Friday, October 20, 2017

TGIF


The film features a representation of the mobile home where you grew up in Michigan, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before. It was very ... um. ... Spit it out, Dave. Yes, it’s very, very small, and later I realized how much that did for me. I learned harmony with other people early, and that was absolutely vital and paramount. It was only when I went into the larger world that I realized the world isn’t like that.

Peaceful relationships don't just happen. It takes two, and if you want to get along, you'll find a way to get along. The art of harmony is a skill, indeed, and worth cultivating. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ugh, That Word

Americans are obsessed with happiness. It's in the Constitution, for crying out loud. Yet it is this very frantic pursuit that is making us anxious, according to Ruth Whippman. British by birth, she never gave happiness a thought until she moved to the U.S., and it became a never-ending conversation.

There are two anecdotes of Americans clashing with the French over happiness—the book reviewer, Hannah Rosin, being called a "stupid American" for smiling, and another from Pamela Druckerman, an American living in France. When her daughter's teacher asked her to give a presentation on being American, she concluded her talk by teaching the children "If You're Happy and You Know It." The teacher, puzzled, asked "What does it mean, 'appy?" 

Is happiness like kavod, that the more one runs after it, the more elusive it is? How does one achieve kavod? By sitting quietly, a letting it approach one gingerly, on little cat feet. 

Judith Newman analyzes a pile of books on the subject. She's happy, she says, because she is "The Queen of Low Expectations." Now that she mentions it, that has been working for me, too. 
 
The various titles she slogged through recommend different methods for happiness achievements: linking happy pastime with to-dos; witnessing moral good; gazing into a doggie's eyes; love yourself and everyone; live within your means; stop comparing yourself to others and just don't give a hoot. 
https://cdn.simplifiedbuilding.com/images/projects/build-your-own-sukkah_610.JPG
Via simplifiedbuilding
As Jews, we just emerged from Sukkos, when we are commanded to be happy. A lover of yuntif, I'm glad to report I perhaps not the divine simcha that our greats are able to achieve, but certainly happiness of sorts. To be commanded to emote is interesting. But isn't it a joy to celebrate Him? 

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Neglected Mandoline

Kitchen mandolins always frightened me. That exposed blade? After the incident with the immersion blender . . . 

But the exalted Jacques uses them all the time. I've watched him casually whip his hand back and forth, and as the veggie shrinks, he merely presses his palm against it, lifting the fingers out of the way. 

I was faced with neglected cucumbers, and so desired to pickle them. Rummaging about in the cabinet, I discovered a Kuhn Rikon mandoline, which has dual blades. 

I was curious. At worst, the slices would be thick, like the ones from the food processor. I slid the cucumber back and forth. In seconds, I was presented with a magnificent pile of ethereal wisps—better than if done painstakingly by knife, and at a fraction of the time.  
http://bebeloveokazu.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/img_2647.jpg
Via Bebe love Okazu
Oh, Lordie! 

Cucumber salad used to be an hour-long, laborious process; now it took minutes. 

Giggling over my newfound toy, I decided to try káposztás tészta. I was strapped for time before yuntif, so I didn't want to wrestle with the food processor.  I first shredded the onion (stunning!) and then moved on to the cabbage. 
https://www.thetastesf.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/onions-L1008696.jpg
Via The Taste SF
To quote from The Princess Bride, "a dweam within a dweam."

I love it when a kitchen doohickey works out. What else have I been needlessly resisting?

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Coils of Humblebrag

When did humility get so cocky and vainglorious? I remember the first time, around 15 years ago, that I heard someone describe herself as “blessed.” An old friend of my boyfriend’s came to visit and spent the evening regaling us with stories of her many blessings. She wasn’t especially religious, which somehow made her choice of words worse. Every good thing in her life — friends, job, apartment, decent parking space — was a blessing: i.e., something deliberate, something thoughtfully picked out for her by a higher power. It took a while to put a finger on why it got on my nerves. The problem was that she couldn’t just let herself be lucky, because luck was random, meaningless, undeserved. Luck was a roll of the dice. She had to be chosen.—Carina Chocano
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1061/1924/products/Angel_Halo_Emoji_Icon_0ff75c27-5416-4ac6-bf1a-2a2d44b0a32b_large.png?v=1485573404
This connects to a previous post—about those who simper at their good fortune while claiming humility.  The above is from a series that analyzes current jargon ("First Words"). 
To be humbled is to be brought low or somehow diminished in standing or stature. Sometimes we’re humbled by humiliation or failure or some other calamity. And sometimes we’re humbled by encountering something so grand, meaningful or sublime that our own small selves are thrown into stark contrast — things like history, or the cosmos, or the divine. . . “Humility in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth and submits himself to others.” “Others” being God, say, or a grand movement or mission, or just the majesty of your own corporate or celebrity overlords.
I never particularly liked those maselach about downtrodden janitors in freezing Eastern Europe who turn out to be the most brilliant mind and spiritual soul of his generation. "Oh, no, I'm just the lowly shammes" grates. Because that's not what anivus is—the same way "humility" isn't what it is now. It's like the above: Compared to the knee-knocking glory of God, yes, we're nothing. But amongst our own brethren, we must recognize our talents and share them.
In the present-day vernacular, people are most humbled by the things that make them look good. They are humbled by the sublimity of their own achievements. The “humblebrag” — a boast couched in a self-deprecating comment — has migrated from subtext to text, leaving self-awareness passed out in the bathroom behind the potted plant. . . . none of these people sound very “humbled” at all. On the contrary: They all seem exceedingly proud of themselves, hashtagging their humility to advertise their own status, success, sprightliness, generosity, moral superiority and luck.
Humility takes another turns in this article, which is albeit heavily Christian in context: 
Humility is a sign of self-confidence; it means we’re secure enough to alter our views based on new information and new circumstances. This would be a far more common occurrence for many of us if our goal was to achieve a greater understanding of truth rather than to confirm what we already believe — if we went into debates wanting to learn rather than wanting to win. . . 
There are those, ahem, who are insecure in their faith yet put up a front of "knowing." But if one had some anivus, they would also be accepting. 
Certitude can easily become an enemy of tolerance but also of inquiry, since if you believe you have all the answers, there’s no point in searching out further information or making an effort to understand the values and assumptions of those with whom you disagree. 
If we had all the answers early on, what would be our purpose here? We're here to advance, and that can only be done if we are willing to hear and learn. 
Humility believes there is such a thing as collective wisdom and that we’re better off if we have within our orbit people who see the world somewhat differently than we do. “As iron sharpens iron,” the book of Proverbs says, “so one person sharpens another.” But this requires us to actually engage with, and carefully listen to, people who understand things in ways dissimilar to how we do. It means we have to venture out of our philosophical and theological cul-de-sacs from time to time. . . The wiser we become, the more we see how much we don’t know and how much we need others to help us know.
He quoted one of our sources, so it's legit. "Two heads are better than one," Ma always said. Not everything one hears is useful. But one must be willing to hear in the first place. We have to be a little humble.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Be Flexible, Not Fixed

This week is all about going back from the wrong path and starting again. I'm surprised how many (frum!) Jews aren't willing to acknowledge how they have the power to alter much—not by trying to save the world, but by tackling their own minds and actions. 

Studies are showing that "DNA is not destiny"—in terms of heart disease, for instance, a good lifestyle makes up for bad genes, while a bad lifestyle negates good genes. And one didn't have to be an angel, either; "It looks as if the biggest protective effect by far came from going from a terrible lifestyle to one that was at least moderately good."

Dr. Jane Brody profiled Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, who completely reversed his lifestyle and successfully handled his diabetes diagnosis in the span of three months. 
Rather than proselytize, Mr. Adams prefers to teach by example, introducing people to healthy foods and providing helpful information. “I don’t want to become an annoying vegan,” he said. “My hope is that by having people focus on adding healthy things to their plates, rather than unhealthy things, they’ll eventually only have room for the healthy ones.”
Sur mei'ra, v'asei tov.   
Balsamic Chicken and Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner | Cooking Classy
Via cookingclassy
Very often, we create limiting beliefs and we stubbornly cling to them. Like Aya Cash: "The First Time I Ate a Vegetable (I Was 22)." 
For years, I had been telling everyone that I didn’t eat vegetables. I believed I hated them. I even took pride in the fact that I could fill my body with junk and not gain weight. I secretly, ridiculously, bizarrely thought my anti-vegetable stance made me intriguing. Unique. Idiosyncratic.
But sometimes we tell stories about ourselves that aren’t true. Sometimes stories we think are fixed are actually flexible. . .
I realized that I had determined a defining characteristic based on who I was at 6. I had not tried again for 16 years.
What else had I decided about myself that might not be true anymore? What had I decided about other people? That piece of lettuce was my first recognition that my identity was not set, but malleable.
I used to think belly button piercings were cool. I used to date men who didn’t like me. I used to smoke. I had never wanted to get married; I thought it wasn’t “who I was.” But a few years ago, I found myself feeling otherwise. This didn’t mean I was a different person. But the narrative I had about myself had changed.
Would I have learned this in other ways? Probably. But that bite opened me up to the possibility that change can happen even when you’re not trying; you just have to stay curious.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Thankful Year

Rabbi Glatstein said in a Rosh Hashana shiur that we cannot ask for a good year until we have thanked Hashem for the past one. 
 https://goodmotherdiet.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/apple-honey-challah20.jpg?w=625
In that theme of gratitude, I can link a Thanksgiving article, I think: Frank Bruni's "One Holiday, and Countless Ways to Say Thanks." 
Someone, usually my Uncle Jim, says a grace of greater length and intensity than the ones at other holidays. He speaks of God and gratitude, demonstrating that if we look at our lives through the right lens, we see blessings everywhere, and they outnumber obstacles.
Gratitude is a feat of perspective. When I talked with other people recently about their ways and whys of giving thanks, I was most struck by how often their rituals arose from travails, not triumphs. Hardship was handmaiden to an examination of all that remained good, all that they should cling tight to.
I'm speaking from experience here: One can find hakoras hatov even when everything goes to hell in a handbasket. It can be done when one sees the Hand of Hashem in all things. Hashgocha pratis, not hashgocha klalis. The Eibishter is in your life as much as you allow Him in.   

Monday, September 18, 2017

Give Them CASH

I have um, a bit of a backlog of fascinating articles. So, er, bear with me as I link, um, holiday-themed pieces. 
 
The subject of these two are regarding gift-giving, that thankless job. It's sort of like shidduch dating; the majority of results are "Gee, thanks for thinking of me, but—" 
http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/11/09/18/2E46C33400000578-0-image-a-37_1447095231318.jpg
Sridhar Puppu's article about the misery males experience trying to select gifts for their significant others ("Why Are Some Men Such Awkward Gift Givers") is quite entertaining. Even when their spouses are fine with it, they still feel the pressure. 
 
John Tierney went to the experts, as in actual research ("The Perfect Gift? It's the One They Asked For"). Often, gift-givers get so worked up over how amazed the receivers will be, they don't take into consideration that the receivers would rather have something that's useful, instead of something awesome that becomes irritating clutter. 
 
If buying for a lot of people at once (although, is that an issue for non-Christmas observers?), don't make a point of getting something different for everyone, especially if they wouldn't know anyway. My aunt throws a Chanuka party every year, and she sticks to the same gift for a specific age group. She has to keep her sanity too. 
 
And it's cool to regift, apparently. Also, people know what they want. ASK. They'll tell you. If not opting for deliciously welcome cash, don't give a restrictive gift card, like to a candle shop. That's not fair. 

Last but not least: The thought does not count. I'm speaking from experience, here: If I am stuck with something I have to pretend to love and takes up space, I am annoyed, not touched. In Judaism, "the ends don't justify the means." So if you shvitzed to get me what you thought I would like and I didn't like it, I'm not really going to care about the effort. According to research.

Friday, September 15, 2017

TGIF

  • Behind every crazy woman is a man sitting very quietly, saying, "What? I'm not doing anything."—Jade Sharma;
  • Brené has a new book! Here's a CBS interview; and 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Age Like Iris?

I learned, a long long time ago, to never say, "Well, I would never—!" 

A number of women have that about-face when skin starts to sag. In one's bouncy youth, the idea of surgical intervention for shallow reasons is repulsive; yet, perhaps, when actually confronting the signs in the mirror, the concept becomes less abhorrent.

Who knows what I will be tempted by if my neck goes all turkey despite my nightly creams? 

Debora Spar mulls over the issue in "Aging, and My Beauty Dilemma." 
Then my friend Elise pushed me toward the exit, where our husbands were waiting. Elise is about a decade younger than me; she is also Nordic, smooth-skinned and built like a ballerina. “Did you see that room?” she asked, smiling and rolling her eyes. “Every other woman there was over 60 and yet there wasn’t a wrinkle to be found. They all looked great,” she acknowledged, “but so similar!”
We ducked into the car and started heading back to the West Side. In the darkness, she grabbed my arm. “Promise me that we’ll never do that,” she said.
“Do what?” I asked, pulling my own black dress more tightly around me.
“That plastic surgery thing,” she said. “Fillers, Botox, all that stuff.”
I demurred, mumbling quietly, “Come back and see me when you’re 50.”
That's why we can't judge. If we haven't been in those identical shoes, who knows what we would do?

As for dressing, Julia Baird proclaims, "Don't Dress Your Age." I find it awesome when I see older women in bright, colorful, patterned attire. If anything, I think such garb is probably more age-appropriate than it is on the young. There is a fabulous octogenarian that I know who is my inspiration for my golden years, God willing. Now, I rarely wear patterns, and have difficulty finding festive hues that also suit my frame. But when I've aged out, what's figure-flattering will no longer be a concern.  
All this nonsense is why I adore the funky grandmothers you can find on Instagram who dance about in baubles and proudly sport turbans. They refuse to fade, hide or match their attire to the wallpaper.
But my greatest mutton-fantasy is just to wear and do what I want. To not have such preoccupations even cross my mind. Isn’t there a point when one can simply be a dowager, a grand old dame, or just a merry old boiler? When we can refuse to kowtow to prescriptions and permissions, but just march on in the shoes we fancy wearing?
http://www.closetonthego.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/iris-apfel-01.jpg

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Lonely Subway

Metropolitan Diary, Beth Bengualid:

Dear Diary:

I witnessed a verbal altercation between two women on the subway today. One was about 60 years old; the other was probably in her early 30s.

The younger woman had a big bag around her shoulder and was holding onto a pole as the older woman entered the car.

“Don’t you dare push me,” the older woman yelled.

“That is your perception,” the younger woman replied. “I did no such thing. You bumped into my bag.”

The older woman insisted that the younger woman was wrong and escalated the argument. I tried to make eye contact with her to encourage her to calm down because I could sense that the situation was getting out of control.

Then, to my surprise, the younger woman did something remarkable while she trying to keep her cool: She asked the older woman: “Do you need a hug?”

“Why yes I do,” the older woman said.

The two women embraced and forgave each other.

My motto for surviving working in New York City is: "Do not engage and escalate." Well, that's sort of my motto in general. We come across, in our daily lives, all sorts of overly chatty, boundary-less individuals who frankly don't care that you have to be elsewhere. 

Therefore, RBF can be a girl's best friend. When frozen in android mode, subway-riding wackos leave you be. 
https://az616578.vo.msecnd.net/files/responsive/cover/main/desktop/2016/04/05/635954863810755415332848855_Screen-Shot-2016-02-04-at-1.38.23-PM-500x375.jpg
No one wants to tangle with that.
The above story, however, reflected another concept: those who pick fights in a desperate attempt at connection. Sort of like a tantruming toddler willing to take bad attention over no attention.

People are lonely. Some people are so lonely they're willing to be a subway-riding wacko. 

I learned this recently, that while in my naive, childish mind the only way to forge a human relationship is with kindness and affection, there are those out there who will actively insult others in an attempt to connect. Sad, but true. 

Perhaps if we learned to take people's words not always at face value, but attempt to peer into the wounded souls beneath, we'd be a lot more tolerant. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

By Work, Not By Word

"And R' Yitzchak said: If someone tells you, 'I labored but did not succeed,' don't believe him. If he tells you, 'I have not labored, yet I have succeeded,' don't believe him. If, however, he tells you, 'I have labored, and I have succeeded,' you may believe him" (Megillah 6B).  

There are a number of people who made it big with the assistance of the internet. Makeup artists (i.e. Michelle Phan), singers (i.e. Bieber), and those of other dubious talents (i.e. Kardashians) have found fame and fortune via those opportunities. But people forget there was work involved (even for the Kardashians), not just hashtagging self-promotion. 
https://storage.googleapis.com/twg-content/images/michelle-phan_lg.width-1200.jpg
"Good News for Young Strivers" by Adam Grant is a reminder that in the end, results count, not horn-tooting. Achievements lead to successful networking, not vice versa. Beneficial networking doesn't mean chasing after prey; it's about bringing the prey to you. For that, you need to draw them close with something other than a blank "Look at me!" 
In life, it certainly helps to know the right people. But how hard they go to bat for you, how far they stick their necks out for you, depends on what you have to offer. Building a powerful network doesn’t require you to be an expert at networking. It just requires you to be an expert at something.
Yes, there are businesses that take off by "happening to bump into the right person." But if one doesn't have anything for the other to remember them by, fuhgeddabouit. 
 
Cal Newport goes further ("Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It") that the hashtagging is not merely a neutral influence, but a malignant one to a career. He claims that since social media is addictive, and robs one of focus that should be applied to one's work, it actually negatively impacts the performance that must speak for itself. 
If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.  
This same premise applies, I believe, to Rosh Hashana and repentance. It's our actions that is our greatest proof of remorse, not merely "so sorry." Biting one's tongue, giving to tzedakah, flashing a smile to a stranger—you can take that to God, no status update needed. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

(Spiralized) Zucchini Kugel

Ma never made potato kugel for Shabbos. She and I are fellow potato-lovers, to the point of mindless consumption. 

So, recently I have pounced upon alternatives—like this Spaghetti Squash Kugel. With hefty seasoning of garlic powder and black pepper, it came out delicious (my sister-in-law, who rarely eats vegetables, gobbled it up) and guilt-free. 

I would recommend, after scraping out the squash strands, to let it rest in a bowl for a bit so excess water will emerge, then squeeze it off. Less water, better binding.

The next week, I wanted to try my hand at zucchini. But there I was stumped. Every recipe I came across called for some sort of carb-y binding, like bread crumbs. 

For Shabbos meals, I try to keep the food as carb-free as possible, since challah takes enough of a toll. If the spaghetti squash kugel didn't need bread-binding, why should this? 

A few years ago I bought a spiralizer, and to be frank, didn't use it much. It has now increased its appeal as Ta, the lukshen-lover, is content to consider spiralized zucchini as pasta's relative. I wanted to use it for the kugel—which would also spare me digging out the food processor (although the pieces could be left in chunks as well).  

The secret it to get as much water out of it as possible. I steam it, press it against the colander, pour it over in a bowl to rest, and as more water emerges, continue to pour it off while pressing down. Then I sauté it lightly to ensure everything was evaporated out. 

(Spiralized) Zucchini Kugel 

5-7 zucchini (of any color; the above also had yellow)
1 onion, diced
3 eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
garlic powder
salt and pepper 

1) Spiralize or grate zucchini. 

2) Make 'em limp. What I do is steam it, then press as much liquid out through the strainer, then let it rest in a bowl and squeeze out any more liquid that may emerge. But there are plenty of options how to go about that. 

3) Sauté onion until delicious. Add garlic towards the end, for about a minute. 

4) Add limp zucchini and mix. Sauté lightly just to ensure that as much water has been bullied out of it as possible. Season with garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. 

5) Pour over into a bowl. Add three beaten eggs and mix. 

6) Pour over into lightly greased 9x9-ish baking dish, and bake on 350° for 45 minutes or so.    

Monday, August 28, 2017

Pay It Forward

I had noted him as I prowled the produce aisles. He was peering carefully at the Golden Delicious apples, which made him already interesting as a fellow fruit-lover. They don't make 'em like they used to. 

He was talking educationally to his little boy in the cart. A good Tatty, I thought approvingly. He looked weary, but he spoke patiently to his excited young son. 

I had in one hand my cart, in another, a bag of zucchini; with an ominous thud-thud-thud, I looked down to see my carefully selected summer squash slipping through a tear, banging into the floor. 

"Oh, maaaaan," I emoted in annoyance. I hoped they weren't bruised. 

As I knelt to recover them from the floor, I heard a quiet, "Here." The good Tatty was matter-of-factly proffering a replacement bag. 

"Thank you," I replied distractedly, taking it and chucking my veggies in. 

He silently vanished. 

Emerging from the store, I felt . . . upbeat. There is a bounciness when one experiences kindness. 

The next morning, I saw a cell phone and keys forlorn on the train seat across. I lunged down the car, tapping the girl on the shoulder. "Is this yours?" She gratefully reclaimed them, and I attempted to vanish discreetly as he did. 

There is also a bounciness when one can forward the kindness to another.  

Friday, August 25, 2017

TGIF

The will of God will never take you,
Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Where the arms of God cannot support you,
Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs,
Where the power of God cannot endow you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the spirit of God cannot work through you,
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you,
Where the army of God cannot protect you,
Where the hands of God cannot mold you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you,
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears,
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you,
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.

—Anonymous (I think)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Rosh Hashana Cometh

Self-flagellation and I are old friends. If I am calm and content, my subconscious says, "That's enough of that, now," and obligingly rustles up a memory from 2nd grade that proves what an unworthy human being I am. 
 https://scottnevinssuicide.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/self-flagellation.jpg
Gordon Marino ponders the purpose of remorse ("What's the Use of Regret?"), a topic which is rather apropos for Rosh Chodesh Elul, no? 

"Self-forgiveness" shouldn't be encouraged, he says, for that merely removes responsibility or an incentive to improve; self-torture should not be endless, however, since we "lose faith in ourselves," and ruminate helplessly on the past without progressing into the future. 
We can learn to let things go, but before we let them go, we have to let regret get hold of us. Perhaps the old biblical formula is best — repent, ask for forgiveness with a sincere resolve to change your ways.
Ah, the old biblical formula is best! What a surprise. 
Kierkegaard observed that you don’t change God when you pray, you change yourself. Perhaps it is the same with regret. I can’t rewind and expunge my past actions, but perhaps I change who I am in my act of remorse. 
Without reflection of past sins (Viduy?), one cannot change. Isn't that what we're here for? We're here to do, initially imperfectly, then acknowledge our mess-ups and act upon that to elevate higher. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Pleasures of the Surreal

Movies and I have an odd relationship. I devour the reviews, can tell you if the critics like it or not, but never end up seeing them until years later. So although "La La Land" should be totally up my alley (MUSICAL!!!) I haven't seen it yet. 

Last year (by backlog really goes back), I was reading one of the many pieces about it, and this paragraph by Manohla Dargis jumped out at me: 
Contemporary American movies could use more s’wonderful, more music and dance, and way, way more surrealism. They’re too dull, too ordinary and too straight, whether they’re mired in superhero clichés or remodeled kitchen-sink realism. One of the transformative pleasures of musicals is that even at their most choreographed, they break from conformity, the dos and don’ts of a regimented life, suggesting the possibility that everyone can move to her own beat. It’s enormously pleasurable when an evening stroll turns into a rhythmic saunter and then bursts into dance — think of Gene Kelly walking, tapping, stomping and exulting in the rain. . . 
Musicals are for idealists. One of the pleasures of classic film musicals is the chance to watch bodies become extraordinary — strolling and then singing and soaring — often in stories that suggest that with some choir practice and maybe an Arthur Murray dance lesson or two, you could soar, too. Musicals are liberation with a beat. When Judy Garland sang “Over the Rainbow,” she was telling her audience that it would transcend its terrible times. 
For me, movies and books are about pleasant escapism. If life is B'H going well, I don't want to dwell in misery; if life has gotten ensnarled in a rough patch, I want to be distracted by sunshine and ponies.

Although, I do have to remind myself that in the real world, breaking into song and dance in the rain is not a wise idea, especially if there are witnesses.   
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/w40ushYAaYA/maxresdefault.jpg

Friday, August 18, 2017

TGIF

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"What Is Your Genius?"

Esther Wein explained it: chochma + bina = daas. 

One could erroneously think that all three are the same. But they are not. 

"I don't understand," Ta cannot comprehend. "She is so smart! How could she say something like that?" 

"She's smart, sure," I reply. "But Ta, you are the one who always talks about E.Q.! That's not the same as I.Q." 

There are even more facets to the mind, like rationality and intelligence. Again, do they sound the same? Kinda. But they aren't. David Hambrick and Alexander Burgoyne explain how in "The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence."  

The work of Kahneman and Tversky showed how humans are, for the most part, irrational (is there any concrete reason why I should be scared of the dark?). Then Stanovich showed there is no correlation between high I.Q. and R.Q.—the Rationality Quotient. 
Based on this evidence, Professor Stanovich and colleagues have introduced the concept of the rationality quotient, or R.Q. If an I.Q. test measures something like raw intellectual horsepower (abstract reasoning and verbal ability), a test of R.Q. would measure the propensity for reflective thought — stepping back from your own thinking and correcting its faulty tendencies.
To my mind, this shows how certain admirable qualities are overlooked while others are overhyped—like so-called "brilliance." 

I saw this quote the other day: 
Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”
We all have something to contribute. The problem is when we don't realize that our "something" won't be the same as another's. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Respect the Eye Pencil

"Do you mind stopping in the police department?" she asked. "I have to file a report for that fender bender." 

She took a spot by the counter, while I sat down to the side with her daughter. I was entertaining the child with my cell, looking down, when I realized an officer had come out behind the partition and was standing in front of me. 

"Do you need any help?" he asked tenderly, concern in his eyes. 

"Um, no, not me, she does," I said, motioning to my befuddled friend, ignored at the front desk. 

"Oh," he said sheepishly, and scurried back from whence he came. 

When we left, she said it: "It was the makeup." It's not about looks—she herself is quite pretty. But somehow, taking a few minutes in the morning to swipe on mascara and lipstick makes the world respect you, and eager to help you.
http://stylesweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Neutral-Makeup-Look-for-Summer.jpg
So if you ever in need of a favor . . . begin by buffing on some blush.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Your Husband, No One Else's

In a long-ago interview with Bill Moyers, Maya Angelou revealed her theory that most women marry other people’s husbands. She didn’t elaborate, but I immediately understood. Out of hopefulness, impatience, insecurity or for a thousand other reasons, we too often rush into relationships that are poor fits for us, robbing our partners and ourselves of more promising connections. . .
“I have finally married my own husband,” Ms. Angelou went on to say.
Many years after my first marriage, so did I.
I read in a frum magazine that the rising rate of divorce amongst our newly wedded youth is not necessarily due to the inability of these couples to make it work; it is because they should not have married in the first place. Incompatibility cannot always be overcome.

The opening paragraph is from an article by a disabled woman, Ona Gritz ("Love, Eventually"), who realized that she was in a relationship with an able-bodied man simply because he wanted her. After years of rejection from men, this was an offer she could not pass up. 

But she did not feel with him that deep connection that she had with her best friend, and she could not help but contrast the two relationships. Shouldn't marriage have that? 

She eventually divorced, then later met and married her soulmate—who happens to be blind, while she has cerebral palsy. 
It’s true that Dan and I are very similar. We’re both romantics yet also fiercely independent. We’re introspective to the point of obsession. Though he’s a decade older, we share a love for the music from his teenage years. And long before we met, many of the same novels and poetry books lined our shelves.
Dating, to put it bluntly, sucks. I have read letters of women who have had enough, that decided to "settle" and simply marry. Perhaps, to some, the settling was worth it; but I have heard too many tales of the bleakness that can follow such a decision. 

Breathe. Be patient. Find happiness in the meantime. And come to know yourself, so you can know what you need.    

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Be That Person"

I like to think I have reached a point where I no longer absorb snippy comments. Often, if on the receiving end, I look intently at the other and wonder, "Golly, she must be really hurting about something." 

Anonymous trolls, the most cowardly of the cowardly, offset their own misery by depositing nasty little statements here and there. This cooking blogger posted a video taking such a one to task, by sharing her own burdens and appealing to the world to just be freakin' nice.  
Dr. Perri Klass, M.D. ("What Knitting Can Teach Us About Parenting"), is a pediatrician; to unwind, she browses through a knitting website, where she noted that despite the, er, straight-up ugliness of the various posted projects, the vast majority of comments are nice. Yet she doesn't see that empathy outside, as parents are usually subject to sniffing disdain if their toddler has a public meltdown (an occupational hazard, and to be expected). 
I would like to suggest that everyone who has posted more than one comment in the last two years passing judgment on other parents learn to knit as soon as possible. Winter is coming, and we all need scarves. There are some really nice, easy patterns on Ravelry, and you can download many of them free — and then you can choose your yarn and put your heart into it and make something beautiful.
With luck, the people who see it in real life and the ones who admire it in the photos you post online will respect the effort you put into it, and offer praise and encouragement. And if they don’t have anything nice to say, they won’t say anything at all.
Whenever I now get that judgy voice in my head, I'm disappointed in myself. Then I choose to see a quality about the other that I am forced to admire. And I can.

Friday, August 4, 2017

TGIF

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Cook an Egg

Perhaps one of the techniques that has stubbornly eluded me is how to cook civilized hard-boiled eggs. Either they come out raw, or they come out overcooked, and are usually a pain to peel, half sticking to the shell. 

My Frenchman did not fail me. Jacques Pépin's method for perfect eggs, every time, has been reliable.

1) Bring a pot of water to boil. 

2) Take a thumb tack (or the like) and stab through the shell on the round (as opposed to pointy) side of the eggs. 

3) Once boiling, lower flame to simmer. Drop in the eggs and cover the pot. 

4) After ten minutes (a timer is very very much your friend), remove pot from flame and drain off the boiling water. 

5) Shake the pot to crack the shells. 

6) Now, here Jacques recommends dunking the eggs into ice water; I have found that putting them under cold tap water is sufficient. Cover the eggs with cold water. 

7) After allowing them to cool, remove and peel. The water now under the shells should make it easy. 
https://cdn-jpg1.thedailymeal.com/sites/default/files/story/2017/hardboiledeggs.JPG
Via thedailymeal
NO SULFUR RING. How cool is that?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Helping Those Who Help Themselves

I like being helpful, to be "a useful engine indeed," to quote from Thomas the Tank Engine. But there are times when my help isn't wanted. And there are times when I don't want the help being offered. In those situations, the question is what is the motivation of the pushy helper. 

Jean Thompson reflects on her motivations in attempting to assist a homeless man in "His Sign Said 'Please Help.' So I Tried." Yes, he asked for help, but he didn't mean the help that she was eager to provide. 
So I called county clerks, and Social Security offices, and put things in the mail, and in general acted like the softheaded, interfering boob I was, getting high off my own compassion. The more involved I got, the more I doubted my motives, the more I lost the certainty I was doing any real good. I told myself you help whom you can when you can, and that Jesus never said to love the poor as long as they didn’t make bad lifestyle choices. I nagged and coaxed.
Help can only succeed if it is accepted. I have come to a point where I realize that my help only has value if it is valued by the receiver; otherwise, there is no point. What am I hoping to achieve? Truly assisting another? Or "getting high off my own compassion"? 

https://cdn.empowernetwork.com/user_images/post/2013/12/17/2/43/c81c/540x293_20131217_243c81c8cfd08ec1d5ab272f71c3a8e1_jpg.jpg

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Laws of Creativity

I know all the lyrics to the extended theme song of "Pinky and the Brain." 

. . . This twilight campaign, 
Is easy to explain: 
To prove their mousey worth, 
They'll overthrow the Earth, 
The Pinky, 
The Pinky and the Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain BRAIN!
NARF! 

And I didn't even google them beforehand.

For us elderly people, "Animaniacs" was our childhood, chock-full of fabulous segments: "Katie Ka-Boom," "Buttons and Mindy," "Slappy Squirrel," and, of course, "Pinky and the Brain." Then P&B got a show in their own right. 
https://bfmbrainfall.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/are_you_pinky_or_the_the_brain_featured_large.jpg
Consider my delight that it got a "Letter of Recommendation," by Jonah Weiner. Brilliantly, he connects the show's predictable format to a concept I found inherently Jewish. 

To explain: P&B, for those who know, has the same setup, episode after episode: 

1) "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" 
2) Elaborate, insane scheme goes awry; 
3) "What we do every night, Pinky: Try to take over the world!" 

And yet, as Weiner elaborates, there is genius insanity in-between, despite abiding to a limited frame. Pinky's befuddled responses to pondering were so hysterical I would be in stitches ("I think so, Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking—I mean, what would the children look like?") Brain's elaborate plots were so complex and calculated to exploit mundane human weaknesses that you wondered if the writers were high. 

Weiner is saying that constraint allows for wacky creativity. And is that not the Jews? 

We have waaaaay more rules and regulations, yet a multitude of sects flourish with individuality, never mind the individuals within the individuality. Then there are those who do their own Judaic thang without an identifying sect. If anything, a life free of restriction results in the boringly repetitive. Hedonism is same-old, same-old. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Comfy Beauties

In my teenage youth, I loathed makeup. I found it false, and worse, an effort

Yet here I stand before the bathroom mirror, 90 minutes before a date or wedding, applying and dabbing and penciling with gleeful care. I feel fabulous. I love it. I no longer think of paint as "false," nor do I consider it work.

I also love my cleansers, creams, serums, oils, shampoos, conditioners, Dead Sea face masks . . . the list goes on.
http://az616578.vo.msecnd.net/files/2017/03/09/636246289707877047-1218627533_2013-sofa-rash-115.jpg
Via theodysseyonline
Ta always claimed there was a Gemara or something that said fathers must provide their eligible daughters with cosmetics and skincare, so halachically, a little chein and yofi (also known as sheker and hevel in Eishes Chayil) is fine. 

Now there is a "No Makeup Movement." Alicia Keyes no longer wears any. True, but she has plenty of product to treat her skin and style her hair. Where is the line when it comes to "natural" beauty? 
 http://beyondclassicallybeautiful.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Alicia-Keys-No-Makeup-Movement.jpg
Haley Mlotek considers this in "To Wear Makeup or Not to Wear Makeup?"  She claims, "The question is surprisingly fraught, but the answer is simple": 
. . . comfort is the root of confidence, and not the other way around. This is true whether a person is wearing makeup or not.
And (don't be surprised to hear this) I believe that to be true. If a gal walks into a room without "enhancement," she'll bowl everyone over with her ear-to-ear grin. She could be followed by an exquisitely crafted Face who refuses to make eye contact or smile, and people will nervously edge away from her. 

I'm comfortable in my Face. Other women aren't, so it won't give them that boost of attractive confidence that I experience. Thankfully, we are not all the same. 

Although, would you be willing to try a touch of mascara? It's a miracle-worker.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Who's Watching You?

"You really can tell a person's character from up here, you know?" 

My shulmate nodded, smiling knowingly. Us womenfolk have a distinct advantage from our upstairs perch. The poor gentlemen are under observation, like amoeba beneath a microscope. One can tell who is serious, who is focused, who is dignified . . . and who isn't. 
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Then it hit me. "What does the Eibishter see," I asked, "when He looks down at us?" 

Oh snap. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Healthy Homemaker?

Those that know me also know I am not crazy about the word "exercise." It sounds so official. It seems synonymous with "gym membership." It sounds disagreeably sweaty. 

In recent years, it had come to equal "skinny," but that is not true. It is, however, one with "health." In the Blue Zones, the advanced aged spend hours moving, but in the process of everyday chores. 

I have discovered—to my shock—that I am a cheerful domestic. I like pottering about the house, setting it to rights, doing loads of laundry (although my ironing needs improvement), windexing, chopping vegetables, etc. That's movement, right? Maybe not involving a spinning class, but I'll take it.  
 https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/images/infographics/0215_W4_I_Chores-2.jpg
Aaron Carroll reported last year (I've been sitting on this for a year!?) that while exercise does not help with body weight, it is the cure for everything else ("Closest Thing to a Wonder Drug"). 
I have not been alone in thinking that physical activity to improve health should be hard. When I hear friends talk about exercising, they discuss running marathons, participating in CrossFit classes or sacrificing themselves on the altar of SoulCycle. That misses the point, unfortunately. All of these are much more than you need to do to get the benefits I’ve described.
The recommendations for exercise are 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for adults, or about 30 minutes each weekday.
Moderate intensity is probably much less than you think. Walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog might qualify.
Vacuuming counts! Yes

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Yes, I Do Live

Golly, how I have missed you. 

I know it is not fair of me, but I shan't enlighten my audience just yet about the current state of things. It has been a hectic time in my life—"the best of times, the worst of times"—and I shall remain shtum for a while longer. 

Yet oh, the sweet joy of typing! I cannot abandon it. So I shall move on to other topics. 

Today's discussion: Cultural identity. 
http://images.puckermob.com/articlesites/puckermob/large/5680_tall.jpg
Via pucker mob
Mark Oppenheimer brings up a  point I didn't notice before: There is a delicate difference between "Jew" and "Jewish"—the former is used hesitantly, the latter preferred ("Reclaiming 'Jew'"). 

But do us frummies have any qualms identifying as "a Jew," as opposed to "Jewish"? In my own case, I flatly informed someone just the other week that "I'm a religious Jew." It may be more of an issue for the secular ones of our flock. 

Yes, so we are Jews, one big happy family, etc. etc. Under that umbrella, however, due to the myriad years wandering this inhospitable Earth, we have been transplanted into a variety of countries with their own ethnicities and cultures which became absorbed into our bloodstream. 

How can it be that my nephew is a stereotypical Hungarian in infancy? It latched onto the genes, people. 

J. Courtney Sullivan worries in "Kiss Me, I'm Pretty Sure I'm Irish" that despite her firm Irish upbringing, DNA testing may show that she is not so. 
Being Irish is something I have in common with my relatives, even when distance and politics divide us. Last summer, on a beach vacation, five of us simultaneously pulled out tubes of S.P.F. 50. “We’re Irish,” someone said by way of explanation. The same reason is given for why we rarely hug or talk about our feelings.
Sounds like my crew. Except we say, "We're Hungarian." 

Am I 100% Hungarian? Of course not. That's the joy of it, though; as a Jew, I know I'm not 100% anything, except (hopefully, ancestry could have become muddled over millennia of scurrying) Jewish.
Whatever the results, I’ll still know by heart all those childhood jigs and reels that are responsible for my good posture and complete inability to dance like a normal person. I’ll still sunburn easily. I’ll still come from a large, Irish Catholic family, even if we’re a little less Irish than we thought.
So I shall swoon at the sight of aesthetic beauty, take pride in interior decorating and personal fashion, moan over nukedli paprikash, and whatever else that comes along with being Hungarian. And if I'm not? No worries. The Jews will still keep me.  
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