Moral Support

Jennifer Frances Armstrong writes:

If I try to think back to my own situation of needing others’ help, which was a very long time ago, the one element I was always craving — but never actually got — was simple moral support. The one form of academic training that just about undid me in terms of effectively combating any form of abuse was philosophical idealism, which was taught very strongly as a form of moral solipsism that we were all obliged to embrace in order to be properly intellectually trained and psychologically well-adjusted.

I think the issue of moral support is very interesting, so I wanted to discuss it here. I’m very fortunate in having a person who will always provide unwavering support and understanding for me in any situation. That person is my sister. I know that no matter what situation I find myself in, I can share it with her and she will say, “I love you and I’m always 100% on your side, and nothing will change that. You know this, right?” And after that she will offer a very direct and honest opinion about the situation, without mincing words and trying to dance around the issue. If she thinks I’m being a blathering fool, she will inform me about that in great detail and provide many thought-out arguments in support of that opinion. Then, we will talk about the situation for as long as I need and as many times as I need until I find a solution.

It is really great to have somebody who will always tell you their honest opinion and will discuss anything that bothers you at great length.

Many people, however, have a completely misguided understanding of moral support. They think it consists of pandering to your self-esteem with facile asseverations as to how you are right about everything and things will be great with no effort on your part.

Recently, for example, I shared with somebody that I thought I was messing things up in a certain important area of my life. “I think I’m making XYZ mistakes,” I said, “and that always comes back to harm me.”

“Oh no,” the well-wishing moral supporter objected. “You do everything perfectly well. There is absolutely no problem you have here. You are wonderful and everything you do is right.”

I found this to be the opposite of helpful. I felt like my serious concerns were dismissed and I was being shut up.

It seems like people are so terrified of hurting anybody’s feelings that they often resign themselves to completely shallow, superficial relationships. In any profound, honest relationship, there is bound to be rawness of sentiment and even pain. Don’t we rob ourselves of genuine human contact when we see moral support as nothing but a string of platitudes aimed at distancing ourselves from a person who is facing problems?

It is very easy to respond with, “Oh, you are so great and everything is fantastic” whenever a person tries to share what bothers them. But doing that destroys the possibility of a worthwhile relationship, leaving instead a faked connection that has no depth to it.

“You matter enough to me that I am willing to risk angering and antagonizing you with my honesty,” a friend once said. And that’s how I knew he was a real friend to me, not just somebody who wanted to ingratiate himself with me by faking complete acceptance where, in truth, there was nothing but indifference.

My Mother’s Window and a Riddle

And since I started posting pictures anyway, here is the window in my parents’ living-room. As you can see, my mother doesn’t have the same problems with decorating as I do:

And here is a riddle from my mother that I didn’t manage to solve. She is a math teacher but she didn’t manage to pass her mathematical capacities to me.

The riddle: There is a 12-story building. Two people live on the first floor, and then each floor has twice as many residents as the preceding floor. Which button gets pressed most often in the building’s elevator?

Cafe Ellefsen in Montreal

When I last visited Montreal, I visited Cafe Ellefsen, a Scandinavian restaurant. I had lunch there with V., a frequent commenter and one of the very first readers of this blog. They serve really great, beautiful smorrebrod, and the prices are very modest.

Here are some photos of their great smorrebrod:

Sausage and fresh cucumber smorrebrod

The saltiness of the sausage is offset beautifully with fresh cucumbers, which makes the smorrebrod absolutely delicious.

And here is a different kind:

Grilled cheese smorrebrod

This one was my favorite:

Egg and caviar smorrebrod

They also serve fresh-pressed orange juice and really cool, huge lattes. And the environment is very good. I highly recommend this place to all lovers of Scandinavian cultures.

The menu also contains something called “Norwegian poutine.” I didn’t get to try it this time but if anybody has and can tell me what it is like, I will be very grateful.

Russian Salads

I’m still angry over my plagiarizing students, so I decided to share some food pictures because that always makes me feel better. In my culture, we always prepare a big number of salads that accompany any kind of meat courses and are a must at every social gathering or celebration.

Here is a photo of a salad called “Pineapple.” The only ingredient it doesn’t contain is an actual pineapple. The salad gets its name from the way it’s decorated:

It would have looked a lot more like a pineapple had I used walnuts. I didn’t have them, though, so here is the result. It’s very easy to make, too. It’s done in layers:

Layer 1: boiled grated potatoes

Layer 2: boiled cubed chicken breast

Layer 3: red onion

Layer 4: cubed pickles

Layer 5: more chicken

Layer 6: grated cheese

Layer 7: boiled grated eggs

Then baste it with mayonnaise or any sauce you prefer (don’t mix, of course!), decorate with walnuts, and that’s it. Such a salad should be left overnight and served on the next day because it gets better this way.

And here is a very simple salad I made for this last Thanksgiving and have lived to regret it. Since N. tried it, he’s been after me to make more of this salad. So now I make it every day, and I can’t see it any longer. Here it is:

It doesn’t take long to make but try making it every day since Thanksgiving and you’ll know what I mean.

Boiled eggs, Laughing Cow cheese wedges (but only the kind you see at this link. I tried other kinds and the salad sucks as a result), and crushed garlic. That’s it. The radishes are just for decoration.

And yes, that’s what we call a “salad” in my country. The only vegetables that are always available in Ukraine are potatoes, cabbage, and beets, so what can you expect?

Speaking of beets, here is another salad I prepared for Thanksgiving. It’s also very easy to make.

Boil (or better yet, bake) beets, grate them, add wal

nuts crushed to very small pieces, cut some dried prunes into small pieces and add them (here are the best dried prunes I could find),press garlic into the whole thing, mix it, add a tiny amount of mayonnaise if you feel like it, and decorate.

And I served these salads with a turkey that I stuffed with mushrooms and herbs and roasted in champagne.

I highly recommend roasting turkeys in champagne because they get this very light but memorable taste and aroma of champagne.

As you can see, I combined a set of Ukrainian traditions with the American Thanksgiving tradition.

Here is the turkey:

I have no idea why the photos of food I take at restaurants are usually good but the ones I take at home never do justice to the dishes.

The next post will contain photos of food from a really cool restaurant, so sit tight.

SparkNotes? Seriously?

So two students just submitted their final essays. Both essays consist of a very clumsy retelling of an egregiously inane article from SparkNotes. One of the students had already been caught plagiarizing in this course.

I have given two detailed and passionate lectures about plagiarism in this course. I have put up a warning to use NO online sources in the writing of the essay a) on Blackboard, b) in 3 PowerPoint presentations, c) on the syllabus, d) on the essay instructions.

And the very first two essays I get are plagiarized from SparkNotes. I mean, really? What’s fucking wrong with these kids? They pay money they don’t have, get into debt, and all for what? To copy-paste garbage from stupid SparkNotes instead of learning?

Also, what a brilliant idea to put the prof in a vile mood one week before the end of the semester.

I have a ton of work to do right now but I’m immobilized by this insult that I in no way deserve.

It’s Great to Be an Adult

I’ve been to our town’s high school this morning to observe one of our bright student-teachers. I love going to high schools because it’s a great feeling to look at the kids and realize that I’m not one of them. They still have to figure out everything I already have, poor mites. Career choice, learning to make and manage money, sexuality, self-esteem, dating, friendships, relationships, clothes, looks, body image, even skin care. I’m so happy that I’ve figured this all out already because I can’t say that the learning process was fun.

God, it’s great to be an adult. I can sleep whenever I want, eat whatever I want, spend my time and money any way I want, and nobody can say anything to me about it. And my skin isn’t going to break out either.

And then, of course, the most important difference between a teenager and an adult is that the latter does not see as hugely relevant how others perceive him or her. I looked at those kids today and it was very obvious that, for them, nothing mattered more than the impression they were making. The insecurity in the classrooms and hallways was palpable. Oh, I remember those times. I wish I could finally forget them. It is so great to feel secure in oneself and to care only very minimally what others think about you.

Seriously, it took everything I had not to come up to high school students and tell them, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah! It’s good not to be you.”

Did anybody among those who are reading this enjoy the process of growing up? I dig the result, but the actual process was brutal.

Adulthood kicks ass, people.