Sunday, November 29, 2020

Simply not having a Christmas time

 Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday of all. I would start cooking Wednesday night--pies, stuffing, sweet potatoes, fried onions--all the delicious things! I cooked from scratch mostly. Thursday morning, the children and I would watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning while finishing up all the sides and putting the turkey in.  The turkey would be BIG. I preferred an 18 pounder so we could have lots and lots of leftovers. Turkey sandwiches for days! So yummy.

Last year, all of the children were home plus Child 1's fiance. It was amazing. The day after, we went to Black Friday sales and stocked up on wedding supplies for Child 1's spring wedding and we decorated for Christmas. It was lovely, and it was the last time that will ever happen. Because first Covid hit and we didn't have a big wedding, although we did use all the tulle and pearls and candles we bought, so that was good! And then Child 3 decided she wanted to grow up AND LEAVE ME AND GO TO COLLEGE!!! Ugh! So this Thanksgiving Husband and I were alone in China. We had dinner with friends and didn't go Black Friday shopping at all because that is not a thing here. And I didn't cook. And we didn't watch the parade and I didn't eat Doritos and French onion dip while making stuffing. 

And now it is time to decorate for Christmas and I literally can't. Literally. Because our things have still not arrived even though we packed out in June and I have zero Christmas decorations. I keep dreaming that I am decorating for Christmas and then I wake up and remember that I can't because I have nothing to decorate with. OK, I have a "not zero number" of Christmas decorations, which is one. This one that I bought today at the saddest Christmas market ever:

I know. It's not bad and it was made by underprivileged children, but if you were ever wondering whether Christmas bazaars in China are as good as the ones in India, they are not. Even with the food poisoning we got at the first German School Christmas Mela in New Delhi, that bazaar was better by miles! Although the food poisoning was seriously not fun. The next year we just didn't eat the food and only shopped which solved the problem. But at this one in Beijing, it was mostly food I can't eat and too expensive jewelry. So I bought one thing and came home and put out my only Christmas decoration.

So that pretty much sums up the 2020 Holiday season. The children aren't coming home for Christmas because there are no flights because of Covid, and I am spending all my free time playing Animal Crossing and crying, sometimes at the same time. And you know what would be better than a brownie? If people would actually social distance and wear masks so we can get rid of Covid in the US so I can see my children! And so that people can celebrate next year with loved ones who are still alive because their neighbors cared enough to mask up.

And confidential to the children, please subscribe to my blog and comment that you have read it. If you do, I will blog more. If you don't care, then I don't either.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

So a world-wide pandemic that has killed over 1 million people is not better than a brownie, but you knew that already. There is too much to explain what you don't know, so let me sum up. Child one is married and graduated with an MPA. Child 2 and Child 3 are both studying different kinds of music at the same university. Husband and I spent a year+ studying Mandarin in Virginia via Zoom. And now we are in quarantine in Beijing where we should be studying Mandarin, but it is a holiday week so I am binge watching Netflix shows I downloaded before we came and playing on my Nintendo Switch. Husband is slowly going crazy because he has no one to talk to but me and I don't talk to him because I am busy playing Animal Crossing New Horizons like my life depends on it. And it does! Or at least my 5 star Island rating does and my neighbors have come to expect expensive presents and I still haven't learned how to catch scorpions without getting stung a million times. They team up on you and when you finally catch one, you still get stung!
But I digress.

You are now possibly wondering how long one can play ACNH without stopping and the answer is 11+ hours if you have a charger. Listen, it is quarantine in China and I had no internet access until yesterday and also I made 580,000 bells in ACNH two days ago by selling scorpions, so don't judge me. But I have been doing other things as well, like blindly ordering groceries via an app. Yes, I know I am supposed to be able to read Chinese, but although I know the characters for terrorist and violent crimes, the Department hasn't thought it important for me to learn the words for detergent or lemon juice, so I order by picture and sometimes am surprised. For example, whatever you think is spinach in China is definitely not spinach. And also lemon juice and dish soap look a lot alike. You cannot use dish soap as a substitute for lemons, if you are wondering. But I finally did find a photo of a lemon and I clicked on it and the next day I had two lemons delivered and something that looks like pork which I thought was chicken but is still edible. So success!

If you are wondering how I am adapting to life without the children and The Dog at home, the answer is terribly. I miss the children. I only know how to cook for 5 people so we have a LOT of surprise pork leftovers. And my kitchen floor is an unholy mess because The Dog isn't here to clean up spills. Yes, The Dog is just fine. She now lives with Child 1 and Son-in-law and is happy as a clam trying to steal their food and sleep in their bed. 

See? She is just fine and I don't miss her at all. Nope. I don't dream about her and I never mistake a pillow on the floor for her and I didn't even cry at all when I said good-bye to her. Nope. Not crying now either. That's just my eyes watering from too much lemon scented soap. 

I know, I know your final question is how is it learning Mandarin via Zoom? And the answer is definitely better than a brownie because you can cheat! Don't judge! I am too old to learn how to read again and if I didn't cheat, I wouldn't remember a single thing. Well technically, I'm not remembering so much as looking stealthily at my notes which are off camera. But you try learning to write Chinese characters in your old age and see how well you do! I can now write 100+ characters, so only 49,900 to go! Sigh. Maybe someday I'll actually be able to do it all without cheating, but I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

To the Good Men of America

Dear Good American Men,

I am writing to ask you a favor. But before I get to that favor, I want to explain some things, so please listen.

Men are not like women. I know that we want to erase the lines and I know that I would have been just as fine a Navy pilot as most men and that men can be terrific knitters if they want to. But our experiences in life are really, really different. For example, here are some ways in which our worlds are different.

  • You've never had a fight with your underwear. In fact, I bet your underwear has never tried to kill you. Don't believe me about deadly underwear? Corsets can restrict breathing so much that a woman can suffocate. And hoop skirts and bustles had a tendency to knock over oil lamps and catch on fire. Now, I don't wear a corset or a hoop skirt very often, but I have two words for you: Spanx and underwire. Seriously, ask your women friends to explain how long it takes to put on a pair of Spanx and how much fun it is to go around all day with a wire stabbing you in the armpit.
  • You can reach stuff we can't. You are on average taller than us. And did you know that a man's arm span is usually 2 inches longer than his height? Guess what? The average woman's is only 0.5 inches longer. I discovered this when I let my 6'2" husband unpack the kitchen in our first apartment. He put the plates on the top shelf. I had to get a stool every time I needed a plate. Husband said well, you didn't give me any instructions, which is true. So I do now. Every time we unpack a house, which is very often because the State Department moves us a lot, I say, Husband, stay away from the kitchen stuff! 
  • You know how when you go to the movies with a woman and we want to sit on the aisle and you want the middle and so we put our purses on the seat next to us and you say that's rude and we're taking up extra seats? Well, it's not only because we don't want to put our purse on the floor. It's also so that Bad American Men don't sit next to us. Oh, you've never been groped by a stranger in a movie theater and were traumatized by it and are still afraid decades later? Good for you! That is another way we are different.
  • When you go on a date, you just throw on nice jeans and a shirt. You don't usually try on ten different dresses and reject them all and then try jeans and a nice top and then have to decide between the shoes that will hurt but look sexy, or the shoes that you can run away in. Oh, you don't dress defensively? You don't know what that is? Well, that is dressing in a manner so complicated and hard to get off so that your potential rapist just gives up like a parent trying to get Barbie out of the package on Christmas morning who just hands it to their crying child and says--that's not packaging--that's her force field! It's supposed to stay on!
  • I bet that you don't know what hat pins are for. Women don't wear hat pins anymore, we have rape whistles and keychain sirens and pepper spray instead. But back in my grandmother's day, she wore hats and she used a pin to keep them from blowing away in the wind. But she also made sure she had one on every date so she could jam it into a man who was attacking her. My grandmother. In the 1930s. Her own mother born in the 1800s taught her that. Bet you didn't know your great grandmother also had to fight off Bad American Men and her only weapon was a hatpin and maybe a hoop skirt on fire.
Now, there is a way that we are exactly the same which you might think isn't true but it is. And that is when really bad stuff happens, we don't want to talk about it. Oh, I know you think that women want to talk about everything. You think that women just want to talk and talk until they have talked you to death. But you are a Good American Man and you know that really that is just our way of processing things--we need to hear it out loud. But some things are too painful to process, and so we push them down, lock them up, and hide them away until they ooze out and rise up like smoke under a shut door and signal to everyone that something is on fire.

Oh, you might not think that we are the same in that way, but we are. I've seen it. Men don't like to talk about things that hurt them. You know how when you have a rotten day at work and your boss yells at you and you just want to quit your job or punch someone but you need the job so you come home and slam the door and your woman says what happened and you say I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT! And you don't ever talk about it?

How about when something embarrasses you like the time you were giving a presentation and your pants had split and everyone could see your underwear and nobody told you until after you were done speaking to an auditorium of 500 people and when your woman brings it up years later, you say THAT NEVER HAPPENED! And you pretend it didn't?

Well, here is the thing. Those were events that were painful and embarrassing and you don't want to talk about them. Now, I finally get to the favor. I want you to imagine that it was something so bad that you thought you were going to die. In fact, you'd been lectured your whole life by adults who meant well that you SHOULD die rather than let it happen to you. And it does happen, and you want to die, but you don't and you just want to go to sleep and pretend it never happened. And so you do. You shower and throw away the dress/skirt/shorts/bathing suit/prom gown you were wearing and shove it way down in the garbage can and you never talk about it again. And when someone brings up that pool party/dinner/football game/prom night years later, you almost say something. But you still really don't want to think about it. So you just smile and say oh, I don't remember that night. But you do. You remember every single second of the event and it changes you forever. And you never trust anyone the same way again. Imagine that. Something so painful that you CAN'T talk about it because it feels like it will rip you in half if you do.

Now, look me in the eye and ask me why didn't the woman report it to the police. Can you still do that after thinking about it from her perspective? If you really can imagine being hurt that way, by someone much bigger and stronger with a longer arm span who doesn't care if you are having a good time or not and is willfully hurting you for their own pleasure, you won't be able to. And if she is braver than most of us and she does tell someone, could you please believe her? And not accuse her of lying or threaten her and her family or say that she's only doing it for the attention? Because I promise you, she knows what kind of attention speaking out will bring her and none of it is good.

If you could just listen and support her and not judge her for coming forward, that, well that would be better than all the brownies in the world. Because by not judging her, you will change the world. And we really, really need you to do that so that our daughters no longer have to carry around hat pins.


(Please note that I realize men of color, and transgender men, and gay men have different perspectives. But this is a plea to men who live most of their lives being believed and not being persecuted or stalked and are only ever in dangerous situations that involve sports or driving very fast which they can choose to do on purpose. They are the ones I need to listen. Thanks.)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Transcontinental traveling--I'm doing it wrong

It's 6am on Mother's Day and I'm across the world from my lovelies and am sitting in the airport lounge in Newark looking at they NYC skyline and wishing my family were here with me. Child 2 is only a 1 hour flight away, but sadly, I'm not going to see her. I'm on my way to Knoxville, TN for work; long story short, just accept that someone who works for the State Department in India actually has a good reason for going to Knoxville for work.

It's a cloudy day in Newark, but I can still see the Freedom Tower ascending into the clouds and the lights on the George Washington bridge blinking in the foreground. Each time I see this view, it's like a sharp needle to my heart. When I was little, my parents thought it might be fun to go to NYC and walk between the towers of the World Trade Center. I was afraid to look up so mostly I saw gum and cigarette butts on the sidewalk. Now that I am no longer scared of heights, I would love the chance to do it again. But they are gone, and a piece of m childhood and my heart with them.

However, lest you think this is going to be a sad post, I am not really melancholy; I just have a raging headache and I hurt all over from being 14 hours on a plane and not sleeping. I used to do that every time I traveled, mostly because when the children were small, one of them would always be awake and whining that she was bored. One awful flight across the Pacific, (this was in the days before personal entertainment screens in the seatbacks,) they showed Hellboy as the movie and totally freaked out Child 2. Who then woke up Child 3 who immediately started screaming and woke up Child 1 who yelled at everybody to shut up. And of course, I was completely outnumbered because Husband had flown back to Korea the week before and I was alone with three kids, none of whom would sleep. The entire 747 hated me. And that was my worst flight ever--until last night.

I normally don't mind flying alone because I discovered when you don't have children to worry about, you can actually sleep! So I was all set in my Economy Plus seat on the aisle with easy access to a bathroom. I got out my memory foam neck pillow and put on my noise canceling headphones and went to sleep.

Now, some things to keep in mind about me. 1) I usually travel overnight in a maxi skirt because I discovered that the weight of a skirt and slip on my legs feels like a blanket and I sleep better and then I'm not tempted to use the icky airline blanket which after seeing one swabbed on the news about e.coli bacteria being everywhere I refuse to touch. Also, no zipper or digging waistband. 2) I have lots of food issues, and even though I ALWAYS request a gluten-free meal, about 50% of the time they don't have one for me. So I play Russian roulette with the airplane food and guess which one I think won't have wheat gluten or dairy in it. So last night, no GF meal so I asked for the chicken and mashed potatoes with tomato gravy. Big, big mistake. Huge! Because about an hour after I went to sleep, I woke up feeling something was really wrong. I was so groggy, I had a hard time pinpointing that I was really nauseated. So I got up to go to the bathroom, and of course the ones near me were all full. And then my slip fell off. Literally just slipped off and fell right to the ground around my feet. I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been my skirt.

But the problem with a slip on the ground is that you have to bend over to pick it up, and that did it. Up came my entire meal. I climbed over some people and ran to the back of the plane where the only open bathroom was, holding my slip in front of my face trying to keep everything down. But no luck. I vomited all over the slip and the bathroom and myself. Ugh!

Because I am a mother, though, I could not leave the bathroom that way, so after I was done making a mess, I tried to clean it and myself up. I must have been in that bathroom for 45 minutes. (Sorry everyone on that flight!) Also, I always carry an extra shirt, so I could at least change that. The slip was a lost cause, though. I just put it in an airsick bag, sealed it up, and threw it away.

I discovered that flight attendants are extra super nice if you have already cleaned up the bathroom when you tell them you were just sick in it. But that was the end of my sleeping on the flight. So now I am exhausted, and have a raging headache, and am a little smelly sitting in the airport by myself looking at NYC and wishing I had enough energy to get up and go walk around. For breakfast, I had a GF Rice Krispie treat and some ginger ale. So happy Mother's Day to me! I had planned a nice day of brunch and shopping, but now all I want is a shower and a long nap.

To my children, thank you for making me a mom. To my mom, thank you for keeping me alive all those years. (It was harder than one might think.) And to all my friends for whom Mother's Day is awful, please read this and laugh and think about me trying to only stand in front of walls all day so no one can see through my skirt because I have no slip. I assure you, I'm having a worse day than you, and I hope your day is better than a brownie. I should not think about brownies. Now I'm nauseated again. Anyone know where you can buy a slip in the Newark airport?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Back to the basics

I'd like to clear up some confusion. This is a person.

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This is also a person. I know, it's confusing, but she is actually a person. Really. Women are people.

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A talented person.
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A brave person.

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Not a person. Mermaids are not people and dolls are not people.
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Definitely not a person. People are not made of stone. This is a statue.

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Adorable person.

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Person with feathers? (Actually, not a person.)

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OK, got it now? Let's try something harder. Each person has their own feelings. Some of those feelings might be different than yours but that's OK.

This person likes Muppets. I like Muppets, too.

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This person likes traveling at very fast speeds. I do not think I would like traveling by rocket, but I'm sure she would ask me first before taking me somewhere in a rocket.

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This person hates broccoli. I like broccoli, but if you don't like broccoli, that's OK. I would never force you to eat broccoli.
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I do not know if this person likes broccoli or not. But you can be sure that if I asked him if he wanted some broccoli and he said no, I would not try to force him to eat it. And if he put some on his fork and went to taste it and then decided it smelled bad so he didn't want to eat it, then nobody should force him to eat it. The best thing to do to find out if he likes broccoli and might want some is, and this might be a revelation to some people, the best method is to ask him and listen to what he says. And although it might be intimidating asking him, you would definitely hear and understand him if he said no, he hates broccoli and don't ask him again.
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This is an extremely smart person. If I wanted to know if she liked broccoli, I should ask her. I shouldn't assume she likes broccoli because she looks like a person who might have had vegetables once.

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This is a brownie. It looks delicious, doesn't it? I love brownies. But you shouldn't assume just because I've said that I love them that I would eat one if you offered it to me. I wouldn't, because it would make me very, very sick. I might ask you to let me smell it, though. 

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Some people don't like brownies. I might think they are crazy, but I would understand what they mean when they make this face. If you are confused, it means this person does. not. want. a brownie!

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You know what would be even better than a brownie, though? If we didn't have to explain this to grown-ups in 2017, for crying out loud! 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When home isn't

I was all set to write an awesomely funny post about traveling around the country without children and all the beef I ate over the last month. But the world has made me sad again. I really, really wanted to be funny, but I can't in the face of so much preventable sadness and heartbreak in Las Vegas. And why what happened in Vegas ended up in my heart 1/2 way around the world begins with a story.

You see, many years ago, more years that I would like to admit, I had a friend whom we shall call Missy. Now, Missy and I both lived in the same town in Texas and went to the same school. We had the luck of having the same homeroom teacher in 6th grade and when we realized how close we lived to each other, we became best friends. You see, when the only public transportation in your town is your own feet plus a pair of roller skates that you are supposed to share with your sister, proximity is hugely important. Missy lived down the street and two blocks over--practically on my way home if I went a couple of blocks in the wrong direction which I did almost daily. There were other kids in our neighborhoods, but they were mostly boys, so ick! Missy and I stuck together like glue. Plus, Missy had her own room and only one annoying little sister. I had two, plus a brother and an older sister and I had to share my room with Sister 3 who was 3 years old at the time and had this super embarrassing habit of stripping all the Barbies naked and throwing them up onto the roof of our house. Ugh! Seriously, Sister 3, what WAS your obsession with undressing the Barbies and why in heaven's name did they need to be on the roof?

So anyway, Missy's own room with actual decorations and matching furniture meant that we spent a lot of time at her house. Plus, she had Connect 4 and Operation. And Toss Across! And plus she had super nice parents. That's a lot of plusses so you can see why I liked hanging out at Missy's. Her parents were the kind that invited you to sleep over and fed you McDonald's and bought ice cream and laughed at all your jokes. Missy's dad and mom both smoked like chimneys, but this was in the days before we cared about smoking and sometimes, I wouldn't wash all my clothes right away after spending the night so I could smell them and remember all the fun times at Missy's. Her parents felt like my parents and I loved them.

Then a couple of years later, I was in the living room while my parents were watching the news. (See, Children, before the internet and cable, you had to tune into the news at 6pm or wait for the morning paper to know what was going on.) And I saw Missy's mom crying on TV and I stood up. Because I knew. Because grown ups didn't go on TV and cry for fun. And what was important was not that she was now famous for being on TV, but that she was crying. Sobbing actually. And then they showed a list of the victims' names, and her dad, whom we'll call John, was on the list. But it couldn't be him because he went by Jack, and everyone knew that. He told me I should call him Jack which was the coolest thing in the world but made me uncomfortable so he was Mr. Jack. So it wasn't him and I had missed the beginning of the newscast, so I wasn't even really sure what he might be a victim of.

But then there was Missy's mom on the cover of the newspaper the next morning and there was no doubt that it was very, very bad. A disgruntled employee had gone into the office and shot 9 people, including Mr. Jack. Six of them died, including Mr. Jack. And at 14 years old, I learned how grief can crush you and make you stupid. I felt so dumb and helpless and numb and stupid and helpless. And it wasn't even my own loss--it was Missy's dad, not mine, but even now it still hurts! I think my mom took me over to Missy's. I don't remember walking. I do remember being there and just sitting there while well-meaning people dropped off casseroles that no one was going to eat and Missy's aunt who came down from Chicago wrapped them in Saran Wrap and stacked them in the fridge. I remember the flowers everywhere and the people talking in whispers like Mr. Jack's death was a secret they didn't want us to find out. But we knew! Oh how we knew. And we felt that loss like 14 year olds do like the world was ending because we thought it must be. Something that horrible had to be the end of the world.

I stayed by Missy's side through the wake (we weren't allowed to go) and the funeral (I got the day off from school) and we sat together numb for hours and hours even after Missy came back to school--we'd still get off the school bus at her house to sit in her room. Doing nothing. Just listening to the radio. And occasionally talking about Luke and Laura and I wasn't a Luke fan and Missy was and that was the beginning of the end--the first little wedge to nudge us in opposite directions. We slowly drifted apart as teenage girls sometimes do, with thankfully little drama. Missy changed (how could she not?) and I changed and we both discovered that boys weren't so icky and the sand that was the foundation of our friendship slowly washed away until we were just acquaintances and the smell of stale cigarette smoke just made me sad. We were still kind to each other throughout high school, but we ran in different circles. Things are different, now. If we were teenagers now, we probably never would have been allowed to walk home alone, and after-school activities wouldn't ever involve looking through tabloids for news about General Hospital. Plus who needs sleep-overs when you have FaceTime and SnapChat? Oh, and cigarettes are regulated now because they are deadly; isn't that ironic?

Every once in a while I wonder about Missy and how she is, most often when shootings like Las Vegas happen, which is way, way too often. In fact, that event which was so central to my life and my nightmares for so long barely even warrants a Wikipedia page. Weapons have become deadlier and body counts have skyrocketed and six people dead would barely cause a shrug and maybe not even a mention above the fold. Except to those six people and everybody who knew and loved them. To us, each new mass shooting is another tear at a wound that can never fully heal and a news story that links us to too many other people who bear that same awful burden of violent loss.

I'm older now. I've totally lost track of Missy. I hope she is well and that she is happy. I hope she has amazing children of her own. We are older now than Mr. Jack was when he died. I didn't realize that until just now because Missy's parents have stopped aging in my head and I regularly forget exactly how old I am. And Child 3 is the same age as I was when it happened. So tonight I'm going to hug her until she whines and be grateful that it wasn't her watching the news and finding out that someone she loves just had the world ripped away from them. This time. And I will pray that it never is her. And I will write every. single. effing. lawmaker who will listen to me until my fingers bleed until we as a nation do something to make sure that it never ever is. Because action on keeping assault weapons out of the hands of killers, well I would have given up brownies years ago if it would have led to that. And I love brownies more than anything--except people.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


Child 2 is leaving me for college. We have planned for this day for many years, but I'm still a little bitter that the rewards of doing my job well is that I will no longer have that job. I put so, so many hours into playing Disney Princesses and watching Pokémon movies and singing Veggie Tales songs. And now, instead of a nice big fat bonus check, I get the privilege of paying about $90,000 so that she can leave me forever! Whose great idea was this because I'm pretty sure it wasn't an actual mother who thought that paying to send children away for university would be a good thing. Shouldn't the university pay me for the privilege of educating my beautiful, intelligent, and fun children?

But I'm so excited for her. She's at a great school in a great major AND we get in-state tuition, otherwise that figure would be closer to $300,000. The only bonus in this whole scenario is that at least she picked somewhere that I like to go where we have lots of friends and some family. Child 1 picked Hawaii (great choice) and Child 2 picked Virginia. Now all we have to do is get Child 3 to choose another great vacation spot and we're all set! I'm open for suggestions. I, myself, like Denmark or Australia. Is there a good university in the Bahamas? Listen, if I'm paying $100,000 it had better be a place I where I can enjoy watching my money go to meal plans that include Starbucks and Panda Express.

Before I dropped her off at school with approximately 1/2 of all the available goods in Target, Child 2 and I drove down to South Carolina with our friend Batman, and saw the total eclipse.

I know, I know. You are tired of hearing how amazing the eclipse was, but it truly was! There are a few things that you can see in real life that live up to the hype: a Hawaiian beach, the Taj Mahal, and a total solar eclipse are three of them. We were actually lucky enough to have purchased eclipse goggles and binoculars so that we could look at the partial without damaging our eyes. Child 1 says they made Child 2 look like a mad scientist, which is totally the reason I ordered those kind! Double duty, right? They looked not unlike this.

So not only did we see the eclipse with someone whom I believe actually may be Batman, but we looked crazy while doing it. So awesome!

I should now mention, in case you hadn't divined that from context, that we are all fine. The riots in India didn't affect Husband or the children. The burned train car only meant there were fewer people in Amritsar so they had a better view of the book at the Golden Temple and the Wagah Border crossing ceremony when they went this weekend. That's India and Pakistan shaking hands right there in the coolest border closing ceremony that has ever existed and I'm totally not exaggerating.

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And I'm fairly certain my family in Texas is all fine since they are out of the path of the storm. I have not heard from Artemis since before the storm, but if she is not fine, then I will drive down and rescue her on Tuesday when I arrive in Texas. Artemis, let me know if you need me to bring a boat! (Update: just heard from Artemis and she evacuated to a place with delicious German food, but she hates German food so she is bored and hungry. Somebody send her some bulgogi!)

We've had a lot of near misses since we've been in the Foreign Service--disasters at a place we just left, earthquakes just one country over, riots on the other side of town. We've had a small number of actual emergencies as well--almost dying from e-coli, Husband caught in an explosion in Afghanistan, overnight currency invalidation that left us with almost zero cash to spend and no way to get more. But these are things we expect overseas. We practice for them and prepare go bags and fly away kits. I've called people on the phone in Libya to tell them to get to the dock because the evacuation boat is leaving. I've received frantic calls from parents whose children were missing after an earthquake in China. I've calmed people down who were convinced that the radiation leaking from a nuclear plant in Japan could make its way to South Korea and might harm them. Crisis management is part of my job, and I am pretty good at it.

What I don't expect are disasters at home, both natural and manmade. The photos of the flooding in Texas are frightening and sad and heartbreaking. I'm praying for all my loved ones and their loved ones who are affected. Texas is an awesome place full of people who care for each other and are willing to go out of their way to help strangers. I'm convinced that they will make it through this ordeal. This ABC News photo shows what they're up against, but Texans are tough and also fashionable. Look how awesome she looks while being rescued!

But what really scares me are Nazis marching by the hundreds in the state that I've called home for over 20 years. To quote Tina Fey, I've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and I wasn't confused by it. Nazis are always bad. Did you know that if you are a Nazi, you can't get a visa to come to the United States? Seriously, it's right there in our law. Look it up. In fact, if you are a government official who participates in denying someone the right to practice religion today, you cannot get a visa. So the fact that my own countrymen would do something willingly that if they were not Americans would make them ineligible to even visit America--well, that hurts and angers me. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That's not just a quaint saying--it's the belief that our country was founded upon. So I pledge to do my part to eradicate racism and religious intolerance. I pledge to be kind to people who are different from me and to learn about the history of Americans who were excluded by the Declaration of Independence when it was written (all men meant all white, land-owning men. People of color and women and indentured servants were not considered to have been created equal, in case you hadn't learned that in school.) I vow to remember that I can always learn something from anyone and that my experience is not universal. I promise to accept people of all faiths into my home and to be respectful of their beliefs. There are lots and lots of other things we can do, which I am too tired and sad to think of at the moment. So I invite y'all to join me and comment on things you will pledge to do to make sure that the word "American" is never used as a descriptor for "Nazi." If you do, that will be better than a brownie, by far.