Monday, November 29, 2010

She's teensy!!


Its not worth trying to update this with everything from the last month of pregnancy, the labor, delivery, first days with her in the hospital, and our first week home. Suffice it to say, its been a whirlwind. These days we are sticking around the house, obsessing over our new little one, and learning to function without sleep. Conclusion... i had no idea a baby could be sooooo tiny!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Toolbox

One concept in Jewish thought that I always liked is written about beautifully in the book Woman to Woman (which is based on a series of lectures by Rebbetzin Esther Greenberg).  Basically, the idea goes like this: if you were a construction worker with some kind with an intelligent foreman for a boss, you could show up at work one day and, based entirely on what is in your toolbox and where you are, figure out what you are meant to do that day at work.  Of course, we are the worker and Gd is the foreman.  Our gifts and passions are within our toolbox and our life's circumstances are the setting.  


Ok, now that I've butchered that I can move on.  


I was recently fortunate to spend a Shabbos meal with some NYU students, including a woman who recently graduated from the same theater program I went to.  We discussed our shared feelings of conflict over being theater artists who had become passionate about our Judaism.  We came to term our Torah learning a "wakening of the sleeping giant."  Inconvenient, but ultimately not something one can ignore.  There's a giant in the room.  An awake one.  That changes the situation.


So here we are, albeit still in two somewhat different places, trying to figure out this delicate balance between our creative gifts and passions and the indescribable beauty of Torah and a Torah lifestyle.  


And I think it is starting to be time to check out that back burner which has been caring for my artistic soul for the last two years while I've explored a new part of myself.  


While I am happy with the choices I've made and certainly wouldn't take anything back, I am inarguably in a different place than I ever expected to be.  


Mentsch tracht, Gott lacht. (Yiddish proverb- Man plans and Gd laughs.)


Forget the Orthodox Jewish bit (if you can fit that pink elephant into the corner for a moment, thank you).  How about the married bit?  The imminently arriving BABY bit?  The--dare I say it--living in SUBURBAN NEW JERSEY bit?


This was not the plan.  And I'd spent a good decade crafting this plan.  And I spent much of the last two years trying to craft a NEW fabulous plan that would make this all fit neatly together.  Way to learn the lesson, self.


And yet, I wouldn't change a thing.  No, this is not the route to my Oscar.  Nor are we buying our one-way tickets to Israel any time soon.  How unglamorous of us.


On the other hand, I am currently engaged in the single most creative act known to mankind.  THIS SECOND.  And this one. 


It's time to accept that this is not the workplace I anticipated.  The needs of the world I live in now are not the needs I thought I would one day fill.  What I have to offer will not be received the way I had planned out.  Nu?  It's taken me two years to come to terms with this?  I've been observing this phenomenon for all this time without swallowing that pill (which ultimately I don't think is even such a bad pill to swallow!).


It's time to look into the toolbox, get a good lay of the land, and start building.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thoughts on Pregnancy or... Birth Control For The Weak-Hearted or... Things I'd Post On Facebook But I Think You'd Judge Me

1. I was under the mistaken impression that an unborn child couldn't keep you up all night.
In reality, I feel like this:
All the time.

2.  It used to seem logical that if you were exhausted at 9 PM, you could probably go to bed.
In reality, exhaustion at 9 PM is really just your body playing a cruel trick because really, right before you fall asleep, you'll bounce back and be full of energy until about 3 AM at which point you've read enough about the Salmonella crisis to finally peel your eyelids off your hairline and consider nodding off.  Oh, and that Camomile tea (which I haven't been able to sleep one night without) will make sure that you're up again around 5 AM.  And wired.  Because who can sleep after three nightmares in a row about a missing nursery and nowhere to put the baby?  (Why THIS bothers me is a bit confusing... we know we won't have a nursery so it's a moot point.  Wouldn't my brain be more entertained with anxiety over birth or car seats?)

3.  If a pregnant woman's appetite is supposed to be justified by the phrase "eating for two," I'm taking it upon myself to release this PSA to all expecting women.  Sometimes baby invites thirty friends over for a dinner party, and you'll be expected to feed them all.  NOW.  Gd help anyone who gets in your way.

4.  I was also certain until recently that the baby could not get a hold of bricks and Leggos until after the actual birth.  But, having reviewed human anatomy and finding nothing that could possibly be so hard and stabby as what's sticking out of my tummy, I'm convinced that somebody's providing toys to baby.  And I'm thinking of suing.

Thank Gd for new shoes, new makeup, (so at least I don't look quite as bad as I feel) and a hubby who's learned very quickly that when I stop using full sentences, he's going to be in charge of dishes that night.

And when I never managed a full sentence in the first place, we'll be ordering pizza.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Reaction to the "Emerging Adulthood" Debate

Perhaps it's a misnomer even to say there's a debate.  It seems that the new phase of "Emerging Adulthood" has been pretty well accepted since the NY Times came out with their article dubbing the 20's as a new phase (remember, adolescence had to be accepted onto the world stage, too--imagine, a world without Wet Seal).

I guess the debate lies more in how we feel about it.  Are 20-somethings just more self-involved and immature, or are they boldly exploring their individuality and daring to take risks--wisely, before bringing external commitments onto the scene?

20-something writer Jessie Rosen wrote a great reaction to the Times article, defending her position.

Ultimately, since nobody was a 20-something then and is also a 20-something now, we're just looking at one another's generations and trying to piece together a case for our preconceived notions.  Having one good self-absorbed 20-something in your life could tip the scales pretty neatly towards the Times debate.

Lemondrop.com published an article defending my generation with a barrel of additional statistics--look how few are divorced, look how many have higher education.  We aren't sitting around waiting for life to come and get us, we just don't have as clear a path to saunter down as perhaps we would have had a generation ago.  Global economy, new employment structures, choices choices choices...  We're busy doing research.

Ok, so this brings me to my obviously less-traditional perspective on the whole thing.  Here I (and hubby) are, married, expecting, with an apartment, a car, weekly errands and even a financial advisor helping us figure out how to save for a down payment!  All before we hit the 25 year-old mark!  Where did we go wrong?  Did we not watch enough commercials growing up?

And are we really just a throwback to an earlier generation?

For full disclosure, I have to say that my comparison is generally with my own parents and they weren't particularly traditional themselves. While they married at about the same age, they were artsy bohemian types more than anything who tried out a few different gigs and living situations (did they prefer the houseboat or the deserted mansion?) and I'd argue that only one of my parents really did settle down in the end--at least, the way the NY Times would want them to.

But I guess my theory on all this is that despite the obvious life decisions that have set hubby and I apart from our peers (who barely recovered from the grown-upness of our marriage only to find me boasting a baby bump) there's a lot that keeps us similar.  And not like the generation before us.  I think there is something to our generation that we don't take many things as a given.  Where to live, for instance.  We've spent two years researching and examining communities in a few different countries, trying to make a careful decision about where we let the roots settle, while I think a generation before we wouldn't have even gotten this far away from our parents in the first place--or we'd be much more likely to be hurrying back to familiar territory.  Career-wise, I may have landed in a good gig now that I'm teaching, but who knows once we become a  family of three.  And hubby is still finding himself professionally.

And while we were pretty clear about wanting to be married and start a family right away (and not primarily for religious reasons--we both wanted to be married young and start a family young long before Shabbat meant no TV), I'd argue that in both of our cases that was just as counter-culture a decision (based on where we were coming from and our peer groups) as someone deciding to go live in the Outback for a year and develop her photography hobby.  I guess the main difference is that while our peers are being careful to "finish" finding themselves before making any major commitments, we're happy to be going on this search together.

The NY Times and Lemondrop are both using statistics and popular life markers to try and understand the mentality of a generation.  From someone who's hitting each milestone in stride (or even earlier), I just don't think that it's as clear-cut as that.  I don't think it's so obvious that because our generation is hitting milestones at different times, we're so essentially different--nor that those of us who are hitting the milestones at "traditional" ages are doing it with the same feelings and for the same reasons as the generation before ours.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surprising NY Times Article

Here's a really interesting NY Times article about the university-created cultural divide between rural white Americans vs liberals and minorities.  Really surprising findings.

What do you think?  It makes sense to me, being from NYU and remembering a classmate crying because she was so embarrassed to come "out" as a Republican after classes were turned into group-therapy sessions upon the Bush re-election.  But that's NYU--the left of the left.

Was your school the same?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rebbetzin Levitan is a FlyBaby?

I've written about FlyLady before, but this takes the cake!

Today, Rebbetzin Levitan, super-shadchan, marriage and dating counselor/speaker extroardinaaire, and author of the very popular new book, I Only Want to Get Married Once: Dating Secrets for Getting It Right the First Time, just wrote in a testimonial to FlyLady!















I was so surprised to see this in my inbox!  Check it out!

"Dear FlyLady,

The book you are holding would not have been written if not for a very special email I received from you in 2008. I am writing to thank you and to share my experience with you. The words in your email that really impacted me were: 

"So how do we stop this sensory overload? We have to pull the plugs! Let's practice turning off and tuning in… This is how I wrote my first book. I had made myself a strict routine for the morning… My goal was to write ten pages or three hours whichever came first. To accomplish this goal I had some rules for myself."

You then listed a bunch of very important rules including: Doing morning routines, not turning on the email, browser or instant messenger program and most importantly, no answering the phone. 

You then wrote, "I started my day at 7:30am by 8:00am. I was ready to start writing and by 11:00am I was finished with ten pages or I worked for three hours. In two weeks I had a manuscript. Do you see what you can accomplish when you turn off the distractions and tune into your brain power. 

When I read your email, I was literally blown away. I never heard of someone writing a book in 2 weeks. I was amazed. Now, I had been considering writing a book based on my lecture series on relationships. Many people were pushing me to put my lectures into writing, but I always said, "I don't have time to write a book. I run a lively home, together with my husband. We have a handful of beautiful kids and I also have five teaching jobs. On top of this, I also freelance lecture and counsel people. When exactly do you expect me to write a book???"

All of a sudden, after reading your email, my excuses didn't hold water. If a book could be written in a short time, well then I could do it. I just needed some focused time. So that was it. I said to myself, "If FlyLady could write a book in two weeks, I could write one in four!" And that's exactly what I set out to do. 

In June 2008, I sat down to write my book. I wasn't as good with my morning routines as you were. And I didn't stop writing after three hours. Actually, as soon as I started writing I couldn't stop… until it all came out. Although I didn't quite make my four week deadline, seven weeks later, I had a manuscript! (Thanks to a lot of patience and support from my husband and kids as well) But FlyLady, if not for you email, I am convinced that I never would've written my book. It was published iin February, 2010 and I have already received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from people who have been helped by my book. This is all in your merit! I cannot thank you enough! Perhaps other people will be inspired to accomplish big projects based on your email together with my response. If you want to print this email as a testimonial, it would be my pleasure. 

FlyLady, once again, I have no words to thank you. You are an inspiration to so many people, may you always be blessed with the wisdom, strength, health and good heart that you have to continue making a difference in so many people's lives. 
With endless gratitude,

Chana Levitan
Jerusalem Israel"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where did I leave my keyboard?

In case you were wondering, Pregnancy Brain for sure exists.  I've had three really terrible run-ins with my new identity as a forgetful mom-to-be but (I kid you not) can only remember two of them.

My case began gradually.  I found myself walking around the apartment much more looking for things.  Every once and a while I do something silly (even before I was pregnant) like look for my glasses while they're on or ask my friend on the phone why I can never find my phone.  I think I get that from my father, the classic absent minded professor.  So it wasn't so much new levels of forgetfulness, just increased frequency.

But then I graduated.

The first (and therefore most unnerving) situation came up when I was serving Omri juice for breakfast.  I opened the fridge, took out the bottle of juice, went to the cupboard, took out a glass.... and the bottle of juice was gone.  It was like a maniacal magician was playing tricks on me.  So I tried to think of what brilliant place I had thought of to leave the juice while I got the glass... did I put the juice back in the fridge?  Is it on the counter somewhere?  Maybe I put it on top of the microwave for some reason?  I started wandering the whole apartment--the dining room table?  The fridge?  Again the fridge?  Maybe further back in the fridge?  ...the FREEZER?

Ok, if you already figured it out, just don't tell me.

I had neatly replaced the glass with the bottle of juice.  No logic.  No, a bottle of Naked juice will not last long in my cupboard.  It took me a good five minutes to find the sucker.  I spent the rest of the day scared of myself.

But if I had only known what was in store for me I would have seen the many advantages of that mistake.  It was only within our small one-bedroom apartment, so how many places could I possibly need to check?  Much more critically... it was PRIVATE.

Not yesterday.  Oh, no.

Yesterday, on my way to my milestone halfway-through-pregnancy super ultrasound (healthy, albeit hyperactive baby growing nicely!) I was Miss Efficiency and decided to return our Redbox movie from the night before (Did You Hear About the Morgans?  Nothing spectacular, but what we needed.).  So I took our Redbox movie, went to the movie rental machine, and returned it.  The only problem was, it was the BLOCKBUSTER movie rental machine.  So I watched as the machine courteously reported that "No Media Was Detected" and then promptly switched to "Out of Order."

I stared at the machine.  I was mortified.  I was also multi-tasking (big no-no if you ask my mom)--ironically, by being on the phone... with my mom.  And then the yetzer hara reared it's ugly head and I fully embraced his excuses.  "This is way too embarrassing, you can't do this, it probably happens all the time, you'll deal with it later but you'll be late for your appointment.  Just leave."

I left.

Which, of course, just makes it all the more awkward and embarrassing.  Y"h did NOT have my back.

So I spent the very long ultrasound appointment planning my attack and imagining all the old gnarly Dollar Store employees screaming at me for ruining their business and breaking their machine and demanding I buy them a new one.

Luckily, the managers are actually chilled-out twenty somethings.  Who, quite frankly, laughed in my face (as politely as one can laugh in someone's face when not laughing is just not an option) when I told them what I'd done.  I gave them my name and number, reported the Out of Order machine to Blockbuster (India), and went home.  A few hours later I get a call from the next on-duty manager.

"Hi, is this Kayla?"
"Yes."
"This is Somethingorother from Dollar Saver."
"Oh, hi..."  (I hadn't really heard him.)
"Yeah, I have your (barely suppressed giggle) Redbox DVD."
"Ohhh.  Yes.  Yup.  Ok.  I'll be in shortly.  Thank you sooooo much."
(Outright laughter.)  "Yeah, ok, see you then."

When I went in, I found Mr. Somethingorother, asked him if he worked there, and then identified myself as "the ditz with the Redbox DVD."  He actually finished that sentence for me.

Then he told me it was his opinion that "they make it a Big Red Box for a reason."  In as friendly a way as possible.

I guess it's as good a time as any to really understand what they meant in theater school when they said to "check your ego at the door."  This is a whole new level.

All I have to say is, thank Gd this baby will be attached to my body for another many months so I don't have to worry about misplacing it.

Gourmet Date Night!

This week our goal was to get into the food in our fridge, freezer, and pantry that is otherwise getting neglected (I think the falafel mix has been waiting for us to get inspired for almost a year).  So date night led to me fishing out the frozen whole wheat pizza dough from the fridge (homemade... yum) and planning a vegetarian pizza (1. I wanted cheese, 2. it's the 9 days so we don't eat meat).

I found this recipe for pesto pizza online and we made it with a few adjustments.  Mainly, since Omri couldn't find pre-made pesto or a jar of kosher artichoke hearts, he came home with two huge batches of basil and a whole fresh artichoke.  I was totally overwhelmed but it turned out to be the best move possible!  

I learned that you can MICROWAVE AN ARTICHOKE!  After trimming the top and the sharp tips, taking off any gnarly leaves from the bottom, and cutting the stem, wash it and stick it in the microwave, covered.  (The website said plastic wrap but that scares me so we covered it with a piece of wax paper.)  7 minutes.  Done.  I made a poor-man's hollandaise imitation (good thing my dad doesn't read this blog or I'd be disowned) with margarine, mayonnaise, paprika and lemon juice so we could nosh on the leaves while making the pizza.  It was fine, since I wasn't looking so much for it to taste like hollandaise and was just hoping for a compliment for the artichoke leaves.  Great parve option, by the way!

Omri checked the basil and we put it into the food processor with fresh garlic and olive oil until it was just perfect.  

I also chopped up some veggies (as per the recipe)--green pepper and red onion--and grilled them briefly (not from the recipe but I get nervous putting raw veggies on the pizza since Mark Bittman says not to).  After they were done I added sliced olives and chopped fresh tomato.  I should have put in the fresh artichoke heart then but forgot!  



The (pre-cooked) dough was covered with the fresh pesto, piled high with veggies, then feta, then (when I remembered) the artichoke heart.  Here it is mid-process:












And here's the yummy result!




YUM!  I highly recommend this recipe to any pizza or pesto lover!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Practical Shoes

After much thought about last night's traumatic visit to DSW (why do shoe stores seem so exciting and then so quickly become overwhelming?) I started doing some serious online hunting for cute, practical shoes.  There MUST be such a thing.  For a girl who wears only skirts, a bad pair of shoes is just too prominent a fashion faux-pas.

So here's the wish-list.






These boat shoes by our favorite shoe maker, Merrell, definitely fit the bill.  I've never tried on a Merrell shoe that didn't feel fabulous... and this one looks it, too.  Six different splendid colors of comfy-yet-dainty shoeage.  Swoon.





Dansko shoes strike me as generally too clunky but with the right, nicely tailored skirt and a clever shirt, these could round off a perfect Shabbos outfit without keeping you sitting at home wondering what's going on at the other side of town.






And as gorgeous as these baby blue Born flats are...



true flats must become a thing of the past, at least for another few months.  1 1/2-2" is apparently the way to go when your center of gravity is being gradually pushed forward from the midsection.




An alternative flat would be Crocs Crocband Flat, which I love in navy with red and white accents.  Too bad I didn't find these before the 4th of July!
















I ended up with a sportier (and apparently no longer available) version of this Mary Jane from Anne Klein Sport.  The material on the upper is more athletic, the strap is a smidge further back, and the heel is more sneaker-like, but this gives a general idea.  It might not be a match made in heaven, but it's a big step up from my favorite go-to Old Navy flip-flops.  My back is thanking me already.


Ok, enough shoes for one day.  

Time to put that nesting instinct to use.

Massive three-part picture post... it's been a while!

PART ONE: The Belly  

If authors were honest, books on pregnancy would have these words of advice under "pregnancy fashion"

If you really care, don't get pregnant.

Because it doesn't matter how much money you have and how fabulous the designers are that are making the clothes, eventually you will, like me, find yourself in the -- I have trouble typing this -- Practical Shoes section of DSW wanting to hide your face in shame.

Ah yes!  It's out!  I did some "advanced calculations" and decided that the chances of anyone but my mom reading this beats the likelihood of running (big belly first) into a friend not-yet-in-the-know so I might as well get the process down on record.

So here's where we've been while I wasn't posting because who can post about anything else when you're GOING TO HAVE A BABY?!?   (G-d willing!)

So, here's the little bugger from a few weeks ago... this shirt doesn't fit anymore.  That was fast.

















PART TWO: The Food

This is for Whitney, who requested photos, here was the massive erev Shabbos cook-off from last week.  We had some amazing guests and a really lovely time.  I'm a huge fan of making lots at a time, in small batches, and freezing.  Here are the 16 baby challahs that I baked.  I won't be baking challah again for a few months :)

Or my absolute favorite carrot cake...
(The recipe is no longer online! Such a shame!  This cake is packed with raisins, walnuts and, of course, shredded carrots.  Deeelicious.)




Ok this chicken is slightly charred... but it's my favorite chicken dish and tasted better than it looks.  And this from a girl who's really not a fan of meat.  Broiled chicken with Jack Daniels' BBQ sauce and veggies and pineapple mmmmmm...




Potato kugel, which we don't particularly love but goes great if left on top of the chulent pot until lunch on Saturday.








Finally, here's a preview of what I couldn't take pictures of because it was made (or finished cooking) on Shabbos.  Our chulent, some amazing fresh cherries, and the pineapple that's left from the chicken which turned into an amazing fruit salad.  We also had dips, gefilte fish, a regular romaine salad, an Asian cabbage salad, and another fruit salad.  Mmm...





PART THREE: Boston

We went on a fabulous overnight to Boston for 4th of July (although the only thing we DIDN'T do was fireworks!)  It was amazing to do the fun road trip, see open roads and SPACE (something we miss dearly in NJ), and get away from our crazy heat wave.


Our view as the sun was coming up on the highway... about two hours into the trip.  (We left at 4 AM after a brief nap.  Fenway was the next day, which kept us going strong, but we opted to watch the fireworks from the comfort of our hotel room bed.)




We had a difficult time trying to figure out why there were so many parking spots available  We spent a good ten minutes looking for hidden signs until we realized we're just not in NY anymore.


Our view from the bleachers at Fenway, by far the highlight of our trip, despite the fact that the Red Sox seemed to think they were also on vacation.  That would be the one and only head between us and the (far far back of) the field.  Very exciting :)


Obligatory stadium shot.  Omri looks so hot in Red Sox paraphernalia.



The highlight of Omri's Fenway foray.  Meat and milk vending machines that "cook" your kosher food for you--and you STILL get to pay outrageous ballpark prices!  (They were small, but surprisingly good!)



Future Fan t-shirt.  Of course I bought it!



Proof that Omri's really a Jewish hippie at heart.  He went a night without sleeping to make sure he'd make minyan Sunday morning in Boston, but on Monday, he got to get in touch with his inner Chassid.

Finally, some silly tourist-y pictures to round it out:

 


Conclusion: road trips are awesome, especially with an Omri.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Great NY Times article on multitasking and gadget use...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yum!

Easy recipe idea (reflecting the last 3 meals at the Levin household!).

1. Chop a TON of veggies (I have something like what you see to the right.  I use the grid one so they're teeny cubed veggies.)  Mushrooms, yellow and orange peppers, eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes... whatever is fresh and in season.

2. Night one: serve 1/3 of veggies, seasoned to your liking, on top of your favorite tomato sauce and whole wheat pasta.  Top with some yummy cheese.  (And, if you're us, dirty martinis!)

3. Night two: put the second 1/3 of veggies on the stovetop.  Add mushroom or vegetable broth.  Use an immersion blender.  Now you have soup!  Serve with some garlic bread, couscous, etc.

4.  Night three: take the final 1/3 and add to the stovetop.  Add (much less) broth.  Add a can of coconut milk and blend.  You will want to season differently because now you have a delicious curry!  Serve with whole grain brown or basmati rice.

Enjoy!  YUM!


I get inspired by veggies.  Is that wrong?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

healthy living

I just had the most therapeutic kitchen mopping experience ever. Thank Gd. I had no idea how much the kitchen floor was bothering me!!!

So Omri and I know we're in a big learning process. And it truly feels like it some days. I'm learning how to manage a house, feed our little family properly, do errands. On top of that, we're adjusting to a new community and the major lifestyle changes that that includes... especially as neither of us grew up as religious Jews. Finally, I'm learning how to teach... as I do it. Which ends up in nights like last night: 3 hours of cramming over a fifth grade history book to get my head around the differences of the 13 English colonies. Then, once I learned it, how to teach it. Then creating the materials. Thank Gd I love my job but it is not always so easy this first year.

Well, I decided to add another learning curve. Which sounds crazy, but I find that the busier I am, the better I feel. And while this running-a-house-learning-to-teach-learning-to-be-married curve is progressing nicely, it's progressing slowly. In the meantime, I'm finding other things that are lacking.

The TED video I posted yesterday reminded me that we need to really prioritize finding a social group here in town. So hopefully this Shabbat, hubby will be going to the "young" shul in Passaic and I'll follow next Shabbat. That is a good step in that direction. Oh, and an awesome young couple down the road may be coming for a meal next Shabbat as well!

But I'm also less-than-satisfied with our lifestyle, health-wise. I learned at Tisch to love body work, exercise, and healthy living. I want to get back to that. I get all starry eyed walking through Sporting Goods stores and I had a near-religious experience in the Kripalu giftshop. But that's not sufficient.
But, BH, that's fixable! So my plan is to check out this amazing looking yoga studio in nearby Clifton next Monday morning.
And the second bit is where this blog comes in. I've heard friends and professionals go crazy over amazing diet changes that I just don't know anything about. I'm not talking crash diets. But, learning about whole grains, for instance. What qualifies? What does it do to help? What are best recipes to try? Or, what's so bad about caffeine? Or sugar? I love health, and I appreciate health. But I just don't know that much.

So, IY"H, I'm going to be using this blog to track the progress and report on my findings. Whole grains may have to wait, as Passover is coming and they'd get the short end of the stick. But here's the list I definitely want to start with:

Whole grains
Caffeine
Sugar
Alcohol

What else should I add to the list?
Alternatively, ages back I bought Dr. Weil's CD 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. Maybe I should start by doing his program and use the blog-part as a supplement?
Hm... leaning towards the latter.
What do you think?

Martin Seligman on positive psychology | Video on TED.com

Martin Seligman on positive psychology Video on TED.com

A must-see!!!!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Smallest apartments in NYC...

I wish I could copy and paste in case NY Times takes this down but since I can't, here's a link to the article about Manhattan's smallest apartments.

The smallest one featured, the Hell's Kitchen abode, was my place for about half a year. I loved it. Here's the article.
And here's a video tour of the apartment.

Oh, and here's the guy from the NY Times article... and me (the day I moved out)!


Extra bounce in my step...

The more time I spend with Omri, the more I realize how much there is to be said for a simple, happy life. (Which, essentially, is why I married him. And why I named my blog "Bliss You.") Last night he convinced me to give up my fancy dinners and instead we ate (turkey) hotdogs and frozen veggies. It was simple, delicious, and most importantly FAST. It allowed me to take the time I needed to catch up on a lot of schoolwork after a week of being sick and everything falling by the wayside. And there's something about a really good hotdog that just feels like summertime and flip flops.

Speaking of, I actually WORE my flip flops yesterday! Outside! It was the most stunning day! And I have to give NJ props... if it wasn't for this harsh winter, I don't think I could have appreciated that day quite so much. My students and I were all antsy so we had a very high energy math class (laughing over fractions... good sign), a quick Social Studies review, and then a nice long recess outside in the beautiful sunshine. It was a fabulous day.

Meanwhile, VosIsNeias, a news website I often check out, seems to have caught the summer bug as well. Here are two adorable, uplifting news articles. Worth the read.

Manhattan, NY - Artist Fixing NYC with Legos -- VosIzNeias.com

Jerusalem - Oldest Man in The World Lives in Israel -- VosIzNeias.com

Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Not To Stop Intermarriage

How Not To Stop Intermarriage

Another Aish article on marriage (interesting... a theme!) with an amazing quotation from Professor Alan Dershowitz on his debate with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love, Then What?



Sarah Yocheved Rigler does it again. Another inspiring, humorous, relatable, intellectually satisfying article.

I highly recommend the read, especially to anyone in a relationship.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fluttering

I have a strange history with some southern ladies I've never met.

Don't worry, I intend to clarify.

In high school, I was very involved (understatement) in forensics. "What?" you ask, wondering what high schooler occupies herself with the examination of crime scenes.

Ohhh... not that kind of forensics. Forensics is the inexplicable moniker that's replaced "speech and debate" since "speech and debate" became "speech (3 or 4 different forms), debate (at least two forms), mock congress, and--get this, artistes--Competitive Acting." Speech and Debate just doesn't suffice.

Anyway, I did the Competitive Acting bit. Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous(ly bad) Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Prose and Poetry. In each, the student would take a book, play or screenplay and cut and paste it into a (hopefully) coherent and (when lucky) interesting 10 minute performance. My speech coach stumbled onto a dusty book called Sidetracked Home Executives. Prone to a dangerous mix of irony and nostalgia, our coach thought we should put together a mildly satirical, ultimately heartfelt DUO based on the authors: classic old-school housewives and their systems and processes to run their homes in a time when a new bundt pan could really rock your socks.

Now, at the time, I had no idea how brainwashed I was being by "progressive feminism and democracy." ...hold on, lemme just pull out the soapbox. Ok, got it....

I was raised believing that women and men were equal. That women could (and should) have the same careers and, basically, lives as men. We should approach relationships the same way (ick), work the same way (ouch), have the same interests and hold marriage and family at the same very low level as (most) men. It didn't occur to me until midway through college that this isn't actually practical. And, more upsetting, many women who were caught up in the early feminism craze have come forward stating that they feel robbed of the opportunity to have a real family.

What did feminism--the way most people understood it--do? It took all the glory out of being a woman. To say that women should work like men is to say that the way women have worked throughout history isn't noble or downright incredible. Well, it is. And now, thank Gd, most feminists are catching on that the whole POINT is to give women the CHOICE.* No, you don't HAVE to be just like a man to be fulfilled. In fact, it's pretty awesome to be a woman. And it's nice to live in a time where jobs are open and women are more respected in the workplace, but really, are men respected in the house? Have we perhaps stumbled upon a bit of a double standard here?

Househusbands of the world unite!

Ok, back to my southern friends....

So, a few years after I am performing Sidetracked Home Executives to teeny tiny audiences on the Forensics circuit, I've landed at NYU's Tisch school and I'm in on a monologue workshop with the amazing Karen Kohlhaas. She's giving her schpiel on Why Actors Need Flylady (definitely worth a read if you haven't heard this!) and so I decide to check out this website. She explains it's a home/life management "system" (sort of) mainly geared towards stay-at-home-moms but particularly crucial for the working actor. So I sign up for her emails and I've been getting them for years now.

It wasn't until a few years in that I realized (you've probably guessed by now) that Flylady IS THE SIDETRACKED HOME EXECUTIVE!!! I've become a devotee of the very woman whose entire life view I thought had gone out with avocado refrigerators! Go figure!

So, hats off to you, Flylady. The "hotspots" are getting cleaned, my "DH" is happy to be no-shirt-for-work-panic free in the mornings, and I introduced the timer to my fifth grade class.

Cheers (you know, Purim's coming!),
k



* My teacher, Devorah Kigel, gives an amazing series of classes for married and engaged women in which she pointed out the relatively recent story of a female politician who stepped down from her role to spend more time with her family. She was slammed by the feminists, totally denying her her privilege to choose how to prioritize her time!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Day 4 TV-free

Plans changed quite suddenly and I was really down last night.


Normally, this would have meant curling up to TV or a movie, which we consider "treats."


Instead, we busted out the wine glasses, poured in ginger ale (our poor-man's Moscato), and learned how to make egg rolls.


We could use more practice (namely, we spent the first 7 not realizing we hadn't torn off the sheets fully and were wrapping each roll doubly thick) and Omri valiantly tried to turn beer chicken into a Thai-style stir fry...


But one day, they'll look like this:


Most importantly, we laughed, talked, bonded, and had a much more meaningful experience than 45 minutes to 2 hours of the tube could possibly have provided.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TV-FREE!

Monday was Day 1 of our Netflix-and-Hulu-free home.
We'd already made the decision when we moved here not to have TV or cable, but we thought Netflix would be a great way to still get a movie in here or there.

But Netflix is much more clever than that. My experience was that Netflix induces this crazy-movie-watching-industriousness. There's ALWAYS a movie there. One you want to watch. And once you watch it, there's another one coming. And you have this LIST to get through, so you better start watching! So we were watching at least one, sometimes two movies a week. That's three hours a week down the drain. Not our initial intention.

So, on Sunday, we nixed Netflix and decided, for good measure, to ban Hulu from our home as well.

The results?

The whole house...

Is clean.

It's a beautiful thing, this TV free life.

We might even take up Scrabble again.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blessings



Happy Snow Day! (Good to be a teacher!)

So it's been a while since I've written anything. I was so excited to go in and teach and blog about this exciting challenge. And I'm still interested in doing so. But I'm caught over whether I'm comfortable blogging about that HERE, where, since this blog has history, I'm pretty easily identifiable. Not that I'd ever consider blogging anything to identify my students or anything like that... it's just one of those Haredi grey areas that makes me nervous.

Which pretty much points to exactly what I am trying to learn from my husband. We moved to our town with the express plan to surround ourselves with people one step--or, in most cases, many many steps--ahead of us. The thinking being, if we become complacent in our avodas Hashem we will at worst fall into peer pressure to--what? For him, to make it to minyan. For me, to up my level tzniut. It could be worse. I'd rather be uncomfortable that people would know I keep up to date on some unforgivably bad TV shows than be embarrassed not to be up on the latest fashion trends.

And I think our logic is good. But he seems to have been able to integrate that logic. Yes, he's surrounded by people who are futher ahead, but that's just the end goal. And for now, our avoda is to slowly, steadily progress towards that goal. Not to don the black hat and fool everyone, but to grow to make Hashem proud. Not the neighbors.

Ok, so that's that. Why I haven't blogged, and why this blog still doesn't have a particular slant. Maybe that will keep it boring enough that nobody will bother to stumble upon it and I have nothing to worry about :)

So. The real reason I wanted to write is that I'm finding so many parallels these days between my acting training and Judaism that I wanted to get them down on--well, not paper. To get them down. Or out.


I am, BH, very fortunate to have an amazing phone chevrusa with my old chevrusa from seminary. We are learning Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller and Sarah Yocheved Rigler's book, Battle Plans. I highly reccomend it--and I highly reccommend it in the context of chevrusa learning. Just dont' take mine.

And we reached Battle Plans #45 and 46 which both deal with the issue of "forbidden thoughts." As the authors write, "the Torah prohibits thoughts such as anger, lust, jealousy, hatred, and judgemental reflections."* So, one may ask, now we're supposed to run our thoughts with constant intention? Impossible! Here: don't think about the pink elephant. See? Their explanation of the classical responce evoked many many classes from the Atlantic Theater Company (see if any yogis are out there). In short, the battle plan is to notice you are having a "forbidden thought" and gently and nonjudgementally turn your mind to something else. Suddenly I got another of my Former-Life-Meets-Present-Life lightbulb moments: this is why I had hours and hours of this drilled in my head while in downward dog or deep breathing exercises. Notice your thoughts have strayed, don't judge, and gently turn them back to ____ (your breath, your line, your intention, etc.).

And I let my yetzer hara tell me that I can't stop thinking about the shopping list during davening? Please. I gotta use what skills I have.




Ok, so the Atlantic Theater Company revisited again today. Morning blessings. After various blessings over mitzvot and some mini-Torah study, we start into a string of brachot.

NOTE: This is in no way meant to be an explanation or scholarly understanding of the brachot. Just my thoughts to myself, and to you if they are of any assistance in real kavanah.

"Blessed are You Hashem our Gd, King of the universe, Who...." (and all sorts of things He does). I read once that Jews used to say these brachot as they got up. "Releases the bound," they start to get up, "straightens the bent," they stand up, etc. Here's what I got today...

"...Who straightens the bent."
(This is the hundred times my teachers have encouraged to take up all 5 feet 6 inches of height.)

"...Who spreads out the earth upon the waters."
(This is that crazy movement class where he could see from how I lay on the hardwood floor that I was uncomfortable taking up space--spread out, take up space he kept telling me.)

"...Who has provided me with my needs."
(Ok for some reason this evoked my most powerful AP Psych class--Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For some reason, after some rough years feeling a like I'd been out all night tossed on a wild ocean (or Manhattan, maybe worse) I take great comfort in this: Hashem is reminding me there is a steady roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. I thank Him and acknowledge this is not a given, knowing I have my foundation needs met. I can move up.)

"...Who establishes the footsteps of man."
(Here I see my mom's gentle example. Find your path. Find what you are here to be.***)

"...Who girds Israel with strength."
(Because once you know your path, you need His help to be bold enough to pursue it, no?)

"...Who crowns Israel with splendor."
(This evoked the image of those true do-gooders who hold their heads high, with such grace, already crowned. Our friend Noelle is a powerful example of this to my husband and I. Another way I see this is: once we find our path, we thank Hashem for being there to help us achieve it. And this can be for the individual or collectively as Am Yisrael.)

"...Who gives strength to the weary."
(So we can continue to change the world.)


Ok, y'all. Go get 'em! :)




*Side note: It makes me very happy to see the old MLA comma rules, with the comma before the "and." Anyone know if we're officially back to that?

**Basically the Artscroll translation.

***Another side note: My favorite explanation of the concept of Gehenom is that Hashem shows you the portrait that was drawn of you: of all the things you would do and who you would be in the world. The discrepancy between that vision and reality is our true "punishment."

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