Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Fearfully Blessed

I have always feared the worst. Even before Ma died, I was constantly aware that all that I cherish could be lost. 

"What are you worried about?" Han asks me from time to time. 

"I'm always worried," I reply. 

Logically, this is no way to live. Will "foreboding joy" (Brené reference) mean that tragedy will be kept at bay? No, obviously. 

Religiously, this is no way to live. Worry means a lack of bitachon. My worrying is not effective action. My job is to do the mitzvos, and place my energies into that, not fretting. 

Additionally, why do I have anything I cherish in the first place? He gave it to me; it is up to Him whether it remains or not. 

Physically, this is no way to live. Jacking up cortisol levels isn't good for health. 

Joseph Lovett, 72, a filmmaker whose 2010 documentary, “Going Blind,” chronicles the slow worsening of his vision from glaucoma, told me that his best counsel was that “you cannot spend your life preparing for future losses.” It disrespects the blessings of the here and now. Besides, everyone lives in a state of uncertainty. Mine just has funky initials and fancy medical jargon attached to it.
The irony is that there is a million ways to die. Ma's death was caused by a freakishly rare illness that no one saw coming (my go-to fantasy was always a car crash. No particular reason. She was a good driver). 

After her passing, I did experience gratitude that I had the best mother for a pretty good run. I think I was appreciative while she lived, too. I hope I was. 

But I haven't stopped fretting. Now I have Han-related anxiety. "If you die, I'll kill you," I say, much to his amusement. Yet of course I know it's not in his control, nor mine. 

I must breathe, learn to rewire my faulty programming, and simply . . . cherish. Without fear of loss. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Mennonite to Jew

Mishpacha Magazine featured a story, written by Sharon Gelbach,  a number of weeks ago about a family of Mennonites that decided to be megayer and later, make aliyah. What I found enrapturing regarding their story was not only their free-thinking ways—they don't feel a need to find a specific niche in which to define themselves—but also their emphasis on a positive, rather than negative, outlook.

Akiva and Basya, before converting, home-schooled their children: 
They weren't looking to isolate the children from the negative as much as to have an active, positive influence and to be able to exert greater control over what their children were learning. "If you focus on the negative, saying, 'I'm trying to avoid x, y and z,' they're eventually going to see those things," Akiva explains. "As I see it, you have to say, what am I doing this for? I want to have a say in what's being taught in a positive way."
Regarding where they chose to send their children to school, after moving to Israel:
". . . most of those school representatives expended a lot of energy telling us why not to send our children to other places, not why we should send to them. I'm not saying they're bad, but as I see it, you don't degrade somebody else to build yourself up. They were saying, 'We're better,' rather than, 'Here's what we have to offer.' Bnei Akiva was the only school that said absolutely nothing about anybody else. They basically said, 'This is what we have to offer. This is what we can do.' . . . If you live in a negative mindset, it's going to get passed right on to the children."
Regarding his parents:
Akiva still maintains regular contact with his parents, and speaks to his father once a week. "If you don't teach your children to respect your father, whom they can see, how will you teach them to honor their Father in Heaven, Whom they can't see? It's important to me there is no negativity in the relationship, because that gets passed down to the children."

. . . Akiva credits his father with imparting him with lessons on how to combat peer pressure. "I teach the kids that it's okay to be different. We don't have to be like the world to be part of the world. We have to be able to say, 'I'm okay with being different.'" 
Perhaps because they were outliers in the first place—being Mennonites—the idea of being different is not so difficult for them. But I was so taken with their contentment in choosing their own path, a path that is not defined by a specific group, understanding that there is no right way to be a Jew. 

I'm finishing The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish, and this line won me over:
People go through life trying to please some audience. But once you realize there's no audience, life is simple. It's just doing what you know in your gut is right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Fave Recipes VI: Kugel Edition

I'm not really that much of a kugel fan. I can't be in the same room as potato kugel, but that's because I'm a potato monster and can't be trusted to be alone with any spud, in any shape or form. 

Besides for that weakness, kugels in general tend to be a lot of work. There's usually a lot of sautéing involved, then there's baking time, which can take up to an hour. 

But if I have time, or if I am making something for others, or simply get a culinary bee in my bonnet (happens often) I cheerfully delve in. 

The fun thing about kugels is that they are open to interpretation. Many such recipes tend to be vague outlines for me. If they call for breadcrumbs, I usually use oat bran instead and even then I cheat (I mean really cheat). If they ask for mayo, I omit it and put in an extra egg instead. I never, ever, use soup mix (I'm very sodium conscious; too much salt, and I'm thirsty and retain water like mad). 

Additionally, I like to take a kugel recipe and make them in muffin tins. My sister found cute little ceramic bowls in Amazing Savings and bakes kugels in them. The individual portions are so pretty, and packing away a half-filled baking dish can be a pain (the foil always falls off). 
  • Cabbage Kugel 
I love, love, LOVE sautéed cabbage (it's a Hungarian thing). I used to make it every day for my high school lunches, I was that devoted. 

To be frank, though, I usually end up eating this by my sister's house. I just don't have the heart to sauté up all that magnificence and then add eggs and whatnot. I'd rather eat it straight. Mine. All MINE! 

True to type, I messed around with a few recipes. Most call for sautéing an onion (along with the cabbage), salt, pepper, a little sugar. Three eggs or so (I find that to be the kugel minimum) and maybe a little something flour-y. I usually opt for oat bran (gotta be a killjoy!) instead of breadcrumbs, as previously confessed.  

I believe for the below, I used pre-shredded coleslaw mix (a lifesaver).

  • Broccoli Kugel 
I was really shocked when Luke, who's not exactly the healthiest eater, cheerfully plowed through these. 

I got a recipe from my sister but I changed it considerably. I bought frozen chopped broccoli, so mashing wasn't an issue. 

I sautéed an onion, added the broccoli, then after it defrosted,  some minced garlic gloves, salt and pepper. Then once it cooled off a little, three beaten eggs.  

Into the muffin liners they went, and baked on 350° until firm. 
This is one recipe I didn't alter at all (except for omitting the pecans). It was an absolute HIT. I made it for the first time (a risk, I know) when Han and I hosted Shabbos guests for meal. They loved it too. 

I went with this recipe after some research because it was the least "sinful." She uses a small amount of maple syrup, instead of copious quantities of sugar. The flour and oil was the least amount of any recipe I came across. 

I sprinkled some with cinnamon. A lovely pairing. 

Then I had the ingenious idea to top the blech-warmed kugelettes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (the pareve one from Trader Joe's is aaawesome) and my my my

Han fell so hard for these that he was hoarding them. He couldn't stand the idea that the fridge may no longer contain them. It's definitely in his interests to keep me alive, cackle.

Monday, January 21, 2019

We Don't Know

There is a beautiful photo from my wedding. 

It was taken right before Han was to veil me. My head is turned away from the camera as I am speaking to my youngest niece, who looks like an angel with her flowered updo, her button nose, her pink gown. 

One could assume that I was tenderly interacting with the child. 

I was actually telling her off. 

This "angel" decided, at a very inconvenient time, to come to me wailing, "Everybody is saying I look like Mommy but I don't want to look like Mommy I want to look like myseeeeeeeelf!" 

She really does look like her Mommy. She's a very lucky girl, the ungrateful brat. 

There's another shot floating in the ether of me talking to her with narrowed eyes and gritted teeth. She's old enough to know not to have a tantrum about something so silly, especially in public. She sheepishly subsided once she saw the photographer's lens focused on her adorable face. 

I laugh whenever I see that beautiful photo. I also ruefully realize how often me make that mistake—we see a picture, usually on social media, and make all sorts of assumptions about the people therein. Usually how our lives sucks and theirs must be so so great. 

But we don't know. We don't know.  

I'm not wishing unhappiness on the people in those pictures. Rather, those who become unhappy looking at those people should remember that none of us go through life unscathed. 

A family friend, Mrs. A, was ranting about another woman, Mrs. Z. 

"Her child died," I told her. 

She was taken aback, and quickly amended that now she understands, and won't think badly of her again. 

But do we really need to hear that someone else has suffered before we are willing to cut them some slack? I'm guilty (so so guilty) of this as well. 

We can use our imagination to see outside the picture—and remember that none of live lives of roses. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Repurchased! VI

I am madly, passionately, violently in love with this product. It has coverage like foundation, but feels infinitely more nourishing. It swipes easily into the skin with my fingertips, blurring imperfections without heaviness.
The "Illumination" means that there's a subtle sparkly sheen; now, you know me, I'm usually loyal to matte. It is available in a non-sparkly version which I had bought initially, but Ta commented that my skin was glowing while wearing the illumination version. So I can compromise on my principles every so often. 

While it does proclaim "SPF 50," I do not feel my skin is protected enough with the thin layer I apply, so I use an additional SPF lotion beneath it. 

Originally, it was only available in Fair and Light, so I mixed the two. They have added more shades since, including a Fair Light which matches me perfectly. 
I'm a big believer that cheeks should be buffed pink (and not bronzed), and this is an ideal shade for me. I made mistakes in the past where my blush was too strong a fuchsia.
The color is also buildable; I apply less on weekdays than I do on erev Shabbos (I also use it for Shabbos Face). I believe it's matte, or at least very close to.
My daily Face involves vitamin c serum, then a layer of liquid SPF, which is topped with the above CC; by the time I'm done, my Face looks rather shiny, as though the whole edifice can slide right off.
A dusting of this, and everything is set, the whole day. Shininess is gone, and stays gone. I don't need my blotting sheets anymore!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Shadchan Documentary

I initially planned to rewatch "The Wedding Plan," but opted for the suggestion Amazon offered, "Make Me a Match," a documentary about three singles and two shadchanim in Israel.
Technically, it's about an engaged "older" woman (34! Heavens!), an American aliyah-nik, and a divorcée

I was really turned off by the scene when the divorcée meets with her shadchan (she possesses a well-known reputation, and also set her up with her ex), who crudely describes her best option: Pounce on a widower! 

When shidduchim are rendered as such, as survival of the fittest, I want to puke. Is that how it works? Play the game, roll the dice, be there at the right time, and then you'll get a spouse. 

Gross. I wouldn't want to marry like that.

Ortal, the spunky gal whose wedding is the opening scene, was told by a rabbi to daven for 40 days by the Kosel. She wasn't eager to do it—it was winter, parking sucks, but she davened wholeheartedly, asking Hashem for His salvation. Before the time was up a rabbi called with her shidduch.  

I like that story a lot better than "stalk widowers." Shiver. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Adam and Chava

Bruce Feiler was inspired to re-examine the story of Adam and Chava, and discovered messages about love and relationships in the process.
1. Modern science will agree: It is not good for humans to be alone. 

2. A couple is one unit, not two individuals operating separately together. 

3. Love is not a passive experience; it is an active one. 
Romantic love is a myth. You don’t choose a partner because you love him. You love that partner because you chose him.  
4. Love is not a meet-cute story followed by effortless bliss. 
But love is not a moment in time; it’s the passage of time. It’s the long-term practice of reinvention, reconciliation and renewal. Love is the act of constantly revising your own love story.
5. When they lose a child at the hand of the other, they grieve together and have another son. (Contrary to popular belief, couples that break up following the loss of a child are in the minority.)

6. Adam and Chava are the first couple, and remain so.
In a world dominated by “I,” Adam and Eve are the first “we.” Just look at how we remember them.
Not Adam. Not Eve. Adam and Eve. Theirs is the first joint byline.
Ma always used to talk about being a "team player." I have a nephew, for instance, who is pretty much in his own head. He's not really that aware of the needs and wants of others. 

Han observes that the "older single" friends of his who moved out to live on their own tended to become more self-minded. When one can live without waiting for the bathroom, running out to grab a forgotten ingredient, or babysitting, that can create a mindset that is hard to adjust to once one is married. 

Adam and Chava are usually referred to as one entity, the first example of a couple. Because they were created together, there was no question about them not being ideal for each other, despite the ups and downs. As Feiler notes, Adam defers to her, rather than God, presumably because of love. They are a team. 

They were created together. They sinned together. They were exiled together. They always remained together.  

Monday, January 7, 2019

Let Girls Be Girls Any Way

When I was a kid, I officially did not want to be a "girlie girl." The books I read always had boyish heroines who played sports and climbed trees. I actually suck at sports—Ma despaired of my inability to catch a ball, unlike her—and I didn't really understand the need to climb a tree. 

Also, to my detriment, I had a weakness for Barbies—but I will contend that to this day, I have an aversion for the color pink. 

I tried my best to be a tomboy in every other way, which meant wearing my brothers' outgrown sweatshirts as casual attire. I was so lame. 

I refused to wear makeup to Luke's wedding, when I was 15. That would definitely make me a girly girl! Although my gown was magnificent and I had flowers in my hair and sparkling jewelry. Eye pencil drew my imaginary, arbitrary line. 

At some point, I stopped fighting. Sephora was calling to me. Clothing that fit was calling to me. Pretty shoes were calling to me. 

I was reminded of my evolution by this article, "Like Tomboys and Hate Girlie Girls? That's Sexist." The author, a feminist that also used to eschew "girlieness," now finds herself stumped by a 6-year-old that loves pink, Barbies, and froo-froos. She realized that by welcoming her older daughter's tomboyish tendencies, she was still valuing masculinity over femininity.
Via AlexandraJustineChapman
Additionally, there are plenty of (straight) men who have what could be considered feminine qualities (like a fondness for hand cream), for which they have been mocked. 

As the author, Lisa Davis, explains, makeup is not about being alluring to men. If anything, the majority of my dates found my Face horrific. Rather, it is a "fun and creative form of self-expression."

Especially since the arrival of a number of "girlie girl" nieces, as well as others who are not, I've comprehended there is no right or wrong way to be a girl. As long as "like, whateverrrrrrr" is not part of their lexicon.

Friday, January 4, 2019


"How can you know, though," she said, "if someone isn't for you after just one date?" 

Han and I shared glances. "Um, very easily?"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Rise of the Diets

Every once in a while, a new diet takes social media by storm. There are countless before and after shots of dramatic results proving the great success rate and the grateful customers. "In only three weeks" "In only two months" "In only four days" the testimonials proclaim, along with insane amounts of poundage lost. 

The current craze has pretty dramatic parameters. I know personally that my own body would biologically go berserk if so deprived. 

I've been obsessing a little with body types. A woman I know, after a few kids, is so insanely slender that she looks like she's levitating in her high heels. Then I speak to another three-time mother who's frustrated because she can't shed the baby weight (and yet she's still built something adorable). I wonder at the methods of the women who idly lick an ice cream on the street as they stride on toothpick legs. 

Yet I have not been drawn in by the idea of a dramatic diet plan. I'm not delusional; I know when I cheat. I know when I take too many portions. I know that I have to rediscover my self-control. I also know that weight is not gained overnight; yet many expect to not only shed it overnight, but that will remain a permanent state even if they revert to their old habits.
Changing habits is HARD. So, so HARD. Yet more people find it easier to stick with a dramatic, short-term program as opposed to learning a healthier, long-term lifestyle. I'm proud with the progress I made. But I still have farther to go in terms of not letting food run my life. 

Some people prefer all-or-nothing approaches, but that methodology rarely works in general. Going slowly, tackling one bad habit at a time, is healthier and more likely to generate permanent success. It's not like one can do this diet then go back to eating half a challah every Shabbos meal. Change is required. Which is HARD. Blurgle.