23 December, 2020

A Moment of Life

Brett walks into the living room, beyond where I sit at my desk.

He raises the Firestick remote and says, "Alexa, who was the shortest American President?"

I shout from my desk, "William Harding!"

Alexa tells us it was James Madison, at 5'4".

Brett asks, "Alexa, how tall was William Harding?"

I shout from my desk, "Six foot ten!"

Alexa tells us William Harding was 6'10". I am exuberant! "Wow! I guessed it!"

Brett is laughing. "Yeah, first you think he's the shortest, then he's 6'10"." I had randomly thrown out the name William Harding, then randomly threw out the height 6'10. "Ask her who was the tallest."

Brett protests, "It was Abraham Lincoln." 

"He was no 6'10". He just looked extra tall 'cause of the top hat."

Brett gives in and asks, "Alexa, who was the tallest President?"

Alexa confirms what Brett knew: Abraham Lincoln. At Six foot four. What?

"Aw, crap. WARREN Harding, not William." I suddenly remembered the name. I'm devastated. Brett carries on and we learn that Warren G. Harding was 6'0", the 14th tallest president. Now not only was I wrong in my initial guess, but wrong about the tallest. 

"You might not have had the right name, but at least you guessed 6'10" correctly!"

... But for whom?

(We did ask, but it's already out of my head. Some businessman or other.)

06 December, 2020

Nanowrimo and Christmas

Whew! Hi there, if I'm still on anyone's radar.

Nanowrimo is over (see my new badge over there on the left?) and now I'm thinking about writing a Christmas letter.

Truthfully NaNoWriMo was a struggle this year. The goal, to be counted a "winner" is 50,000 words. I did 50,277. It's not a real story, although I managed to find the roots of a possible story within my dark subject matter. Mostly I was just writing to get out of my own head.

It was a unique process for me: ramble, ramble, stream-of-consciousness, then suddenly come upon a character, then rework the character with a different personality, then find that the secondary character is where the real story is, then find that I'm on a totally different tack than I'd started!

I deleted nothing, for the sake of the word count, so a lot of it is garbage, and this is not a story that will ever see the light of day. But I did it!

And now I want to write a Christmas letter. When I lived in the US, I did cards every year, with a letter inside. I no longer send them, but I would like to compose an appropriate Christmas letter to share. I'm just stumped for what to write.

"Nothing new. Traveled nowhere. Did nothing." Boom. 

I don't do newsy letters. In the past, I tried to focus on some element of the original Christmas story and compare it to the modern world. But what? This year, my friends and family are divided between political beliefs and Covid perspectives, and I can't think of a single, universal message that won't piss off one side or the other. Or myself, as I write it.

Actually, I started this blog post hoping that an idea would come to me as I write about wanting to write. No dice.

Are you writing a holiday letter this year? Do you have a theme? Or do you have any ideas for me? 

22 October, 2020

Your New Normal

I don't know you. 

I don't know the myriad ways your life is different now from this time last year.

I've seen talk about a "new normal" and I've seen people protesting "not MY new normal".

Okay, Nostradamus. You don't know that. You can fight change all you want - and if you are one of the "not MY new normal" types, I would bet that you do - but that doesn't make it true.

So let's play "what if".

What if the current situation is your new normal for the foreseeable future. Could you manage? Would you be content?

Current situation overall means restricted travel, limited shopping - and most of it online, limited eating out - most of it delivered or take-away, virtual meetings, virtual education. What if that new norm sticks around? Could you manage with this in the long term?

Current situation specific would include your job, your current living situation - roommates, spouse, kids - your current location. What if nothing changes? Will you be satisfied? (and if not, what can you change?)

All this is inspired by a conversation we had in my house recently.

Of course, we want to travel. We were supposed to take a trip to the US this past June, and because of where we live, there are many ancient and interesting locations we would love to visit. Not to mention that I have friends and personal history in nearby countries. 

We cannot travel.

We do not know when - if ever - we will see any members of our families again.

And yet, we are content. If this is our new normal, it's fine. Better than fine, actually. We work online, and although hours and pay have been reduced, we're okay. We are safe, and we live in a beautiful place that has a climate that suits us. 

Everyone is different. I know some people would not be able to live so far from their families or from the comforts of the culture they are in. I get that. We've found we are happy here. We want to be able to go places, but if we are "stuck" limiting our travel to within the boundaries of Vietnam, well, that's still okay. 

What about you? What needs to change in your life, if anything?

19 September, 2020

Red's World

People are unpredictable.

I installed filters on my facebook. Not about political posts. This was before all political hell broke loose, and my filters were more to weed out the psycho Covid-hoaxers, the anti-maskers, basically the people who made the pandemic seem like an anti-American extravaganza, which, can I just say, that attitude is EXTREMELY offensive and off-putting to the ENTIRE WORLD who is also struggling with this? I mean, "check your white privilege"? How about "check your American ethnocentrism!" DAMN! 

Try watching the world news once... and not from an American network. Rant over.

ANYway, I set up these filters because I was becoming enraged on the daily, and anger is - well, a strong suit or a bad suit, depending on your perspective. Suffice to say, I've learned to keep it in check, but my poor husband is now the only one who gets to (has to) hear my rants when morons wax poetic on my facebook wall! And I don't gain anything from flying into a rage, either.

Thus, filters.

Since then, I have rarely seen anything from family members. Haha. They weren't the most active facebook people anyway, but it seems telling that the specific keywords I plugged in as filters might be blocking them. Were they my triggers all along? Or have they just not been posting much of late? 

People are unpredictable.

Recently I suddenly started hearing from a friend from high school and college. She's someone I had been in touch with sort of regularly - messenger mostly. We had supported each other through grief, all winter. Then in May she stopped responding to my messages. I kept sending things I thought would interest her, amongst regular chatty messages, with no response until a week ago.

She apologized with the "things are stupid here" excuse, which I get. No hard feelings, truly. The thing is, in the interim I've learned to get on without her contact. I responded to her first burst, but her latest 4 messages (all this past week) sit unanswered in my inbox. I've read them, but ... what's that song? "You've been gone so long I don't know you at all"? Something like that. Not really. It's just that with no interim contact our lives seem to be splintering in different directions.

My closest friend now, the one person I am in the most regular contact with, is an old friend from Junior High, who lives in India. We were friends on Facebook before and we started talking through WhatsApp when I lived in China. Now we talk about every other week. Maybe the fact that she has her own issues to deal with is refreshing to me. Maybe it makes me feel good to help her out. Or maybe it's the consistency of her friendship.

I know that everyone in the US is going through unbelievable crap right now. India too. But at least India isn't in the middle of political upheaval. I try to think of things like that and be understanding. Life is crazy and I'm in the sweet spot. 

I need to answer those unanswered texts. I hated it - felt abandoned - when she didn't respond to me for three months. Is "justice" or "vindication" a good enough reason to do the same to her? Whatever she was going through, she's past it enough to reach out. That's more than I can say for most of my family. 

Apart from the everyday being everyday, that's about it.

Oh, and a typhoon. This one wasn't as much as was expected. I should have predicted that. I'm used to hurricanes from living on the US east coast. Same deal here, but different. The storm made landfall way north of us, and the winds calmed down and broke it up a bit as it went. So... Nothing major to report weather wise. 

Stay safe out there. Keep your distance, please! I would like to visit my home country sometime within the next 5 years!

05 September, 2020

Death Blog

I give up. 

I'll embrace it.

I'll become a Death Blog. Or "Grief Blog" if you prefer.

Only because the times that I feel like writing, the times that the words start actually flowing, are the times that I am thinking about, dealing with, or remembering death or grief-related things.

Today, I received a message from my sister's closest friend from high school. They had not been in frequent contact of late, but regular contact nonetheless, and she only now heard about my sister's death last January. 

I'm actually touched that she reached out to me. There are two other siblings between myself and my dead sister, siblings whom she knew - probably better than she knew me. So the fact that she contacted me to say, "Wth? I had just talked to her January 1st. She was feeling better!" means something.

I guess ... I win? Maybe my sister talked more about me than the others? Or maybe mentioned that we had become close in recent years? Of course, this random message came during the day in Asia, so maybe she'd sent equivalent messages to my brother and sister and I was the first responder. Who knows?

It was a welcome chat. 

This friend had lost her uncle the day before my sister died, so she took time for her own grief and now has a fresh wound to assess.

But don't we all? I mean, you can't help when you find out about things that happened while you were looking in another direction. These days we are all dealing with our own stuff to the extent of blocking out the rest of the world. Necessarily, I believe.

There are too many deaths, too many issues, too many problems, too many isolated frustrations, for any one person to tackle them all. All we can do is whatever we have the strength and energy for in each given moment. No harm, no foul.

Be you. Take care of you. Take care of others when you can. That's the honesty of 2020.

22 August, 2020

Reassessing What's Important

I am utterly apathetic these days. 

I don't think it's depression. It was, and sometimes is, but even when the depression fog lifts, I have zero motivation to do anything.

I'm learning two languages. Theoretically. I cancelled both classes last week, and haven't looked at the homework for either one.

I called off the classes because I'm trying to finish the novel I started in Nanowrimo last year. The ending is proving elusive, and I thought that if I gave myself permission to focus just on writing, I could sort it out. I did not. I wrote less on the days of the cancelled classes than on previous days. 

I called my mom the other day. Thought maybe a touch of normalcy would help shake me out of this ... whatever it is. It did not. It was yet another conversation of small talk, peppered with updates on my siblings as much as she knew. (My family does not partake of deep conversation with each other.)

So I'm just here to make sense of my own self.

Learning Mandarin was vital when we lived in China. I still think it's a good idea, and it is helpful with my little online Chinese students. But am I learning simply for vanity? To be able to brag? It will look good on a resume if I ever go back into the normal workforce, but how likely is that?

Learning Vietnamese is a good idea because I live here, but many foreigners don't bother learning it. Two reasons. 1) We are in a touristy area where minimal Vietnamese is needed. Most vendors and businesses that will have dealings with a foreigner have some basic English. 2) Pronunciation is apparently vastly different from north to south, so learning it in one place doesn't mean you'll understand it elsewhere. BUT 1) vendors and business-people appreciate a foreigner who at least tries to speak Vietnamese - even poorly, and 2) We haven't yet traveled away from the central coastal region, so ...

Do I continue with language classes? For both languages?

Before I started teaching online, when I decided that I was a Writer first and foremost, I forced myself to spend time writing. I keep adding hours teaching, which makes it feel like my main job. I mean, being paid NOW is more motivating than working long hours for the potential of payment later, should I ever be published. 

I think I need to cut back on teaching hours, and maybe relax the Mandarin for a bit. I don't know what that looks like time-wise, but at least I have an idea of a potential solution!

Thanks, Blogger. This has been productive.

21 June, 2020

Taking Back My Year

I have wasted a quarter of the year. (By Lunar Year standards)
I'm done. 
I'm taking back my year.

I'm using the lunar year because a)It's in my head due to the book I'm working on
b) We arrived home in Vietnam from my sister's funeral on Tết Eve. That is to say, "Lunar New Year Eve". When we woke up at home the next morning in Vietnam, it was "Year of the Rat". I was born in "Year of the Rat", so this IS. MY. YEAR! I just need to do what I need to do.

Knowing that this was a new year, I declared that this was going to be a great year, with no more death, and all good things!

Then came Covid. Crap. My city basically died. This should be tourist season, but I'm watching friends flounder with no tourists to do business with. When Covid hit the US, I floundered, too. Family and friends didn't understand the seriousness. Somehow, I took that personally.  No more.

Then race issues happened in the States that cannot be ignored. As one who used to work with law enforcement and adopted the "blue" lives stance after hearing their side years ago, I know there are multiple sides to the protests and riots in the US, but this time, I fall firmly on the #BLM side. I floundered again.

But I'm taking my year back. I lost a quarter of it to death, grief, disease, riots... basically the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The Year of the Rat began on January 25. I still have 3/4 of the year until the year of the Ox begins on February 11, 2021. 

My family will do what they will. I'm not ignoring them, but I've slipped back into everyone's comfort zone of not discussing heavy stuff. 😕 What can I say. Everyone is better off.

This is MY year. I need to focus on my own self.

I am bumping up my exercise. Not just so that I feel better about my "covid body" but also to give me more energy and improve my actual health.

I do something in my written WIP every day. Days that are busy, I might just review what I did the day before. I'm in editing mode, so word count doesn't really matter, but I count anyway. Some days are 100-ish. Some are upwards of 700. I'm happy with that.

I'm doing my best to walk more again. I got out of the habit during Covid, and now that there's no real disease danger it's freakin' hot, so I am less motivated. But I'm doing better. 

I'm being more social with people actually near me. Not ignoring those far away, but calling every couple weeks is enough. The people around me are the ones who I need to address daily.

I'm reading. Book goals. 

I'm done grieving. It may creep up on me sometime, but you know what? Death is a fact of life. I'm sorry for my brother, but part of the reason we don't talk about death is because we all know it's inevitable. Sorry you lost a kid. You'll be lost from my life sooner or later, unless I leave your life first. I'm not prepared to lose so much of my life feeling sorry about loss!

My sister's death killed me. For a while. But she's gone. Done. Better off, if I'm honest. YAY! Go you! Life = death. Suck it up and move on. And that's what I'm doing.
Oh, don't worry. I know there will be times I'm still reduced to tears about my losses. But it's done. 

I'm done.
I'm taking back my year. 

This is me.
Call me selfish; I'm a survivor. (That's what all the funeral bulletins keep saying!!!!!)

So, forgive the language but F*** YOU death. I'm over it. Take me when it's time. I'm going to keep living until then.

05 June, 2020

More Foreboding - surprise!

I'm not saying this for sympathy.
I'm not saying this in ANY WAY relating to my opinion on current events.
I'm saying this because my head and heart are flooded and it's better out than in.

I keep waffling on whether to write or not write. Few people in any of my social platforms seem to be saying things not related to #BlackLivesMatter. Which they do. Black Lives DO Matter, and I've never understood the arguments against that. But this isn't that.

...I have seen one friend who regularly - weekly? maybe? - shares Covid statistics for her county.

So if something isn't Covid or racism related, it's not likely out there.

Oh... one high school friend is in limbo waiting for a liver transplant. There's that.

Everyone has their stuff and I am not in any way ignorant of that, but I have to put my words out into the ether because they are poisoning my life.

Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of the Tian-An-Men massacre. I was in Taiwan when that happened, and helped volunteers airlift Taiwanese news articles about it, to send information across the Taiwan Straits into China where there was a news blackout. The subject brings me to tears. The People's Republic of China still denies that it happened.

Yesterday was the annual peaceful protest / vigil in Hong Kong. PROC has taken over Hong Kong while the rest of the world is focused on Covid. They tried to stop it. It still happened. 

Violence and protest is everywhere.

Also, earlier this week was the birthday of my nephew who took his own life in September. (Did I mention that in an earlier post? Sorry if I'm repeating myself.) My brother's family is reliving his death daily.

Also! I had a message from my mom last night that my OTHER brother - not the father of the deceased nephew - has been called up into a riot area. He's National Guard now. We don't know where.

Oh, yeah, and my dad is 80, my mom turns 80 this year, and Dad's been in renal failure for a few years (he's stable). Recently their gym has reopened so they are going back to fitness classes. I mean, great for them, and I'm proud they are taking care of themselves - I honestly don't know how safe their state is or their town or their facilities. But through all this they are the primary guardians of my military brother's two young daughters. Dear God, Please keep them all safe!

It's a crap shoot guessing which of my family members will die next. I thought, after my sister's funeral just before the new Lunar Year, that I'd have a good year free from more death. I'm beginning to rethink that guess.

We all die. 
It doesn't truly matter. 
I couldn't go to the funeral anyway!
It just weighs on me.

02 June, 2020

Life is Too Much

I can't anymore. 
I can't feel more than I already feel.
It's too much.

I spent a lot of words trying to make sense of my nephew's suicide.
Then I spent more words than I had access to, processing my sister's sudden death.

Covid hit. I used up as many words as I had trying to get friends and family in the US to understand that the pandemic is, in fact, real. It has, in fact, deeply effected countries around the world. It is ...
Never mind. I gave up on that fight. Ya'll are on your own.

Next came all the racist horrors that are igniting conversation. YAY! Finally, someone started saying, "Yes, I have white privilege. No, I don't agree with these racist actions. What can I do?" And finally, people are answering. Finally, people are coming together and helping each other. I found words enough for a blog post. I spoke as much as I feel might help. Not much, but hopefully people know I disagree with the brutal murder of an un-armed, restrained black man. I can't say a lot.

Then I started seeing on every social media: "Watch for the ones who are silent." Implying that silence = complicity. In some cases, it does. In some cases, we are simply exhausted! I can't feel anymore! I can't say any more. I just can't! I'm not sleeping because people thousands of miles away - people I do not know - are facing systemic injustice.

Ostracize people for silence about racism? Screw you. How about TALK to people who are silent and find out WHY they are silent. Then... choose your actions.

Yesterday was the birthday of my nephew who killed himself last fall. I have personal shit going on that nationwide riots will not change. So shut up. Shut up about thinking your issue is the only issue.  

I say this about everyone who pushes their issue and brooks no argument that their issue may not be foremost in the minds of every single other person. There are a lot of issues. Going 100% at every single issue that one feels for will KILL a person!

There is also a lot of personal pain. The fact that a person cannot give 100% to your issue when they are fighting other things at the same time... Please look at my few tweets and my blog post, and understand I have not, and will not, perpetuate the problem. But I cannot spend any more energy fighting a vast problem when I'm grieving and now on the brink of a depression of my own.

Watch for the ones who are silent.

HELP those of us who are silent!!!!

P.S. In a few days, we'll start seeing a spike in Covid cases in the US. Yippee. Yay for jeopardizing those fighting one issue in the name of fighting another issue. Which do I choose? I want to feel for both! I want to speak about both!
I can't.

I can't care.  
I'm dying from the inside out.

Ask me any questions you want, but don't judge until you hear me.

30 May, 2020

Empty Words, Broken Heart

I have no words for what's happening in the US right now. But I want to say something.

What happened to George Floyd breaks my heart.
And all the other, similar events.
But my words seem useless. What can I do?
I feel powerless.

I feel like anything I say will sound empty. I can't sleep at night for the wheels turning in my head trying to work out how to say ANYthing that doesn't sound like White Privilege apologizing for itself.

How do things like this happen?
What world do we live in where anyone - any living human, law enforcement or not - finds it legitimate to kneel on an unarmed, restrained man until that man is dead? A 20 dollar bill? Really?

But I live on the far side of the planet. Continents away from the protests, from all of the hate crimes, the police brutality, the racism. 
Living in Asia I occasionally feel racism against me, but it's nothing by comparison. Nothing. A bias, a sneer, a degrading look, perhaps hurtful words on social media. Nothing like violence, partly because I live in a generally non-violent country, but partly because of white privilege.

Because living in China and Vietnam, although some people dislike all of us foreigners for living here while belonging to a different country, many of those people will still treat me better than they do my darker-skinned fellow expats. And I don't know what to do about it.

My heart hurts for the world. My heart hurts for America. My heart already was hurting for my own losses. 
My words may be useless, but they are all I have.

05 May, 2020

Language Frustrations

No more AtoZ, no more theme... although I made it through the whole alphabet, so I really need to go get my "survivor" badge soon.

Back to life, back to reality, as we were taught by Soul II Soul.

My language classes did not go away last month, but now I feel an urge to double down a bit. Due to Covid, my Vietnamese classes were switched to Skype. Somehow, not feeling a need to clean the bathrooms and make sure the kitchen is spotless before the teacher arrives makes studying easier. I can focus on the language, and not on the impression I make on my teacher. It's very freeing!

Vietnamese class was this morning, and Mandarin class - also Skype - will be tomorrow morning. {It's usually Mondays, but this weekend was the Labor Day holiday in China, and my teacher cautioned me that she was going out with friends Sunday night and might not be ready for class so early Monday morning. LOL. We understand each other. I told her to have a drink for me.}
It's chaos, I tell you! Chaos!

I started Mandarin while living in China. When we moved to Vietnam, I wanted to continue, because if I'm living anywhere in this part of the world, Chinese is not a bad language to know. After we got to Vietnam, we realized a majority of tourism here comes from China. (Korea is second.) Many businesses have their signs in Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean.

Even so, I don't practice my Mandarin regularly. Sometimes - before Covid - I might have heard some people speaking it in a store or restaurant, but I rarely felt compelled to chime in.

At first, I thought Vietnamese was coming more easily to me than Mandarin. They are both tonal languages, and share some grammatical similarities. Even some words are similar. Think of how many English words are recognizable when you learn them in another Latin-based language?

I now consider Vietnamese the harder of the two. Sure, reading Chinese is torture, because if you don't know "that specific" character, you have no idea what it sounds like or means. Vietnamese at least sort of looks familiar. But that's a fools game. It doesn't sound familiar, and I have realized I have no ear for it at all. Tones or not, Vietnamese has 11 vowels! And I cannot hear them all.

Fortunately, my teacher is very flexible. Lately we've been spending most of the lesson on conversation, and practicing speaking and hearing. We are moving very slowly through the book, but in the end, I think I will be better able to function with what I am learning. Little though it is.

Excuse me now. I have to study Vietnamese.
Or maybe I should review my Mandarin, since I have that class tomorrow.  
Some days, I miss complaining about my high school German classes.

01 May, 2020

Zilch #AtoZChallenge

Zilch. Zip. Nada. 
That's how much communication I get from my family. 
Well, that's how much I feel like I'm getting from them.

I understand everyone is in a weird place right now, so no hard feelings. But... a little bit of hard feelings. I'm 8,000 miles away from my family, and I try to reach out, but I don't want to push. The last I actually heard back from a sibling was a brother, 3 weeks ago, and it was a single text. 

I called my mom on the 22nd, but that was really to say "Happy Birthday" to my young niece, and the conversation centered on that. Mom is doing the e-schooling for my two nieces while their dad continues working, so that is a very busy house. Conversations are short, understandably.

I was already thinking, after my nephew's death in the fall, that we all seem to be grieving separately, carrying our burdens on our own, without sharing the weight of them among the group. Surely that can't be right. (I know, there is no "right" grief, but it feels like we should hold each other up if possible.) He took his own life, and suicide is hard to talk about, but that makes it feel more important to talk about. Maybe I'm weird.

Then, after my sister's death in January, there was a little more communication. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that her kids bore the brunt of the grief, so there was more of a feeling that we should help? 

After Covid came on the scene, at first I was alone over here in Asia and everyone else seemed to think it was nothing. Now that they are in the thick of it, there's less communication than ever before. Zilch.

It's a little lonely, if I'm honest. 
I vacillate between a "screw them" and a "love them" attitude. 
Overall, the "no man is an island" philosophy seems to be more and more false for me.

It would appear that I am ending this month's challenge on a low note. That's not really how I feel. Just today, we went out to check on the beach - not the popular one, although it is reportedly sparse out there - I needed the sand between my toes and the fresh salt breeze. Glorious! I really do love my life. It would be nice to share more about it with the folks back home. I guess that's my point.

And that's life. Highs and lows. We all have them. I hope your month ended well!

29 April, 2020

Yes! #AtoZChallenge

What have you been saying "Yes!" to during this lockdown, when we are denied so many things we are used to?

Personally, I find that I have said Yes to reading. In the past month and a half I have finished 4 books, made progress in a long one that I have going, and I'm due to finish a re-read of Hamlet before April is out. That's pretty quick for me, because I tend to put writing time before reading.

I have said Yes to naps. This is not wholly unusual, but I'm doing it with greater frequency these days. Maybe I'm not sleeping as well at night, but still - Naps!

I am saying Yes to language study. I'm learning both Vietnamese and Mandarin. I have been for a while, but I'm more in the mood to study. Not much more, but my attitude about it is better, anyway.

What about you? Any new or renewed Yesses in your new normal?

28 April, 2020

eXiTS #AtoZChallenge

I recently asked if you have any games you regularly play on your phone.

I tend to stick with puzzle-type games, but I like to keep at least one nonsense, brain-relaxing game on my phone. 

Recently I came across a new game - and this is NOT a sponsored post - called "EXiTS". It appeared to be puzzle-y, but more fun. It's about eXiting from a place. Each game is a new location, with new puzzles to figure out. Good for a puzzler, right?

No. I mean, it's intriguing, and I've played it daily since I downloaded it, but I need to use the hints in almost every puzzle.

I do sudoku, crosswords, "brain" games... but this one stumps me all the time. Like there will be a robot with a triangle, square and circle on his chest, and you need to remember the order or position, because sooner or later you will find a box whose lock needs to be tapped in the order of the shapes. Very weird.

Well, I'm still playing it, and since eXits has an "X" and begins with the right sound, I'm borrowing it for my X post. 

Not necessarily advocating this game unless you love brain-teasers. I'll be very intrigued to see how everyone else filled their "X" requirement!

27 April, 2020

Who are We? #AtoZChallenge

I shared this meme in my R post on resolutions:

It got me thinking, what are my priorities now? What does matter? How am I acting on that? Who, really, am I? I have reinvented myself several times, but what is at the core of Who I am? 

Can you answer that question about yourself? Who are you?

I can give you list of roles I play: wife, daughter, sister, employer, employee... I've had many roles. But that's not Who I am, that's what I am. 

I've saved several different soul-searching info-graphics to my pinterest board, chock-full of introspective questions - useful and not-so-useful - like:
  • What do my dreams tell me?
  • What is my proudest accomplishment?
  • What does my ideal day look like?
Like I said, some useful questions, some not very. 

Who am I? I am confused. I have strengths and weaknesses. I am not a job, by any means. I couldn't even tell you what I "really want" out of life, because the parameters - not of what's feasible, but even of what appears desirable - changes constantly.

Who am I? I'm a person. That's kind of it. Everything else is just an appearance of a type.

Who are you? Am I alone in feeling a bit like a blank slate of a person? I mean, at the core, ignoring the roles and personas we take on, Who, really, are we?

26 April, 2020

Volume #AtoZChallenge

As I was dropping an ice cube in my glass of beer the other day, I wondered if the ice changed the "ABV"% for my beer. That "alcohol by Volume" is a good standard gauge, and it's used worldwide.

In China, the cheap-crap wine I found had a higher Volume of alcohol than the "good" wines I drank in the States, but never left me with a headache in the morning. Awesome! The common beers in China had a lower Volume than the microbrews I typically favor. Which is good, because people drank them ALL the time.

In Vietnam, the typical beers everyone drinks, and pours over ice at every family gathering - and keeps pouring and pouring so that no one really knows how much they've been drinking - have low ABV.

We've started buying beer by the case. Only we're metric, so a case is 20 500ml bottles. (They have cases of 24 330ml cans, too.) 

I have recently discovered that I can get three small glasses of beer out of one bottle, if I pour it into a small mug and put ice in it. It's not that I love beer so much, but we drink SO MUCH water - tropics, you know, it's necessary - that it's nice to break it up. And honestly, buying beer is cheaper than buying juice or soda.

I mentioned that I wondered how the ice affected the Volume of alcohol percentage, but I really don't care enough to look it up. I know that I'm not drinking too much when I water it down.

This subject loosely ties in to my "Covid-19" theme, as I keep seeing jokes on social media about how much more everyone is drinking now that we're not going anywhere: day-drinking, stress-drinking, virtual happy hours. I am not immune. I do feel like the "rules" about drinking no longer exist. But am I drinking more? If it's watered down? I don't know. I really don't care, either.

What about you? What has been your go-to beverage of choice while stuck at home? (Alcoholic or not.)

24 April, 2020

Undead #AtoZChallenge

Anyone else exhausted from doing nothing?

In trying to think of a "U" word that fit the way I'm feeling today, "Undead" seemed the most applicable. I wake up with ambition. (I mean, not too much, let's be real.) But pretty soon I'm lying down again. 

Don't judge. I live in a tropical country. The whole place basically shuts down for two hours in the peak heat of the day.

Still. My energy never returns. Basically, if I don't do something in the morning, it's not getting done. I'm Undead by early afternoon. Since it's nearly 4pm at this moment, I really don't want to write much, so instead I'll share a suitable song. 

Personally, I prefer the Whiffenpoofs a capella version of "Re: Your Brains", but can't find a video version of it. This is still good ... well, the animation isn't, but listen to the words. Hilarious. Please enjoy a very funny song about the Undead.

23 April, 2020

Travel #AtoZChallenge

One of the first changes we made when we realized Covid-19 was going to have a huge impact on the whole world, was changing our Travel plans.

After I returned from my nephew's funeral in September, Brett said he had been thinking that we should plan a longer trip to the US for the summer. Time to see all of our family in happier settings. He knew that Traveling alone all that way, for such a heavy event, was hard on me, and we need to have intentional "this may be the last time we see you" visits. 

Then, my sister died, and we both Traveled to the US for that. It made it even more important for us to plan a trip for fun. 

We wanted to Travel in June. I usually start tracking airfares about three months in advance, and watch for price fluctuations. That was March. 

All Hell broke loose during that month, and we looked at each other and agreed. "We can't make this trip in June." Optimistically, I thought maybe October would be an alternative. My niece is getting married that month, and although we hadn't intended to make the trip, if we can't go in June, why not do it then? 

Now, however, unless things change in how America handles this pandemic, I don't think Traveling there will be wise. Even if the US opens its borders, that doesn't make every other airport we would travel through safe. With a US passport, we can go there anytime. But we live in Vietnam. Before completely closing our borders, Vietnam issued a list of nationalities that would not be allowed in. That was early on. China, Korea, Italy, UK... countries that were hit hard at that point were denied entry.

Even as the US began showing more cases of Covid-19, we were not on the list. (There was a lot of grumbling among expats about that preferential treatment, I can tell you!) Now, no international flights are coming in, and even domestic travel is heavily regulated. (Changing cities may result in 14 day quarantine, so only go if you MUST!) My guess is, as Vietnam eventually re-opens borders, they will do so gradually, with lists of acceptable and unacceptable passport countries. 

I expect that, with the current trend of this disease in the US, even in October*, the US may be in a questionable state. We will not leave if we can't return to our home.

*Because to Travel there, I need to get tickets early. It's not a trip you take on a whim, just walking into the airport and expecting a seat on a plane. So if we want to Travel in October, I'll need to start planning by the end of July. Hmm...

We're thinking June, 2021 sounds like a good time to Travel.

What trips will you take when you feel able to do so?

22 April, 2020

Statistics #AtoZChallenge

When I was in college, I was surprised to find that the course called "Statistics" fell under the banner of the Psychology department. I remember thinking "Aren't Statistics numbers?"

I never took the class, but I learned a lot about Statistics in a graduate course on research methods. Statistics, when considered for research, are a scientific tool. However, the presentation of Statistics often appears to be psychologically driven. Accentuate the part you want to draw attention to. The perception can change depending on how you say it.

Statistics are purest without a spin doctor. Here is a pure Statistic: 
On April 21, the US had 25,985 new cases of Covid-19. (Vietnam had 0.)

<All Statistics herein come from THIS website.>

Some people will look at that Statistic and think how great it is that the number is going down. (The day before was 28,123.) YES! That is good. It's progress. In my opinion, it is small progress, but the Statistic is... progress.

The number of new cases per day seems to be leveling out around 20-30k. But each day's new cases are piled onto the those remaining from before. 

On April 21, the US had 690,503 total active cases, up from 677,856 the day before. The number of active cases is still on the rise. 

I check that website  daily, just a quick peek at the world, and my home in Vietnam. (We are 5 days with no new cases. Bars and restaurants can re-open tomorrow.)

I see Statistics being spun all over the news. I don't listen. I look at them myself. 

To look at a more personal Statistic and my personal views on it...

When my sister died - wow, 3 months ago already! - it was ruled a heart attack. She now joins the Statistic of female deaths from heart attack. Known to be the leading cause of death for women in the US.

Certainly her heart stopped beating. But there was no autopsy. Her cardiologist had given her a clean bill of health just a week prior to her death. Was he wrong? How did she really die? Was it, in fact, a freak heart attack? We will never know, but to the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, and everyone involved in fundraising for heart disease, she is now one of theirs.

It doesn't really matter. She's dead. And that's why there was no autopsy. Does it matter? 

Regardless, I guess my point is: Be careful what you pay attention to. Numbers can be painted in various colors. Don't believe a meme. Look it up. Or, if you can't be bothered to check it, at least don't spread it!

Resolutions #AtoZChallenge

Did you make a New Year's Resolution for 2020?
How's it going?

It seems like a good time to check on Resolutions, don't you think? We're a quarter of the way through the year. A lot of people will have bailed on their Resolution already. Have you? And if so, why not take the time now to pick it back up?

I saw this on facebook yesterday. How perfect!

So, did you make a Resolution?

Generally, I don't do that (for a variety of reasons I'll not go into here) but this year there was one thing that jumped out, and I made one Resolution. I can't remember now exactly how I worded it, but basically I am going to be more diligent with my social commitments. You see, to me, there is no plan better than a canceled plan. That means I need to make plans with better care, so that I don't find a way to cancel them. One Resolution, two prongs: DON'T cancel (unless truly necessary), ONLY agree to a social commitment that I feel strongly about, no on-a-whim "sure, let's do that" type events.

Now, with everyone staying in - and if not, at least understanding of the concept - this is a very easy Resolution to keep!

I would imagine there are two situations happening regarding the world's 2020 Resolutions:

1. Resolutions that involve going out and doing something are not being kept. Exercise goals? Can't go to a gym, walks are cut short, unless you prepared a home gym = hard to keep.
Resolved to eat better? a lot of processed food on the menu, delivery is the safest option, unless you have a good source for fresh fruit and veggies = hard to keep. 
Resolve to travel more? Ix-nay. Not for quite a while, I'll bet.

2. Resolutions that involve staying in should be doing well. Read more? You have the time. Spend more time with family? In spades! (except for distant family)

So, what about you? If you made a Resolution, how's it going? Is it easier or harder in this new world paradigm?

20 April, 2020

Questions #AtoZChallenge

Back when I thought I'd be writing about grief, Questions was a logical Q theme.
So many Questions.

Then, I decided to add Covid-19 to my theme. It seemed even more applicable to write about Questions! 
There are so very many Questions about this disease. 

But you know what? 17 letters in, I'm getting kind of sick of this theme. The darkness, the weight of the subject matter, the daily reminder of difficulties, instead of escaping reality into my blog.

So instead I will ask random Questions for you to answer in a comment, or just think about, or ask others in your household during this time.

Totally random Questions (nothing personal):

If you watch TV, what's your go-to binge these days?

I understand some streaming networks offer "watch together" options, where you can get a bunch of friends in different places, and all watch the same show at the same time. Do you do that? Is it worth it? 

Right now, what is your favorite thing to do outside, in the short time you go out?

Typically, what is your favorite thing to do outside?

What will be the first thing you do outside when this is all over?

...Okay, I guess these are not totally random, but still related to Covid-19. Oh well.

Do you read? What are you reading? 

Are you satisfied with the food currently in your fridge?

Do you prefer strawberry or chocolate?

What games do you have on your phone (or tablet)... that you actually play?

I'm not being very imaginative, but there you have it. Q, for a day. I guess the obvious final Question is: Do you have any Questions for me?