Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yom Shabbos Menucha

"Yehoshua, get up off the floor! If you can't sit nicely at the table, go to bed. Mendy, put down that book! It's a long enough night, and you won't have anything to read later. Miri, leave your sister alone! Raizy, why did you take so much chicken if you knew you couldn't eat it all? No, Baruch, you can't have anymore grape juice. Shua, off the floor!" 

Well, I did volunteer for the task. With their parents out for Friday night, I was presiding over chaos. In under five minutes, the prettily set table had morphed into a mess of purple splatters and soggy napkins. I'm sure my hair was standing on end, with a few bits of shnitzel stuck in there.

As the youngest, my memories of Shabbos meals were tame; all of us sitting properly around the dining room table. Yet Ma tells me that before my time, she would tell Babi, "Ma, it's a three-ring circus." 

We sing bensching together (with Mendy barely mumbling along, much to my displeasure). With an hour until bedtime, I whipped out the stack of Berenstain Bears I had brought with me. 

The hysteria immediately vanished into peace. Each (even the 12-year-old) eagerly selected one. I read out loud, surrounded by cuddling children all sighing contentedly. This was the scene more apropos to the serenity of Shabbos.
After tucking the smaller ones into bed, I played cards with the older ones. I lost "I Doubt You" ungracefully. I thought I had a better poker face. 

The night closed pleasantly, despite the mad opening. 

We are creatures of habit and minhag. Shabbos meals are supposed to be calm and enjoyable. Yet when kids are too young to handle the expectations of the dining room table, maybe the method needs a little tweaking. 

If a formal dinner will devolve into (1) shouting matches of "But I wanna sit next to Abba!"; (2) Grabbing for the kois until it inevitably spills; (3) food battles; (4) really, really unnecessary stress, let's take the munchkins out of it until they are of an age of self-control and interest. 

They can be fed earlier, left to play or put to sleep (depending on the season), while Mom and Pop revel in a romantic dinner for two by candlelight.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ride the Pendulum

Unlike a number of my high school classmates, I never went through a "dark" phase. I've always preferred metaphorical sunshine and roses—why can't we talk about something more pleasant?
Some gals noted that, depending on the English teacher, all they had to do was spin the most miserable yarn possible to score a good grade. Apparently, while lacking black lipstick, there are educators who should be classified as goth. 

In response to the question "Which subjects are underrepresented in contemporary fiction?", Ayana Mathis replies: Joy. 

Authors do err, she says, in believing that the only true and real expression of the human experience is Dickensian (I avoid his work, even film adaptations, like the plague). Life is composed not of one extreme, but of both, and everything in between. Queen Elizabeth II said, "Grief is the price we pay for love"—one cannot grieve unless one has known love.

Mathis quotes Thomas Aquinas: "Joy and sorrow proceed from love, but in contrary ways." Same premise. 
Joy, it must be remembered, is nothing like happiness, its milquetoast cousin. It is instead a vivid and extreme state of being, often arrived at in the aftermath of great pain. 
I'm gonna Brené you—again: Many attempt to numb pain (with alcohol, drugs, food), without realizing that it is impossible to selectively numb emotion. If you numb the sadness, you will also numb the joy. You can't have one without the other.

A date once asked, "Are you a Buddhist?" because of my interest in yoga and Eastern medicine. I responded: "No. Buddhists believe life is all about suffering; I don't." (Okay okay, don't get technical with me, I know Buddhism doesn't quite work like that, but "suffering" is its go-to word.) 

I don't ignore the sadness, yet I do not find anything noble in unnecessarily wallowing in it. If it comes my way, and cannot be avoided, I shall acknowledge it to the best of my ability. Because unless I learn how to sit in discomfort, only then can I savor moments of bliss.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Paper Dolls

"Send out your information onto this shidduch e-mail list!" 

"Um, okay." 

What followed was two weeks of bizarre e-mail exchanges and phone calls. The first rang that she doesn't know me, right, so why don't I come over and scroll through her database? 

But if she doesn't know the guys either, what would be the point? 

The next called that she has just the idea for me, but I happened to know who he was and thought not. Then she carelessly suggested his friend, whom his pal spoke highly of. It's his friend. I don't think his required positive feedback means all that much. 

Then two more calls with ideas that went against exactly what I expressed in my information. We are not acquainted beyond what I stipulated in my profile. So why is your first move to recommend guys who don't even remotely fall within my criteria? 

I began to dread unknown numbers chiming on my cell. Because I hate, hate, having to explain to someone who thinks she's being nice and considerate that her idea is so catastrophic I'm considering going off the grid. 

I'm just curious how many of these women met their husbands by shidduch date. Because they have no idea how the "shidduch system" works. There are very few who can have the happy talent of matching paper with paper. I think they are the stuff of legend, as opposed to reality. 

If you want to make a shidduch, may I suggest keeping things closer to home? Singles in your extended family, in your shul, your children's friends, friends' children, etc. Why outsource complete strangers from backgrounds you don't understand, fruitlessly stapling together random ideas?

*Ping* An e-mail inviting me to come over and scroll through a database. Sigh. Please inform me if there is a single possibility, not a multitude.  

Friday, November 25, 2016


"Ye do not seem very upset at the loss of your boat, Captain Poldark."

"I am becoming philosophical," Ross said. "As one nears thirty I think it is a state of mind to be sought after. It is a protection, because one becomes more conscious of loss—loss of time, of dignity, of one's first ideals. I'm not happy to lose a good boat, but sighing will not bring it back any more than yesterday's youth." Demelza, by Winston Graham
You'll notice that I haven't talked about love. Or about happiness. I've talked about becoming—or remaining—the person who can be happy, a lot of the time, without thinking that being happy is what it's all about. It's not. It's about becoming the largest, most inclusive, most responsive person you can be.—Susan Sontag, in her 2013 commencement speech at Vassar College 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fave Oils

The oils are back, my peeps! Good fats are making a comeback, in the kitchen and the medicine cabinet. 

For the last few years argan oil has been my baby. I use it on my hair—I rub a few drops between the palms and run my hands through the strands. Instead of a bushy 'do, it behaves itself come Shabbos morning (my hair always looks great on Shabbos afternoon, never during Shacharis). The ends of the mane are so soft.
As the weather has cooled, I've been dabbing it onto my face after cleansing, before applying my other nightly creams. Nourished skin is young skin. I have to avoid the milia-prone areas, although argan oil is considered not to block pores (I had a bad experience with jojoba oil). 

When selecting oils, check the ingredients. Many can be cut with nastiness like mineral oil. Get 100% only. 

Next, coconut oil. I hate coconut, the taste of coconut. Bleh. I do not cook with it, but use it on my hair once a week for an intense mask. Previously, I used standard tubs of the stuff, which in winter would solidify and be a pain to extract and spread.
Enter Carrington Farms Liquid Coconut Oil. It remains liquid, no matter the temp, making it easy to apply. I also don't have to use as much since it doesn't have the consistency of thick goop, and in turn, less shampoo to remove the grease. 

It's also great for applying to the body. Don't neglect that as chilly days threaten. Coconut oil supposedly reduces inflammation and redness. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am Teflon

All (at least most) of us have our triggers. Some barbed remarks slide off like a bundtcake from a well-oiled pan; others stick like burnt paprikash. 

The comments that float unheedingly by, while barbed, don't excite the immune system the way others do—those flip, supposedly innocent words that awaken the self-questioning monster within. 

As the Good Book (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) says: 
One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very obvious, as in It's a nice day, or You're very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right?   
Ford Prefect (an alien) deduces: 
At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings didn't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths would probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
Think once. Think twice. I am so very, very frightened of brainlessly opening my mouth and unintentionally awakening another's insecurities. The worrisome part is that one can't know what may be another's perceived weakness. We all have our baggage, and my baggage is not yours.
In Henry Alford's "The Remarkable Shelf Life of the Offhand Comment," he opens with an incident where he was thoughtlessly admonished to be "a little more effusive." As I can relate, that critique haunted him for years, haunting all social interactions.
As the article relates, there are a few types of shots: 1) the statements that reinforce our personal fears; 2) the remarks that make us question our beliefs/taste/self; 3) comments that are so mind-boggingly stupid that they trigger sensations of superiority and, in turn, guilt. 

To illustrate type 1: I have—bless genetics—epic dark circles. I am familiar with every means to cover them up, yet for the most part some purple leaches through the layered concealer. I receive plenty remarks casting aspersions upon my night's sleep or general health to shake my faith in ever looking good. 

To overcome these shots, one can 1) Be snarky. However, in my experience, that rarely achieves anything. Usually the other party is blankly humorless, and will not grasp the point. 2) My preference, which is to be compassionate. While it is not an excuse, when under stress, disciplining the mind-mouth connection can be difficult, and the "better left unsaid" slides out anyway. We've all had our moments. Cut 'em some slack. 

As for those transgressors who make it quite obvious that they are being bi—, um, catty, all I can think is "nebach." How sad that they are such miserable human beings that nastiness gives them an ego boost. 

A dangerous possibile outcome is grudge nursing. Grudges can become part of one to the point that shedding it is the equivalent of cutting off a toe. Let it go. Please let it go. For all our sakes.    

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bad Patient

To this day I have an odd relationship with sick days. 

When I was a child, it would happen from time to time that I would awake feeling crummy. I would crawl into the kitchen, croaking, "Ma, I think I'm sick." Ma would take one look at my woebegone form and say, "Nah, you're fine. Go get dressed." 

Not the ending you were expecting, I'm sure. 

To this day, I never know if I am sick or if I am imagining it. I take polls if my forehead is hot. I experiment if my legs can support me. I peer into the mirror to analyze my skin hue—pale green, perhaps?

Luke had it differently. There were mornings he would cheerfully boom, "Ma, I think I'm sick." 

He would be bundled back into bed with a cup of hot cocoa. 

Ergo, my firm belief that I was adopted. 

I remember once leaving my bedroom, attired in the atrocious polyester uniform skirt, walking past Luke's room. He was merrily burrowing under the covers, thermometer leisurely swirled in his hot cocoa, sending me off with a smirk and a jaunty wave. 

Now, what was Ma's thought process? 

She knew that missing a day of school is no simple matter. The concepts taught in those few hours never take root the way it does if one is there to learn it firsthand. On some level, one just cannot catch up, especially when the whole class has had a shared joke about something that happened in one's absence and, well, "You had to be there."
Since I was a good enough student, Ma thought it was worth it for me to be nudged. Whereas Luke . . . she had already kinda given up on him. He spent his class time spacing out, bringing home meh grades, so if he isn't paying attention anyway, what the heck, let the kid have a sick day. (He surprised everyone later on when he shot to the head of high school classes and became a pretty smart cookie.)

It was only in college when I comprehended Ma's logic. In those years, if ill, I made the choice to heave my diseased self on the subway, clinging to the pole for dear life as fellow commuters nervously edged away. I could never find a classmate whose notes were more than four words and doodles; mine, by comparison, were four pages of closely written script. I knew then what a difference a missed day makes, and I was adamant, even if I collapsed trying, to get there.

Now, I have a job when I can take a sick day. But I still hesitate to do so, associating it still with opportunities missed.        

Friday, November 18, 2016


  • Being an old maid is like death by drowning, a really delightful sensation after you cease to struggle. —Edna Ferber; 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Modesty

I am currently reading Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Janmohamed (I'm not sure where I had heard about it, but I think it was on a frum blog). The book is less about the histrionics of an "older" single, more over-explanations of Islam.
Nura Afia, one of the new faces of Covergirl
The author's repeated insistence that Islam advocates love, not hate, made me think of our often frantic reactions when an outsider asks questions about Judaism. Won't they just think we doth protest too much?

We shouldn't have to be on the defensive, even if approached with a flat statement, as opposed to a curious inquiry. Janmohamed is constantly accused of being brainwashed and subjugated by the religious men in her life; frum women have experienced the same. 

If someone has an unmovable opinion, my gushing will not change anything. Better to not engage. In the future, I think I will simply shrug and say, "If you say so." 

Roger Cohen explored this gap in "Olympians in Hijab and Bikini" (this article was printed during the Olympics, but I have a backlog of pieces to link). He shares two opinions, one of a girl who voluntarily donned the hijab, another a non-Muslim who is studying in Iran, and so must abide by the culture there. The latter is not happy.

In terms of Jews, mode of dress is a constant, tedious conversation—perhaps because there is no set rules. We don't sit around pontificating about kashrus, as those laws are clear. When it comes to clothing, it's all about subjective perspective.

Janmohamed emphatically insists that the hijab is her choice. If anything, one of her frustrations in dating is that many single Muslim men want her to take it off

We've all got bechira. As to all our choices, to everyone's choices, let it be assumed that it is their choice (whatever it may be). Then leave it at that.   

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Singin' In the Rain

Singin' in the Rain is hailed as the most favored musical of all time. (I think it's pretty darn good, but it's not my favorite.)

The songs therein were repurposed from previous musicals, so I guess they stuck with tried-and-true favorites, guaranteeing success. 
Donald O'Connor, to me, outshines everyone with his comic delivery. (Not long after I was introduced to Singin', he guest-starred on an episode of The Nanny. I was ecstatic.)
There's even something for the fashionista. 
The Oscar nomination went to Jean Hagen, who totally earned it as Lina Lamont, the shrill harpy of an actress. 
Singin' left me with an undying adoration of Debbie Reynolds (see The Unsinkable Molly Brown). 
Get a load of that footwork. Awesome, right? As a morning person, I'm up for tap dance in the a.m., but I get this clip may be offensive to night people.

I sing in the rain. Precipitation is a siman bracha.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Way You Are

I blather about this topic enough: authenticity. I think that too many of us are frightened of expressing our actual interests and beliefs from fear of social ostracization, no matter how innocent those quirks may be. 

Adam Grant points out, however, that authenticity needs a better translation ("'Be Yourself' is Terrible Advice"). After all, we all harbor ugliness inside. 
If I can be authentic for a moment: Nobody wants to see your true self. We all have thoughts and feelings that we believe are fundamental to our lives, but that are better left unspoken.
A decade ago, the author A. J. Jacobs spent a few weeks trying to be totally authentic. He announced to an editor that he would try to sleep with her if he were single and informed his nanny that he would like to go on a date with her if his wife left him. He informed a friend’s 5-year-old daughter that the beetle in her hands was not napping but dead. He told his in-laws that their conversation was boring. You can imagine how his experiment worked out.
“Deceit makes our world go round,” he concluded. “Without lies, marriages would crumble, workers would be fired, egos would be shattered, governments would collapse.”
Obviously, being "authentic" does not mean being "sadistically honest." It shouldn't ever be translated that way.
Nor should it mean "I'm wonderful the way I am." We all require some self-improvement, areas that can use some renovation to become better people. We aren't on Earth to remain static. 
If not our authentic selves, what should we be striving to reach? Decades ago, the literary critic Lionel Trilling gave us an answer that sounds very old-fashioned to our authentic ears: sincerity. Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, Trilling urged us to start with our outer selves. Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the people we claim to be.
Rather than changing from the inside out, you bring the outside in.
If I allowed myself to remain stuck in terms of what foods I don't like, I would have been really missing out. (I still avoid peanut butter and coconut, though.) 
As an introvert, I started my career terrified of public speaking so my authentic self wouldn’t have been giving a TED talk in the first place. But being passionate about sharing knowledge, I spent the next decade learning to do what Dr. Little, the psychologist, calls acting out of character. I decided to be the person I claimed to be, one who is comfortable in the spotlight.
It worked. Next time people say, “just be yourself,” stop them in their tracks. No one wants to hear everything that’s in your head. They just want you to live up to what comes out of your mouth.

Monday, November 14, 2016

"Gentle Giants"

I think I've decided on my spirit animal: the Giraffe.
I kinda pilfered it from Ma, the animal-loather who admires only one four-legged creature on this earth. Her fondness is known even to the kinfauna; one niece painted a giraffe bud vase for her, Ma's most beloved gift from any of her descendants. (I'm not even insulted.)

My conclusion was precipitated by a Nature program; I usually avoid those, since the Circle of Life tends to roll over furry cuteness to astonishing degrees, but giraffes, of course, would be the exception. 

Giraffes are spectacular. They're refined, graceful, csinos (that's a Hungarian term regarding the svelteness of their figures), and stunning. 

They don't make scenes. They don't lose their heads. They raise their children with love and discipline. They are social beings, yet keep conversation to a minimum. They care for one another, taking turns to sleep while keeping watch. They have sick eyelashes.
Yet they aren't pushovers. They aren't meek and accepting. Since a casual kick can decapitate, lions are leery. Giraffes, for all their leggy beauty, are strong and capable. In other words: Don't mess.

These giraffes are the epitome of my personal expectations: Considerate dignity, calm competence, minding boundaries with kind strength. Plus, to carry off weirdness with panache and charm.

The basis of this episode was about giraffe relocation from a dubious area to a safe preserve. Capturing the giraffes is a daunting process. Tranquilizers cannot be left in their system for long, so they are awake when herded aboard. But when these wild animals were guided onto the truck, they regally ascended the plank. Their gaze remained curious but unpanicked. No frantic whites of the eyeballs showed. As the truck trundled along, they tranquilly observing the passing scenery—for hours—elegantly accepting the snacks offered.
When I was a kid, we once went to the Bronx Zoo (we always pass out before we hit the Asia section, so I never saw the pandas) and there actually was a giraffe in the Giraffe House. It stood tall, straight, proud, legs tucked in neatly, as still as a statue. (We actually thought it was a statue, except that it was placidly chewing its cud: "There it goes up! . . . There it goes down! . . .")
We were glued. We probably wasted a whole roll of film. (It was unfazed by the repeated flash.)

Few other species are the same. They are prone to unwarranted hysteria. They plod like peasants. They know themselves to be prey, with no other aspirations. The herbivore giraffe, whilst split of hooves, is no pushover. 

Okay, so the giraffe is MINE. Anyone got a spirit animal to share?  

Friday, November 11, 2016


This clock change is very inconsiderate. For weeks (probably until it springs forward) I'll be awakening (against my will) at 4:30. If I hop out of bed then my internal alarm will remain fused to that schedule, so I must remain under the covers until my brain catches up with the rest of the world. 

Yet what to do under there? Perfect opportunity to focus on a shiur. 

Earlier this week, I tuned into this fascinating one by Rabbi Daniel Glatstein (I had heard it last year, but my recall isn't as sharp as it used to be). It's a fun listen, but for those (singles) who are short on time, the last few minutes (at the 50 min mark) are a pleasant boost.   

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One at a Time

On the his first episode on M*A*S*H, Major Charles Emerson Winchester III pompously intones, "I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on."
It turns out, the fathead was right. If I supposedly "multi-task," incompetency reigns. 

I can't listen to a shiur and surf Facebook. I can't text and maintain a conversation. Preparing too many dishes at one time rarely ends well. 

There are many who claim they can multi-task. Note that they claim. Try reading this story without distraction. Can you? Will you recall what you have read? Will you have processed it?
Earlier research out of Stanford revealed that self-identified “high media multitaskers” are actually more easily distracted than those who limit their time toggling.
So, in layman’s terms, by doing more you’re getting less done.
Perhaps you are familiar with the person who is always busy, yet doesn't seem to accomplish anything? 
But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn’t just about getting things done.
Not the same as mindfulness, which focuses on emotional awareness, monotasking is a 21st-century term for what your high school English teacher probably just called “paying attention.”
I have learned, at my work, to complete each task one by one. Then I don't come back, spend a minute remembering where I left off, then forget that one vital action necessary to prevent my having to start it all over again. 
As much as people would like to believe otherwise, humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online, Ms. Zomorodi said, can happen upward of 400 times a day, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study. “That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day,” she said. “You’ve used them all up.”
The term “brain dead” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Multi-tasking is not productive at all, because not only are the jobs not done right, one is rendered unproductive in the process. 

There is pleasant satisfaction in a job well done and complete, von Pfetten writes. That reminded me of the "debt snowball method," paying off the smallest debt first even though that seems contradictory to financial savvy. When those in hock are able to cross off an item from their list, they tend to be so galvanized by that signal of progress that they throw themselves wholeheartedly into further headway. 

Kids, of course, tend to interrupt mono-tasking. In cases where tackling one job at a time is difficult, just try to do it whenever possible, like reading offspring a book while the phone is elsewhere, the article recommends. 
“Practice how you listen to people,” Ms. McGonigal said. “Put down anything that’s in your hands and turn all of your attentional channels to the person who is talking. You should be looking at them, listening to them, and your body should be turned to them. If you want to see a benefit from monotasking, if you want to have any kind of social rapport or influence on someone, that’s the place to start. That’s where you’ll see the biggest payoff.” 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dressing for Men: The Combover

I am going to get shot for this post. 

[Deep exhale]. Okay, here goes: 

Hair loss is, for obvious reasons, a touchy subject. I'm quite sure Luke has been shoved and tripped on the street because his genetically blessed mane has rubbed salt into many a wound. He also obnoxiously lets it grow to point he looks like the Rogatchaver.
To begin: It is not your fault. It sucks. You have my complete a total sympathy. Even Elaine's boyfriend Kurt, who shaved his head, took to his bed when he realized he had gone bald in the interim.
However, there is no going back. It's like when a teenager feverishly attempts to shield a zit—they simply succeed in amplifying its presence. 

The first step is acceptance. Perhaps one tried all the remedies—daily, gentle scalp massage with castor oil, for instance—to no avail. It must be acknowledged: the time one had with one's hair is gone, never to return. 

My boss, Jack, is devoid of hair. When his son began to show signs of hair thinning when entering his 20s, Jack told him that he had two choices: 1) Toupé. 2) Cutting it off. (The former actually was an option once for frum men who didn't want to wear yarmulkas in their secular workplaces. It has fallen out of style in recent years.)

It seems counterintuitive, yet even this Leah agrees: where hair remains, it must be trimmed short. Going the sleek Yul is not an option for the frum boys, so this applies to you.
I've always thought chassidishe men who buzz down most of their hair to highlight the payos rock their 'do with panache. They own it.
Jason Kearns says that baldness is a way for modern men to make their lives simple and to deal with hair loss with grace. He offers other alternatives to comb-overs and bald insecurity: "Instead of hiding your bare pate," he says, "try to work with it and add accessories like interesting eye glasses or a neatly trimmed beard."
I mean, c'mon, Jason Statham is still cool and everything, and he's gone distinctly bald. He, like, dares you to not be in awe of his coolness.
And please, do not use an awkwardly angled kapul as ineffectual camouflage. We all know what's going on under there.

Now I shall duck to avoid the fusillade of bullets.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Gift of Sight

There is seeing, and there is seeing.

Mild example: Eewok is (finally!) a reader, and she is eager to curl up in bed with a book, which then necessitates a nightstand and lamp. In my error, I got her the Kosher Lamp first, before it had an official base; it took a crack-inducing tumble. 

Now she requires a new lamp, but I was adamant about a nightstand first. Orgiana repeatedly emerged from Homegoods empty-handed and frustrated. I considered possible obsolete pieces about the house that I could lend until the ideal was discovered.
Whilst cleaning my room on Sunday (more like "half-heartedly hanging up tossed aside skirts") my glance fell on a dark corner. Tucked away, under a desk, was my sister's old white wicker nightstand, complete with shelf. 


See what I mean about seeing and seeing

Sometimes it is based on a frame of mind—there are moments when we are so fakocht that even though our eyes are open, we are so caught up in the fog of our own mind that our vision is fuzzy. 

Sam Anderson, in "Letter of Recommendation," suggests the joys of looking out the window. (From my serious kinfauna-sitting days, taking a baby to a window was a lifesaver; they were usually entranced by the outdoor view.)

As Anderson explains, outside is out of our control, unlike selecting images or video from the internet. As a Jew, I still need to be reminded of that: We've got no control. 

The second message he imparts is this: After witnessing a car crash into a fence, he took a dislike to the driver, neatly boxing and labeling him. Yet what he saw showed something completely different.
Rear Window
I judge even while trying not to judge. Dan l'kaf zechus is so bloody hard. Yet one day, one gets to a point where assuming the worst of people is more of an effort than assuming the best. One feels better too. 

Then one wonders why she would have opted for bitterness and wrinkles, when the alternative is so much easier on the skin. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Repairs Unwarranted

Feel like a good vent? 

To a good chunk of the world, if singles should dare to exist, it must be because they have something "holding them back." Mommy issues. Insane expectations. Fear of commitment. 

He had gone out with more than one girl that he could see himself marrying, but his mamma put the kibosh on all of them; no wonder he's alone! She hopes that the man she marries has a plan for the future, and he sees nothing beyond waiting tables for the next few years; silly goose, doesn't she know she has to compromise? He is dating her seriously, but not proposing; it must be because his uncle got divorced. 

But then, beware of the RED FLAGS. One should be flexible, unless there's a RED FLAG. (I'm still not sure where bendiness is warranted and fleeing screaming for the hills recommended.)

The "professionals" have been unleashed. You've heard about them, the "dating coaches." Too quiet on dates? C'mon in, we'll make you into a Chatty Cathy. Too loud? We'll get you on the perfect mellifluous decibel. Don't know what's "wrong"? We'll figure out how you're broken, and fix you. Because if you're single, you're broken: You need fixing.

So if I'm single, of course it's because I messed up MANY opportunities I had for wedded bliss, while still wobbling along the narrow line in not compromising on those RED FLAGS. 

Since, indubitably, every couple out there is . . . just the same. So it's an accident that he's quiet, and married, right? Or that she's loud, and married, right? Or that he's . . . something, and married? Since we aren't all supposed to be different. We're all supposed to be the same. (Sarcasm, people, sarcasm!)

Here's a story that I know well. Luke married his first girl, Orgiana. Orgiana was quiet on their dates. Newbie to this whole business, he had difficulties mustering up conversation. 

Their outings consisted of long stretches of silence.

But that didn't matter. He saw a woman of brains, who didn't speak carelessly; her experience until then had been with loud jerks, and she was drawn to that same thoughtful deliberation. 

He thought she would say no. She thought he would say no. 

Nearly fifteen years later . . .  

As for me, I don't think there is anything I need to consult a "professional" about. If a guy isn't for me, he's going to think I'm too quiet, or loud, or something. That's not on me; that's on him. There is a lass out there who is his ideal. 

The majority of the men I have had the displeasure of being introduced to ticked off nearly all the categories of RED FLAG; no way is a relationship possible. 

I don't think I'm broken. I'm merely unattached. Kindly don't confuse the two.   

Friday, November 4, 2016


    • Nam nulli tacuisse nocet, nocet esse locutum: "It is harmful to no one to have been silent, but it is often harmful to have spoken."—Dionysius Cato; and so

      Thursday, November 3, 2016

      Faces of Bravery

      "You'll feel better if you talk about it." Then they lean in eagerly, proffering an inquisitive ear. 

      But we are not all the same. Not everyone desires to upchuck their emotional guts. Some find such withholding to be unnatural, unhealthy. If only they knew what the other side thought of them . . .  

      In Betsy Lerner's memoir, she recalls her misunderstanding of her mother's staid, dignified bridge group, chafing and clashing against their expectations while yearning for their approval.
      But in 2013, as her mother, Roz, was recovering from an operation, the author resolved to make peace. She began her campaign by infiltrating the bridge circle, intending to break through the ladies’ polished surfaces and gain a deeper understanding of their inner lives, and, she hoped, her mother’s.
      Sitting with Roz, Bette, Bea, Jackie and Rhoda (the club had five members, in case one had a conflict), she eavesdropped as they bid, passed and took tricks. For years, she had imagined that during card play, the women let down their guards, spilled secrets, groused about their spouses and worried about their children.
      Instead, she found, to her disappointment, they did not ever “trash anyone” or “share a deep feeling.” Their commandments were: “Thou shalt not pry. Thou shalt not reveal. Thou shalt not share.”
      To her surprise, this was no wine-fueled contemporary "book club."
      Week after week, these women met, played bridge, and kept conversation way above the depths.
      With Bette, she brought up a tragedy that her mother had always refused to discuss: the death of Ms. Lerner’s baby sister, Barbara, in 1964, from pneumonia.
      Had the ladies known about it? the author asked. “Everyone knew,” Bette replies. Had her mother spoken of it, during all those bridge Mondays? “Not once,” Bette says.
      Ms. Lerner found such reticence callous. Yet, gradually, grudgingly, she came to accept that TLC did in fact exist in the pre-TMI world. Just because a bridge luncheon didn’t operate like a therapy session didn’t mean it wasn’t therapeutic, she saw. For the ladies, it was a safe, neutral zone where they went to recharge as they weathered life’s blows, keeping up appearances and their spirits as they trumped, finessed and ate kugel from china plates.
      She writes, “I never thought I would say this, but I think the Bridge Ladies are brave.”
      "Talking it out," I have found, is not always magically cathartic. For a number of issues, hashing them to death will not help. These women craved stability and structure; when life threatened their balance, they were able to re-attain their equilibrium with a weekly ritual amongst their comrades.

      Yes, in an ideal world, we could be vulnerable with one another without fear. Brené Brown has started the revolution; perhaps a wholehearted future awaits us. But we should respect the previous generations' means of perseverance, when presence was needed more than words.    

      Wednesday, November 2, 2016

      Kid-Tested, Aunt-Approved Cookies

      It began with Pragmatic Attic's Intense Fudge Nuggets; it was love at first taste. When I initially made them, they did this adorable thing in the oven which was swell up to a quasi-meringue state. But the following Pesach, maybe because I had a new mixer or I did something different in assembly, they all emerged flat. Delicious, but flat. 

      No no no. I had them once as quasi-meringues; I would have them again. I say "quasi-meringues" because the interior isn't dry like a standard meringue, but almost fudgey; crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. This cookie was not going to defeat me. I proceeded to fiddle. It took some time and many, many bags of chocolate chips.

      1) I discovered that the full ½ cup of cocoa weighs the batter down, so I cut it back to ¼ cup. It's still very chocolatey.

      2) During the rest of the year (as opposed to Pesach) I use evaporated cane juice (not white sugar), and the large size of the granules also brought the batter low. So I pulverized some in the spice grinder, resulting in a confectionery-like powder. Now, the sugar easily melds into the whites. Stunning. That means that less is needed.
      Before . . .
      . . . After
      White sugar would be fine as well. 

      3) While PA's recipe does not call for whipping up the whites separately, in order to achieve the texture I sought, I discovered it was necessary. Sigh.

      4) Sifting the cocoa makes a REAL difference. I place a small fine-mesh strainer over the bowl and tap it through. No effort at all.
      5) It took me FOREVER to figure out the ideal oven temp and time. The niece who LOVES these doesn't like it when the exterior is chewy (the result of higher heat and shorter baking time), although no one else had any complaints. But I really like that niece. I think she looks like me. My nephew thinks she looks like me, too. Although no one else sees it.  

      *Ingredient suggestions: (a) Ma discovered Bakto Flavors vanilla sugar in Homegoods that has actual bits of vanilla in there. Trust me, it ain't remotely like the other ones with "natural and artificial flavors." (b) I use high cocao content chocolate chips, and the kinfauna are none the wiser. Enjoy Life's has 69%, and my local kosher supermarket carries California Gourmet, boasting 45-48%.   

      Pragmatic Attic's Slightly Modified Intense Fudge Nuggets (gluten-, oil-, and flour-free, Pesach friendly)

      (approximately 25 cookies)   
      2 egg whites
      ½ cup sugar (pulverized optional)
      2 tbsp vanilla sugar
      1 tsp vanilla extract 
      1 tsp instant coffee (I require decaf) 
      ¼ cup cocoa (a little more would be fine)
      ½ cup to 1½ cups chocolate chips

      1) Beat egg whites. When they get white and foamy, slowly add the sugar and vanilla sugar, allowing it to get incorporated bit by bit. 

      2) When the whites are stiff and whatnot, mix in the coffee. Then lower the speed, and add the extract. 

      3) Sift in cocoa, then fold in by spatula. (It'll look scary for a few minutes, but it's all good.)

      4) Fold in chocolate chips. My family doesn't like so much chips so I opt for about ½ to 1 cup. 

      5) Spoon out delicate batter on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Place in 300° convection/325° standard oven. 

      6) Bake for 12 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE.*

      7) Leave in oven (door closed) for a minimum of ten minutes. Remove and allow to cool before plucking off the sheet. Keeps well on countertop in container. (Not that they last so long.)

      *I have also successfully doubled the recipe, filling two cookie sheets. Halfway through, I switched the trays for even baking.