Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Don't Think You Are Alone

The irony of stigma-tainted situations is that it has the image of rare occurrences, but they are actually quite common. 

The "older" single. Infertility. Miscarriages. Divorce. Mental illness. Physical illness. Unemployment. Off-the-derech family. The list continues. 

When Ma became ill, we chose not to announce the news from the rooftops, however there were times when in response to a direct question, we reluctantly informed. 

A common reaction, to our surprise, was reciprocation; the other quickly shared their own trials—a parent, a sibling, a child. They were eager to unburden themselves, to make a connection. Suddenly, the viewpoint changed: You think you are singled out in your hardship. You feel alone. But you aren't. 

Jennifer Senior, in her review of The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs, relates the sensations of loneliness: 
. . . what lingered with me is the social isolation she describes during her many years of trying and failing to get pregnant. “Increasingly, our life was less and less like the lives of our married friends,” she writes, “who had entered a new and somewhat exclusive world of playdates and birthday parties and bedtimes.”
You need not be struggling to start a family to identify with this melancholy observation. People who’ve opted not to have children will surely see something of themselves in it, and so will those who are still searching to find a life mate. (Having reached 36 before pairing off with my husband, I felt a familiar heartsickness when reading these words.) There’s something truly challenging, if not excruciating, about being out of step with your cohort. And if you want what they’ve got, what story do you tell yourself as you bide your time? That living without is the new normal? Or that it’s only a temporary spell of distress?
In terms of fertility, the article states that one out of eight couples have difficulty conceiving. That's pretty common. The same would go for the other examples I listed above.

Yet those going through them feel alone. But they very much aren't! If anything, nearly everyone out there has gone through pain of one form of another. Yet we don't want to admit it. 

For good reason. 

I would think that the right person to commiserate with me would be someone who married "late," or who had also lost a parent at a young age. Not so. Very often those same individuals who went through the same trial are eager to condescend, as opposed to empathize. They had been pitied; they wish to correct the balance by pitying in turn. 

Pain is pain, and many have had it. Empathy doesn't require the exact circumstances to be felt. One needn't feel lonely. There is a community of fellows out there, believe me. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sugar Snap Peas with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I am currently making these every Friday, so I think they are "post worthy." 

The recipe below was originally for green beans, yet Ma preferred the sugar snaps. 
I learned the hard way that sugar snaps do not require blanching for this recipe, yet it would be a good idea to trim the ends and pull off the hard veins as much as you can. I start from Step 2. 

I also estimate the ingredients. Safflower or avocado oil instead of butter, obviously. Instead of fresh grated lemon zest, for which only an organic lemon should be used (the others are coated in nasty wax), I sprinkle this on instead. Not too much, though; I once used an entire tablespoon and ick. 

As for sun-dried tomatoes, these were a happy discovery. 
I keep the timing of the rest of the recipe religiously. Three minutes for shallots, two minutes for tomatoes, then about five or so for the sugar snaps. Taste one to see if they're still too firm. There's a magical point where they still keep their bright greenness yet have lost their toughness. Watch them vigilantly.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

So, About Last Year . . .

2017 was the worst year of my life. 2017 was the best year of my life. 

We are taught that it was not a good thing that "Bikeish Yaakov leisheiv b'shalva." This world is not about drifting along in peaceful contentment. 

Yet that was always my dream. I love routine. I don't need excitement. I am leery of change. Simultaneously, I expect doom. Ergo posts like this one, where I stress the importance of mental preparation for hardship. 

But my life was pretty good. Sure, dating was frustrating, but everything else was kinda awesome. 

Until the storm hit. 

Ma got sick. It was sudden and swift. No known cause. No known cure. 

She died. 

All of my days, I have been guilty of "foreboding joy," as Bren√© would say. If anyone was five minutes late, my go-to was "car crash." Yet when the "crash" did happen, I was shocked. 

But as I struggled in the raging waters, the Eibishter threw me a life preserver. Two weeks into my mother's illness, Han materialized on my doorstep. He fished me out and kept me going when I had to keep on keepin' on. 

What flummoxes Luke and I is our seemingly calm acceptance of Ma's passing. Luckily, "there is no right or wrong in grief," or else we'd feel like freaks. I handled a major breakup worse.

Perhaps all those years of listening to the family guru, of reading, seeking out shiurim, did help? That it did prepare us, on some level, for major loss? I don't know. I hope I have achieved that level of emunah and gratitude.

What we have struggled with more is how death reveals people in a whole new light. Those who are close to you may fail you. Those who you had no faith in can rise to the occasion. Hurtful words were said to my family. But perfect comforting words were spoken as well. It's disheartening and uplifting at the same time.

Another lesson I learned—and continue to learn—is this: we have no control. Obviously I had no control over Ma's death. But regarding my bashert, I did not find Han. He was sent. I had no input in his arrival. His appearance was not of my doing. 

If we step back, and focus on that which we can control—our speech, our reactions, our role in relationships, how we serve Hashem—then we will shed frustration and gain contentment. We have to do what we have to do, and the Bashefer takes care of the rest, whatever it is.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Vitamin C Showdown

I've gushed to y'all before about Vitamin C Serum. I'm still in love, and apply it religiously every morning. I could also slather it on at night under other anti-aging creams since it plays well with retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids. 

I've become a bit savvier in how I shop on Amazon; there is a whole "fake review" business that goes on there. There are multitudes of serums being sold with questionable user feedback. 

Additionally, I'm not crazy about the standard dropper dispenser; product shouldn't be constantly exposed to air and contaminants. That means pumps or tubes only. 

Yet there aren't many of those. Most of the Amazon options were of a watery, gel-like serum, a consistency I wasn't crazy about. I even tried an expensive product from Sephora, but the texture was worse—sticky and bright orange, and the results aren't any better than the others. 

I found one now that I like: Kleem Organics.
The pump emits a smooth, non-sticky serum that sinks directly into skin. The results are on par with the others I've tried so far. I ignored the reviews, like I tend to ignore Amazon reviews nowadays. I've decided to trust it.

Enjoy the collagen! 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

She's Out There

A few weeks ago, a regular contributor to a Jewish magazine wrote of an episode which is a common experience for the singles. 

She begins by saying she is a shtikel shadchan, meaning she tries to set up people but has not yet made a shidduch (*cough*). She continues that there is this lovely older fellow her husband learns with, and every woman she has suggested he has politely declined. He happens to be particularly brilliant, and he would like his life partner to share his intellect so they can conversate. 

"Pish tosh!" says she. The usual arguments followed: You aren't marrying a chavrusa. Brains doesn't mean a good mother. If anything, it will make her a neglectful one, since her head will be on loftier matters and she'll misplace the baby. Picky picky picky. 

He remains firm in his resolve. She pities him for his stubbornness, which is obviously preventing a wedded state.

One of the most common questions put to singles is, "What are you looking for?" The single replies, perhaps listing two, three, at most four attributes that are of primary importance, and another one or two that would be perks but not dealbreakers. 

The questioner then poo-poos the responses, and proceeds to sell the inappropriate shidduch. The single wearily wonders, if the answer was to be ignored, why the question was asked. 

This fellow had ONE criteria. ONE. He stated what he would like—nay, needs—in a relationship. Not a laundry list of qualities that is impossible to find in one individual, but ONE attribute. And it's no good. 

Service announcement: We are not all the same. What is important to me is not important to you, and vice versa. But the same way I can tolerate another's love of peanut butter and coconut (ick), I can accept that relationships are not one-size-fits-all. 

I shall cheer on this chap. Don't stop believin'. She's out there.  

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Borg Face

Finding makeup tutorials that talk to me is a difficulty. I can scroll, constantly, unsuccessfully, as they are often the same

Like the cat's eye eyeliner look. I'm not a fan. I think it narrows out the shape of the eyes. Additionally, unless one is a professional, it often requires—oh, the horror—stretching the eyelid into a straight line to apply. The potential for saggy skin!

Doesn't anyone use basic pencil? Friendly, non-diva pencil? Apply and smudge? Simple as pie? Hello? YouTubers? 

Brown lipstick—no. Pink eyeshadow—hell no. And I would like blush on the apples of my cheeks, not bronzer. 

You know how hard it is to find a tutorial that meets my desired image, even though there are thousands out there? 

It's called "Instagram Face." The Borg got there too.
There are plenty out there who disagree with me. They adore cat's eye. They pink their lids. They bronze their apples. That's fantastic! Everyone should know what they, themselves like. 

But if it's just because it's the top rated image on Instagram? Give it a think.    

Thursday, January 4, 2018

"Beauty Can Be a Pleasure"

The point of this post comes from a review of the Netflix series, Anne of Green Gables (to my shame, I have not read the books). The below paragraphs jumped out at me: 
Anne longs to be beautiful. Not only does she wish for her hair to turn a more dignified auburn, she also tells her best friend, Diana Barry, “I’d rather be pretty than clever.” Praying at Marilla’s behest, she asks God to let her stay at Green Gables and to “please let me be good-looking when I grow up.” She loves pretty things, because she has had none, and swoons over cherry blossoms, an amethyst brooch and the possibility of one day having a stylish dress with puffed sleeves, which sensible Marilla refuses to make for her.
If “Anne of Green Gables” were written today, it is easy to imagine that over the course of the book, Anne would come to learn that none of these externalities matter: not the color of her hair, not the sleeves of her dress. Instead, in the novel, her hair mellows to the coveted auburn, and Matthew, in a moment of tremendous fatherly kindness, gives her a dress with puffed sleeves. Rather than dispense the message that it’s only what’s on the inside that counts, “Anne of Green Gables” conveys something more nuanced, that beauty can be a pleasure, that costumes can provide succor, that the right dress can improve your life — all things that adults know to be true, sometimes, but that we try to simplify for our children.
“Green Gables” is rife with complications like these; it’s an artifact from a different time that, instead of being outdated, speaks to ours in an uncanned, unpredictable voice. Anne has survived for so long because she is more sophisticated than she initially seems.
This is what Hungarians understand. God gave us a beautiful world to enjoy, didn't He? In A Beautiful Mind, Alicia says, "God must be a painter. Why else would be have so many colors?"
People are different. Some do not need nor recognize beauty; they find fulfillment elsewhere. But appreciation of aesthetics does carry its own spiritual weight for many. "Basar v'dag" is for man to elevate yuntif; women are to be provided with new garments and jewelry. Is there not majesty to a sparkling Shabbos table? To a decorated sukkah? To a gleaming menorah?
Via cecilafutch.com
Do they not provide succor?   

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

For the Health of It

Mo'Nique used to be the face of "Big is Beautiful." She once declared, "Skinny b****** must be destroyed!" She viewed her weight simply as being contrary the current cultural aspiration to thinness. 

“When my husband asked me my weight, I answered and he said ‘…That’s too much weight. I want you around for a lifetime and that’s not healthy.’ It was at that moment that I went through guilt, I went through shame, because of my size. Because I never felt love like that before.”
Reports differ as to her weight loss, but 80 pounds seem to be the average. 
She's eating right. She's exercising. She doesn't look like a starving waif, yet she's healthy. 

I constantly bully my audience with healthy recipes because I am trying to spread the gospel of the Rambam. We have the responsibility to care for our bodies, Shabbos brisket aside. Once, if—and that's a big if—a cow was shechted for a Shabbos, do you think everyone got a slab of their own to consume? Um, no. 

I know of a woman who beams with happiness when her husband wolfs down heaping, fattening seconds. I am quite sure she is trying to kill him. 

We can enjoy, in moderation, the sugary, the salty, the fattening. But not every day, all the time. Respect our selves by respecting our bodies. 

Yes yes, getting hit by a bus is still an option. Freakish, inexplicable diseases are a possibility. But why not avoid the avoidables, if possible?