The Bona Fides of Betsy DeVos

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—Just days after picking Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education, President-elect Donald Trump has tapped another wealthy outsider by naming Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán to head the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The New Yorker, Borowitz Report, Trump Picks El Chapo to Run D.E.A.

I am more qualified to be appointed Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos.

I don’t take issue with her not having a decree in education.  (She has a degree in political science, as do I.)  I don’t take issue with her never having been an educator.  (I am not an educator either; however, I have had to teach throughout my professional career.)  And I don’t take issue with her never having worked in the public school system.  (I’ve not worked in the public school system, but I have given guest talks at public schools.)

So what makes me more qualified than Ms. DeVos?  I attended public schools.  Indeed, I attended a public elementary, middle and high school.  I also attended a public state university.  Ms. DeVos attended a private christian high school and a private christian university.  She also sent her four children to private school.  Is it of any surprise that she is uninterested in bettering public schools?  Rather, she prefers for-profit educational systems, unregulated charter schools, and a voucher system.

Letting the elephant in the room issue of separation of church and state lie, for the moment, I don’t want my taxpayer dollars subsidizing private educational systems that are not all inclusive.  And I don’t want my taxpayer dollars funding unregulated charter schools.  Rather, I’d prefer to watch my taxpayer dollars improve upon the public school system currently in place.  A challenging, yet worthy cause, and one befitting the Secretary of Education.  Obviously.

The upside?  Ms. DeVos is no friend of teacher unions.  (Unqualifiedly, I have more experience with labor negotiations than her.)

Ah, The Start of the Holiday Season.

fullsizerender322Sunday, I was able to prepare our first home cooked meal since we returned from Taiwan.  In an ode to Thanksgiving, turkey breast and my Grandmother’s cranberry dish were on the menu; steamed asparagus in lemon better replaced my holiday green bean casserole and buttermilk biscuits replaced my labor intensive sour dough stuffing.  Given the truncated menu, I opted to bake a pumpkin pie for dessert.

Prior to Sunday, I had baked two pies in my lifetime:  one apple and one pumpkin.  When I bake, I tend to find the most complicated recipe available and go with it.  That is how it came to be that I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon preparing pumpkin pie that requires ice-cold vodka for its crust and ground ginger, maple syrup, candied yams, and double whisked custard for its filling.

As I was cursing the uncooperative pie dough, my thoughts turned to the holiday season.  In an instant, my mind was overrun with questions.  Should we have people over in December?  If so, who?  When?  What do I cook?  When will I be able to bake?  What should we have for Christmas dinner?  Should we buy a used tricycle for [S]?  Should I hand sew a stocking for [S] this year?  Does wrapping pajamas [S]’s already picked out count as a gift?  What about party mix?  When can I make cards for family?  How will I be able to prepare an entire meal in this kitchen?  How will I be able to prepare for the holidays with two young children next year?  I began to panic.  How will it all get done, I needed to know.

This was the first year I recall being overwhelmed by what might be.  Our oven is slow.  That is, unless it is fast.  Every burner on our stove top is lopsided, requiring exacting attention to the contents of each pot and pan.  But my anxiety wasn’t about what to cook or who to invite over.  Rather, I was wondering whether I am up to the task to make this Christmas a special joyous occasion for family and friends.  After I disclosed my near panic attack to Russell, I asked, “What is wrong with me?”  After listening me with a half smile on his face, he responded, “Don’t forget, you never have to do it alone.  We’re a team.  We’ll get everything done–together.”

Later that night, as I cut into the pumpkin pie, immediately noting it could have used a bit more baking time.  I bemoaned the fact, grumbling that I knew better, that I should have been guided by my instinct, rather than the timer.  Russell commented that it tasted great and I should let it firm up in the refrigerator.  The next day, the pie tasted even better and appeared to have firmed up just enough.  And I have not received one complaint about dessert.

It was then I realized that imperfections are part of the holiday season.  The baking, cooking and entertaining all will get done, be it for better or worse.  But my most significant accomplishment will be enjoying time with family and friends, whether over store-bought or homemade cookies.

Here’s to kicking off the holiday season with an eye towards embracing the flaws and imperfections of life.

Shopping the Post-Thanksgiving Sales: A First.

fullsizerender321I don’t like post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping.  For me, that statement is a bit like saying I don’t care for sushi without ever having tried it.  Indeed, I’ve spent the better part of my adult life avoiding malls and sales the day after Thanksgiving.  Inevitably, such sales result in people being injured, be it as a result of a fist fight or a gun shot.

Oh, yes, I’ve heard about the deep discounts offered on Black Friday and even know a person or two who lives for the day’s deals.  But I’m not that person.  I refuse to awake at 3 a.m. for any reason other than my family.  And I certainly wouldn’t do so to stand in line for two hours in hopes of purchasing a television on sale.

A few days before leaving for Taiwan, our television stopped working.  Whatever the reason, it proved fatal.  As we were discussing our options, I noted that Military.com said on-base Exchanges would be having sales on electronics on Black Friday.  My Husband, who is not an avid shopper, stared at me.  “No, we are not doing that.  We are not patronizing a shopping event that results in stampedes,” he stated simply.  I agreed.

But the day after the day after Thanksgiving is whole different matter.  The Exchange also had a sale today, Saturday, on electronics.  It was a different sale, Samsung televisions, rather than LG televisions.  But the sale was just as useful to us.  This morning, we awoke at our regular time, had breakfast, and then headed to the Exchange on Kadena Air Base.  We would be purchasing a television today.  Period.  I was hopeful it would be one on sale.

As we pulled into the parking lot, it appeared more empty than not.  A good sign, to be sure.  The better sign was that we didn’t see anyone standing in line outside.  As we walked towards the main entryway, Russell commented, “See, I told you, this wouldn’t be a busy shopping day.”  Just as his sentence ended, we opened the door to find a line of people curved around to the other side of the lobby awaiting the opening of the store.  As we walked to the end of the line, the line began moving.  It was 9 a.m. and the Exchange was open.

When we reached the end of the line, an employee holding four different paper vouchers asked if we were purchasing a television or iPad.  Yes, we replied.  What model, he asked.  As we hemmed and hawed, he noted that only one voucher per ID card holder was permitted.  “Can I take one, and he the other?” I asked.  My question was met with a stern reproach.  “Come on, we’re trying to make money here,” he responded.  “When do you have to pay?” I asked.  “By 9:30 a.m.,” he replied.  We consulted with the employee and selected our initial choice.  We took our voucher to the store, paid for it, and picked up the television later that afternoon.

Today’s shopping was orderly and calm, and the store, in large part, empty.  For that I am thankful.  Oh, yes, and also for saving $350, which put the price of the television where it should have been in the first place.

Giving Thanks, Always.

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Yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving, we returned to home to Okinawa after exploring Taiwan for almost a week.  The trip was educational, inspiring and enlightening–truly fabulous.  Today, we rested and gave thanks.  We did so without turkey, cranberry sauce, garlic mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie.  Rather, we ate a late lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, located across the street.  Needless to say, I am grateful for not having to prepare a Thanksgiving meal.  We also are grateful for the opportunity to live in Okinawa and the means to explore the world.  We are grateful for Russell’s employment.  We are grateful that our adoption exit process paperwork has been submitted to Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.  We are grateful for our health.  But, most of all, we are grateful for our family and friends, without whom we would live in a monochrome world.

From our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Never. Again.

Taipei

It seemed like a good idea at the time of booking.  Hong Kong for four days, return home, and head to Taiwan five days later.  I didn’t anticipate the cold [S] would pass along.  I didn’t anticipate the immense increase of work at the office.  And I didn’t anticipate the amount of clothes a family of three generates.  Since arriving home on Sunday evening, our hours have been filled with work, unpacking, and repacking, amid cups of soothing tea.

As I type this post, we are 97% packed with one load of laundry in the dryer and a kitchen sink filled with dinner dishes to be washed.  But we are nearing the finish line. Good thing, too.  Our flight leaves at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, requiring a 5 a.m. wake-up call.  Regardless, I’m excited for our next adventure.

Here we come, Taiwan!

Rest In Peace, Ms. Ifill.

It was with great sadness I received the news that Gwen Ifill passed away.  I enjoyed watching her no-nonsense fact-based journalism.  She reached the heart of the matter quickly, asking precise questions based upon facts.  She understood the importance of her job–ensuring viewers understood what was happening in the world and the potential consequences of such actions.  I, like most, was unaware of her fight against uterine cancer.  She undertook her illness as she undertook her life, with grace and humility.

She will be missed.

Post-Election: A Week In Review

It is almost a week since Americans cast their election ballots and voted in President-Elect Donald J. Trump.  Personally, I cannot shake the feeling of dread that first consumed me while watching the returns.  I take comfort in knowing that Hillary Clinton won our country’s popular vote, but only a little.  Today, I realized that my feelings of impending gloom and doom were not without reason.  In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, Mr. Trump demonstrated his lack of understanding of the rule of law.  He stated his intention to appoint pro-life judges to overturn the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  Minutes later he stated that his opinion regarding same-sex marriage is irrelevant because it is already law, already decided by the Supreme Court.  His incoherent inconsistency should be of no surprise by now.  Let the rule of law stand, that is, unless I don’t agree with it.

Mr. Trump’s people have indicated he would like to unwind America’s obligations to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris accord.  This, too, should be of little surprise.  He does not believe that global warming is occurring and/or its effects are damaging our environment.  This, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.

Regardless, I believe Mr. Trump’s largest post-election leadership failure has come with his resistance to issuing a statement denouncing hatred.  He has not taken the forward-looking step to begin his post-election transition by rejecting the incendiary rhetoric of hate.  As a result, U.S. citizens feel free to tell other U.S. citizens that they will be deported because of their religion or race.  As a result, pro-Trump “whites only” graffiti has been written on church property.  As a result, people are wondering what will become of our nation.

The biggest indication of what is to become can be seen by Mr. Trump’s appointments of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor.  The future does not look bright–at least not for me.  Since the election results, I have given serious consideration as to whether returning to the United States is in the best interest of our family.  Today, I do not believe it is.  Our family is of mixed race.  Our family believes in the value of education and science.  Our family, through travel, understands our responsibility to the environment as global citizens.  Our family understands the rule of law.  And our family is not fearful of world cultures, religions, or people.

Of course, I understand that Mr. Trump is our president-elect.  No amount of protesting will change that outcome, nor should it.  But that doesn’t mean one must normalize Mr. Trump’s presidency or embrace him as our leader.  Indeed, thus far I have managed to ignore the news in large measure.  And I may just continue to do so for the next four years.

Hong Kong, Here We Come.

I just performed an online search for “Hong Kong” and received the following top result:

SHANGHAI, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Hong Kong stocks touched a 3-month low on Wednesday, losing early gains to tumble over 2 percent as investors fled risky assets as Republican Donald Trump claimed a shock victory in the U.S. presidential election.

The Hang Seng index fell 2.2 percent, to 22,415.19, while the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index <.HSCE > lost 2.9 percent, to 9,378.66 points.

— Hong Kong stocks tumble on Trump election triumph, Reuters

Regardless of how the world now views Americans, we are off to explore Asia.  Our first stop, Hong Kong.

I’ll post about our adventures upon our return next week.

The Day Bitterness and Anger Won

Today, I wept for America.

I wept for a county that elected a president who insults, demeans and belittles women.

I wept for a country that elected a president who loathes American values and virtues.

I wept for a country that fears change, refugees, and differences.

I wept for a country that believes rumors and innuendo over facts and figures.

I wept for a country that values hateful rhetoric over demonstrated experience.

I wept for a country that elected a president ignorant of world politics and domestic policy.

I wept for my daughter.

I wept for my husband.

I wept for our future.