Friday, May 29, 2015


For the writer with many haters, consider "Should Writers Respond to Their Critics?" James Parker's take is witty and soothing. 

Even the bad writer can laugh last and sit upon her mountain of money. 
But it is very good advice for how to respond to criticism, in general. As Zoë Heller concludes: "There will be other books, other nasty critics, and with them, a myriad of other opportunities to maintain a dignified silence."

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Fate vs. Science

The Odd Couple, "The Blind Leading the Blind Date" 

Dani, Oscar's assistant, begins to wail that her high school reunion is coming up, and she's the only one who isn't married (and I thought us frummies were so special.) Felix (the micro-manager) happily volunteers to find her a mate, based on his thorough questionnaire (Dani insists on religion and a love of sports). Oscar (messily laid-back) insists that love can't be forced, it just happens; one should "get out there," he argues instead, and meet people.
Felix trots off to have all his acquaintances screened, while Oscar takes Dani to his local sports bar to meet men. The first option's phone rings, and he says he doesn't have to answer, it's just his mother. Dani marches away. "A real man always takes his mamma's calls." The second winks roguishly during the introduction. "He's a winker. Never trust a winker." The third speaks with ostentatious vocabulary. "He used the word 'plethora.' Just say 'too much'; don't fancy-pants me!"

Oscar, exasperated, says she's not giving anyone a chance. "If I don't get the right vibe," she insists, "I'm not going to waste my time." At this point an attractive woman by the name of Kim comes over and claims to be touched by Oscar's concern for his friend, and the two go off together. 

Felix bounces in that he has found the perfect man for her, and proceeds to plan a romantic evening for the next day, complete with flowers and violinist. He giddily introduces his selection, Will, to Dani, and gleefully awaits the sparks. Oscar enters with Kim, crowing at their suitability, as an "in your face" to Felix's methods. 

The night goes on. Oscar is disturbed to discover that Kim has no qualms stealing the staff's tips, and finally cracks when she plants a roach on her dinner plate.
Dani, across the way, is not "feeling it" with Will (who isn't, either). Felix is crushed that his scientific proof did not result in a perfect couple. 

A sports-watching heckler who can't stand Oscar's radio show goes at him (again) and Oscar notices that there is a large cross around his neck. While the guy is bawling him out, his phone rings. "You know what bugs me about guys like you . . . Oh, hey, it's my mom!" He perks up and cheerfully picks up the phone, cutting off his tirade.

It then occurs to Oscar that this guy could be ideal for Dani (religious, like sports, and loves his mother), and calls him over. The two obviously hit it off right away. (Shidduch date wins!)

Felix, still low, admits: "I guess you were right . . . as scary as it is, sometimes you  have to leave it all up to fate."

Sometimes I wonder how much more hishtadlus I can possibly do. I've been introduced to a multitude of individuals, supposedly well-connected. My information has been e-mailed hundreds of times. I have gone out on dates that I knew were pointless. I attended cringe-worthy singles events. It feels like I'm banging my head against a wall. 

But I know that I can't control the who, the when, and I certainly don't comprehend the why. So I'm going to keep on keepin' on, while leaving it to a Higher Power.     

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

White Coats

I'm terrified of doctors. That does make things awkward when I erroneously conclude every once in a while that I'm dying, since I'm more frightened of visiting one than I am of untimely expiring.
It doesn't help that recent studies (yes, yes, which can be debunked tomorrow, but I'm still referencing them) are showing that we currently have too much medicine in our lives. The annual checkup has been taken off that table, as are a number of yearly tests that were considered mandatory. Stress does a great amount of damage on the body, to the point that the potential benefits from early detection are being questioned. 

Atul Gawande's book, Being Mortal, is a best-seller discussing the contemporary perversion of the end-of-life experience. I can testify to it myself, seeing how my Babi suffered when she eventually passed away a number of years ago.
The outline of the book are discussed in this review by Janet Maslin. Doctors today are taught to believe they can "fix" any illness or condition, and drawing life on is considered the goal, even if there is extreme pain. Patients, too, do not make it easier on their doctors, insisting that any existence is better than death, only to change their minds too late. 

There are more old people on Earth than have ever been before, and not enough doctors specializing in geriatrics, who could help them enjoy a better quality of life instead of being farmed into nursing homes. 
. . . being honest, serious and empathetic, showing he is wholly on the patient’s side. It won’t work miracles. But it’s the best a doctor can do.
On the other end, childbirth has become a serious medical arena, chock full of drugs and scheduled C-sections. It had been thought until now that overtime in the womb didn't matter; but new data shows that the longer in the tummy, the better ("Heavier Babies Do Better in School"). 
The results also play into a larger issue: the growing sense among many doctors and other experts that Americans would actually be healthier if our health care system were sometimes less aggressive. . .
These issues are part of a debate that extends well beyond childbirth. The notion that Mother Nature should more often trump Pitocin and other induction drugs fits with a broad questioning of the American health care system, famously the world’s most intensive and expensive. Starting about a decade ago, an inchoate group of reformers — doctors, nurses, hospital executives, social scientists and others — began pushing the idea that there was a better way. Yes, intensive medicine can bring lifesaving benefits, but technologically advanced treatments often don’t work any better than more basic forms.
I'm not one to throw the baby out with the bath water (so to speak); of course modern medicine has granted us longer, healthier lives never before seen in history. But too much of a good thing does exist. Just because a method of treatment works for one patient does not mean that it benefits another.
I know of individuals who placed their health completely in the hands of drugs and surgeries, refusing to alter their lifestyle at all, since they believed that medicine = magic. Their current quality of life doesn't have much quality to it.
Doctors are not miracle workers; they should not be deified, no matter how much Jewish mothers sigh over them. There rarely is such a thing as a "quick fix"; if an illness can be managed by a change in lifestyle rather than pills, go for it.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Contouring, Updated

When I tackled contouring last year, I recommended using a matte bronzer for contouring the cheekbones. 

But, I sheepishly admit, bronzer tends to have orange undertones, in order to replicate a sun-given crispiness. Ideally, the product used for contouring cheekbones should recreate shadow. Shadow is not orange. 

Messing about on Sephora, I stumbled across Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder, and the reviews enthused that its taupe-y undertones perfectly replicates a shadow effect. (Of course, a week after I gleefully bought it I was bombarded with a 15% off VIB promotion. Gaaah.)
At around the same time, T.J. Maxx had restocked the beauty section with a twinkling supply of "Buy me!" products, and I grabbed a Precision Beauty Angled Blush Brush and ran. I managed to accumulate a cluster of brushes for contouring that did not live up to its promises, and this one has made me quite happy.
The Sculpting Powder looks dark, but it is the perfect contouring shade. It is very pigmented, so with a mere brush of the bristles against the powder, my cheekbones are supermodel-y defined. I may not have inherited Babi's bone structure, but I can fake it. 

I'm sensing some dirty looks regarding the price ($44!), but please be patient with the gal who lives at home and B'H has very few expenses. But, to redeem myself, I provide a drugstore alternative: NYX Powder Blush in Taupe. Disclaimer: I have not tried it, but most drugstores have a cosmetic return policy.      

If I have an event, I take it a step further by contouring my nose. The cute gal in the above video shows how. But keep in mind that one can contour the nose without contouring the eyes. I like brightness in my inner eye.

I'm using up the bronzer that I have during the week (I also have another in storage), saving the KA for Shabbos and simchos. 

Friday, May 22, 2015


Here's a fun interview on The Daily Show with Reza Aslan, a religious scholar. Makes one look at one's faith a little more intently. Am I frum because of my beliefs, or because that's my identity?
On that same note: "The Time for Inreach has Come" by Yocheved Sidof. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pit Stop

I came up with a theory a number of years ago. 

It can happen that after bad date followed by horrendous date topped with EPIC FAIL date that a lovely date comes along, complete with the precious yet oft elusive sense of comfort. Starry of eye and bouncy of foot, I prance into the doorway, optimistically waving goodbye over my shoulder as he pulls out of the driveway. 

But the next morning calls the time of death: An awkward phone call, e-mail, or text from a nervous shadchan reporting his avowed dislike of you. Apparently, that sensation of comfort went only one way. 

In my youth, I came to a swift decision: The purpose of this meeting was not about the failure, but about the hope. Fear not, child, sayeth the Almighty Matchmaker. There is someone for you, but the time is not quite yet. But I don't want you falling into despair, thinking your ideal man is a figment of your imagination. So I shall grant you Exhibit A, proof that types like the ideal Han do exist.

That glimmer of a optimism (not a sensation I usually indulge in) is sufficient to maintain a reasonable faith in mankind as I endure another round of catastrophic introductions.
Apparently, yet again, nothing new under the sun. 

In "On the Road to 'The One,' Sometimes a Rest Stop," Amy Butcher describes her wondering if the sweet but unfocused Sam is her "bashert":
. . . When I flew to Alaska to resume the life I had planned, I felt surprisingly devastated, and I feared the life I had always wanted now seemed to be in direct conflict with what seemed most right. What if my life was best spent in Iowa? What if I was meant to marry the man who lived in a tent?
It was my friend who suggested it was all a matter of perspective, who suggested that Sam, while perhaps not my ultimate destination, was the romantic layover I had spent years badly needing.
“Isn’t it possible,” she asked, “that the role he played in your life was to remind you how love is good?”
Instead of trying to squeeze something more from my experience with Sam, she said I should try to accept the relationship for what it was: a valuable encounter that didn’t make Sam any less important to me, just not more important than he had really been.
Back home, Butcher met "the One," a mate who is certainly more ideal than Sam was.  

Finally, finally, I have a good date. See, I'm not commitment-phobic! Except then he is. Ergo, he was merely Exhibit D. Not one to idle over, merely one to refuel one's expectation tanks. 

Check out the romantic tale of when Kelly met Andrew, complete with invocations of "bashert."     

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quiet Resolve

In preparation for the upcoming yontif, I've been listening to a set of CDs by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman on Megillas Rus. We've had them for years, and have played them repeatedly, but he never gets old.
On the first CD, Rabbi Reisman discusses the debate about the permissibility of a Moabite convert. In the times of Rus, there still wasn't the later clarification that a woman from Moab was permitted to enter into Bnei Yisroel; "Lo yavo Amoni u'Moabi" (D'varim 23:4) was considered, by some, to also apply to the women. 

The megillah, it is said, was written by the prophet Shmuel, who was the contemporary of Rus' descendant, Dovid. Dovid's validity as king was questioned based on Rus being a Moabite; Shmuel established halacha, and sealed Dovid's claim, with this sefer. 

Consider, Rabbi Reisman said: Rus is a Moabite woman, and not only a convert, but a convert without established halacha backing her up. To add insult to injury, according to the commentaries, Boaz died the morning after their wedding.
How often does it happen that when something happens—a natural disaster, an untimely passing, a drop in the economy—people profess to know the reason why? The "reasons" I've heard for the horrific earthquakes in Nepal defy belief and Judaism: We are forbidden from claiming to know what Hashem's motivations are. But we do so anyway. 

Let us play a little game of imagination, shall we? 

There is a new lady in town, lovely, really, but she comes from a background which may be forbidden to enter into the Covenant. Then she has the gall to wed the wealthiest and most prominent man in town. Two strikes. 

He dies the next day. 

What would we be saying?

Not only that, how would she be treated for the rest of her days?

Rus abandoned all she knew and devoted herself to Na'ami, following her instructions without question. But that also meant abandoning acceptance and respect for a life sentence of loneliness and recrimination. She was not vindicated until many, many years later.
None of us are permitted to cloak ourselves in the robe of judge—for only the Eibishter is the Judge. He granted Boaz extra years just so he could fulfill the mitzvah of yibum with Rus, the most noble of women. 

According to Rabbi David Fohrman, "Eshes Chayil" is a song of praise to her. For she remained firm in her resolve to continue her husband's name, to be a servant of God, to be a comfort to her mother-in-law, while being ostracized and blamed.


1) None can claim to know God's mind. 

2) No one can mistreat any one.  

3) If you are doing what you know, in your heart of hearts and brain of brains, to be right and true, let none gainsay you.      

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Eat Well, Live Well

I was surprised to read that "The average American woman wears a size 14, and women wearing size 14 and up account for 67 percent of the population . . ."

Just to clarify, my surprise is not aesthetic-based, but rises from health concerns. Obesity, especially belly fat, puts strain on the body, prematurely aging it. Managing weight with a healthy diet does not make one immune to disease—I always think I'm dying of some new malaise every few months—but wouldn't one want to enjoy a higher quality of life if one could? 

Jean Nidetch, the founder of Weight Watchers, recently passed away at the age of 91, at the same triumphant weight of her major initial weight loss, 142. Chances are, if she had remained 214 pounds, she would not have seen 80, never mind 90.
Nidetch learned that social support is key, along with personal responsibility: 
Trapped in a gluttonous secret life, she decided she had to confide in someone. She invited six friends, all overweight women, to her home for what turned into a group confessional, an exorcism of caloric demons that was the informal beginning of Weight Watchers. They all went on a diet, pledging mutual help through the abysses of anxiety, doubt and gnawing hunger. It worked. They soon brought more overweight friends to the meetings. Within two months, 40 women were attending . . .
“We ourselves hold the instrument that makes us fat,” she said, waving an imaginary fork in a 2011 interview with The Sun Sentinel of South Florida. “I just shake my head when I see someone eating cake and saying, ‘Oh, I wish I wasn’t heavy.’ But they keep eating the cake!”
We have the power. Although that potato kugel at a kiddush this week got the better of me.

Taking the importance of eating habits further:

I was quite delighted to learn that the system of calculating calories is inherently flawed, overstating numbers (before you get too excited, the calories for junk food are quite accurate). But the calories for fiber-rich foods, proteins, and nuts are being reported as being higher than they are. 
The system is most accurate when the foods are easily digested and all of their energy is made available to the body — as they are when consuming highly processed carbohydrates. But in the past few decades, scientists have begun to understand that a substantial number of calories are lost in the effort to digest food. For example, meat and nuts are harder to break down, and so the body expends energy trying to digest them.
In the end, some foods are also not fully digested: significant portions are excreted, and so those calories should not be counted, either. Nuts are among the hardest to digest, and estimates of the calories they contain by the old method are the furthest off — the counts are about 25 percent too high, according to recent research by David Baer, a nutrition scientist at the Department of Agriculture.
Calories are not created equal; the composition of the food itself is also a factor, how the body digests it, stores it, and uses it. 
The body resists weight loss by increasing hunger, he said. In his clinic, patients are not expected to count calories, but instead learn how to choose types and quantities of food that will reduce hunger and promote weight loss without calorie restriction.
When I decided to attack my eating habits, I first weaned myself off junk and processed foods. Whenever I was hungry (or not hungry) I ate fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Even though I wasn't depriving myself, I lost weight, because a calorie is not a calorie.
As another corroboration about the evils of processed foods, high fructose corn syrup is evil. It makes the bad cholesterol shoot up, in a disturbingly short amount of time. (I've switched to a different type of ketchup).  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cautionary Tale/Movie

Enough Said (2013): I'm going to completely tell over the story here, so for those who had plans on watching it, you've been warned. 

Eva is a middle-aged and divorced massage therapist, forlorn that her daughter will be leaving to college soon. She attends a party with her married friends, Will and Sarah, and is introduced to Marianne, a poet. Eva is immediately taken with Marianne, finding her chic and glamorous. Later in the evening, she also meets Albert.
Albert asks Will for Eva's phone number, and the two go out on a date. The evening doesn't begin promisingly—he insists he had made the dinner reservation, but they end up waiting for a table—but as the night goes on, their conversation is easy and comfortable.
Albert is also divorced, and as the two continue to see each other, he tells Eva about his personal quirks that drove his ex-wife crazy. Eva herself doesn't initially think his preferences are so bad, like avoiding onions in guacamole. 

Marianne, in the interim, calls Eva for her massage services, and Eva is drawn to Marianne's intellectual depth, beautiful home, and lack of cellulite. The two soon become friends, and Marianne complains about her ex-husband constantly. One example: She calls him a loser for not owning nightstands.
One day, Eva recognizes one of Marianne's stories about her ex: he's Albert. Shaken, she begins to coax Marianne to tell her more about Albert's faults. She admires Marianne, and allows her rantings to change her perception of Albert. She thinks back to her own first marriage, and believes she willfully ignored the warning signs. She wants to avoid another heartbreak.
Eva begins to draw away from Albert, and nitpicks about silly things. At dinner with Will and Sarah, Eva begins to give snarky voice to all of Marianne's criticisms; so sure is she of Marianne's righteousness that she doesn't realize her friends are giving her odd looks as she nags and laughs at Albert. Albert keeps up a good face until they get into the car, and in calm fury he says it was like being with his ex-wife.
In a grand-reveal scene, Albert finds out that Marianne is Eva's client, and Marianne finds out that Eva has been dating Albert. Albert, hurt and betrayed, quietly breaks up with Eva, who is roiling with remorse. She messed up a good thing, and she knows it. 

At the end of the film, there is a nice reconciliation (Eva parks her car in front of Albert's house, he sees her, they chat, and I think they make up).

This whole premise sounded so familiar to me. I meet someone new, I think they're charming, then a friend snidely dismisses my pal, and I wonder about my own ability to make accurate judgements. 

I think this can also be dangerous when dating, as friends are brought in to discuss what should be a relationship between two people, and two people alone. 

Eva had a girl-crush on Marianne, and because of that, she deferred to her in all her opinions, even though many of them were overtly ridiculous and contradictory. Marianne herself confides to Eva that she has very few friends; then, on a separate rant, she sneers that Albert has none. Like, how nuts is that?

In recent years I've tried to make a point not to allow the observations of others color my own interactions. I was quite proud of myself when X said that Y is "weird." 

I crisply replied, "She's lovely."

X was no longer so sure of herself, and nervously retracted her statement.    

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Let It Go

There is a shopping mall I like to frequent, referred to fondly as "Mecca." I usually aim to be one of the first shoppers in the parking lot, before the doors open, relishing my selected shade tree as I nibble some fuel for the exacting mission ahead. 

When I emerge a few hours later, there are cars as far as the eye can behold. Now is the next stage of the game, stealthily creeping out to my vehicle as numerous sedans furiously circle, seeking a spot. More than once there has been a near fist-fight as frantic shoppers (who refuse to walk) screech over who gets first dibs.
Americans like to shop. Frankly, is there any culture that doesn't like to shop? 

Regarding the holiday season, Arthur C. Brooks addressed the commercialization of a seemingly spiritual holiday in "Abundance Without Attachment." 

Jews, too, feel the constant tug between gashmius and ruchniyus. For all, it is about balance. But balance is subjective. It relies more on how one views money. As an American who made it big then became an property-less swami put it:
“There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money.” 
 Abundance isn't a bad thing; if there was no prosperity, we'd all be starving. But with wealth, there is the danger of "MINE!" 

Brooks has a simple yet brilliant means to combat that side-effect: 
Firstly, collect experiences, not things.
Amen, sir!

However, I was not crazy about his example, second honeymoon as opposed to new couch. "Experiences" don't have to be about expensive travel destinations, and a couch provides the means for memorable experiences. Like cuddling up on a soft yet sturdy couch with a sleeping nephew.
Though it seems counterintuitive, it is physically permanent stuff that evaporates from our minds. It is memories in the ether of our consciousness that last a lifetime, there for us to enjoy again and again.
. . . steer clear of excessive usefulness.
Our daily lives often consist of a dogged pursuit of practicality and usefulness at all costs. This is a sure path toward the attachment we need to avoid. Aristotle makes this point in his Nicomachean Ethics; he shows admiration for learned men because “they knew things that are remarkable, admirable, difficult, and divine, but useless.”
To quote Shlomo HaMelech: "Hevel."  
Countless studies show that doing things for their own sake — as opposed to things that are merely a means to achieve something else — makes for mindfulness and joy.
. . . This is the point made famously in the Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita, where work is sanctified as inherently valuable, not as a path to a payoff.
I revel in a stupid sense of self-worth after partially cleaning my room. 
And finally, get to the center of the wheel.
Life changes, and sometimes we're at the top of the heap, sometimes we're in a pretty crummy bind. Seven years of plenty, seven years of lean. But if one looks at material goods at being on the outer perimeter of the Wheel of Fortune, then one remains whole and at peace in the center. Things may come and go, but that has no bearing on one's self-worth, providing one does define oneself through one's possessions.  
I am more than my income, success, or closet. I think.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hail the Gut

I don't like him. 

This effusive man in his 50s is all smiles and compliments; others are beaming at him in acceptance. He seems friendly, my head says approvingly. I twitch my lips into a polite grin, but my eyes do not match. 

Since his eyes don't match. They shift from side to side with a feral gleam, and I'm becoming nervous. My stomach burbles worriedly, nudging me to move along, like an impatient toddler. 

Don't be silly! my brain rebukes my belly. You are just giving in to your prejudices. But I don't want to be familiar with him, to be on first-name terms; I slowly recede backward into the crowd, intestines unclenching in relief while the gray matter sighs in exasperation. Melodramatic, it sniffs.

A few years later he is banned from the shul for inappropriate conduct. Told ya, the breadbasket triumphantly declares.   

One day I receive an e-mail containing the profile of a potential date. His education sounds intelligent, his photo unantagonizing, but reading between the lines as he describes himself my tummy begins to percolate. He's like that other pitiable guy you went out with, it warns. See, there is a vacancy in his gaze

Pshaw, my cerebrum scolds. You always smugly say so how "open" you are. How can you be "open" if you have nothing concrete to say "no" to? Because your midriff is complaining? It could be what you ate for lunch.

But my boch is nearly sobbing with tension. Don't! Don't say "yes"! Look into it! Please!
I look into it. "No, no, he's really not for you, he's a little . . ." my source hurriedly and swiftly dissuades me.

An acquaintance's engagement is merrily announced online, complete with photo of the couple. He looks nice, but there is an unpleasant gurgling in my middle. He isn't good enough for her, it churns. Something isn't right

My brain silences my bowels with a You're just jealous. I must be. Why else would I wish this angelic girl any ill will? 

But her marriage is undone within the year. And it's all on him.

As a Spock-fan, I've never really given that sensation in my innards much credit. "Go with your gut"? What sort of human hokum is that? Logic! Reason! Facts! There lies true enlightenment!

Yet how come my gut got it right? The Vulcan eyebrow droops.    

Yes, there have been times when my tum kept mum when it should have piped up. There were times, mostly in my childhood, when my gut overreacted needlessly. But in the wisdom that comes with age (snort), I'm taking my my belly's hysterics seriously.

One of the definitions of "gut": "used in reference to a feeling or reaction based on an instinctive emotional response rather than considered thought." 

But research has shown there are as many nerves in the gut as there is the brain; Brené Brown testifies that the gut reaction is based on actual rational conclusions; the burble and grumble is just its way of getting the message across.

I do consider myself a rationalist, but it's all about balance. Heart, soul, and faith needs brain to function.      

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Date with Wu-Wei

When people tell you "Just be yourself," we know they're lying. Being told that insincere reminder merely increases tension and prevents the "real" me from emerging.
Not only that, who says the "real" me is so great? I had to learn that whole "conversation" concept, which is to let the other person talk for a while, as I nod like I'm listening. The "real" me changes, right, presumably for the better? Ergo, I should change. But I should be also keepin' it "real."

My head hurts. 

"A Meditation on the Art of Not Trying," by John Tierney, analyzes this idea through the lens of Asian thought, specifically, Taoism vs. Confucianism. The ideal balance is "wu-wei," "effortless action," which is "integral to romance," amongst other things. 

But how does action become effortless? Through practice, through ingraining good habits and behaviors. But that's not natural, nor intrinsic, is it? 

The way the recently discovered ancient text puts it: 
“If you try to be filial, this not true filiality; if you try to be obedient, this is not true obedience. You cannot try, but you also cannot not try.”
Um, clarification, please?

Confucians believed that noble behavior must be learned to the point of second nature; Taoists went the other extreme, no striving, no rituals—natural virtue is in us somewhere, and by being our "real" selves, it will be unleashed. The debate over which way is best continued over the eons, as many other philosophies quibbled.
“Psychological science suggests that the ancient Chinese philosophers were genuinely on to something,” says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist . . . “Particularly when one has developed proficiency in an area, it is often better to simply go with the flow. Paralysis through analysis and overthinking are very real pitfalls that the art of wu wei was designed to avoid.”
However wu wei is attained, there’s no debate about the charismatic effect it creates. It conveys an authenticity that makes you attractive, whether you’re addressing a crowd or talking to one person. The way to impress someone on a first date is to not seem too desperate to impress.
In a dating column (um, I read the business section right afterward), a gal wrote in complaining that she can never win, no matter what she does on a date. She was soothingly reassured that being true to herself is the best way, and those guys she went out with until then were simply not for her.  
. . . what’s the best strategy for wu wei — trying or not trying? Dr. Slingerland recommends a combination. Conscious effort is necessary to learn a skill, and the Confucian emphasis on following rituals is in accord with psychological research showing we have a limited amount of willpower. Training yourself to follow rules automatically can be liberating, because it conserves cognitive energy for other tasks.
But trying can become counterproductive, as the Taoists recognized and psychologists have demonstrated in an experiment with a pendulum. When someone holding the pendulum was instructed to keep it from moving, the effort caused it to move even more.
“Our culture is very good at pushing people to work hard or acquire particular technical skills,” Dr. Slingerland says. “But in many domains actual success requires the ability to transcend our training and relax completely into what we are doing, or simply forget ourselves as agents.”
He likes the compromise approach of Mencius, a Chinese philosopher in the fourth century B.C. who combined the Confucian and Taoist approaches: Try, but not too hard. Mencius told a parable about a grain farmer who returned one evening exhausted from his labors.
“I’ve been out in the fields helping the sprouts grow,” he explained, whereupon his worried sons rushed out to see the results. They found a bunch of shriveled sprouts that he’d yanked to death.
The sprouts were Mencius’ conception of wu wei: Something natural that requires gentle cultivation. You plant the seeds and water the sprouts, but at some point you need to let nature take its course. Just let the sprouts be themselves.  
Once I taught myself not to interrupt, initially it was simply sitting on my tongue until the other finished their thought. Now, I actually do listen, and not from bullying my ears into submission. My effort slid into natural action. Still being "real."

Monday, May 11, 2015

Clinique Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick

I'm always on the search for any makeup that's matte, and could not resist (with the help of a VIB 15% off promotion) two delightful shades of Clinique Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick.

For those leery of a possible drying finish, these are "soft" matte. Not harsh on the lips at all.
"Petal" is one of those perfect-for-everyone colors, a charming pale pink that is appropriate for anytime. For those who prefer less drama, or nudes, give this a try (remember, department stores and Sephora accept cosmetic returns!).
"Peony" is a festive, spring-and-summer coral. 

As always, my frumanistas, PINK lips!    

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Are You There, God? It's Me, Spock

I have an embarrassing backlog of articles I plan on linking, and with Shavuos in our sights, I've still got stuff from Chanukkah-time. 

Disclaimer said, here's David Brooks "The Subtle Sensations of Faith." He quotes rabbis throughout. 

My family (well, at least Ta, Ma, Luke, and myself) consider ourselves "Rambam" in mindset: Rationalist Judaic. Brooks quotes: 
In his famous fourth footnote in “Halakhic Man,” Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik writes, “The individual who frees himself from the rational principle and who casts off the yoke of objective thought will in the end turn destructive and lay waste the entire created order. Therefore, it is preferable that religion should ally itself with the forces of clear, logical cognition, as uniquely exemplified in the scientific method, even though at times the two might clash with one another.”
He says it much better than I ever could. To be religious does not mean delving in mysticism alone. Luke was describing to me the lengths a certain tree frog exerts itself to ensure the continuity of its offspring (he's watching this series). Nothing otherworldly about it, and it gave me the ghostly shivers.

Brooks concludes: 
All this discerning and talking leads to the main business of faith: living attentively every day. The faithful are trying to live in ways their creator loves. They are trying to turn moments of spontaneous consciousness into an ethos of strict conscience. They are using effervescent sensations of holiness to inspire concrete habits, moral practices and practical ways of living well. . .
Insecure believers sometimes cling to a rigid and simplistic faith. But confident believers are willing to face their dry spells, doubts, and evolution. Faith as practiced by such people is change. It is restless, growing. It’s not right and wrong that changes, but their spiritual state and their daily practice. As the longings grow richer, life does, too. As Wiman notes, “To be truly alive is to feel one’s ultimate existence within one’s daily existence.”
My perception of Hashem and His workings, and how I relate to Him, has morphed over the years. As I learn, seek, and question, I feel my consciousness transcending, while maintaining my "rationalist" standpoint. To find God does not mean disavowing reason. If anything, without the brains that He gave us, we would be lost. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sinful Colors Thimbleberry

'Twas the day before Purim, and my nobly fasting niece required some entertainment. While she is hard to impress, her ears perked up at the suggestion that I do her nails. Now to waste some time in the drugstore.  

While her eye lingered hopefully over the greens, blues, and purples, I was firm: Only pink. Nails, like lips, in my view, must remain within the red/pink range. Additionally, she was to be a princess for the holiday, and I wanted an appropriate hue. Our options thus limited, as was the drugstore supply, we both quickly zoned in on Sinful Colors Thimbleberry. 
In some lights, the color looks pink; in others, orange. Whatever color it actually is, it suited her pale skin, as well as her age, to perfection.
When summer actually comes, Thimbleberry will get some use.   

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

50% Divorce is, Like, Over

You know that line, "the divorce rate is at 50%"? Well, ahem, apparently, not anymore ("The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On" by Claire Cain Miller).
It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.
Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.
From 1990 on, divorce rates have been dropping. 
There are many reasons for the drop in divorce, including later marriages, birth control and the rise of so-called love marriages. These same forces have helped reduce the divorce rate in parts of Europe, too. Much of the trend has to do with changing gender roles — whom the feminist revolution helped and whom it left behind. . . 

Some of the decline in divorce clearly stems from the fact that fewer people are getting married — and some of the biggest declines in marriage have come among groups at risk of divorce. But it also seems to be the case that marriages have gotten more stable, as people are marrying later.
There is a discernible correlation between marital stability and marrying later—all hail older singles!
Well, maybe not this old.
Apparently, when divorce started becoming a thing in the '70s and '80s, it was an anomaly, as opposed to the rule. This was in a time as women's roles began to shift; wives realized the spouse they had was not the one who would be cool with those changes. 

As women's roles began to stabilize again, they were able to make smarter, long-term choices in a spouse. 

Well, what does this mean for the frummies? I don't know about our own divorce numbers, but they appear to be alarmingly high to me. We do take on trends, just with a bit (20+ years?) of delay. 

Although I don't think our current issue is that frum women are branching out of the "barefoot and pregnant" cliche . . . we've been doing that for a while now. 


Monday, May 4, 2015

"Shidduch Lit," II

Continuing in the Bad4 tradition, I present further options for Shidduch Lit

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945):
The protagonist is a hopeless romantic, and so chooses the "love of her life" quite badly. I found this to be more of a cautionary tale. I think I like cautionary tales.

Linda constructs fantasies of romance which prove to be her undoing, time and time again. Her jealousy at her older sister's marriage galvanizes her into insisting she is "in love," even though everyone in her family, friendship, and acquaintance say that he is not for her.

Nancy Mitford's books tend to mull over the question of what makes a happy marriage. Is it the wrong motivation that undoes things? What is the right motivation? Hmm. 

Longbourn by Jo Baker:
I have read a number of novels piggy-backing off of beloved classics, and this is the only one that is excellent literature in its own right.

Longbourn presents the view of that household from Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of the servants. Elizabeth, who was always our heroine, was quite inconsiderate slopping through all that mud; poor Sarah was the one who had to spend ours scraping it off, losing quite a lot of skin in the process.

Within, there is one passage describing what I feel to be the true translation of love, that I felt moved to share: 
It could have no effect on anything at all.
What he felt did not matter; it changed nothing.
But it interested him.
If he loved Sarah, then it meant that he was, despite all he had done, and all that he had failed to do, capable of feeling, and capable of good. Because he wanted nothing from her: this was a generous, expansive feeling, unattached to the possibility of gratification; it was a simple happiness that came from knowing that one particular person was alive in the world. He felt grateful for it; grateful that she had, however unwittingly, enabled him to feel like this. 
And though love might not matter, gratitude did. It brought with it a sense of obligation.

Delving more into practicalities: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last by John Gottman.
Dr. Gottman is referenced constantly by professionals, and has a number of books; this is the first I have read. While my library copy was all scribbled up by an apparently unhappy wife, and the quizzes don't exactly apply to me, his categorizations of how people tend to deal with conflict (beyond marriage) was fascinating. I'll be taking out more of his books, definitely.       

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Sweatpants of Relationships

I have had enough—not many, but enough—good dates to know the sought-after sensation of potential: being comfortable. 

That whispering editor in my head who usually tags along, tugs my ear, and admonishes: "Don't say that!" has flitted off to Aruba. Somehow, I know, from what he's saying and how he's responding, that he understands me, and I him, to a small, hopeful degree. 

I had thought this feeling to be unique to my own experience, until Ma's friend said it first, as I struggled to express myself: "You want to be comfortable." 

"Yes! Exactly!" 

According to Ellen McCarthy, whose new book, The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life From a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook, that's what people are looking for in a relationship. Check out her interview on CBS This Morning