Friday, September 30, 2016

"The Eve of Rosh Hashanah" by Yehuda Amichai

The eve of Rosh Hashanah. At the house that’s being built,
a man makes a vow: not to do anything wrong in it,
only to love.
Sins that were green last spring
dried out over the summer. Now they're whispering.

So I washed my body and I clipped my fingernails,
the last good deed a man can do for himself
while he's still alive. 

What is man? In the daytime he untangles into words
what night turns into a heavy coil.  
What do we do to one another—
a son to his father, a father to his son?

And between them and death there's nothing
but a wall of words
like a battery of agitated lawyers. 

And whoever uses people as handles or as rungs of a ladder
will soon find himself hugging a stick of wood
and holding a severed hand and wiping his tears 
with a potsherd. 

Discovered via this article by Rosie Schaap. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Battle of the Bulge: When and How

Every once in a while, Luke decides to overhaul his diet. It is very tiresome. 

". . . and then instead of getting the [insert deep-fried high-carb junky food item], I get the [insert nourishing protein and non-fatty prepared vegetables]!" 

"No, REALLY?" I reply, head on table. That's it, then: I'm not preaching to him anymore, especially since he's going to take the credit for it anyway.
But you won't get off so easy. Read on. 

1) I'm an early riser, early to bed-er; my appetite usually awakens with the day, and shuts up by 7 pm. However, if I am thrown off my schedule, usually do to a joyous occasion that involves late-night partying . . . well, if I eat late at night then I am not hungry in the morning, and then I crave food later than I typically would. I then have to reprogram myself to the original setting. 

"You are when you eat," this article by Emily Laber-Warren echoes. Logic—and biology tends to be logical—would dictate that we only require calories when we need fuel. Ergo, consuming food, then going to that wonderful energy-conserving activity, sleep, doesn't make much sense. 

The article contains research that shows allowing the boch to "rest" (technically fast) for 12 hours nightly gives it a boost for the next day. The Rambam advocated such a rest as well, that digestion cannot be always in motion; the organs need a break. Waaaay before hitting the sack.

The list at the end of the article does take night owls into consideration; as long as 12 hours of no food is in play, the benefits are there.
2) I'm a J, so I'm always planning ahead. Planning my meals bring me great joy. 

Luke, however, is a P. He usually does not plan his meals. "Maybe I won't be in the mood of _____," is an oft-uttered statement of his, and yet we both know that hunger never saw bad food. Especially in the office. 

While I tote to work prepared lunches, he moseys out to take-out places. Ergo the head on the table. Fast food is not good food, that we all know. If the waist is a consideration, into the kitchen you get. 

“If a decision is going to be implemented immediately, we just care about the immediate consequences, and we discount the long-term costs and benefits,” Dr. VanEpps said. “In the case of food, we care about what’s happening right now – like how tasty it is – but discount the long-term costs of an unhealthy meal.”
On the other hand, when you order a meal in advance, “you’re more evenly weighing the short-term and the long-term costs and benefits,” he said. “You still care about the taste but you’re more able to exert self control.”
When one is hungry, one doesn't care. It's strictly short-term: Get me un-hungry. But when planning (in general), both the long and the short is taken into account. I love planning.$300$
I have one for milchig and fleishig.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ani Kinor

It was a regular weekday morning. I scurried along with the rest of the commuters, off to another day at the office, a day like any other day. 

I was mildly anxious about something, but then, mildly anxious is my default state. Like I said, a day like any other day. 

I passed the spot where the musicians usually play, flutey pan-pipes and bland muzak and crooned Motown. But today was my favorite, a serene, dignified violinist with a Mona Lisa smile. She always gathers a crowd. 

I knew the tune that throbbed from her fingers, caressing my ears: "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav." My chest expanded as the familiar notes uplifted my soul, and I sang, grinning, under my breath: "Ha-lo le-khol shirayikh, Ani kinor."

I had been so blissful it didn't occur to me to drop some money into her jar until I was at work. Shoot. 

But the next thought that occurred to me was Yosef. The teenage Yosef, freshly abducted, on his way to the unknown and frightening future, but through his terror breaks through the scent of sweet spices. I am with you, is the message. 


As He is with me. And whoever else who was able to hear the words, for the upcoming yuntif: 

"A ram's horn calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City . . ."

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Got the Thinks

"I feel like" vs. "I think that." Molly Worthen wants to bring the latter back ("Stop Saying 'I Feel Like'"). 

A couple of weeks ago, the parsha dealt with the Egla Erufa, a seemingly odd ritual when a dead body was discovered. Part of the ritual is when the elders and kohanim of a city would both argue for the right of responsibility for the man's death. 

Obviously, neither the elders nor kohanim were guilty for his murder. Yet, all these individuals insisted on taking the rap for it. 

This past Shabbos I was explaining to Eewok (who, like any soul, is fast with the "Not my fault") that Yehuda was worthy of melucha because he took responsibility of mechiras Yosef, the safety of Binyomin, and the incident with Tamar.
"I feel like" is another way we abdicate responsibility. 

When we say "I feel like," there is nothing to argue. One cannot argue with a feeling, after all. "Well, that's just what I feel. I dunno why." 
Natasha Pangarkar, a senior at Williams College, hears “I feel like” “in the classroom on a daily basis,” she said. “When you use the phrase ‘I feel like,’ it gives you an out. You’re not stating a fact so much as giving an opinion,” she told me. “It’s an effort to make our ideas more palatable to the other person.”
I understand the need to "make our ideas more palatable to the other person"; I'm a non-confrontationalist. But when it comes to opinion, I'm usually not frightened to voice it. It's what I think, after all, based on personal experience, information, and my own hopefully logical conclusions.  
Yet here is the paradox: “I feel like” masquerades as a humble conversational offering, an invitation to share your feelings, too — but the phrase is an absolutist trump card. It halts argument in its tracks.
When people cite feelings or personal experience, “you can’t really refute them with logic, because that would imply they didn’t have that experience, or their experience is less valid,” Ms. Chai told me.
“It’s a way of deflecting, avoiding full engagement with another person or group,” Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, a historian at Syracuse University, said, “because it puts a shield up immediately. You cannot disagree.”
Providing the other person isn't refuting my argument with meaningless "Well, that's stupid" retorts, I should be fine. 

It's "I think, therefore I am," not "I feel, therefore I am." Heck, animals feel (yes, some are capable of logic, but we are not discussing elephants right now).  

Is it so terrifying to take responsibility for an opinion? It's not even bearing the onus for a random corpse. 

Plus, having opinions makes one interesting. Be interesting.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Three Women in a Car

I was holding court from the back seat.

After a lovely outing, the conversation on the drive home strayed to the nitty-gritty. 

It began with the driver's claim that this world nowadays is so "terrible." As a history buff, I . . . lost it. 

"What do mean, 'this world is terrible'? You know what life used to be like? Babies rarely survived infancy! Do you understand that, once, parents wouldn't show affection to their children because chances were that child wouldn't make it to adulthood? They would shield themselves from possible loss! Never mind the statistics of women dying in childbirth! Don't you dare say this world is terrible!" 

Ma, in the passenger seat, who has actually lived in the old country, began to scream as well. "We are going to throw this wonderful life back in the Eibishter's Face, that what He has given us, this comfort, this safety, and say it's no good? Where's the hakoras hatov?" 

The driver was silent a moment. "But people are so unhappy. They have such problems." 

"It is impossible to have joy without gratitude!" I bellowed, in full Brené mode

Another moment of quiet. "Well, good for you that you are that way, but not everyone is born like that." 

Then I roared some more. "You think that one has to be born with it? We are Jews! We have bechira! You make a choice to be grateful!" 

She had slowed to 2 m.p.h. to drag out this conversation whilst listening carefully, igniting the murderous wrath of more than one fellow motorist. Though I did fear a mobster taking a swing at the car with the ubiquitous baseball bat, Ma and I managed to stay on target, the pitbull's teeth sunk in the metaphorical mailman's leg.

I've been hearing it a lot lately; this world is so hard, this world is no good, it used to be easier. 

Sure. In some ways, yes. There were less existential crises when surviving the winter was the main goal. 

There will always be a trade-off. We don't go hungry. We have washing machines. We have freedom of religion. That's grand. But we should have no difficulties, at all, either? 

To live in true paradise, we have to bring Moshiach first. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday Brooks

We have three articles by David Brooks:
1) "Three Views of Marriage." There are three predominant lenses nowadays for how marriage should be viewed:

    a) psychological. Searching for someone who scores high in pleasant character traits, and not choosing to overlook problematic middos. Not focusing on factors that are unimportant or short-lived issues. This viewpoint believes no one really changes.

    b) romantic. Love. Looooooove. If a couple initially has it, then they will be inseparable come the hard stuff. Love will keep us together, love is all you need, cue any song from anytime.

    c) moral. Marriage ain't just about this man and this woman, but about something even bigger than them. (This is where we come in.) A good marriage here is for the improvement of oneself, not the significant other. None of us are perfect, and with a "helpmeet," one can (hopefully) become one's best self.  

This last perspective has the faith that we can become better people by wanting to put the other first. I do think that requires the trait of "willing to improve," which will loop us around back to factor (a). 

Brooks is the fan of the last one, obviously. 

2) "The Power of Altruism." Are humans selfish or selfless? Pessimists prefer the former, optimists the latter. Fascinatingly, if one expects people to behave selfishly, then they will: The Economic vs. Moral lens. 
Samuel Bowles provides a slew of examples in his book “The Moral Economy.” For example, six day care centers in Haifa, Israel, imposed a fine on parents who were late in picking up their kids at the end of the day. The share of parents who arrived late doubled. Before the fine, picking up their kids on time was an act of being considerate to the teachers. But after the fine, showing up to pick up their kids became an economic transaction. They felt less compunction to be kind.
Once money is on the table, courtesy goes out the window. "I thought I was being nice. But if you are going to make it about money, well, then, fine." I like helping out my siblings with babysitting (usually) because I like being helpful. Yet when one insulted me by proffering some cash, I frostily responded, "That's not my hourly rate." 

3) "Making Modern Toughness." Doesn't everyone seem more fragile nowadays? Instead of raising hardy children to deal with blazing sun and furious winds and pounding rains, kids are being fussed over and shielded in hothouses from all elements. 

Yet hardiness often resulted in toting "20-ton shields" (Brené term), where soft, fuzzy emotions were walled off. 
Perhaps it’s time to rethink toughness or at least detach it from hardness. Being emotionally resilient is not some defensive posture. It’s not having some armor surrounding you so that nothing can hurt you.
The people we admire for being resilient are not hard; they are ardent. They have a fervent commitment to some cause, some ideal or some relationship. That higher yearning enables them to withstand setbacks, pain and betrayal. . . 
People are much stronger than they think they are when in pursuit of their telos, their purpose for living. As Nietzsche put it, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
On a connective note, lend an ear to this shiur by Esther Wein

When we find a cause, then slights and setbacks loose their sting; we can be strong and sensitive.   

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

'Cause I'm Happy

I was driving home along sleepy beach streets, where cars can tootle along without obnoxious honking. I had frolicked in the surf, one of my favorite activities, when the sun low and meek, as opposed to strong and obnoxious. 

Now, darkness had fallen; the streetlamps cast a dreamy glow. The fishy, salty smell of the sea gently blew in the open car windows. Poking randomly at the media center while keeping my eyes on the road, I prodded awake the classical music station. The opening clarinet of "Rhapsody in Blue" blared. 

So apropos. 

I raised the volume, figuring fellow drivers couldn't find delicate piano work offensive. 

A day well seized, I thought. 

And there it was: Peace. Contentment. Wholeness. 


These moments have a logic of their own. They cannot be predicted, nor willed into being. They are sporadic, formula-less, and precious.

They do not last, of course. But providing one is open to them, the memories can be collected, like shells on the shore.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What a Nice Comedian

I like to think of myself as a funny person. I revel in humor. I strive to crack a rib laughing. My favorite character in Law & Order is Detective Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach), who always had a quip when leaving the crime scene. Yeah, I know there's a body, but one can still be tasteful.

But I don't like meanness. Mocking someone is not humor. Because I believe humor = poking fun at oneself, those lacking a funnybone think I'm being serious and scootch nervously away. Amy Schumer understands: Either you got it or you don't.

A new crop of comedians are foregoing the kvetching and snarkiness ("Try Some Sweet-Tempered Stand-Up"). 
Comedy clubs have long been packed with head-shakers airing grievances and heatedly picking apart nonsense. But Ms. Long is part of a new breed of young performers more likely to begin a joke with affection than annoyance and to end with ridiculousness, not ridicule. This sunnier stand-up is in part a function of the times, when social media keeps count of likes and favorites, and late-night television is a chummy safe space for celebrities. But the hopefulness is also a refreshing artistic change of pace, a backlash against generations of smug finger-pointing and knowing raised eyebrows.

I recently enjoyed a badchan's performance and—yup—he was making choizik of himself non-stop. The beauty of such a method is that if one sporadically points fun at others, it is okay, because he has already raked himself over the coals.


Mr. Gondelman is pushing back on the caricature of the millennial generation as coddled narcissists — besides defending participation trophies, he also stands up for selfies — while lampooning those who suggest that the problem with the way we raise kids is an abundance of sensitivity and generosity. He’s killing, with kindness.
Mocking oneself also means that one is more likely to heard without resistance later on if deeper subjects are raised. Very crafty indeed.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I've fallen hard for the goats.
They really do.
There has always been chatter about how goat milk is easier on the human system than cow milk. Some with lactose-intolerance are able to tolerate it well. While I, blessed be the Lord, do not suffer from a lack of lactase enzyme and a lover of all things dairy, have become enamored of kecske products.

Meyenberg has an army of goat products, some available in Trader Joe's stores, like regular milk and butter (I'm still hunting down the latter). Yet for convenient use, whether it be for office, traveling, or simply home, there is Powdered Whole Milk (there is also Non Fat, but fat is back and I'm not going skim again. Lost twenty years of my life because of Ta's insistence on it being "healthier" when I was a kid).
Parents with babies who can't tolerate standard baby formula use this to make a homemade alternative. While not nursing a sensitive bochie, I use it in hot cocoa. For those who like their hot beverages hot, it won't lower the temp like cold milk does. 

Another delightful eiz related offering is Tera's Goat Whey. I don't get enough protein (I'm a carb lover) and I usually stir a scoopful or two of this into my daily lunch soup, basking in milchig yumminess. It doesn't have any added junk like some other protein powders. (There is also a sweetened vanilla version which seems pretty good, but I haven't tried it.)    

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Can't Fix Sunsets

When it comes to childraising, look no further than Oprah-find Dr. Shefaly Tsabary.
She is all about boundaries and consequences, but with acceptance and celebration of a child's unique nature. On one program, a rather sweet mother was complaining that one child is very happy-go-lucky, while the other is serious. She wants the former to knuckle down and the latter to lighten up. It would be ideal if she could fuse the two of them together, she says wistfully. 

Dr. Tsabary provides a mashal: When gazing upon a magnificent sunset, do we say, "Well, why isn't it like last night's sunset? It's missing pink. It needs more pink over there. And a dash of orange."
Ah, no. We just gaze upon a magnificent sunset. That's all we do. "We don't mess with nature because we know we can't." It's outside of our control and purview. So to with children's inherent natures. For instance, extrovert parents are flummoxed by and attempt to change their introvert offspring, or vice versa.

Often parents drag their own personal baggage into their children's lives. I heard this line once, but can't get it right, that if a parent gives their child everything they didn't have, they won't be giving their children what they did have.  

Judy Batalion ("Should I Make My Daughter Clean Her Room?") grew up with a hoarder mother. Once she could live independently, she made her environment as extremely minimalist as possible. Her husband grew up the same way, and is happy with their stark home. 

Her children, however, are not growing up with hoarding parents. They are being raised by the other extreme. 

Batalion gathered opinions from friends and professionals as the best way to go, and received a jumble bag of responses and advice. One of them was:
Tamar Gordon, a psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders, thought people could be too hung up on cleaning. “What’s important for children is structure,” she said, “not necessarily the same thing as a clean room.” She explained that some kids are naturally neat, freaking out over a spot of paint on their hand, while others barely notice their visual environment. The parents’ job is to assess their child, and teach the opposite: Sticklers needed to learn flexibility, messy kids, regimen.
R2 was a neat freak from birth. I kid you not. Before he could even support his bobble head on his scrawny neck, he could be fascinated by a dust speck—yes, a dust speck—for 15 solid minutes. His idea of entertainment is sweeping the floor. When left in my care, I try to get him to be a little mellower about cleanliness.

As to the other messier ones (R2 is a rare exception), they need clear instructions. "Pack away five things," I tell them, and instead of procrastinating and claiming they will do it later when we both know they won't, they gleefully pounce on the mess, usually picking up more than the required five.   

I haven't even yet read her books, but Dr. Tsabary made me realize the importance of consciousness when interacting with rugrats. Also to embrace and enjoy them as they are.
It's really not a contradiction. 
Making Zelda clean her room might satisfy my organizational needs, but it probably wouldn’t make her a superior person. O.K., I admit that when Zelda dumped a box of musical instruments onto her glitter-strewn floor that evening, I panicked. But as she danced around, banging her drum, I let it go and joined in, saving my energies for the battle of bedtime.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Query Unresponsive

"So what are you looking for?" 

"________, ________, and ________." 

"Well, that's ridiculous. Those factors don't matter at all in a marriage. Take me and my husband—" 

Why do they ask the question if they are not interested in the answer?  Why didn't you start the conversation by telling me what I want? It would have saved so much time.

Couples connect for the quirkiest of reasons. I often can't comprehend the attraction, but hey, I'm not one to quibble with what succeeded with others. That's cool. That's how they married. That's for them.

But hello? Over here. Hey. How ya doin'. Nice weather, no? Here's the thing: 

I'm. Not. YOU.  

Your priorities in a life partner are, no offense, not mine. That does not make me ridiculous. 

If the next half hour will contain remonstrances of my unreasonableness along with name suggestions of guys who don't remotely fit my rather vague criteria, I really could be doing something else right now that involves pajamas.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hibernation Rocks

"Are you sick?" Thing 1 asked me the other day. 

"No. Why do you ask?" 

"Because you're in pajamas." 

"What is the point of Sundays if I am not free to spend it in pajamas?" 

Not only am I an introvert, I'm an early bird. I am—for the most part—content to potter about the house, and I manage to tick off most of my "to-dos" by 8:30 am. 

Molly Young opines ("Is Staying in the New Going Out?") how binge-watching and ordering in are now the usual "plans" for city dwellers. It's the ultimate way of staying safe—modest, guaranteed contentment, the middle path—as opposed to the extremes that "going out" harbor —
The upside is huge: You could have a life-altering adventure, meet your soul mate, find your new best friend. The potential downside is equally monumental. You could run into an ex, lose your wallet, suffer a grope, be rejected. The scope of experience at a party or a bar is, as the hedge funders might put it, high beta. We do it for the possibility of encountering the spectacular. This rarely happens. 
There are opportunity costs associated with chronic staying in, too. A year’s worth of weekends spent at home is a bit like never moving out of your parents’ house: At some point you have to leave the nest. Leaving the nest, even just to get outside, is how we grow, challenge ourselves and discover things that have not been tailored to our relevant interests by an algorithm. 
But I think of it along these lines: With the invention of Netflix and non-interactive means of ordering food, introverts have stumbled upon socially-acceptable heaven. Out of the closet we come—one-third to one-half of the population—forgoing the stress that outings usually exacerbate. It's not that technology has hypnotized the socially outgoing into abandoning their preferences, but rather it has provided the means for the introverts to morph into official homebodies.
The extroverts, I guarantee you, are not being wooed by online streaming and cereal. They're still leaving the house and doing . . . stuff. Very possibly "living" more than my kind do, but that is a chance we are willing to take. 
So yes, we know what we’re losing when we hibernate. For proof, observe that nesting remains indefensible as an excuse; if someone invites you out, you can’t refuse by telling them that you’ve got “plans to stay in,” because a plan to stay in still counts as no plan at all. We burrow with a slight wince, in a blanket of mild contrition. But, oh, what a cozy blanket. 
No contrition here. 

Monday, September 12, 2016


"Look at that moon!" I pointed out to Eewok. Dangling low in the sky was a large, bright, cream-colored orb, its grinning face distinct. Gorgeous
It made me think of a romantic tale (I had heard it go slightly differently), and thought to entertain the 10-year-old.

"There was a story about a rabbi called the Bach," I began. "His best talmid was called the Taz. Once they were learning, and they couldn't remember a source. The Bach's daughter knew it, though. The Bach said, 'Ah, she shines like the moon.' Then the Taz said—" 

"The moon doesn't shine," Eewok interrupted. "It reflects." 

"Yes, baby, I know, but—" 

"It doesn't have its own light, so it doesn't shine." 

"Yes, booba, I'm aware of that—"

"Because the moon isn't like the sun—" 

"YES! Sweetness, I was trying to tell you a nice story, but never mind."   

"No, no, I want to hear." 
Well, the second telling didn't come out so magical. 

Was I such a know-it-all at her age?

Friday, September 9, 2016


How to Pick Your Life Partner: One and Two

Thursday, September 8, 2016

With the Help of God

"B'ezrat/Im yertzeh Hashem."

It was not until I read "Inshallah is Good for Everyone" by Wajahat Ali that I realized how gratuitously and often inappropriately we chuck about that phrase. 

Inshallah is the Arabic version of “fuggedaboudit.” It’s similar to how the British use the word “brilliant” to both praise and passive-aggressively deride everything and everyone. It transports both the speaker and the listener to a fantastical place where promises, dreams and realistic goals are replaced by delusional hope and earnest yearning.

If you are a parent, you can employ inshallah to either defer or subtly crush the desires of young children.

Boy: “Father, will we go to Toys ‘R’ Us later today?”

Father: “Yes. Inshallah.”

Translation: “There is no way we’re going to Toys ‘R’ Us. I’m exhausted. Play with the neighbor’s toys. Here, play with this staple remover. That’s fun, isn’t it?”

If you are a commitment-phobe or habitually late to events, inshallah immediately provides you with an ambiguous grace period.

Wedding Planner: “We only have the hall from 7 to 10 p.m. We’ll incur extra charges if we go past 10. Please tell me you’ll be on time.”

Wedding Attendee: “But of course! Inshallah, we’ll be there.”

Translation: “Oh, you sad, sad, silly little man. I hope you have saved a lot of money or have access to an inheritance. I’ll leave my house at 9:45 p.m.”

Inshallah is also an extremely useful tool in the modern quest for love.

Man: “So, you think we can go on a date later this week?”

Woman: “Yeah, let me think about it, inshallah.”

Translation: “No. Never. There is no way we are ever going on a date. Even if there was a zombie apocalypse and you were the last man on earth, I would not consider this an option and would rather the human species perish as a result of my decision.”

I drop about 80 inshallahs a day, give or take. I’ll get to the gym, inshallah. Yes, I’ll clean up around the house, inshallah.

C'mon. Doesn't this all sound so familiar? 

As long as we don't blame Him for us not taking care of anything.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Introduction to Composting

I bear a certain—well, I'm not sure how to phrase it. Quirk? Condition? Compulsion?

Throwing away food makes me sick

If I wanted a cop-out, I would blame it on genetics. I inherited my Babi's love of animals, adoration of cream, hopefully her wit, and her inability to discard edibles.  

While such a predilection could presumably be virtuous, there are heinous downsides. Like swallowing down impossible-to-store leftovers despite fullness lest it be cast in the garbage. It's worse on major occasions, like family dinners or heavily-guested Shabbosim; invariably there is one salad or—heaven save me—a POTATO side dish that will not survive the night.

I am cognitively aware of the illogicality; I aspire to Spock, after all. Yet every time, I flinch as though pinched whenever good food goes into the trash. (Ma sometimes manages to hurriedly chuck it while I'm not looking.) Yet it's certainly no better when I eat when stuffed for the sake of a starch. 

In my searches, I had come across the whimsical concept of composting—collecting kitchen scraps and other waste for the purposes of sparing landfills, and in return gaining garden nourishment. What my house discards in daily banana peels alone could power an alternate-fuel RV.   

I began cheerfully hoarding kitchen scraps, purchasing a merry green compost collection pail for the purpose. It soon became clear that one would quickly overflow on heavy output days, like erev Shabbos; I bought a second for spillover. 
So what can be composted? Well, a lot of things. Not just vegetable peels, apple cores, and watermelon rinds, but egg shells, used paper products like towels and tissues (provided that questionable chemicals haven't been applied), tea bags, coffee grounds, dead flowers, and junk mail, for starters. Some say not to compost meat, dairy, or heavily fatty scraps, lest messy critters like raccoons be attracted, but trace amounts are fine. 

The test was a visit to my sister for Shabbos, an outing that typically ends in my "noble" consumption of residue. This time I toted along my new pail. Child-abandoned challah? I carefully wrapped it in a napkin and put it in. Cooled cholent? In it went. Limp cabbage salad? Heartlessly scraped in. 

I even—I even—I even managed to—oh, how it pained me—to ram in a slice of kokosh cake.

I happily hauled home a brimming pail, my belly spared a diabolical end. 

In our next session, we'll explore what to do with all that schoira.    

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Inchy Squinchy

Parshas Mase'e opens by listing the 42 stations where Be'ne Yisrael encamped during their 40 years of journeying from Egypt to the Land of Israel. . . The obvious question arises: Why would the Torah find it necessary to list these stations? 

When Be'ne Yisrael left Egypt, they were far from the spiritual stature they would need to achieve before they could enter the Land of Israel. . . The 40 years of travel from Egypt to Israel served to prepare the nation spiritually for their entry into the Land. The 42 stations represent the 42 stages of spiritual growth. The events that transpired at each location served as a learning experience upon which the the nation would build in the subsequent station, such that they were constantly improving and developing. Stage by stage, Be'ne Yisrael grew and elevated themselves . . . 

The Torah thus recorded these locations to impress upon us the importance of gradual, incremental growth. A person cannot leap to the highest levels of piety overnight; spiritual growth entails a long, gradual process of small, incremental steps. 

Every so often, I am approached by someone who has recently decided to become observant, and now expresses an interest in studying Kabala. I tell him that before studying Kabala, one must first master the entire Tanach, Talmud and Shulhan Aruch—which is itself a lifelong project. One cannot skip to the top step; he must ascend one step at a time. More often than not, those who try jumping to the highest levels of spirituality will succeed in maintaining these levels for only a brief period, after which they experience a "systems crash" and fall lower than where they had begun. 

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, the renowned Rabbi and addiction psychiatrist, has a sign in his office that reads, "The elevator to recovery is out of order; please use the stairs." The same applies to religious observance: we must take the stairs, not the elevator. The Torah does not demand what we live perfect religious lives, but only that we continuously grow, one step at a time, that at every stage we can look back at our conduct a year earlier and see how we have progressed. 

—Rabbi Eli Mansour 

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Repurchased! IV

1. To highlight the brow bone, I rely on L'Oreal Infallible Endless Pearl. Of course it's matte.
2. For the lid, I like to use a lighter shade of gray as opposed to the darker one that goes in the crease. L.A. Minerals Dove Gray is bright and cheerful and opens up my eyes. I also use it alone for all-over cover when not going so evening-y dramatic.
3. After a long day, the above eye makeup should be thoroughly removed. I have tried so many (so so many) eye makeup removers, and keep running back to Philosophy Just Release Me. I'm so ashamed, every time, for ever questioning our attachment.
Via Before . . .
. . . and after. Shazam.
4. For those new to anti-aging creams, I recommend OzNaturals Retinol Moisturizer. It contains a less-potent retinol derivative, but it still does lovely work. For the newbie, this will guide you gently over the threshold.
5. For the hardened cream fiends, I am getting along swimmingly with SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 (there is one in 1.0, but even I'm not ready for it yet). 
SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 (1oz): Image 31
It is so potent that I have to mix it with—

6. —Cetaphil before applying. Yum yum.
I firmly recommend this step. Loved ones have accidentally "burned" their skin by applying straight retinol that their skin had yet to adjust to. 

7. I'm surprised at the unhappy reviews, but I like 40 Carrots Eye Gel. I've used many an eye serum and I'm pleased with this one. I feel as though it is doing its firming job.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


I really, really, couldn't resist. 

There's a reason fairy tales always end in marriage. It's because no one wants to see what comes after. It's too grim.

So begins Belinda Luscombe's TIME article, "How to Stay Married" (June 13, 2016). 

Rule #1:  

One constant is to avoid contempt at all costs. By contempt, therapists mean more than making derogatory remarks about a partner's desirability or earning power. It's also communicated by constant interruption, dismissal of their concerns or withdrawal from conversation. 

Contempt, says therapists, sets off a lethal chain reaction. It kills vulnerability, among other things. Vulnerability is a prerequisite for intimacy. Without intimacy, commitment is a grind. Without commitment, the whole enterprise goes pear-shaped. 

Alas, contempt's favorite condition for breeding is familiarity. And you can't have family without familiarity. 

Gary Chapman, the article continues, says that can be prevented by knowing exactly what makes your partner's heart go pitter-patter, and by apologizing and forgiving properly. 

Disagreements are inevitable and healthy, so learning to fight fair is essential; resentment is one of contempt's chief co-conspirators. 

Rule #2: 
Obvious idea that actually works No. 2 is to find shared interests, which can help offset the changes that relationships go through. 

Rule #3:  

Another helpful adjustment is to drop the idea of finding a soul mate. "We have this mythological idea that we will find a soul mate and have these euphoric feelings forever," says Chapman. In fact, soul mates tend to be crafted, not found. . . 

And how to you make a soul mate? Practice, practice, practice. Karl Pillemer observed that long-married couples he interviewed always acted as if divorce was not an option. 


a) Therapists urge couples not to let the kids keep them from going out. "It does not have to be huge swaths of time but bits or chunks," says Scott Stanley. "Even something as simple as taking a walk after dinner." This is not the time to work out differences. "When they should be in fun and friendship mode, [some people] switch into problem and conflict mode. Don't mix modes." 

b) One of the more controversial ideas therapists are now suggesting is that men need to do more of the "emotional labor" in a relationship—the work that goes into sustaining love, which usually falls to women. . . recent scholarship has reinforced the value of old-school habits too—having family dinner and saying thank you actually make a difference. 

Now, this one is for the single ladies: 

c) The one piece of advice every expert and nonexpert gives for staying married is perhaps the least useful one for those who are already several years in: choose well. The cascade of hormones that rains down on humans when they first fall in love, while completely necessary and wonderful, can sometimes blind individuals to their poor choices. 

In this past week's Unhitched, when asked why they married, Barbara says: 

All their friends were getting married.

“I remember thinking it wasn’t quite right but could not articulate why,” she said. “He really liked me, and I lacked self-esteem and thought I might not find anybody else.”


Would they have done anything differently?

She: “. . . I was angry at myself for having married a romantic idea . . .”

He: “I would have been much more receptive and accepting of Barbara’s priorities and planning. In short, I would have been a better partner.”

Looking back, what advice would they offer?

She: “Don’t cave on your beliefs to keep the peace, and don’t overlook trouble. Don’t fall in love with an idea of how you want your spouse to be. Fall in love with and accept the actual person as they really, truly are. . . ”

He: “Be aware of your unfulfilled expectations, your own thwarted intentions and be responsible for your own emotions.”

It seems the article pans out in real life.