Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My favorite season is fall. I love crunching the leaves as I walk down the street. No coincidence we got married last year on the first day of fall. You can imagine then that my first fall season in Los Angeles has got me feeling unusual. I am so used to wearing sweaters/jackets at night by the end of September and planning my fall wardrobe. Here it is 85 degrees and probably wont cool down until December. Despite loving the warm weather, I have been craving the feelings of opportunity, change and fresh starts which the cool breezes of fall bring.

So how can I still capture the momentum of seasonal change without experiencing a dip in the weather - especially since cooking fall foods such as root vegetables will only get me so far!?

I believe the cosmic purpose for seasonal change is to provide a physical manifestation, as a reminder to human beings, that the world never stays the same and time is of the essence. Just as each person physically ages to remind us of the shortness of life, through wrinkles and graying hair -- so too, the leaves fall and ice forms to highlight that as much as year after year things might not seem to change much...we are always progressing in the cycle of life.

Even though I might not have any leaves to crunch - I do realize that the point of fall is still resonating with me. We might not have a choice regarding life moving forward and time passing, but we do have free will over how we spend our time. This fall, I hope to be ahead of where I was last fall, and even when I feel a little behind...I hope the sunshine in LA will get me moving forward again.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven
-Ecclesiastes 3:1

(Image above is: Crunching leaves as a pheasant walks past me - by David Parfitt)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Generosity. It is a term that is frequently used in the contexts of monetary giving, emotional attention and the allocation of time. I was wondering, considering the challenging economy, if people's generosity in all contexts has been suspended or expanded?

I have heard stories of people who still are driving luxury cars but feel the need to cut back on their charitable contributions. No question charities are getting hit hard overall...but how can we encourage generosity despite the national tone of fiscal conservation?

Here are a few suggestions of how we can continue to be generous on many levels despite the difficult times we are in...

1. A close friend bought me a birthday present a few years ago and it was one of the best presents I have ever received. It was a "gift certificate" of sorts to the website which provides micro finance loans to primarily women of developing nations. The loans are paid back over time by those granted the funds, and the money is mostly used to help these women start small business. It is amazing how twenty American dollars can go so far to improve the life of a whole family somewhere else in the world. Each donor or recipient of a gift certificate can search through profiles on the Kiva website and decide who they would like to lend their money to. The next time you're thinking of a hostess gift, or a birthday present for a friend...give them the gift of generosity and send them a gift certificate from Kiva.

2. If you know of a woman who just gave birth, a person who has lost their parent recently...or even just a neighbor who has been going through a hard time lately, make them a soup, or roast them a chicken and drop it off at their home...

3. Generosity of time can often be more powerful than money. Volunteer to tutor a child at a local community center or even just call an old friend and lend them an year for more then a quick few minutes. Although alone time is important in the busy world we live, often we get more re-charged from feeling that we step outside of our own selves, then we ever could from relaxing in front of a movie.

Do you have any suggestions of how to encourage generosity, in any form, during these times?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Love and Work Don't Mix

Dear Danielle,

My boss is 5 years older than me and we are both single. He is usually very professional, however on occasion he will make flirty comments to me like, "let's just run away from the craziness here and sail to a tropical island." I find him adorable and have been wondering for months now if he feels the same for me. I love my job and considering the recession, I would never want to compromise it. Should I tell my boss I have the hots for him or just wait and see if he makes a move? And if he does show interest in me, should I re-buff him to avoid the complications of an affair with a superior?


"In Love With My Boss"

Dear "In Love With My Boss,"

Aside from a few slightly flirty comments you have no reason to believe your boss has any interest in a relationship with you. It would be a huge mistake to tell your boss you are interested in him, unless you're fully prepared to leave your job if it becomes too uncomfortable to work there. Until he proposes marriage to you - or something close to that - don't sacrifice the career you have worked hard for on a pipe dream. Sounds like your fantasy about your boss has gotten out of control. Women are often attracted to men in a position of authority/power... but don't confuse that with true requited love.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

My Secret Obsession

Foodies seem to be in abundance these days - everywhere I go I meet people who cure their own meats, make their own cheeses, or just dine in the best bistros rather than cook themselves. I love eating creative and tasty food and watch top chef every week religiously, so I guess I am one too. I have a confession though...I might love grocery shopping as much or more than cooking or even eating.

Ever since I was a toddler I have thoroughly enjoyed super markets. Other people find them stressful, but for me, nothing is better then perusing the aisles of Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. As a two year old, I would go grocery shopping with my parents. I would sit in the cart and hold the shopping list. Prior to us reaching the grocery store, one of my parents would read off to me what ingredients we were looking for on that shopping trip. I would memorize the list. In the market I would pronounce out loud the shopping list and other shoppers thought I was brilliant to be such a young child reading a list. In truth, I couldn't read yet - I just loved food so much I had learned the list by heart.

As a young kid. when coupons would come in the mail I would love to sort through them, calling out "coups, coups!" in excitement. But although I have sought out good food deals my whole life, the grocery store is probably the one arena I still let myself splurge in. Once in awhile if I see an exotic looking cheese, or an expensive bottle of balsamic vinegar - I buy it. I believe if we put healthy and quality ingredients inside of us we will feel better and live better.

SO why am I telling you about my obsession with grocery shopping? Because I would like to hear from you, what aspect of daily life do you secretly (or publicly) adore doing? Could be the excitement of opening your mailbox and collecting the mail, mowing your lawn, ironing clothes, handy work around the house...whatever it is...share with us what about these typical occurrences you find enjoyable.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Cry Over...

This morning, I spilled milk. I was pouring milk into my cereal bowl and I missed, and the milk went all over my hardwood kitchen floors. I heard the phrase "don't cry over spilled milk" echoing in my head, and therefore I stayed calm and mopped it up before rushing to work.

A few readers have written in to ask which techniques are useful in staying calm in ordinary annoying situations, ie. car runs low on gas when you're in a rush somewhere, garbage bag breaks and trash spills out on your living room floor, your babysitter doesn't show up on time and you might be late for work, etc...

I have sometimes fallen into the trap of letting the unexpected happenings of everyday life frustrate me, and have come up with the following list of strategies to alleviate the stress of annoying situations:

1. Keep in mind that most of life we have little control over. Whether you think of it as God, fate, destiny, or luck...most of the occurrences we face in our life are beyond our control. Annoyances and unplanned events are a given - so why spend so much time upset over something you can't avoid?

2. When confronting a situation that makes you want to scream inside, even for a brief second - remember that it will be easier to get through it, the calmer you are. Young children often cry and scream when something doesn't go there way, because they have yet to learn that the time and energy they spent in a tantrum could have been used to rectify the situation. Although, expressing emotion is often a healthy action, it is not necessarily always productive.

3. Some people get upset and can't get themselves out of a funk for the rest of the day. Learn to recognize when something goes wrong, and do not dwell in your state of disappointment.

People who can bring themselves up out of unexpected and disappointing situations and bounce back quickly are the ones who succeed most in the world. Not only should you not cry over spilled milk, but you should clean it up quickly and move on with your life...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Life is short. Don't have an affair.

Did you know that there is an online dating service to help married people find lovers for extra-marital affairs? It is called Ashley Madison and it's slogan is: "Beat bedroom is short. have an affair." I was not shocked when I heard of the popularity of this site, but I was sad. As a strong believer in the 10 commandments, I often am perplexed at how paramount social justice/moral values such as "thou shall not steal" and "thou shall not commit adultery" are so easily discarded in our society. A person need not be religious to see how avoiding envy and not murdering (along with the other laws espoused by the 10 commandments) can make our communities safer and ultimately happier. So why have we so easily given up on striving for these ideals?

Yes, the bedroom of a married couple can sometimes feel boring. But is that an excuse for adultery? And what disturbs me most is the correlation that Ashley Madison makes between the concept that "life is short" and adultery. If life is short shouldn't we live the best life we can? If life is short shouldn't we try our hardest to make our marriage the happiest and strongest it can be, rather than creating mistrust and dishonesty?

Judaism acknowledges that sex can become boring, and creates many provisions in terms of when sex is permissible with the goal of creating desire for married couples. Whether you can relate to religious law that deals with sex, or not, it raises the question:

Maybe our society is so over-sexed that we erroneously think we need multiple partners to be satisfied when really we need to encourage more "wanting" amongst spouses?

What do you think of Ashley Madison, and the prevalence of extra-marital affairs in our society...

Monday, September 21, 2009

A recent story on discusses the downsides of the "marital bed." The article quotes many sleep specialists who say that sleeping with one's spouse can cause sleep disturbances, which are bad for peoples health. According to the article, only since the Industrial Revolution did couples share a bed to sleep. Prior to that time, couples would make love in a bed together but sleep separately elsewhere.

Last night my husbands pager went off multiple times. He ended up getting called in to the hospital at 3am, and I tossed and turned most of the night but didn't really sleep. Even on a good night, when we aren't woken up by his pager, the alarm goes off at 5am for the start of his day. I am not complaining though, because even with all the sleep disturbances we experience as a couple - I would never give up our "marital bed."

There is something so comforting about falling asleep next to the person you love. Some nights we sleep very closely to each other, other nights we spread...regardless, we always know the other is only an arm length away. I don't care what any sleep specialist says - the emotional benefits of my husband and I sleeping together are health reasons enough to stay just where we are.

Today's Advice is: Make the most out of your sleep time. A majority of our life is spent sleeping, so think about how you fall asleep with your spouse. Maybe more cuddling would do you good? Maybe wearing something cute to bed? Or even, making your spouse some tea and bringing it to him/her in bed at the end of the day? And if you are single, how can your sleep time be made more relaxing? fulfilling? Maybe reading poetry before bed will make you forget about the ills of the day and I believe a good pair of soft sheets are just the trick to sleeping like a baby... Whatever you do, uplift the everyday of life.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Self reflection is often painful. It isn't easy to look inside and acknowledge our faults, fears and misdeeds. That's exactly what Jews do this time of the year though, as the High Holidays and a New Year approaches. The principal of annual self reflection is universal and should be incorporated into every persons life - regardless of religion. Many people either consciously or unconsciously, express their personal frustrations in treating those around them poorly. Often, we treat the ones we love worse because we know (or hope) that they unconditionally love us. I have always been aware of this and therefore try very hard not to allow stress to undermine the relationships I have with my loved ones - relationships which should ideally help alleviate tension and bring serenity.

In the spirit of the new year, here are my suggestions for dealing with stress and not letting it domino into conflicts with those closest to you...

1. Don't keep feelings inside. Likely, they wont be able to stay bottled up for long and you will end up expressing them in less than ideal ways. Many people like coming accross as together or positive all of the time. Sometimes it is ok to confide in a friend that you're just not fully holding it together at that moment. If we all stopped trying to look perfect we might relax and be more empathetic towards each other. If emotions are expressed in a positive way than they wont come to bite you in the ____.

2. Often when people feel critical of themselves (ie. are disappointed in something they have done or a missed opportunity) they in turn act critically of those around them. This form of avoidance is very detrimental to relationships and can be avoided by keeping a "disappointment journal". A lot of people write journals of their days events but a "disappointment journal" serves a unique purpose. Keep it digitally on your laptop or even iphone so it is accessible. Anytime you feel inadequate or frustrated with yourself, record it. For example, if you keep getting overlooked for a promotion and it is weighing heavily on you, (even though likely the reason for you not getting the promotion could have more to do with your companies circumstances than your preformance...) write down your feelings in the disappointment journal. This will allow you to reflect on your frustrations instead of letting them build inside. After you write your disappointment down, brainstorm a method to address it. For instance, many people might stew about being overlooked for a promotion, but not consider actually going to speak to their boss directly about it. Constructive thinking will help you move forward from your negative thoughts and by expressing them you will less likely take our your self-criticism on those you love.

3. Seek a cognitive behavioral therapist who helps you modify your thoughts from negative to positive and then into positive action. many close friends of mine go to therapy, unfortunately some of my friends who would benefit from therapy the most do not seek it out because they are afraid of what they will discover when they start looking within. It doesn't have to be a forever thing, but a few months can go along way in teaching skills that will help you cope with life in a more effective manner. Some of my friends who I have encouraged to go to therapy use two primary excuses for not going. One, that it is expensive. Two, that they have never found a therapist they liked. My response to that is - if one is a student there are many free therapy options, and if not, most cities offer institutes that have very discounted therapy options with fabulous therapists. In regards to finding a therapist you get along with, it might take trying a few until you find a good fit, but that shouldn't discourage you. Do you marry the first guy you date? No, so you shouldn't necessarily commit to the first therapist you meet. Stop fearing life improvement, and go after it.

I would love to hear from you if you have any other suggestions on not letting stress negatively impact relationships...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Love Don't Cost A Thing

When we got engaged, my husband planned and executed a very elaborate proposal.
I wont go into the details but let's just say - it involved a helicopter, lunch on the beach of the
Mediterranean sea, cable cars and mountain tops. Plus a photographer and videographer. It was special and utterly romantic. However, as our one year wedding anniversary approaches I made something very clear to my husband. I don't want him to spend money on our celebration. The recession has forced me to remember that the blessing involved with being in love, is that a couple could literally be doing nothing with each other, not spending a penny - yet have the time of their lives. We have plenty of anniversaries to come (God willing), to travel and buy each other gifts. This year I want us to go for a walk on the beach and make a picnic. Or ride bikes. Or play tennis. Perhaps we'll cook dinner together. It doesn't really matter what we do. What matters is that we're grateful of the fact that whatever we do, we are doing it as a unit. We have an opportunity to grow as human beings as a result of the economic hardships we are facing.

Today's advice is the following; start finding pleasure in an act or experience that has become mundane to you. Whether it is reading your child a bedtime story, taking a bubble bath, baking a pie, weeding your garden or falling asleep with your spouse with your toes touching.

Simplicity is the new black.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dear Danielle,

I joined an organized sports team and met a great guy. We flirted the entire game, he bought me drinks and then he walked me home....50 blocks! Not only is he smart, cute, charming, genuine, and funny, he is also not Jewish ("NJ"). I grew up in a modern orthodox home and have always dated guys with the same background, although I am less observant then I used to be. As I get older, I find it hard to meet guys with the qualities described above. I've gone out with a "NJ" twice since we met and realize how sincere and sweet he is more each time -but deep down I know I can't be with him. I definitely don't know him well yet, but I find it hard to just stop seeing him because of religion. It may eventually sizzle since being Jewish is so important to me and I value my religion and want to be a part of a Jewish community when I'm married...but for know, I really like him. What to do????


"Is he a catch or should I let go?"

Dear "Is he a catch or should I let go?"

Let go. It will only get harder the more you get attached to him. Unless he tells you he has an interest in a serious commitment AND an interest in learning about Judaism/ possibly converting, then don't put yourself in a situation where you will fall hard for someone and be later disappointed. He might be cute, smart and funny but common background and family/community life are essential to a long term successful relationship. Go join a Jewish sports team.
Dear Danielle,

I like getting places on time. I think it is better to get somewhere 5 minutes early than 15 minutes late. My boyfriend takes longer to get ready to go out than I do, and whenever we go to a party or social gathering together we end up arriving late. It makes me really nervous and the whole process of going out becomes stressful. How can I convince my boyfriend to stop doing his hair and leave on time?

"On Time - All the Time"

Dear "On Time - All the Time",

Being on time for your sisters wedding is critical, being on time for work is important...but being exactly on time for a party is not. Relax a little. Unless your boyfriend is making you show up 45 minutes or more late, stop nagging him. Read a book or catch up on email while you are waiting for him, or even better pour yourself a cocktail. Life is too short to get caught up in something so unimportant. I bet, once you stop nagging he might even get ready quicker...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dear Danielle,

My wife and I have a beautiful 8 month old baby girl. I love being a dad, and am so proud of my family. However, before we had a child my wife and I would go out all the time for dinner, to movies and out for drinks with friends. Since our daughter was born my wife feels guilty about leaving her with a babysitter and our social life is dead. Sometimes we have friends over here, but what I really want is to start having date nights again. Ideally, I'd like to go out two nights a week. How do I convince my wife that we still can be good parents while taking time for our selves?


"Dad but not Socially Dead"

Dear "Dad but not Socially Dead,"

Take this situation into your own hands. Arrange a babysitter without telling your wife. Before the babysitter shows up, present your wife with a new dress you bought her (or choose one you like from her closet) and tell her to get dressed because you have a surprised planned. Take her somewhere special to remind her what fun you used to have on date nights. Kiss her like she is your girlfriend, not your wife. Maybe even present her with a little piece of jewlery at the dinner table. I promise you she will soon forget why she was dreading going out, and she will be begging you to take her out more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dear Danielle,

I've been dating a really great guy for the last 6 weeks. We enjoy each other's company, are comfortable around each other, etc. One issue that I'm having is that he has never once complimented me ... and when I ask him why, he merely says that it's not something he was raised doing and it's going to take time for him. I recognize that while it's still new, it has been 6 weeks. I even noticed one evening as we were heading out on a date that he was 'checking me out' and when I asked him what he was thinking, he said he wouldn't tell me. I compliment him and try to make him feel good; how do I get him to come out of his shell and do the same for me?

"Tell me you like me"

Dear "Tell me you like me,"

I am not concerned with his lack of compliments, as long as he is affectionate and warm with you. Unfortunately, a guy who can't compliment a girl he is dating might also be the kind of guy that cannot open up emotionally or be loving. If you have been dating for 6 weeks and he hasn't told you how he feels about you, for example, "I am so happy we met and that I am getting to know you" or, "I have been really enjoying our time together and find you funny, or interesting, (or whatever)" then it would seem as if he is a very closed person who has some issues with emotional intimacy.

Possibly he didn't get much affection or positive reinforcement when he was growing up. Have you asked him why he isn't comfortable complimenting you? If he'll talk openly about his hesitations or his upbringing, and you don't find anything else in the relationship problematic - then I would give him more of a chance to open up. Maybe he doesn't have the tools to compliment you, so offer him an idea of what you are looking for in terms of positive reinforcement. However, if he isn't even open to letting you in a bit to understand his rationale then I wouldn't waste your time trying to change this guy.

I have a friend whose dad has never said I love you to his wife (her mother). This man grew up in a communist country and was raised very closed. Despite that, he is a loyal and devoted husband. His wife could obviously overlook the fact he was not affectionate or loving. However, you seem like a woman who needs some doting - so make sure the guy you are dating can give you what you need, even if it takes some time.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Moodiness Is Infectious

Dear Danielle,

My girlfriend and I are both moody people. We're in good moods most of the time, but both she and I "downshift" into darker moods. We end up bringing the other one down. I wondered if you thought it's best to try to "manage" those times when your partner "downshifts" -- like, wait the bad moods out (and they can last a day or two, sometimes). Or, should both she and I learn to manage our own moods for the sake of the other one?

"Black and Blue in Timbuktu"

Dear "Black and Blue in Timbuktu,"

It can be incredibly draining to continually anticipate and be on guard for the bad moods of one's partner, and conversely, it is stressful and unproductive for you to frequently fall into "darker moods"of your own. Not only do I think that you and your partner should learn how to manage your own moods, but I actually think it can be very detrimental to create a relationship which revolves around each of you avoiding each other when bad moods arise. That's living in a constant state of negativity. The real question is why you and her tend to get into bad moods that can last for days at a time? It is one thing to be annoyed once in awhile and need a few hours to blow off steam. Moods lasting days are not healthy or normal if they occur frequently. I suggest you seek out a therapist to help you understand why you are falling into a cycle of moodiness that spreads between the two of you like an infection. Stop bringing each other down and work together to enhance both of your existences. If there is not a mutual consensus to get help, then I would get help for yourself alone. This might cause a distance in your relationship as you progress, and she may still be in her old moody ways. This will be the true test to the strength of your relationship - can you succeed as a unit in improving your life? If not, find someone else who bring positivity into your life.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dear Danielle,

I have been dating a guy for around 3 months, and in August he invited me to go away with him to a spa in a nearby beach town for the weekend. He planned the trip, including the restaurants we went to and the spa treatments we received. My boyfriend eagerly payed for everything the whole weekend, which I thought was expected as he had invited me on the trip and coordinated it. However, about a week after we returned home, he mentioned to me casually that I owed him $415, for half of the trip costs. I was shocked but I held it inside and told him I would pay him back. I could not believe that after inviting me on a trip and planning and paying for it only afterwards he asked me to contribute. He has a stable job (although he is not swimming in money), and I am a graduate student on a tight budget. I never would have agreed to go away thinking I would be paying that much. I even bought him an expensive cashmere sweater after the trip as a "thank you gift" thinking that he had treated me! Am I off base to be furious?


"Dating a Cheapskate"

Dear "Dating a Cheapskate,"

You are not off base at all, in fact I think you should mail him a check for your share and then break up with him. He is obviously not a considerate or generous person. If he intended to have you contribute to the costs of the trip he should have discussed this with you before you went away. If asking you to pitch in was an after thought for him, then he should have known better than to ask a woman for money that he is in a relationship with AFTER he took her away on a romantic weekend. Something is off with him and I would stay far away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sense When It Comes To Your Cents

I have received many questions regarding the financial arrangements of married couples. Specifically, coordination of bill paying, pluses/minuses of joint bank accounts, and how to reconcile differences of opinion on investing and saving. The manner in which a couple facilitates their finances says a lot about their relationship.

I am a firm believer in the unification of finances when a couple gets married, at least in terms of the income made from the time of the wedding forward. I also think that both partners, regardless of who is sending in the bill payments, should monthly review all bank and credit card statements. In addition, if a couple has a strict budget, any major purchases must be run by the other partner first. This may seem obvious to many people, however arguments in relation to finances are the most common marital disagreements and simple steps like this can remove any added friction.

BEFORE a couple gets married they must establish how they like to spend money. For one person a spending priority might be travel, or for another it may be art and decor for the home. Other people love eating out and gourmet ingredients while someone else might drive an expensive car. It might not seem like it matters when you're dating, but its a must before marriage to decide on spending priorities. Two people don't need to have the same spending priorities to be together, but they must respect the other partners thought process and agree on an overall spending mentality.

Here are some good questions to ask to get to know your partner's financial disposition:

1. How much money is necessary for you to have in your checking account at one time (ie. liquid funds that are easily accessible) to feel secure? This is an important question because some people feel more comfortable living month to month in terms of cash flow, and other feel safer having more money in a reserve.

2. What leisure activities are your top priority in terms of spending? For some it will be a gym membership, others it will be skiing in the winter or going to movies. While it shouldn't matter exactly each partner wants to spend money on its important to know what is most important to each other.

3. What type short term and long term financial goals do you have and what is your ideal time frame? For example, buying a home within the next 5 years, retiring at 50, paying off student loans or getting out of credit card debt as soon as possible. This type of discussion allows critical financial details to be discussed in a constructive way. You'd be surprised at how many couples get engaged without knowing their partner has debt and/or certain financial expectations that have never been expressed before.

Overall, always remember:

It is a lot easier to slowly gain more and more materially, than to live lavishly and lose it using sense with your cents now can payoff in the future...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Living My Own Version Of 90210

It rarely happens that my husband and I have a morning to lounge in bed. He is up before dawn usually, even on weekends, and so it is a luxury for us to sleep in. After waking up on our "sleep in" days, we usually talk for awhile in bed - sometimes about important matters but often just joking and recalling favorite memories. This past Sunday, as I lay in bed looking out with my eyes in a glaze my husband asked me what I was thinking about. I answered quickly - the upcoming premieres of the Fall TV season.

That was the last thing he expected me to say and we laughed. But it is true. I cannot wait for the TV season to start again. Maybe it is because I am home a lot alone and find it more interesting to eat dinner while watching quality (or trashy) TV than sitting in silence. More likely though, it is because Melrose Place is coming back on the air.

When I was a kid shows like Saved by the Bell, then Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place introduced me to what I thought high school, college and the 20-something years would be like. School dances, weekend parties at the beach, trendy clothing and lots of romantic drama. I was convinced at 13 that one day I would meet my own Dylan and have a cute little apartment just like on Melrose.

When I eventually left home and my college years came, I did not own a TV. I went from being an avid TV watcher to being clued out about pop culture symbols of youth. I was too busy living my own young adult experience to care what TV producers concocted to resemble youth drama. I was living in the moment and having the time of my life, while going through ups and downs of love, friendships and career pursuits.

Moving to New York for grad school and living in a penthouse apartment with five girls, marked the first time in five years I had a TV. With the invention of DVR, I didn't have to choose between having an active social life in New York and involving myself in TV land. I had the best of both worlds. Shows like Gossip Girl became a favorite of mine, and I found myself yet again absorbed in the world of "coming of age" TV. I started to wonder, why was a twenty something, who had already been through the drama of a first kiss and the pressures of college acceptance still so mesmerized by TV plots and characters that depict growing-up? It was one thing to be fascinated by the friendship of Donna Martin and Kelly Taylor when I was twelve years old, dreaming of the social life of a full fledged teenager - but why now at this stage in my life?

I realized that when I was younger I enjoyed these TV shows because they allowed me to dream and imagine what excitement my future life could hold. However, I am tuned to teenager/20-something drama today because it allows me to re-visit my expectations of young adulthood and the myths and surprises which have unfolded in my real experiences. I may have never become prom queen or found my ideal job right out of college, but real life has turned out even brighter, richer and more engaging than I could have ever imagined from watching Melrose Place as a child. So why am I so excited for the premiere of Melrose Place? Because fantasies of young adulthood allow me to think about my own experiences in a unique way - not as a child yearning to grow up, but as an adult who is grateful to be living my young years to fullest and for marrying a man who I know will always keep me young in spirit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What have you been thinking but haven't shared it with anyone?
Share it with me and I'll offer you some words of advice...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Overdose on Happiness Talk

A friend gave me the book The Geography of Bliss which follows author Eric Weiner's travels around the globe in search of the happiest societies. I had planned on posting on this blog a series of entries regarding the pursuit of happiness based on my thoughts after reading the book.
That was until yesterday, when I was reading my Kindle (it is an electronic book produced by Amazon that is fabulous) and in addition to being able to access books and magazines, thousands of blogs are featured. As I browsed through the list of blogs I was astounded by how many focused on happiness. It almost sickened me. I decided not to become just another one of those people who purports that happiness can be achieved by doing a, b or c. Each human being is different and it is up to the individual alone to determine their path to happiness. Has our culture turned away from striving for morality (being good people) and turned towards an obsession of seeking pleasure and happiness? There is nothing wrong with striving for joy, but why all the happiness talk?

On my 6th birthday, January 17th 1990, it was the Gulf War and scuds were falling on Israel. I remember coming home from school and seeing my mom listening to news radio in our kitchen. Tears were rolling down her face. At first I was stunned and insulted. How could my mom be crying on my birthday? Today was supposed to be a happy day. Just a moment later I got it. Although my mother has always loved me very much, some world issues/interests are bigger then our individual lives. Personal happiness in a moment must always be met with the understanding that we aren't individuals but members of a community and essential chains in a cultural legacy. Fulfilling our role as human beings in a broader society is just as important as personal fulfillment.

So keep in mind, while the pursuit of happiness is crucial....individual happiness blooms when we contribute to the common good...

My advice for today: feel the pain of another person, and reach out and help them - it will bring more inner happiness then you can imagine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Divorce is not Genetic

Dear Danielle,

I am engaged to a man who has a family history of marital dysfunction including his parents nasty divorce. My fiancee has always been stable and healthy. However, everyone around him can't seem to stay married, and the ones that stay married aren't living the type of happy lives we envision for ourselves. I am scared there is some kind of family curse when it comes to relationships. My fiancee says I am crazy, that he is not like his family but should I be concerned?

"Dreading Divorce"

Dear "Dreading Divorce",

The first step to not repeating unhealthy family patterns is acknowledging them. If your fiancee is aware of the faults in the relationship approaches of his family members, then I would not be concerned. Instead of merely telling him you are scared, point out some of the values you believe are important to successful marriages and make sure you are both on the same page. If you share quality communicating and common goals you will be fine. Sometimes the apple DOES fall far from the tree.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

no to fast food and fast eating

Cooking is my sedative. I find making sauces, chopping vegetables and marinating meat very relaxing. I can use my hands to produce something creative and tasty, while my mind is free to ponder life.

Yesterday I made my husband's favorite meal. Meatballs made with ground turkey breast, stewed in a tomato spinach basil sauce served over pappardelle pasta. I would provide you with the recipe, however, I don't actually use recipes. I do it differently every time. Sometimes I add mustard to the meatballs. Often I add sugar to sweeten the sauce. It changes depending on my mood. I don't really bake because what I love about cooking is that it is open to interpretation. Art - if executed correctly - can be at its height when paintings are most abstract. Similarly, when cooking, the most unique and flavorful dishes are created when experimentation and innovation are channeled. A painter will rarely be able to paint the exact same work twice, not because of a lacking of talent - but because art often reflects a moment, and no two moments are alike. So too with cooking, no two dishes are alike because they absorb the weather, mood of the chef, and quality of the ingredients.

I could pontificate on the symbolism of gourmet food for hours and hours...but my advice for today is the following:
Take the time to sit down and have a real meal at least 3 out of 7 nights of the week. This used to be done in our parents and grandparents generation. A real meal should be nutritious and delicious, and accompanied by a before-dinner cocktail or a glass of wine while you eat. You must eat with a loved one, whether it be a friend, boyfriend or spouse and kids. Dinner cannot be rushed. Conversation should interesting, so read the newspaper earlier in the day or the Huffington Post and keep in mind a subject matter you have an opinion on that you would like to express. Don't leave the table in less than 45 minutes from the time the food is served. This is a recipe for truly connecting to those closest to you, and enjoying what it means to dine the old fashioned way. I guess I do give out recipes after all...

Try this at home and let me know how it uplifts your once average weeknight dinners, or if you dine like this currently, share with me how it has added to your life.