Monday, December 2, 2019

I Finally Read Gluckel

Gluckel of Hameln is supposedly required reading, the memoirs of Jewish woman from the end of the 1600s. Every time I tried to take it out there was always a hitch, but I finally got my hands on it and read it through, much to Ben's annoyance ("Hey Ma! What's so interesting?")

What is surprising to me is how money is most of the conversation.  This person is worth this much; that person has that much; this person had this much but lost it. "Thalers," the currency of the time and place, is probably the most repetitive word in the book.

Gluckel had 13 children to marry off, so that was the other theme. Girls of 12 were promised to boys from other cities that they would not see until the "betrothal feast," at which point everything was agreed on. No child said, "Mother dear, not for me." Gluckel herself wed at the age of 14, and was widowed at 44, after 30 years of marriage. 

One passage in particular I found entertaining was when she recounts a visit to her in-laws. While her husband's father was worth a staggering amount,  he gave them a  gift worth a paltry sum. However, she proclaims, we treasured that present, unlike other ungrateful children who suck their parents dry. I can't tell if she's being serious or sarcastic, if she's pointedly chewing out one of her kids.

It's also a reminder of how precarious life was for Jews in the past. The rabble could be roused, the leader could banish. Life was cheap and murders were often unavenged. Never mind illness; Gluckel lost a little girl and many other relatives to diseases that probably do not plague us any longer. 

While reading of all the arranged marriages, I snarked to myself,  "Hey, solution for shidduch 'crisis' right here! Let's bring back betrothing tweens to unseen grooms!"

My neighbor has a great-granddaughter born the same time as Ben. I hear she's quite the cutie. Crisis averted. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Forgive Me

To be fair, I really did think I could post with regularity after having Ben. But I kinda forgot (remarkable, considering all the kinfauna) how much WORK babies are. Like, full time! Grabbing a few minutes to link an article and my thoughts on it? He’s gonna wake up soon (his naps aren’t long) and there are necessary things to take care of while my hands are free. 

So I’m definitely not posting as often as I thought I would. I’m sorry for it. I still enjoy blogging. But Ben doesn’t really let.

While I may no longer have rants about singlehood to share, I can reassure the single public that comments do not stop when you marry. My shoemaker just gave me a long speech (with Ben slumbering in the stroller) how getting married so late was my fault.  Marry young! Grow together! So simple!

I feebly insisted that there was only Han for me. That was met with a scoff. 

Ah well. He does fix shoes beautifully. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Idle Hands

Grief is . . . interesting. 

I thought I had simply handled Ma's death "well," but then the mack truck tootled along and flattened me. I had believed I was on the lofty madreiga of bypassing the boo-hoo-ness, but haha, haha, hahahaha. Joke's on me, sweet pea. 

One Friday, I awoke with the physical symptoms of grief as well as the emotional ones. I could barely move. My face felt numb. But it was Friday. Friday does not allow for barely moving or numb faces. 

Ma always said, "Keep on truckin'." 

So I kept on truckin'. 

At some point amongst the chicken trimming, vegetable slicing, kugel baking, baby feeding, baby napping, baby laundry, kitchen cleaning, plant watering, and various other tasks, movement became easy and feeling was restored to my face. I felt practically cheerful.  

My aunt, a mental health professional, once observed that there are no words in Yiddish for the psychological maladies our generation suffers from; her opinion is that no one had time for it way back when. 

In Europe, Babi didn't have to just trim the fat off chicken thighs; Babi had to select a chicken, take it to the shoichet, bring home the carcass, pluck the feathers, salt it, rinse it, salt it again (at least, I think two saltings are needed, right? I don't know), rinse it some more, and eventually be allowed to cook the bird. 

After all that, who had time for depression? 

I am definitely not saying I would prefer to be living a century ago in Hungary. I prefer indoor plumbing, thank you very much. But it reminds me that there is always a trade off. An unoccupied mind can be our own worst enemy. 

Well, there's always Netflix. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Sympathy vs. Destructive Advice

Facebook groups have their pros and cons, as does many things in life. For nearly every niche that exists, one can find a group or page that speaks to their giste. Some have said these groups were lifesavers as they attempted to seek support for a special needs child. Or more mildly, if one is on the search for a tried-and-true poached pear recipe. 

One negative, however, that I have noted: A woman will post a vent session on the group, even though her name is visible to other members. She’ll complain, perhaps, about her husband, something along the lines of an insensitive comment. 

A commenter posted: “Well, you are in an abusive situation, and you should leave him.” 

The venter posted a snippet of her life. A snippet. She didn’t post the good moments with her husband, because when she’s in a good place she doesn’t need to inform anyone. (To quote “Fiddler”: “If he was doing badly, he would write.”) 

Many of us have different ways of coping, but it usually involves a sympathetic ear. Perhaps this gal has nowhere safe in real life to vent, and turns to Facebook not for solutions, but for sympathetic noises. She was not asking for her issue to be fixed, certainly not in the form of “Upend your life, your children’s lives, and your extended family’s lives because as a random stranger, I saw all I needed to see from your 259 word post and I think that’s a good idea.” 

Marriage, like any other relationship, is unique to each couple. If she says, “My husband socked me in the jaw last night,” recommendations to seek help would definitely be warranted. But to push for divorce because he’s having difficulty seeing things his wife’s way? đŸ˜³

Type carefully. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Online Dating, Revisited

I am not one to speak of online dating, as my experience was rather small in that area. I joined SYAS for a day, then cancelled my membership. 

There is a difference, however, between SYAS and standard dating websites (which I did not join, either, not having the strength for it). SYAS operates on shadchanim setting up dates; standard dating sites have you do the searching for yourselves. 

I read two articles recently on the topic, in the NY Times and Wall Street Journal. The online WSJ doesn't allow any access to content without a subscription, so I'll sum up "Dating Apps Are Making Marriages Stronger." 

The premise is that since one can list exactly what one is looking for, being quite explicit about needs, wants, values, expectations, they are more likely to find someone who is in line with those criteria. When one reads an online profile, one can then choose whether a date makes sense before proceeding. When dating in real life, however, one may compromise or overlook after meeting the person in question. 

One man, who was quoted, went for looks first and foremost, believing everything else could be overcome. When he began to date online, he was forced to sit down and consider what was really important in a relationship. 

"In Praise of Online Dating" has a different message. The author has used dating apps for the past three years and has gone on nearly 90 first dates. 

Yes, online dating can be deeply demoralizing, a parade of indignities that throws into relief not just our self-absorption and banality, but our nihilism too. If I stumble upon one more man who seeks a “partner in crime,” one more “sapiosexual” or “entrepreneur,” I fear I will stomp on my phone. Worse still are the car selfies and nephew pics; the weird proliferation of taco and pizza emojis; the men who take it upon themselves to tell you who you are — “a girl who takes care of herself,” naturally, which always reads to me like a thinly-veiled threat. And above all the ghosting. 

However, she found these dates to have infused an extra zest to her life. 

How narrow was my own existence, I thought then, and how it continued to narrow by the day. But to go on dates with 86 different men is to gain as many windows on the world; it is to see one’s vast city and one’s vast self, if only for a few hours, through the eyes of a stranger one would never otherwise have met.

Additionally, she realized that in her now-dead marriage, she had lost herself; while many dates were soul-crushing, her self reemerged and hardened. 

I can echo the same sentiments. I would march home from a date and be able to voice my values, when before they could have been rather ethereal. I could say, "This isn't going to work for me. I need that."

So often, when dating, we are told to be something we are not. But we are what we are, there is no escaping it, nor is that anything to be corrected or altered. I could meet someone, respect his point of view, but know such an outlook would not work for me in terms of marriage yet still enjoy his book recommendation. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

People Influence People

The Orville, "Lasting Impressions" 

The show, a satire/homage of Star Trek, takes place in the 2400s. Archeologists discover a time capsule from 2015, in which a cell phone is discovered. They manage to access it, and a video from the owner, Laura, pops up. 

Gordon, the ship's pilot, has been rather unsuccessful with the ladies, and finds himself drawn to Laura's video. He uses her cell phone, which is full of information (texts, videos, whatnot), to create a holographic simulation of Laura and her life.
At the time of the program's opening, Laura has broken up with her long-time boyfriend, Greg. Gordon is rather taken with her, and keeps reentering the program (to the crew's worry). 

She initially tells him that she is a saleswoman at Macy's, but dreams of making it as a singer. He goes to hear her soulfully strum and croon in a bar, and, quite typically, falls in love with her. 

However, the program is operating on the details of her phone, and she gently explains to him that she has gotten back together with Greg. 

Gordon can't bear to let her go, and tells the computer to delete Greg from the program. 

However, the next time he enters the program, Laura is not the same. She briskly discusses pursuit of a promotion, and when asked about her singing, scoffs that no way could she perform in public.
Greg was the one who encouraged her to take her singing to another level. No Greg, no Laura that Gordon fell in love with. 

Commander Grayson explains to Gordon that we are born blank slates, and we become who we are by our relationships. I still think there is a good chunk of nature involved, but it is true to some extent. 

I know I wasn't the same person at 31 as I was at 19, and in my almost two years of marriage and becoming a mother, I've probably changed some more.  

It also made me think on what sort of influence I have been on others. It's rather daunting, that responsibility. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

My Take on Lachmagine

As a recovering carbaholic, I try to be aware and limit my consumption of flour-based deliciousness. I currently have a container of leftover roasted potatoes eyeing me hopefully every time I open the fridge. Luckily pasta doesn't have the same hold over me, or else I'd be doomed. How I love cereal.

By the blessing of the Lord above, the man I married shares a similar carb-cautiousness. 

There are some foods he enjoys, however, that involve dough, like lachmagine. But for him, the ikkur isn't the dough, it's the meat. Having fallen hard for spaghetti squash, I believe I came across a recipe for spaghetti squash pizza crust, without the cheese binder that many rely on. 

I did find such a recipe on A Beautiful Mess (omitting the oregano and cayenne, using my own choice of spices), and experimented by making two crusts, one from riced cauliflower and the other from spaghetti squash. I must say, the squash version was much easier to deal with. The edges of the cauliflower crust crumbled, whereas the squash remained firm and intact. 

For the meat topping, I used a recipe that came with the riced cauliflower package, which is by Naomi Nachman

Using 14 cup measurements, I made quite many mini-crusts from one spaghetti squash. After baking the crusts, and before putting on the meat topping, I flipped them over. 

The crust was nice and firm.

I opted to make my own prune butter by simmering some prunes with a splash of water. Didn't take long. 

The leftovers kept very well in the fridge for quite a few days.  

Monday, August 12, 2019

For Cuteness!

A number of months ago, there was an article in the NY Times that niggled at me. And niggled at me. And niggled at me. 

I have found the only way to deal with the niggles is to write about it. 

The article, by Pagan Kennedy, was called "Why You Want to Eat This Baby Up: It’s Science." She begins by describing how since childhood, she never wanted to have children, to the horror of everyone. 

She just doesn't find babies cute, she claims. According to her, that's the only reason a woman would want to have a child. 

Like, for reals?

The only reason why people have children is because they're cute?

What I never quite understood about those who profess no desire to besmirch their comfortable existences with demanding little humans is this: we were ALL children once. Our parents besmirched their comfortable existences to create and raise you

Additionally, how long are we cute? Not very long, in the grand scheme of things. Many babies enter the world colicky and crabby. Babies leak from every orifice. As Han's friend joked, "Babies begin smiling when we're about to chuck 'em out a window." Cuteness is for survival. 

But why do we have kids? As Jews, we know why. Heritage, mesorah, passing on the flame, etc. etc. The cuteness is just a perk.