Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I'm, Like, Soooo Busy

As we know when it comes to food choices, there's what the head believes, and what the scale says. 

The same premise works with another precious commodity: time. No one's got any, right? That's a trendy topic, like bone broth (an imminent post). 
http://i.huffpost.com/gen/2687486/images/n-BUSY-MIND-628x314.jpg
Laura Vanderkam believed the same—and considering her schedule and family size, so did I. Yet after carefully logging her hours, she was delighted to discover otherwise ("The Busy Person's Lies").  

Despite her fourth baby and speaking engagements around the country, she wasn't being run to ground. Sure, there are busy weeks here and there, but those busy weeks are not reflective of the usual normal. 

When other people tried time-tracking, their anxieties over their supposedly neglected families and responsibilities faded. Some did find that their work was demanding more than they were willing to give, and they quit, but most were happy to learn that their lives were not overwhelmed. 

She concludes the article with the familiar message that time is precious: 
A life is lived in hours. What we do with our lives will be a function of how we spend those hours, and we get only so many.
Natalie Henderson, a pediatric I.C.U. fellow at the University of Louisville’s Kosair Children’s Hospital, tracked her time for several weeks. She found that despite her 28-hour shifts, she was sleeping more than she thought. Her service weeks were intense — 70 to 80 hours — but others were light enough that she saw she could carve out time for exercise and real breakfasts with her children. More important, though, was the reason she wanted to add these things to her life. In the pediatric I.C.U., she says, “we lose kids.” It’s a constant reminder that “time goes, no matter what you do. I’m covetous of the time I have. I want to make sure I use it more wisely.”
Life is full, and life has space. There is no contradiction here.
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes aired the story of the avalanched hotel in Italy, and the appreciation of the survivors. As one survivor realized, what should we be prioritizing? Our busy-ness? 

I think not.

Monday, January 30, 2017

How to Travel I

I, once again, sheepishly admit (or brazenly confess?) that I am a sucky traveler. The destination has to really attract me (and Miami doesn't) to tempt me to board a plane. For Israel, ah, Israel, for there I shall happily gird myself. 

Yet, weapons are needed to survive the journey. It took months of research for a week's "vacation," and I now clobber you with my helpful finds: 

1. Alaska Bear Silk Eye Mask: I have used many an eye mask, but this soft, non-shvitzy one is my favorite. It's so light that it didn't even muss my eye makeup, yet kept me in the dark.  
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61rw7f2M3kL._SL1200_.jpg
2. Travelrest Neck Pillow or the Comfy Commuter Neck Pillow: Overwhelmed by reviews, I bought three highly rated neck pillows and returned one (it was hard as a rock, but everyone had it strapped to their bags in the airport). The Travelrest supports my (long) neck while the foam on the sides snuggily gives. Ma preferred the Comfy Commuter, which I found to be too mushy and not supportive enough for my neck. (Ta can sleep anywhere and was content with the previously owned bean-bag version).  
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51YhyeHEKsL._SY300_.jpg
3. Xenics Humidifier: Airplane air is notoriously dry, and I had been on the search of a small, desk-friendly humidifier anyway. This one is closed, although it does inevitably leak if it falls over (the carpet under my seat was soaked going and coming after knocking it over in my drugged sleep). But it is refreshing and skin-preserving. (Press the button once, and it goes on along with a night-light; press the button again to continue steam but turn off the light.)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81Iud2DEr-L._SL1500_.jpg
Now it's by my desk.
4. Travel Kosher Lamp: Blessedly, this comes with an adapter for foreign plugs. Awaking at the 2 a.m. is unpleasant enough, but at least with this I don't have to blast the whole room with light to read. It's also quite convenient for Shabbos if staying in a hotel room with no zeigers programmed. 
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51IfzfKHRsL.jpg
I tote it along with me if going away locally for a Shabbos.
 
5. Dramamine: It's not only for motion sickness, folks! A lovely side-effect is intense drowsiness, to the point that two can knock me out for seven hours, at least. It's an antihistamine, as opposed to stronger sleep aids. Yet it won't provide the same knock-out results two nights in a row; there has to be a week in between, at least. Use it wisely.
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51-qRjAOZzL._SY355_.jpg
Next week: How to walk off the plane like a mensch! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pick Your Hard

"Being healthy is hard. Being unhealthy is hard. Pick your hard." —Marilu Henner

Marilu is just jollying you along, folks. You wouldn't believe it, but being healthy isn't so hard. What is hard, I'll admit, is the initial step. That step . . . that's hard. But after? It snowballs into ease. 
https://www.healthydietadvisor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/eatright.png
Here's what you can look forward to:
A study of more than 12,000 Australians revealed that the benefits of a produce-rich diet extend beyond physical health. With every added daily portion of fruits or vegetables (up to eight), the subjects' happiness levels rose slightly. The researchers calculated that if someone were to switch from a diet free of fruits and vegetables to eight servings per day, he or she would theoretically gain as much life satisfaction as someone who transitioned from unemployment to a job. The exact reason is unclear, but it may be related to the effect of carotenoid levels in the blood.—Samantha Rideout, Reader's Digest 
I was going about it wrong. I thought I had become a happy(er) person because I was making a point to be cheerful. I'm sure that helped, but burrowing daily through the vegetable crisper could have pushed it over the top. 
https://kristalpeierlsofwisdom.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/vegetablemuppets.jpg
Doctors, who were usually brought in to treat the aftermath, are now getting educated in healthy meals so they can, in turn, educate their patients.

Eight months ago, Mr. Adams learned during a health checkup for abdominal pain that he had Type 2 diabetes. He said his average blood sugar level was so high that the doctor was surprised he had not already lapsed into a coma. His hemoglobin A1C level — a lab test that shows the average level of blood glucose over the previous three months — was 17 percent, about three times normal. He wasted no time in tackling his disease with fervor. Spurning the American tendency to treat every ailment with medication, he instead explored the body’s ability to heal itself.
Mr. Adams, a 56-year-old former police captain, now needs a new publicity photo. He no longer resembles the roly-poly image on official posters. By adopting a vegan diet, preparing his own meals and working exercise into his everyday routines, he’s shed 30 pounds and completely reversed his diabetes, a pancreatic disorder that can lead to heart attacks, stroke, nerve damage, kidney disease, visual loss and cognitive impairment. Within three months, his A1C level was down to a normal 5.7.
(Exercise is 20% of a healthy lifestyle. Become friends with your local fruit store first before investing in a walking desk. Going vegan isn't required, either.) 
“I loved salt and sugar and often used candy to revive me when I felt lethargic,” Mr. Adams confessed. “But I discovered the human palate is amazingly adaptable, and after two weeks without salt or sugar, I no longer craved them.” With his new lifestyle, he said he has so much energy he no longer needs an edible midday pick-me-up.
It's schnorring time on PBS, so I was blasted with Dr. Joel Fuhrman reruns this past weekend. But hey, you already know about this annoying side of me by now. 
https://www.drfuhrman.com/images/photo-DF-with-prescription-pad.jpg
And it really isn't hard for so long. Really

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Happy Choices

Sometimes a random scene from a random show sticks with me. Like the episode "Blood is Thicker Than Liquor," of the defunct Girlfriends

Toni, the unlikable, self-centered real estate agent who fought her way up from her working-class upbringing, has it out with her sister Sherri. While Toni lives a glamorous life in L.A., Sherri lives at home, cares for their alcoholic mother, and works at the local Walmart knock-off. 

Toni, in typical Toni fashion, disrespects Sherri for staying. She thinks Sherri is angry at her for "having the strength to leave." Sherri retorts that Toni didn't have the strength to stay. 

But she admits that she resents Toni for leaving, but not how she thinks. Sherri reminds Toni that she was the one who raised her (as their mother was usually out of commission), and now Toni belittles her. Chastened, Toni thanks her, then offers her help to "get out." 

Sherri looks at her in surprise. "Toni, I chose this life. I'm happy. I just want you to respect that."

People assume the oddest things about me. They don't realize that I live my life the way I want to. 

While waiting for the Novocaine to kick in, my dentist and I chatted about traveling. She can't stay home, even on a day off—she has to get out of the house. Me? Pajamas are my default state. 

She's miserable where I am happy, and vice versa. My idea of an accomplishing Sunday is concocting a fresh batch of sauerkraut and watching 60 Minutes. (Now you know why I blog anonymously. If I admitted such a thing in public, I'd be pilloried.) 

Certain lifestyles come into fashion, and certain activities are considered a "must." Some people don't know themselves, so they are puzzled why they aren't happy on a spontaneous getaway with a bunch of friends. News flash: Maybe you are happy in your own bed, in your own home. It's not a crime

For those "stuff-doers," I wish you well. I can even summon some tolerance for you folk. 

As long as you leave me alone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Come to the Bright Side

I'm no optimist. If everything is going well, I fret over what could go wrong (I'm working on that). If everything is going badly, well, that makes sense. Yet with a global view in mind, I can assuredly attest that all is pretty much good.
http://data.whicdn.com/images/96185018/original.jpg
Politicians (of both ends) have been predicting Ragnarok for a while now—needlessly—as Gregg Easterbrook reported in May ("When Did Optimism Become Uncool"). 
But the core reason for the disconnect between the nation’s pretty-good condition and the gloomy conventional wisdom is that optimism itself has stopped being respectable. Pessimism is now the mainstream, with optimists viewed as Pollyannas. If you don’t think everything is awful, you don’t understand the situation!
The frum world is awash with "crises," right? (Eye roll.)
Pessimists think in terms of rear-guard actions to turn back the clock. Optimists understand that where the nation has faults, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. . . 
What's all the kvetching about? Do something, or shut up. Arthur C. Brooks "We Need Optimists") writes fondly of Reagan: 
Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign theme is an obvious example, but his optimism went much deeper, to his faith in Americans’ desire to fight for people. “Together, let us make this a new beginning. Let us make a commitment to care for the needy,” said Reagan at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit as he accepted the nomination of his party. “We have to move ahead, but we’re not going to leave anyone behind.”
Reagan was not a cheerful milquetoast. He was perfectly capable of a vigorous fight — just ask the Soviets. But he studiously avoided being grim about it. He was Wordsworth’s happy warrior, “Whose high endeavours are an inward light / That makes the path before him always bright.”
Reagan’s optimism should not be understood ideologically; it was simply about people and our potential. He possessed an unflinching belief that all people — the poor, children, the elderly — were human assets, waiting to be developed so they could earn their success.
In contrast, pessimists see people as liabilities to manage, as burdens or threats that we must minimize.
"Those people." Ah, "those people." Whoever "they" may be. Easterbrook continues: 
Recently Warren Buffett said that because of the “negative drumbeat” of politics, “many Americans now believe their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” This was not Nebraska folk wisdom; rather, it’s sophisticated analysis. 
Nicholas Kristof informed me that in terms of world poverty, it's dropping every day. I think people who worry about their children not dying from perfectly preventable diseases get to complain first, don't you?  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I didn't know it was possible for someone to kvetch about everything.

The yeshiva looked down on him for going to college. In the business field, there is little available. Where he grew up, there were only two kosher eateries—can you imagine? The weather. Other Jews. Yeesh, those other Jews.

Years ago, I had one date that I cringingly recall. I was annoyed with this fellow to begin with, and allowed myself leeway where I shouldn't have: I kvetched a bit about my siblings, having recently gone through the babysitting wringer. 

Complaining is a no-no, in general. Rabbi Yisroel Reisman speaks very sternly about it. Jews are the people of gratitude, not ingratitude, and whining is a guaranteed way for the universe to kick one in the rear. 

I've cultivated a sunny disposition (it didn't just happen, folks!) and been all the happier for it. Like attracts like, so it is said, and I'd rather keep the Debbie Downers away. 
https://media3.giphy.com/media/PH2JVXCni3QRO/200_s.gif
And kvetching is such a turn-off.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Heal Us, O Lord

If one is familiar with history at all, they would open the day with a prayer of gratitude for indoor plumbing. 

That's just the tip of the iceberg! You know all those romantic and swoony tales of Austen and Bronte? If the hero or heroine gets caught in a little rain, poof—they're dead. 
http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol30no1/images/thompson-ss-1995-sickbed.jpg
Marianne Dashwood near death after getting caught in the rain
If, by some miracle, our protagonists make it to the altar, keep your fingers crossed they survive childbirth. One never knew when a delivery could go wrong—the first, the tenth, it made no difference. Today we fret over pain; then they fretted over having their affairs in order. 

And when mommy survived, there was no guarantee her baby would, though. Okay, he makes it to the next day . . . maybe to age three . . . yes, age ten! Oh no, smallpox! Or scarlet fever. Or an infected scratch. There were a multitude of mortal options available. 
https://i.ytimg.com/vi/48Kr_YvhhOs/maxresdefault.jpg
Ross Poldark carrying his daughter's coffin
I THANK THE DEAR LORD that I was born in this era, where such illnesses are but a distant memory, that I can get wet in rain and not sign my death warrant. 

In recent years, there has been further progress. Gina Kolata expounds on the phenomenon of dropping rates of certain diseases ("A Medical Mystery of the Best Kind: Major Diseases Are in Decline")—and here's the kicker: experts have no idea why. 

Fascinatingly, this is not the first time diseases have declined for unknown reasons. Stomach cancer used to be the big bad wolf, then no more. TB was a major killer. Why they faded is still a "happy mystery." 

This sort of information always cheers me. No offense to the medical field, but I'm rather scared of you people. You are, after all, human, and can as easily misdiagnose as correctly diagnose. Without conscious effort, many ailments have ceased their threat. 

I like knowing that it is not up to man's control.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow-Cooked Breakfast

I'm an early bird, the daughter of early birds. Ta creeps out of the house between 5:30 and 5:45 for Shacharis; Ma and I are up and about soon after.

We are very excited for breakfast. 

For many years Ma cooked up oat bran for Ta and herself, divvying it between two bowls. She would place the pot lid atop Ta's, but it would often be cool by the time he returned home from shul. 

I don't recall what triggered the idea, but when I came across the Double Oval Crock-Pot, which is meant for "entertaining," it occurred somehow that this could be used for his-and-hers breakfasts. (It was under $30 when I bought it; in the interim, it nearly doubled in price. Hmm.) 
http://images.salefreaks.com/disk2/sfimages20160816/SF.US.4230304434354e363351.1.jpg
It took some experimentation, but the current method is: 

In each crock goes: 14 cup oat bran + 2 tablespoons teff + 1 tablespoon chia seeds + sprinkling of goji berries + sprinkling of goat milk powder + approximately 6 oz. water. 

The slow cooker is connected to a timer, which is set to go on at 3 a.m. It is clicked on to "low." 

This new method pleases them both. If Ta has to leave earlier or later, his breakfast is always ready and hot. Ma is greeted by a cheerful bowl, ready-made, each morning. The portions are consistent, instead of guessing. There are many sighs of contentment. (Ma adds a slug of maple syrup to hers.)

For myself, I'm not a stickler for breakfast protocol; sometimes fruit, sometimes veg. Yet there is something pleasant about a warm, nourishing, slow-simmered breakfast. The above crocks are 1 qt. each; I couldn't find an individual slow cooker smaller than 1.5 qts., but there are many options available. (I'm not particularly loyal to my model.)
 https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41CKTdaCCIL._SY300_.jpg
I chuck in various raw ingredients, like grains (quinoa, oat bran, oat groats, millet), chia seeds, vegetables, and seasoning, and set the outlet timer for however long I think is needed (this one by GE is more accurate than the red/green pin versions, and easier to set).

For those with a brood, you can get any sized slow cooker and prepare the night before a vat of oatmeal or oat bran for the whole family, saving precious minutes in the rushed mornings.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Don't Judge For Me

Tznius. How I hate the term, and what it has come to mean. 

I'm a prude. I favor my maternal Zeidy, a European gentleman for whom my Babi considerately cut back on her salty speech. I do raise an intolerant eyebrow or two when faced with excess skin or uncouth tongues—but I still cringe at the term "tznius." 

Vanessa Friedman, a fashion reporter, wrote "Don't Ban Photos of Skinny Models." She does concur that standard advertisements feature women of only one body type, which is not good if people accept that as the norm. However: 
It’s not just because, as Mr. Khan or any other parent well knows, banning something simply makes it much more intriguing. . . 
It’s also because to judge a body healthy or unhealthy is still to judge it. . .
Just because a judgment is supposedly coming from a good place does not obviate the fact that it's a personal judgment, handed down from afar by a third party, bringing another set of prejudices and preconceptions to bear. The message in this case is that women, and young people, are not able to make such distinctions on their own. Yet that power — the ability of each individual to decide on her body for herself — is one we should be cultivating, not relinquishing.
We are surrounded by a lot of information and a lot of messages. I would rather be the one making the choice of deciding what is right or wrong for me than having strangers claim to know my triggers. 

Eating disorders have been around for centuries, in times when plump women were considered attractive. I grew up fanatically playing Barbies, but it never occurred to me that her plastic body was something to aspire to. She was stuck in heels all the time, for goodness sake. 

If I have a brain, it can be assumed that I can figure some things out without being "protected."  
To ban an ad depicting a specific body type is to demonize that type, labeling it publicly as bad. It also suggests that it is even possible to look at a woman, or a photo of a woman, and know whether she is healthy or unhealthy. That’s a misguided idea, as Claire Mysko, chief executive of the National Eating Disorders Association, acknowledges: One individual can have a seemingly normal body mass index and still have a tortured relationship with food and her physical self; another can look almost bony, and be fine. You can’t tell from the outside.
Body types, metabolisms, and lifestyles differ as much as personalities. My niece is skinny, and eats bountifully. Others may think she doesn't.

So with tznius. "What is tznius" are arbitrary parameters that are based on personal opinions that are usually biased. It encourages judging, and officially, again, people, Jews ain't supposed to judge, for that's the Eibishter's job. His alone.  
The solution to body-shaming isn’t to limit the number and kinds of bodies we are exposed to,’’ said Peggy Drexler, assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University, and the author of “Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family.” “The more sorts of bodies young women see — fat, thin, short, tall — the better they understand that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that theirs fits in somewhere.
Barbie came out with dolls of various body types, and the line, I believe, is doing well. There isn't only curvy—there's also tall and petite, along with the original. We come in so many types of packaging. 
http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/9C6C/production/_88544004_barbies-crop_correct.jpg
What is or isn't tznius isn't up to me, or you, or her, and I hope not him. But we can agree on what it means to be nice. I think we can.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Epic View

If you listen long enough, and earnestly enough, and with ear sufficiently attuned to the music of this sphere there will come to you this reward: The violins and oboes and 'cellos and brasses of humanity which seemed all at variance with each other will unite as one instrument; seeming discords and dissonances will blend into harmony, and the wail and blare and thrum of humanity's orchestra will sound in your ear the sublime melody of that great symphony called Life. 

"I don't know whether I'll be able to explain to you just how I feel about it. I'll probably make a mess of it. But I'll try. You see, dear, it's just this way: Two years ago—a year ago, even—I might have felt that sensation of personal resentment and loss. But somehow, lately, I've been looking at life throughhow shall I put it?through seven-league glasses. I used to see life in its relation to me and mine. Now I see it in terms of my relation to it. Do you get me? I was the soloist, and the world my orchestral accompaniment. Lately, I've been content just to step back with the other instruments and let my little share go to make up a more perfect whole. In those years, long before I met you, when Jock was all I had in the world, I worked and fought and saved that he might have the proper start, the proper training, and environment. And I did succeed in giving him those things. Well, as I looked on him there to-day I saw him, not as my son, my property that was going out of my control into the hands of another woman, but as a link in the great chain that I helped to forgea link as strong and sound and perfect as I could make him. I saw him, not as my boy, Jock McChesney, but as a unit. When I am gone I shall still live in him, and he in turn will live in his children."
Edna Ferber, Emma McChesney and Co.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Was Asking For It

"Come along; I want him to give you a bracha." 

I dutifully follow. I've mellowed towards brachos. A bracha, from anyone, has value, providing the motivations are kind and true. I don't put my faith in them, yet they grant a measure of comfort and community. 

I stand demurely, hands clasped, eyes downcast, in a state of staged meek humility. He begins to speak. I become confused, then walloped with disbelief. 

He was asked to give me a bracha. No skin off his nose. Yet what he was gently saying instead was that I needed to find someone to talk to, and this person, in turn, will be able to tell me, in essence, what "I am doing wrong." 

I stared at him wordlessly. 

He continued, providing examples of his talmidim who were cluelessly misbehaving on dates. Once they were set straight, they promptly wed.

As my smile froze and my glare became icy, he finally concluded with a bracha. 

"Baruch tihiyeh," I said coldly. I don't think I was sincere. 

Let's play a little game of logic: 

1) If someone who was ill, or had difficulty with parnossah or with family, would they have gotten this lecture? "Blame the victim" lines kick singles in the teeth.  

2) If, say, there were boys that he knew who had issues, what does that have to do with me? He knows the boys. He does not know me. 

3) Every date is viable? A guy dates and no joy. He has an intervention, and gets married to the next girl. Meaning he could have been married earlier to ten different ones? Girls are all the same? Boys are all the same? We're not even pretending to shoot for bashert? 

4) The wackiest folks with the most eccentric quirks marry, even without interventions. 

5) (Sing song) Biiiiiite me.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

Reinvented Palate

My nephew . . . Jawa (not the most flattering name, but I'm running out of cute little Star Wars creature aliases) usually marches into the house and gleefully lunges at Barbara's Morning Oat Crunch, a.k.a. Babi Cereal. He can inhale three bowls in one sitting. 
http://img.wennermedia.com/social/mj-618_348_barbaras-morning-oat-crunch-healthiest-store-bought-cereals.jpg
On Shabbos afternoon, he discovered the chocolate stash (which is practically in plain view, being the only "junk" allowed besides for homemade cake) and every few minutes, casually slid into the pantry to snatch Kit-Kat after Kit-Kat. 
http://www.candycentral.com/images/P/10645_1.jpg
I warned him that he was going to barf soon, and I tried to distract him with Babi Cereal. He was puzzled why it "tasted different, like bread." He thought there was something wrong with that batch.

Our taste buds often operate on a comparison basis; A after B doesn't have the same flavor if A is before B. By itself, Babi Cereal is sweet enough, but it can't compete with the high sugar register of Kit-Kat. 

When people ask me about how I eat, they can't quite believe I have no desire for certain foods. Frankly, I can't believe it either. If anyone told me when I was 16 that one day I would shudder at a potato chip or Nabisco cookie, I would have laughed until my ribs cracked. 

I'm not bravely squelching deep, frantic desires for Entenmann's. I don't want it. It doesn't taste good. It has no flavor. I feel like sludge after consuming it. It doesn't do anything for me anymore. 

Currently, I am on a strict no-sugar diet (which will end soon, please God) and I moan in bliss over winter squashes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and parsnips—seasoned only with garlic powder, black pepper, and evoo. 
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-jMFe387uIwY/Tns60z4ITwI/AAAAAAAABLA/qIiRH8WnWRc/s1600/Roasted-Brussel-Sprouts-Carrots-and-Parsnips-Recipe.jpg
Via Stranded in Cleveland
One can retrain one's taste. It takes some time, but if one holds on during the initial hard cravings, the mouth has moved on to better, tastier, healthier things.  

Friday, January 6, 2017

TGIF

Yup, it's that good.


Thanks, Prof, for sending it.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My Bad

  • Hold yourself accountable—you'll be happier
People tend to externalize when they encounter problems—to look beyond themselves and find fault with other when things go wrong. Society's mantra is "There's plenty of blame to go around!" You can hear it echo in the reactions to the election. But when we choose to hold ourselves accountable, we're more likely to be happier and successful in work and in our relationships. 
 
Life is filled with traps that let people avoid personal accountability. It's easy to make excuses, play the victim, feel a sense of entitlement or procrastinate. Taking ownership for your actions and reactions lets you avoid anger, cynicism, envy and frustration and instead focus on positive emotions and healthy living. Our daily energy is finite, so why waste one iota on negative thinking that leads to unproductive behaviors? 
 
Research has shown that when employees feel accountable for their work, they are more likely to contribute to solving problems and achieving organizational goals. Believing that if others would change, everything would be better—and then trying to force them to do so—drives people apart. The fastest way to enhance relationships is to remove the blame that breaks them down. Whether it's selling more products, building stronger connections or making political change, owning up and taking responsibility can help us move forward. 
—John G. Miller in Time Magazine
 
I had learned that Yehuda got the melucha because he took responsibility twice: in the incident with Tamar, and by bearing the burden for the selling of Yosef. (Perhaps it was even three times, when he insisted on being used as a hostage instead of Binyomin.) 
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/88/'Judah_and_Tamar'_by_Ferdinand_Bol,_1653,_Pushkin_Museum.JPG
I have also been learning that by fessing up after messing up, whether accidentally or intentionally, is oddly freeing. There is no protracted argument with the transgressed party; what is there to say after accepting fault? Getting defensive or offsetting blame extends the hurt and damage, with no upside. 
 
Today's role model is: Yehuda. Let's embrace "It's on me." 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The OOT Myth

You know what, Out of Towners? In one regard, you have things easy: 

Everyone assumes you're nice

"So you are looking for an Out of Towner?" is a repeated reply if I mention the ubiquitous menschlachkeit. 

"Well, um, I happen to believe that people are people all over, and, um, are you saying that there are no nice guys in New York?" I omit the tacit insult that I am, as a native, automatically uncouth. 

It occurred to me, whilst tiredly circling dark Boro Park streets for a spot so I could attend my cousin's vort, that no wonder the OOT are pleasant: They don't have to worry about parking. 

Parking is the crucible. It's easy to be affable when there are wide, empty lots begging to be filled, when every home comes equipped with a driveway. Ha! So, so easy. 
http://www.vosizneias.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/traffic_jam-nyc.jpg
New Yorkers are crabby because they usually require a car, yet they're surrounded by an unaccommodating city. After a restaurant date in the city, despite our careful analyzation of the signs, we emerged to discover his windshield plastered with fluttering tickets. Did I feel guilty (although the location was his choice). 

Have the OOTers ever been tested in such a way? Nope. So na-na-la-kish-kish, big whoop you're nice.

Try parking, daily, in hell.     

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Artsy Insights

Marina Abramovic, the . . . er, unconventional "artist," was interviewed in Time magazine. When Belinda Luscombe asked about her pain-inducing means to express herself, she replied: 
I always believed that people don't do anything really important from the state of happiness. Because happiness is to say that you don't want to change. 
Hm. Well, consider the initial stages of an ideal relationship. If both are happy, chances are they have been accepted as they are. Ergo the eye-gazing, ubiquitous grins, etc. Yet after marriage, there are adjustments. Some change, by he and she, will be needed to keep the boat steady. They aren't changing from a place of happiness; they are changing from a place of meaning.

Happiness = contentment = complacency. As we learn through Yaakov, however, we are not here to be content. 

Another point that piqued: 

BL: Why in history are there so few prominent female artists?

MA: Because, unfortunately, women are not ready to sacrifice as much as men. Because women want to be loved and to have a relationship, and to have children. You have only one energy in your body. And that energy will go where you focus it. 

Those great male artists were, for the most part, jackasses. In my belief, if "great art" emerged at the hands of a sadistic egotist, it's not great to me. The ends don't justify the means. 

As for her "unfortunately," I beg to quibble. Is wanting to be loved and to have children something to be dismissed as unimportant? Is that energy focus invalid? Not only in terms of art, but of career, too. We recall the "great artists," their work is prominently displayed. But does it matter

Human relationships matter.