Tips For Adulthood: Five Articles To Read Over The Holidays

December 23, 2009

Every Wednesday, I offer tips for adulthood.

A few weeks back, I posted on five unconventional gift ideas for adults. One of those ideas came from Huffington Post contributor Pavel Somov, who promoted the idea of the “inbox stuffer” as an out-of-the-box gift idea this holiday season. In an information age, he argues, it’s so much more useful (not to mention fun) to expand our loved one’s minds – rather than their cupboards – by sending them a list of our favorite readings.

In that spirit – and because I won’t be here this Friday to send you my recommended readings  – here are five things for your inbox stuffer that I think are worth reading as this year draws to a close:

1. From the London Times On Line, here’s a great review of pop culture during the so-called “naughties.”

2. If you follow British politics, this is a wonderful spoof of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in The Guardian modeled on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

3. In the realm of heartfelt, I highly recommend Anne Patchett’s moving holiday memory about her father in The Washington Post.

4. Also in the realm of “Aw, shucks” is Walter Kirn’s romantic essay in the New York Times Magazine about meeting his true love on line.

5. Finally, given that this was – at least in theory – meant to be the year that we all went Green –  check out this beautiful selection of reader’s photos of the environment from The Guardian. And if that doesn’t do it for you, then just check out these photos from the annual winter solstice celebration at Stonehenge. Kinda makes you wish you were a Druid…

I am heading off to Vienna for a holiday now and will be back blogging with you in early January.

Happy Everything!

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Image: Claire’s Christmas Stocking by Mindful One via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Religious Identity in Adulthood: Is It Who You Are Or What You Do?

December 22, 2009

Last week I posted about my ongoing struggle to forge a religious identity as an adult by borrowing from different faiths.

Today I continue that discussion of religious identity in adulthood – with a particular eye towards Jewish identity – over on PoliticsDaily.com. It’s a question directly raised in a landmark decision by Britain’s Supreme Court, which ruled last Wednesday that it was illegal for a state-funded Jewish school to base its admissions policy on whether or not the applicant’s mother was Jewish.

And so the thorny question arises that bedevils all of us who struggle with religious identity, but particularly Jews:  whether our identity is determined fundamentally by what we do or by our blood.

Have a look and be sure to weigh in…


Image: Metal Menorah by Skyco via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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The Ladies Who Lurch: Why Do Working Women Drink More Alcohol?

December 21, 2009

Well, ladies, as you reach for that holiday drink of choice — mulled wine, Christmas punch, or spiced eggnog, perhaps? — you might want to think twice. A new study in Europe shows that highly educated, professional women drink more often and more heavily than almost any other female group.

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about what the data show and why working women might be hitting the bottle especially hard…have a look.

Image: 2008 04 -12-05 Lunch at Bouchon – 13 Waiter and Table of Ladies by Bewarenerd via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

December 18, 2009

Every Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I’m not usually much for New Years Resolutions, but as an impatient and impulsive person, I quite liked this list of 7 Healthy Tips For The Impatient and Impulsive by Charlotte Hilton Andersen at the Huffington Post. I especially liked the admonition to “Call your sister!”

2. I love the concept behind Seth Godin‘s new, free e-book What Matters Now where he asks a bunch of popular bloggers to offer their thoughts on, well…what matters now.

3. If you haven’t yet seen this, it’s worth reading blogger James Chartrand – of Men with Pens fame – come out as a woman and explain why she chose to write as a man.

4. And speaking of lady writers, I was saddened to hear that the NYT.com columnist Judith Warner would be ending her blog Domestic Disturbances, which has frequently given me food for thought on this blog. Read her farewell column here.

5. If you’ve ever sat through a children’s Nativity Play, you’ll laugh out loud with recognition at this account by the (London) Times On Line’s Caitlin Moran. Equally engrossing are these depictions of the Nativity story by various modern artists at The Guardian.

6. Finally, for those who are interested, here are my pieces in PoliticsDaily.com this week:  one on the feasibility of high speed rail in the U.S. and another on how British Courts nearly arrested a former Israeli official on charges of war crimes.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Board Games (Still) Worth Playing

December 16, 2009

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

This year, for reasons that elude me – nostalgia for my own childhood? getting fed up with video games? – I decided to give my kids a bunch of board games for Hanukkah. And, as the story goes, I’m enjoying them more than they are.

If you’re in the same boat – or have simply forgotten how much fun board games can be – here are five that are worth your while:

1. Monopoly – Yes, it’s nothing more than unadulterated, crass capitalism. And why – in this day and age – would we want to teach our children that? But it’s loads of fun. And particularly for a child who has outgrown Chutes/Snakes and Ladders but isn’t quite ready for the strategy entailed in something like Risk, it’s a great introduction to what a real board game is, replete as it is with choices, consequences and a fun, colorful board. Best of all: kids love it and will happily play for hours.

2. Scrabble – OK, this is another old chestnut. But once your kids have a decent-sized vocabulary, it gets no better than this. I hadn’t played Scrabble in years, but when some friends showed up this summer, we played in teams (with our kids) and stayed up half the night. Plus, a great excuse to use the word poi. (I know I’m always looking for one.)

3. Scrambled States of America – On to the more obscure. Someone gave my son this game as a birthday present a few years back and I filed it under “random.” But then we opened the box and we’ve been playing ever since. It’s basically a really fun way to learn both the geography of the American states, as well as their capitols and nicknames. (Quick Test: What’s the nickname for Nebraska? Answer: The Cornhusker State. See! Aren’t you glad I reminded you?) Perfect for the 7-9 crowd.

4. Once Upon A Time – My mother gave us this one, so I knew it would be a gem. If you have a child who likes telling stories, this is a must. You hand each player 10 cards and they have to come up with a story that links the different people, places and events on their cards. But the other players can interrupt the story – based on their own cards – and take it in an entirely new direction, which you then riff off of when you interrupt them. Together, you jointly make your way to an ending. It’s loads of good, old-fashioned fun. (Remember that?)

5. Settlers of Catan – I can’t say much about this game yet – which we just bought for my about-to-be 9 year old son – other than to note that one of my husband’s colleagues said it was – and I quote – the best game “ever.” Based on this write up in Wired Magazine, I think I’d have to agree. The story behind the game’s invention (as told in Wired) was enough to make me buy it on the spot. Plus, it’s German. So it has to be good, right?

Happy Holidays!

Image: Come quando fiore piove by Auro via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Religion-Hopping In Adulthood: A Tale Of Guilt and Gelt

December 14, 2009

According to a new poll taken by the Pew Forum, Americans are mixing faiths more than ever before. Many attend worship services of more than one denomination, and many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation and astrology. This follows on an earlier survey showing that Americans also change religion in adulthood with increasing regularity.

To which I say:  guilty as charged. We celebrate Hanukkah in our household and Christmas at my Mother’s. Yesterday, I went to a Hanukkah party and sang along (semi-credibly) as the candles were lit; next weekend, I’ll be singing Christmas carols in Belsize Square.

I’ve tried to resist this whole wishy-washy, neither-fish-nor-fowl approach to religion (and we all know what Jesus would prefer). Like Kristen over on Motherese, I’m also a once-religious Catholic now married to a Jew. I, too,  feel badly as I confront the inevitable December Dilemma which plagues all couples choosing a religious path for their mixed families. I worry that my kids aren’t getting the sort of firm anchoring in tradition, identity and beliefs that I had growing up.

But despite all the guilt and accompanying feelings that I *should* “figure out religion” or join a synagogue, somehow those never quite manage to make their way up the ladder of my to-do list.

And so, in the spirit of “eliminating the shoulds,” this year I’m trying to accept that for now – at least – I’m a sampler of religions, not a practitioner. I am, in fact, that dreaded “consumer of religion” which one religious studies scholar bemoaned in the Wall Street Journal. And I’m trying to embrace my dabbling tendencies where religion is concerned, and enjoy them, rather than feeling guilty.

After all, my kids seem totally comfortable with their faux-Jewish identities. They have no concept of the fact that because I’m not Jewish, they really aren’t either. They are proud to call themselves Jews, and to celebrate Christmas in a sort of ad-hoc way. As for me, for the first time in many years, I find myself actually wanting to go listen to some religious Christian music this holiday season (something I was dragged to on many an occasion in my youth.) So when I saw a sign at the local (Anglican) parish for a Festival of Lessons and Carols, I thought:  Why not?

So guilt, shmilt.

And speaking of which, my favorite holiday story this season comes from a (non-Jewish) friend of mine whose 4 year-old daughter was so eager to celebrate Hanukkah that she instructed her mother to rush out and buy some “guilt.” (She meant gelt.) To which my friend was tempted to reply “Oh, honey, I think we have enough guilt in the house already…don’t you?”

And how.


Image: Nes gadol hayah sham by techne via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

December 11, 2009

This Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. You may be Tigered out, but of all the volumes of things I’ve read on Tiger Woods in the last two weeks, this piece by Jay Michaelson about our (absurd) cultural attachment to the ideal of monogamy struck me as the most intelligent. (And I say this as someone who encourages the practice.)

2. Regardless of where you fall on the abortion issue, this is one of the most compelling interviews I’ve ever heard on any topic in my entire life. It’s an interview on BBC Radio 4’s program The Choice with Dr. Warren Hern, the only doctor who still provides late-term abortions in America.

3. I really enjoyed this in-real-time description of what it’s like to write with small children around by Stephanie McGee in Literary Mama.

4. And speaking of literary mamas, my new favorite Mom blog is Motherese. Kristen has a wonderfully fresh and honest voice and I admire her dedication.

5. I was sad to learn about the death of the book tour (via @gretchenrubin).

6. Finally, for those who are interested, here are my posts this week from PoliticsDaily.com, one on challenges to the restrictive abortion law in Ireland, and another on a prostitute turned PhD called Belle de Jour.

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