/New/May/blog7-20.jpg

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Re-Binding

When David Brooks' article, "A Long Obedience," was printed erev Pesach, I really should have linked it then. But erev Shavuos is not too late. 

What was amazing about Moshe, he notes, is not that he freed us. He released us from bondage, yes, but promptly re-bound us again, where we have stayed for millennia. By binding himself, he became the ultimate binder, through anivus: 
Leaders in the ancient world, like leaders today, tried to project an image of pompous majesty and mastery. But Moses was to exemplify the quality of “anivut.” Anivut, Rabbi Norman Lamm once wrote, “means a soft answer to a harsh challenge; silence in the face of abuse; graciousness when receiving honor; dignity in response to humiliation; restraint in the presence of provocation; forbearance and quiet calm when confronted with calumny and carping criticism.
I want to paper that to every wall on earth.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Go to Sleep

Sleep is a wonder. In that time when one visualizes themselves, say, showing up for one's own wedding but don't know who one's own chassan is (yes, I have dreamed that) the body is, in essence, regenerating itself, not unlike the Borg. 

The mind and the body is healed through sleep. It is an amazing concept, how when we power down our systems are able to reboot in better working order than before. I always say that the reason for my above-average height is because I was probably the only teenager getting my quota for the night; adolescents need 8.5 to 9+ hours.

Sleep requirements among adults differ depending on the individual; anywhere between 7 to 9 hours. I get about 8 a night; my memory foam mattress pad and blackout shades make it much easier than it used to be. I work my schedule around sleep; I prioritize it, since I know I am pretty much useless if I don't get my nightly quota. 

While I may sometimes get mocked for my sleeping obsession, the benefits outweigh (no pun intended) the scorn. Since, among other things, sleep deprivation can really raise weight gain. 
http://www.bodymedia.com/images/iSleepBenefits.gif
One theory is that the hormones that give the feelings of fullness and satisfaction are lowered when the body is sleep deprived, so on days following little shut-eye one may eat anything that is not glued down yet still feel hungry.

For those who set their alarms early so they can go to the gym? I have heard it said that one should rather sleep in instead. In my own case, when the sun starts rising earlier and manages to peak around my blackout curtains, I have been rather sleep-deprived. Guess what? My scale reflects that.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6NEiSqH-T6U/Uh4wJc2eQVI/AAAAAAAAA6c/199pdXeUhCM/s1600/sleep+and+weight.JPG
Via emedicalteam.com
So go to bed on time—every night—and program your kids that poking you in the eye at 4 am is not okay. Mommy has to keep her girlish figure.