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.
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.
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 breakfast. (It was under $30 when I bought it; in the interim, it nearly doubled in price. Hmm.)
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 and 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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


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.)'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."