Monday, November 30, 2015

Better . . . Together

The Mindy Project, "While I Was Sleeping":

Mindy is currently pregnant by her boyfriend, first office colleague then boo Danny. Mindy has always fantasized about marriage, but Danny himself, after a failed go at it, does not wish to marry again. 

After a sobbing scene where Mindy tries to explain to him how important marriage is to her, Danny disappears. Unknown to Mindy, who fantasizes the worst (another woman), Danny has flown to India to explain the situation to her parents, whom he has never yet met. 
http://www.tvequals.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/NUP_170483_0858.jpg
Mindy says to herself before going to sleep, "I wish I fell in love with somebody else." She awakens (obviously, while dreaming) in a magnificent apartment with an unknown man, Matt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the most likable actor ever), who claims to be her husband. 
http://i.onionstatic.com/avclub/5555/35/16x9/960.jpg
She arrives at work, where Danny treats her with snarling contempt. It turns out that she herself is pretty gross; she's having an affair. Confessing this to Matt, he looks at her oddly. "Yeah, we have an open marriage." 

She realizes that Danny made her a better person by his prudish sensibilities tampering her extreme mindlessness. While she, in turn, mellowed his crabbiness with her sunny, cheerful disposition. 

She runs after him (of course, in the rain), wailing, "We make each other better!" 

When her eyes open (for real), she knows that Danny is the man for her, even if he doesn't want to put a ring on it (but then, of course, after meeting her adorably close parents who were wed by arranged marriage, he changed his mind about the institution and flourishes a rock).

This is on par to an article I read about the current state if marriage: As the wedded state evolved from business arrangement to love pairing to the modern psychological marriages, "How We End Up Marrying the Wrong People" explains what a true connection is. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It's Not About the Money

Steve Jobs was not known for his cuddliness. However, Nick Bilton discovered an important lesson upon hearing a story when Jobs was being a jerk to a waitress ("What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Being a Son and Father"). 
No matter what you do for a living, should you do the best work possible?
It's not about vocation, Bilton realized. He spent plenty of time in non-vocational work—waiter, hair washer, costumed cartoon animal. 
And yet it wasn’t until my mother found out that she had terminal cancer in mid-March and was given a prognosis of only two weeks to live that I learned even if a job is just a job, you can still have a profound impact on someone else’s life. You just may not know it.
His mother's appetite dwindled, then disappeared; the end was nigh. But suddenly she asked for her favorite, shrimp. Bilton bolted to the nearest Thai restaurant to fetch his mother's dying request. 
While I stood waiting for my mother’s shrimp, I watched all these people toiling away and I thought about what Mr. Jobs had said about the waitress from a few years earlier. Though his rudeness may have been uncalled-for, there was something to be said for the idea that we should do our best at whatever job we take on.
This should be the case, not because someone else expects it. Rather, as I want to teach my son, we should do it because our jobs, no matter how seemingly small, can have a profound effect on someone else’s life; we just don’t often get to see how we’re touching them.
Certainly, the men and women who worked at that little Thai restaurant in northern England didn’t know that when they went into work that evening, they would have the privilege of cooking someone’s last meal.
Shortly thereafter, Barry Schwartz's "Rethinking Work" presented this concept under more scientific parameters, complete with cited studies.
Though the custodians’ official job duties never even mentioned other human beings, many of them viewed their work as including doing whatever they could to comfort patients and their families and to assist the professional staff members with patient care. They would joke with patients, calm them down so that nurses could insert IVs, even dance for them. They would help family members of patients find their way around the hospital.
The custodians received no financial compensation for this “extra” work. But this aspect of the job, they said, was what got them out of bed every morning. “I enjoy entertaining the patients,” said one. “That’s what I enjoy the most.”
Finding meaning in what may be considered menial work is what makes life great. 
These are just ... examples from a literature of cases demonstrating that when given the chance to make their work meaningful and engaging, employees jump at it, even if it means that they have to work harder.
Humans are not motivated by money alone. We are more likely to help if not offered financial compensation. Schwartz was arguing for a change in workplace policies that would make meaning part of the job, but Bilton shows how one can find the meaning, even if it isn't obvious.

http://www.austingunter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Steve-Jobs-Damn-Good-At-It.jpg   

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shidduch Lit IV

1) I fell in love with Herman Wouk after laughing and crying over Inside, Outside more than once. When Jewish Spectacles wrote a post on This is My God, I felt compelled to comment. She mentioned, in response, her recommendation of Marjorie Morningstar to her romantically inclined students as a cautionary tale. 

Sounds like Shidduch Lit to me! 

Marjorie Morningstar does not plumb the depths of pathos or scale the heights of humor, as Inside, Outside did. After all, Wouk is writing through the perspective of a female teenager, then young woman; Inside, Outside was an semi-autobiographical novel.

Yet I thought he did the job well. Many females felt so, too; Marjorie Morningstar was the bestseller of its time, and does pretty well still (I got my own copy after finishing it). 

The book opens with Marjorie, a bright and beautiful 17, greeting the sunny morning after a standard evening of parties and fending off the advances of enraptured boy-men. The plot advances forward from this relatively childish viewpoint as Marjorie learns from her experiences and relationships as to what makes a man worthy. 
I don't want to give away the plot, or the many underlying messages, but I can say that love isn't about crushes and fantasies. That's where exposure is so vital—reading, seeing, traveling—exposure allows us to glance beyond our own petty little thoughts and then, from a place of complete knowledge, execute educated decisions. 

2) In my last Shidduch Lit post, an anonymous commentator nominated Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Adams by Boothe Tarkington. 
http://cineplex.media.baselineresearch.com/images/77959/77959_full.jpg
Katherine Hepburn as Alice
Wow, Alice qualifies for a Brené Brown intervention, stat. I thought insecurity was a new-ish invention, but Alice screams with it. She is so ashamed, seething with self-doubt, and, sadly, that makes her all too relatable.

That shame leads to her lie when no falsehood is needed, to the point she does not know herself. How many of us suffer from that same lack of self-faith that we suppress who we are in the name of acceptance? 

Even when that acceptance is not even forthcoming? 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Battle of the Bulge: Go Team Health!

Trans-fats are EVIL. They are also pretty crafty; if you eat kosher and have dessert after a fleishigs meal, trans-fat mimicking dairy is probably lurking in there. 
https://www.kosherfamily.com/content/images/thumbs/0016311_richs-non-dairy-topping-rich-whip.jpeg
It was fun while it lasted.
I'm currently on a quest to for a non-trans-fat option to non-dairy whip, and since I loathe coconut, it's taking longer than I thought (I tried it, it still tastes like coconut to me).

But, as Mark Bittman preaches in "Trust Me, Butter is Better," the real stuff is the only way to go:
And as everyone should know by now, a well-made pie, a beautifully frosted cake and perfectly crisped fried food are treats, occasional indulgences. Let’s make them as well as we can, rather than take short cuts using phony ingredients that don’t taste good and are unhealthy. 
Misunderstanding what food qualifies as healthy is still a problem. Most kiddie-marketed yogurts are bursting with the same sugar content as soda, for example. Juice, once considered to be a growing-child requirement, is slowly getting shunned. 
 http://s3.amazonaws.com/sugarstacks/yoplait.jpg
With all this new information demonizing most processed foods, taking the right mellow angle with children is a delicate balance, as Jane Brody reports in "Another Approach to Raising Healthy Eaters." I made the mistake of bellowing, "Just TASTE it!" to my nephew this past week. Nope, didn't fly. 
http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/articles/double_x/the_kids/2012/12/121218_KIDS_PickyEaters_border.jpg.CROP.original-original.jpg
For an example of Healthy Diet Fail: Peter Funt's "Kale, With Fudge on Top." 
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of plain yogurt, even drowned in maple syrup. Yet science tells us this B12-rich food works wonders, such as reducing moodiness. So I’d like to give a shout out to the Yoplait company for thoroughly de-yogurtizing yogurt.

Monday, November 23, 2015

"So Happy For You!"

The Big Bang Theory, "The Bon Voyage Reaction"

Stephen Hawking is sending an expedition to the North Sea to test his theories; one of the experimental physicists dropped out, giving Leonard the opportunity. 

From the beginning, Sheldon has been attempting to talk Leonard out of it; in typical Sheldon fashion, he predicts doom, citing the possible hazards of boat travel, even going so far has to hint how the four-month separation might affect Penny's affection for Leonard. 

Sheldon continues to sulk; Leonard believes it is because Sheldon is terrible with change, and worries about him. But it's Penny who calls him on it: 

Sheldon: You know, I have to say, Penny, I don’t understand why you of all people are encouraging Leonard to do this. 

Penny: Honey, this is a big deal for Leonard, okay? He gets to work with Stephen Hawking. Who, by the way, will not be on the boat. I checked it out. 

Sheldon: It’s not that big of an opportunity. And even if Hawking’s theories are correct, all they prove is where the universe came from, why everything exists and what its ultimate end will be. I mean, me? I’m interested in the big questions. 

Penny: Oh, my God, Sheldon the genius is jealous of Leonard. 

Sheldon: I’m not jealous. I’m just very unhappy that good things are happening for him and not happening for me. 

Penny: Look, sweetie, this is a natural thing to feel, okay? But just because good things are happening to Leonard doesn’t take anything away from you. You know what? Let me tell you a little story. Once there was a girl who worked at the Cheesecake Factory, and she wasn’t very good at her job. 

Sheldon: It was you. 

Penny: It wasn’t me. But she was also an actress, and we were both up for the same part in a toothpaste commercial. She got it. Look, I was so jealous. But instead of ripping out her fake blonde hair… 

Sheldon: You ripped out your own fake blonde hair. 

Penny: I looked her in the eye, smiled and said, I’m happy for you. Because that’s what friends do. 

Sheldon: They lie so they don’t look petty. 

Penny: Yeah. 

Sheldon: How?

Penny: Like this. (Fake smiling) I am so happy for you.
http://i.onionstatic.com/avclub/4297/86/16x9/960.jpg
Sheldon: Wow. No wonder you didn’t get that toothpaste commercial.

Later, at Leonard's going away party: 

Sheldon: Um, can I have your attention, everyone? (Clinks glass) That’s, uh, B-flat, for those who don’t have perfect pitch. I would like to propose a toast to my best friend, Dr. Leonard Hofstadter. He has been presented with a wonderful opportunity, and I couldn’t be happier for him. 

Leonard: Thank you, Sheldon. That must’ve been very hard for you to say.

Sheldon: Well, I mean it. I’m really happy for you. And that’s how you get a toothpaste commercial. Cheers. 

For a better boost on being happy for others, I recommend this Chevi Garfinkel shiur (the link won't work unless you are a girl already in possession of a torahanytime account confirming that fact. Yeah, I know). 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stocking Status

I couldn't believe it when I saw "The Politics of Pantyhose" by Troy Patterson while browsing the magazine section. No way! It's not just a frummie thing?

According to Patterson, seamed stockings, on the one hand, can be considered "sultry," while on the other, a requirement for attending church. Huh. Maybe stockings aren't established religious wear. 

 https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b3/83/c3/b383c33e99c737f4e531d70e62977dd5.jpg

Historically, hose was a dude thing
women were, after all, smothered beneath miles of petticoat. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Fran%C3%A7ois_Clouet_004.jpg

But then: 
Women’s hose were generally a knee-high affair at the start of the 20th century, but when hemlines rose, so did their significance. Adding luster and masking supposed flaws, they had the innate glamour of the sumptuously inessential. And because they appeared in an age when people disregarded fashion dictates at the risk of their social lives, they satisfied a prevailing idea of decorum — but not necessarily modesty. In the mind, as in the department store, stockings are adjacent to the intimate. 
Really? So stockings do not automatically equal "modesty," rather "decorum"? It is the latter term I use to translate "tznius," not the former. And now I've painted myself into a corner. 
As a rule, the more male-­dominated a work environment, the more likely it is expected that women in the ranks will make a gesture toward covering their skirt-­bared legs with fabric as thin as a gesture itself. A friend who is employed by a big bank with a conservative culture (and who declines to identify herself because she would like to remain so) tells us its women are made to understand that they should wear nude hose or black hose or maybe, maybe, opaque black tights in all but the sultriest heat.
But the current First Lady quit stockings eons ago. Then again, I find her casual disregard for refined conventions to be off-putting. I don't seem to be helping myself out here.
The chic woman now inhabits a world in which the exposure of naked shins to the winds of February is quite the opposite of a ghastly mishap. . . 
The bold bareness asserts the enjoyment of an increasingly common luxury — freedom from codes of thought that are, in their way, as constraining as any corset.
Those people who find hosiery a pain are free to renounce it, while those who enjoy or endure it can indulge a multiplicity of pleasures . . . 
Women’s hose have evolved into something new and dissolved into nothing all at once, just as measured feet of poetry evolved into free verse.
So what it boils down to: Wear what you like. Don whats thou wishes. For the decorum of the world has spoken: It's all good.
http://www.tabletmag.com/wp-content/files_mf/tights620.jpg
Via tabletmag
Phew. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Plumberry and Dollface

OPI Conquistadorable Color is now tough to find, so I moved on to Essie Plumberry, described thusly on the brand website: "Be berry lovely in this luscious creamy berry red lacquer with hints of plush pink." Yeah, that sounds about right. Despite the multitude of other options beneath my sink, I've been opting for Plumberry week after week now.

Since my photography skills are quite lacking, here's a more expert shot: 
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-3keqHaz8yCA/T8JpG1g7mXI/AAAAAAAABnQ/jzvQF4bvuiw/s1600/IMAG1952.jpg
Polish or Perish
As Illamasqua is no longer available in the States and my Tremble Blush is running low, I purchased Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush in Dollface ("light pink"). The color looks a little unassuming in the pan, but a delight on the cheeks. 

Of course it's matte. 
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/e3/80/ee/e380ee40ac9a021480ad7b3711df74f5.jpg

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nice Can Be Interesting

The only reason why I liked Anna Karenina (after TooYoungToTeach got me to read it) was not because of Anna (BOO!), but Levin. 
http://www.aceshowbiz.com/images/still/anna-karenina-picture09.jpg
Levin's a nice guy. He's trying to work things out. He makes some mistakes. He attempts to rectify them. He's a pleasant fellow muddling through life to find his purpose, like most of us are. 

I can't stand unpleasant characters. The vindictive, mean, and downright cruel do not interest me. One of the reasons why I can't tolerate Downton Abbey is Thomas, the spiteful, conniving once-footman (I don't know what his title is now).
 http://www.unrealitytv.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/downton-abbey-rob-james-collier-thoams-barrow-2.jpg
But many do not share my preferences. Even Bookends questions, "Can a virtuous character be interesting?" According to Thomas Mallon:
. . . when it comes to literary characters, reader taste has generally followed the old saying: “Heaven for comfort; hell for company.” No one has ever preferred Amelia to Becky in “Vanity Fair,” or Melanie to Scarlett in “Gone With the Wind.” 
Really? I can't stand Scarlett, and would wholeheartedly favor Melanie if not for her passionate racism. 
http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/e/enzerick-fandom-gonewithwind-splsh.png
Alice Gregory gets me: 
But as anyone who has earnestly attempted it will admit, being good is to feel far more at odds with the world than being bad does. It is the cumulation of calculated social compromises, purposeful acts of communion, and meticulous emotional arithmetic. Commonplace wickedness, meanwhile, is seldom the result of anything more devious than inattention to the feelings and realities of other people. Living virtuously is hard. It takes generative intellectual work that is far more interesting than the defensiveness of “being bad.” I would rather consider the challenges that go into a consciously lived life than the inevitably hurtful products of a cruel one.
A truly radical 21st-century novelist wouldn’t ask us to see ourselves in made-up villains, and then, hopefully, revise our opinions of the real ones in our own lives. Rather, they would ask us to see the arduous and often acrobatic effort that goes into living a life of common decency. They would coerce us into believing that virtue is interesting and fun to think about and far more dazzling to encounter than malevolence.
In her 1947 book “Gravity and Grace,” Simone Weil wrote: “Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.
It's "unfashionable," Gregory writes, but "It’s time that goodness be shown in all its relentless torment and sacrifice."

Amen, sister!    

Monday, November 16, 2015

Walk It Off

On a Shabbos afternoon, I was perusing the many papers that had piled up, and noted "The Funny Thing About Adversity" by David DeSteno. 
https://mabb0tt.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/empathy.jpg
He reported that while difficulty did make sufferers more empathetic, there was one exception: When others were going through the same trial. Even though they battled the same dragon, the brain has belittled the tribulation to the point that empathy vanishes: "Walk it off." 
. . . the human mind has a bit of a perverse glitch when it comes to remembering its own past hardships: It regularly makes them appear to be less distressing than they actually were.
As a result of this glitch, reflecting on your own past experience with a specific misfortune will very likely cause you to underappreciate just how trying that exact challenge can be for someone else (or was, in fact, for you at the time). You overcame it, you think; so should he. The result? You lack compassion.
I thought that point was interesting, but I wasn't going to link it since I couldn't think of a connecting point. I then moved on to the Jewish newspapers.

The previous week, the letter of a recently divorced woman had been published, in which she expressed her feelings of isolation. She isn't invited out anymore. She feels like a pariah. 

The letters printed this week were less than sympathetic, from fellow now-single mothers. "Invite people over instead!" more than one proclaimed. "Who said you have to stay at home feeling sorry for yourself?" 

Disbelievingly, my glance darted between the two newspapers, back and forth. I just read this. A divorced woman is opening up about her loneliness, and she is flatly told by those floating in the same boat to stop being such a kvetch. 

Wait. Have I done the same thing, too? Have I also been impatient and dismissive of the hurt of others simply because their pain echoed mine?

I have this memory that still haunts me from first grade. We were having a class play; Ma had gone to visit her parents, and wouldn't be attending. Rivky began to wail that her mother wouldn't be coming. 

"So what?" I had snapped. "My mother isn't coming either, and I'm not crying." 
In separate experiments, they next exposed them to people who were expressing dejection and showing difficulty in enduring one or the other hardship. Those who had overcome more severe bullying felt less — not more — compassion for current bullying victims. Likewise, those who had faced greater difficulty with unemployment had less sympathy for the currently jobless. When the adversities didn’t match, no such empathy gap emerged.
. . . Living through hardship doesn’t either warm hearts or harden them; it does both. Having known suffering in life usually heightens the compassion we feel for others, except when the suffering involves specific painful events that we know all too well. Here, familiarity really does breed contempt.
I hope I have progressed in indiscriminate empathy since I was five.      

Thursday, November 12, 2015

You Will Find Your Place

There is a difference between "fitting in" and "belonging," as I have learned from Brené Brown. "Fitting in" is conforming oneself to wedge into surroundings; "belonging" is being oneself yet being accepted in surroundings. 
 https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/21/1a/09/211a0991e04bf11028e874db85e4e163.jpg
Pamela Druckerman, an American in Paris, has written before about the differences in American and French outlook. When a country doesn't comprehend children's songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It," that says a lot. 

In "How to Find Your Place in the World After Graduation," Druckerman describes her careful choice of topic for a commencement speech, since France doesn't do "Reach for the stars!" 
I based my talk on a common French expression that’s optimistic, but not grandiose: Vous allez trouver votre place. You will find your place. I’ve always liked this idea that, somewhere in the world, there’s a gap shaped just like you. Once you find it, you’ll slide right in.
How to find that place?

Druckerman presents a number of points, but I don't agree with them all. The ones I like: 

1) Give yourself space and time to think. 
You need to be blank, and even a little bit bored, for your brain to feed you ideas. The poet Wendell Berry wrote that in solitude, “one’s inner voices become audible.”
2) First tries usually suck. Don't expect magic immediately.

3) Everything you hear and get exposed to is material. Keep track of "ah-ha!" thoughts. 

4) If being occasionally obsessive creates good work, that's cool.

I had thought that when Druckerman started about finding one's place, she would mean in the social sphere. But no; she means finding one's place in the wold, even when alone. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kiss Me Kate

Ah, the squabbling lovers. I never understood the appeal.  But the musical redeems itself otherwise. 

Kiss Me Kate is about a staging of "Taming of the Shrew" and the actors that play them. Fred and Lilli, who embody the roles of Petruchio and Katherine, also happen to be ex-spouses. They yell, they scream, they holler, they kiss. Typical. 
 
My basis for a good musical is if the songs are sing-able. Since Cole Porter was the composer, most of the tunes are. One of my favorite scenes is where two leg-breakers for the mob serenade Fred on how to woo a woman. 
 
Poor Kate. Shakespeare wasn't being that loose with the realities of life back then when a loud, stubborn woman was married off to the next indiscriminate fortune hunter. 

I was so curious as to what causes Katherine's capitulation that I actually checked out Cliff's Notes. Its theory is that Kate begins as a spoiled bully, who would rather die than give in. But her initially miserable marriage makes her realize that that childish tactic won't work anymore; she has to take craftier action. 

She finds out how Petruchio thinks and instead of fighting him, she plays along. It is Cliff's opinion that her final speech was actually just for public's sake; she knows now that Petruchio's success is her success, that they are stuck together so might as well make the best of it. While she may proclaim servitude, that is not her intention. She has grown up, and she has to make peace instead of railing against the cards she is dealt. 
 
This is a major segue, but I couldn't resist.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Things

There's now a whole movement in de-cluttering, complete with rules like "When you buy one thing, give another away." In my case, that usually involves a divinely long-enough skirt, and no way am I giving away any of my other divinely long-enough skirts. 
 https://dirtyworkservices.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/messycloset.jpg
It is a sign of distinction to have streamlined, neat, decor. Serious hoarding is not healthy, and attachment to things is not the ideal, but is it so bad to have some junk around?

From an interview with Iris Apfel, the snazziest nonagenarian around: 
. . . people seem to be obsessed with decluttering their homes these days, but you’re known for keeping your house filled with all sorts of treasures. Why? I love clutter. I think being totally minimal shows a lack of history and soul, and I find it sort of pitiful. I think it’s wonderful to have stuff and live with memories and things you enjoy.
Dominique Browning echoes her sentiments in "Let's Celebrate the Art of Clutter":
I would like to submit an entirely different agenda, one that is built on love, cherishing and timelessness. One that acknowledges that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display.
And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure.
Why on earth would we get rid of our wonderful things?
. . . The stuff we accumulate works the same way our body weight does. Each of us has a set point to which we invariably return. Each of us has been allotted a certain tolerance, if not a need, for stuff; each of us is gaited to carry a certain amount of weight in possessions.
Some of us, rare breeds, tend toward the minimalist; some tip into a disorder of hoarding. Most of us live in the middle range. How marvelous it is to simply accept that, and celebrate it.
Many types of people plod along this Earth. Some cannot handle excess; some cannot handle bareness; some just seek a delicate balance. 

I have been making a point to be more mindful when it comes to purchases. Will it have use? Will I adore it? Will I not regret buying it? 

Browning hopes her children will treasure her priceless antique finds; I am more partial to the artifacts that have traveled down my family tree. My Zeidy's menorah, his esrog halter, the painting he bought in Israel. 

Because my niece had an assignment, I discovered a whole back story to one of my favorite items, a Pesachdik enamel tin plate, always called Lúdas Matyi for the image of a boy and a goose painted on it. 

I googled Lúdas Matyi (which means "Mattie the Gooseboy") and discovered that it is actually an epic poem about a lowly gooseboy who gets revenge over an unscrupulous lord who tries to cheat him. When communism came to Hungary, they took to it for obvious reasons. 
http://dia.osaarchivum.org/public/filmstrips/002588/ludasff00.jpg
Hey, I'm eating my Pesach potatoes on a communist plate! Cool!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Hearsay

"Objection, Your Honor, hearsay." 

"Objection sustained." 
http://cdn.hitfix.com/photos/5243209/Jack-McCoy-Sam-Waterston.jpg
While watching Law & Order, I didn't quite understand what was so bad about hearsay. After all, if they said it, why can't it be admitted into evidence? 

Until there was more than one incident with my niece. I should have seen the signs. 

"But you said you would!" she wailed. 

"I did?" She's too honest for her own good, so I questioned my own memory and capitulated. Yet when she claimed more than once "You said you would," I realized that she wasn't being truthful. 

"Babi said she would buy me anything if I go to bed on time!" she reported happily one day. 

"When did I do that?" Ma questioned. 

"You said so!"

"No, I didn't." 

The story eventually untangled; Ma had told her to be sure to go to bed on time during the school year, and then moved on by asking her what she wanted for breakfast: "I'll make you anything you want." 

My dear Eewok, in her eagerness for presents, simply heard what she wanted to hear, editing out the inconvenient bits. She should never be allowed to testify in court. 
http://40.media.tumblr.com/7fb0e6a9e53956eab983abc17ae66c16/tumblr_nskjvvasxx1rmw0cso1_500.jpg
I thought of this as I read "My Father's Last Romance," the author's widowed elderly father had found love again, and had announced to his son that she had asked him to marry her. But as time passed she did not show such matrimonial-inclined behavior. Soon, his father passed away.
. . . I took a breath and put a question to her that I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about for months: “Why did you ask my father to marry you?”
She shook her head. “I never did that,” she replied. “I told him if he were well I’d want to marry him.”
His father had heard what he wanted to hear, and the son was judging her harshly for a crime she had not committed. Eewok does not lie to be craftily manipulative; she has an image in her head of what she wants so badly she alters her recollections to support that fantasy. To the extent that she had caused a number of misunderstandings that could have gotten nasty if left undiscovered. 

I'm trying now, when told "they said," to recall: "Objection: hearsay." These words could be spectacularly inaccurate, and should not be held against any.   

Friday, November 6, 2015

Mendel!

A few weeks ago, Oprah's network OWN had a series called "Belief." The first episode featured this tattelah sheinz, Mendel Hurwitz (from Budapest!) 

I can't find the complete aired segment, but I have a follow-up:


And he's still adorable. 

The show also featured a Lubavitch couple from Crown Heights. Again, not the original video, but a follow-up. Very lovely. 
 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fave Recipes II

1) My sister made this recipe for a Chanukah party, and I think I cleaned out the bowl with little help. I tracked down the recipe online after she listed for me the ingredients, but not the measurements: Quinoa Salad with Edamame.
Via applesartichokesasparagus.wordpress.com
I messed about with it, however. I mixed red quinoa together with the original (it came out so pretty and colorful). I opted out of the pine nuts and craisins (I didn't have the former, and felt the latter was unnecessary). Instead of red onion, which I find harsh and overpowering, I utilized a shallot. Additionally, I sauteed the diced peppers and shallot for a few minutes to soften. 

As for the white wine vinegar, I dug up light balsamic instead and the flavor remained lovely. Chances are other vinegars will work fine as well. 

Next time I would like to cut back a little on the olive oil and see if that alters anything considerably.

2) I've posted about the ratatouille that was inaccurately labeled lecsó under our roof; here is the real stuff. When I tried it one Sunday morning with red and yellow bell peppers, both Ma and Ta practically teared up at the fond childhood memories it brought to the surface. As Zsuzsa's follow-up informs, mushrooms are also welcome.
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_qNzS_rXPDRU/TL3rcmfGz6I/AAAAAAAACNE/Utf0RjlHQXs/s1600/hungarian+ratatuille.JPG
Via zsuzsa is in the kitchen.blogspot.com
I happen to like both the ratatouille and the lecsó cold; to me, there is some sort of flavor that is present when slightly chilly as opposed to warm. The mushroom-pepper version was served at room temp for a Shabbos meal and was quite tasty. 

However, Zsuzsa's cooking steps were not followed exactly. The onions were sliced into thin half-moons, not diced. The paprika was placed early in the oil to infuse, rather than later. Instead of tomatoes, I used a little Pomi. The peppers were diced into bite-sized pieces. Also, the lecsó was simmered longer than her recipe dictates, since we are fans of melded flavors and stew-like consistencies.

3) This one is a little more complicated than I'm used to, but I found it yummy-licious. Since most of her recipes involve pork topped by Parmesan, it's rare that one of Lidia Bastianich's recipes are kosher-friendly. But her Melanzane Ripiene (Meat-Stuffed Eggplant) is up for Jewish experimentation.
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-XMhYOIRxRc4/T4byvAGEG4I/AAAAAAAAAmc/FFYmcGy7brM/s1600/eggplants+stuffed+042.JPG
Via http://sundayatthegiacomettis.blogspot.com/2012/04/melanzane-ripiene-stuffed-eggplants.html
While searching for a linkable version of her recipe, I came across another in the process that was less ungepachkit, sans chazzer and cheese (and is also Pesachdik). Lidia's has breadcrumbs, eggs, tomatoes, and a red pepper, but I can bet this alternate version is quite tasty without it.

Sprinkling with nutritional yeast would give an acceptable cheesy flavor. Another option, which I did, would be to paint it with the same glaze that I used on the Salisbury Steak.            

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"RBF"

I was walking along one morning, thinking deep mysterious thoughts ("Did I remember my lunch?"), when I dreamily reached the busy intersection, complete with a police officer posted for crossing duty. 

I always make a point to be nice to our boys in blue, but decided to wait until I crossed the street before grinning my head off. I thought my face was arranged in its default blandly polite expression, but the officer bawled across the street: "Smile!"

I sheepishly did so, feeling colossally stupid. It felt like a violation, he ordering my face to be cheerful on his terms, a complete stranger, yet.

RBF, Resting, er, B**** Face, is now a topic of conversation. 
RBF is a face that, when at ease, is perceived as angry, irritated or simply … expressionless. It’s the kind a person may make when thinking hard about something — or perhaps when they’re not thinking at all.
Poor Jessica Bennet ("I'm Not Mad. That's Just My RBF") was shocked to discover how terrifying she looked at rest.
Now, it’s safe to assume that humans have always made The Face. (Doesn’t the Mona Lisa sort of have it?) And it does have its uses. It is great for staring down Greenpeace solicitors on the street, or glaring at men who catcall you on the subway.
At a crowded bar, the expression can serve as a kind of armor against unwanted pickup artists (better, as one young woman put it, “than a fake engagement ring”).
And, as Tanya Tarr, a 36-year-old professional coach, described it: When engaged correctly, it can part a crowd of tourists on a busy street “like the Red Sea.”
When I started taking the subway regularly, I cultivated the Touch-Me-And-You-Die Face. No one, as yet, ever messed with me, no matter how sardine-like the situation. It's also great while navigating city streets and staring down a reluctant sales associate who doesn't want to process a return.
 https://s1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/seANCSB5MnYzUHgXCSU7yw--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3NfbGVnbztmaT1maWxsO2g9Mzc3O2lsPXBsYW5lO3B4b2ZmPTUwO3B5b2ZmPTA7cT03NTtzbT0xO3c9Njcw/http://l.yimg.com/os/publish-images/omg/2015-08-04/759f5b70-3af3-11e5-a4d0-55d698aea75d_Anna-Kendrick-Bitch-Face-01.jpg

And, of course, it makes disciplining children all the easier.

I have been trying to smile more in situations when I don't need to protect my virtue, and it is true that then the world smiles with you. I do feel good when I can make someone grin when they weren't before. I crack a joke, sunnily flash hopefully white-ish teeth, and sing "Have a good day!" 
 http://cdn.sheknows.com/articles/2013/03/mike/loving_you/981651/Vivien-Leigh-circa-1939-wenn.jpg
But I wouldn't demand "Smile!"       

Monday, November 2, 2015

One Amongst the Many

I'm in my late 20s and have been reading Modern Love since I was a teenager. I have the most supportive family and friends. I have a challenging and rewarding job I enjoy. I love living in New York and traveling even more, and work hard to see as much of the world as I can. I didn't feel heartbroken when my engagement to my boyfriend of many years ended this spring because it always felt wrong and I finally felt free. 
But now, finally single, I find myself an addict just as the author has described. Loved ones describe me as rational, pragmatic to a fault and successful in whatever I put my mind to. But in love I am the opposite. I put so much stock into an intense initial connection or early excitement of a new encounter only to find myself heartbroken when it doesn't work out.
I wish I could find the balance that the author achieved. I wish I didn't feel this massive hole in both my head and my heart every moment of every day wondering how and when I will find that person I'm meant for. I wish I was convinced of my self-worth in the way my family and friends say I should be. 
Instead, I just feel like a desperate little girl with no control over her life seeking something you can't force yourself to find. I truly hope one day I have a happy ending to share like the author of this column does. 
—K, N.Y.C.

This letter was printed in response to this article, "Overcoming Love Addiction: One Apple Martini at a Time" by Peter DeMarco. A diagnosed "love addict" who saw a fairy tale ending in every encounter with a female, he was eventually redeemed by an offhand comment to become a teacher. In pursuing that career, the void he desperately attempted to fill was appeased, and shortly thereafter established a romantic yet healthy connection which led to his happy marriage. 

But it was the above letter that spoke to me. I could have written part of it. 

I do find, at times, days, weeks, or even months of calm, however. I think the secret is when I take the individual out of the equation. 

Prior to Rosh HaShana, I listened to a number of online shiurim to get my focus in the right place. They tend to all be delivered by Rabbi Daniel Glatstein. Since his shiurim are delivered to numerous audiences, there can be some repetition, but when the same sentiments echo more than once they stick to you. 

A Navi geek, I perked up when he cited the story of the Isha haShunamis. Quick rundown: A wealthy woman, the Isha haShunamis, eagerly accommodates Elisha whenever he is in town, even having another floor added to her home to provide him with a private sanctuary. 
http://www.lifecoach321.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/elisha-shunammite-woman.jpg
Grateful for such comfort, Elisha sends Geichazi, his sidekick, to discover any wants or needs she may have. She informs Geichazi: "I dwell amongst my people." The meforshim glean from that statement that she wished to be included in the zechusim of klal Yisroel, not to be singled out.

Geichazi reports her response to Elisha, who was probably flummoxed. A navi, especially of his repute, was probably begged for brachos all the time. Not wishing to leave without some sort of compensation, he realizes that she has no child. Without her say-so, he blesses her with one. 
 https://obscurecharacters.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/chp-3-image-3-2-elisha-healing-shunammite-womans-son.jpg
Rabbi Glatstein references this happening to reinforce the importance of viewing oneself as part of the kehillah. Then the gray cells began to percolate: 

Do you think that the Isha HaShunamis didn't suffer over her barrenness? That she hadn't plead, wept, sobbed for a child, as Sarah, Rochel, and Chana did? And yet here she is offered, on a gleaming silver platter, an opportunity to ask for anything

But at this point, she had already made her peace, by realizing she "dwells amongst her people." (I'm guessing that if she's the type to build a second floor on the chance Elisha may visit, she was probably an all-around mitzvah lady.) She is one of many, a nation with a cause. It gives her joy and purpose to care for this great man, without any thought of return. When she selflessly gave, without ulterior motive, she was showered in bracha.

Because there are a multitude of stories that display the same moral—giving freely opens many doors—am I even capable of giving freely? In the middle of the spiritual high that is generosity and consideration, a little voice pipes up, "Look how nice you are! You'll probably get something for this!" It saddens me when I hear it. I want to give like she gave. 

In the meantime, until that day, I forget about my own obsessions . . . and dwell amongst my people.