The Broad is Back!

June 8, 2013

Grattis Madeleine och Chris

It’s a big day in Sweden today. Princess Madeleine, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia’s youngest child, married her Anglo-American fiance Chris O’Neil.  Who doesn’t love a pretty wedding? And as a former Swedish resident, I was curious.

When I was learning Swedish I read the two national tabloids most days to work on my vocabulary. We owned a shop which sold them, so it was easy enough to do.  And the one thing that gets covered ad nauseum in the tabloids is the royal family, so I’m surprisingly familiar with them. That adds to my curiosity, of course. I’ve watched this woman in the media for over 10 years. She’s familiar.

But I was curious for another reason. Princess Madeleine has been living in New York City for the past three years, and I actually came face to face with her early one morning on a coffee run. A narrow door: she was coming out, I was going in, so we were inches apart. I recognized her face, thought she was a former student, but then realized, no, that’s the princess. Five years in Sweden, never see a royal. Here in NYC? Come face to face with one. No words were spoken, just the usual polite smiles exchanged as one person steps aside for the other. Besides, I’m far too much of a New Yorker to react to a famous face, and she was just another New Yorker during the early morning rush.

But having seen the woman in the flesh, I was curious about her wedding.  Three years ago, her sister, Crown Princess Victoria, got married. I was curious then, as well, so I checked out the Swedish websites that day and was truly happy for her.  And homesick for Sweden.

Leading up to today, I was feeling much less nostalgic for Sweden, but of course, the first thing I did this morning was to log on to the website of Sweden’s biggest tabloid, Aftonbladet, to check out the pictures.

I loved it. The Swedish princesses are very pretty women with excellent taste in clothing. The bride’s Valentino dress was stunning and the bride looked like, well, a princess from a storybook. Everything about the wedding was lovely. The flowers, the children singing in the church, the reading by the Crown Princess. And I was struck at how much seeing Stockholm in all its summer beauty made me homesick.

There are videos on the site, of course, and the one that made me go all soft and gooey was the short one of Madeleine going up the aisle on her father’s arm. The shots of Chris O’Neil showed him visibly moved, unsuccessfully holding back tears. Yesterday I didn’t know the guy from Adam. Today, I think he’s a sweetie.

For all the royal pomp and circumstance, the overwhelming feeling I got from the pictures was love and warmth. The bridal pair is obviously besotted. Watching the royal family interact one can see the strong family love and connection. Victoria’s daughter, the littlest princess, Estelle, is 15 months old, but even she was at the wedding interacting with her mother, father and grandmother.

Seeing such obvious joy on the faces of Madeleine and Chris and their families just felt good. Watching something lovely set in the magnificent royal chapel and then later on the streets of Stockholm on a glorious summer day was a welcome respite from the “real world”. It was a moment away from school shootings, illegal wiretaps, financial meltdown and all the harsh realities we usually see in the news.

I feel the same way about all the weddings I attend, but this summer I don’t have any lined up, so I have to look to Sweden. I know there are American celebrity weddings, but I don’t recognize most of the people involved. And those weddings are not semi-state occasions, put on, in part, for public consumption. If celebrities get married and want privacy, they should have it. If they don’t, well, then I’ll look at their pictures, too.

We all need joy and happiness, reasons to celebrate and a reminder that love is something real that should be celebrated.  Part of me feels silly, uncool, and somewhat old fashioned for watching a royal wedding, but after all, I am a child of my times. Back when I was a little girl, fairy tale weddings were something to dream about. So for the most part it made me feel good to watch, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling good.

Madeleine och Chris: Grattis på ditt äktenskap. Må Gud välsigna er med ett långt och lyckligt liv tillsammans.

And Chris? Good luck learning Swedish!


May 5, 2013

The Unholy Trinity: Salt, Sugar, Fat

I just finished reading Michael Moss’s book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. It was full of very appalling information, and if you haven’t been paying attention for the past 20 or so years, I highly recommend it.  Luckily, I have a mother who is very aware of the evils of processing, so she passes the fruits of her research on to me.

Sometimes we tease her about her diet choices, but the woman will be 81 in a few months and takes no medications. Her blood pressure and cholesterol are low, and in fact her 40-something physician told her that she wished her numbers were that good. So obviously Mom is doing something right.  And she’s regularly mistaken for being in her late 60s. It’s partly genetics, but also partly vigilance.

As I was reading the chapter on Lunchables–and yes, that particular product has its own chapter–I realized how lucky I was to have “missed” them.  We left America in 1995 when my son was 4; we returned in 2007 when he was 16.  His entire schooling was in other countries.  By the time we returned, his tastes and preferences had been set. And in other countries, at least the ones we lived in, children’s school lunches were serious business.

My son went to school in Taiwan, Switzerland and Sweden, but at every school hot lunches were supplied every day, and children were not allowed to bring a packed lunch. They learned to eat what was put in front of them. If they didn’t like something, they could fill up on salad and bread.  Sweets were not allowed on school grounds, and the beverages served with lunch were water or milk. Plain milk, not chocolate.

So thanks to the rigidity of the schools he went to, I never had to fight the peer pressure of Lunchables or any of the other vile products marketed to children in this country. Although I almost always gave him plain oatmeal, sugary cereals were always available, but super sweet American cereals were not. When we came home to America on visits he was allowed a box of Froot Loops or Lucky Charms, his favorites, and I allowed him Pop Tarts, something I wouldn’t have had I lived here.  Ironic, I know, but as ex-pat moms, we just have different ways of working out our guilt.

Before we left America, I was much stricter. Until he was about 2 1/2 I had him convinced that rice cakes were cookies. The babysitter’s house disabused him of that notion, but at home, after the rice cakes deception was up, he got juice sweetened organic cookies. I was trying hard to give him good eating habits and not develop an overly sweet tooth.

Something worked as he’s not a sweets person. After the first few months back in the US, eating all the things he’d missed in Europe–Pop Tarts, donuts, root beer, sugary cereal–he mostly stopped. He felt glutted just like some tourists to America who come and eat all of our foods, loving it, but then are very happy to go home.

For me, though, reading this book was partly preaching to the choir.  Many of my students write papers about the obesity epidemic and almost all of them cite the cheap availability of fast food or convenience food as a main problem.  This riles me because I know for what you’d pay to eat at a fast food chain, even one with cheap menus, I could prepare a meal that’s half the price and immeasurably better for them.  I even once wrote a cook book (unpublished, alas) of cheap, unprocessed, healthy recipes.

And per pound, much junk food is much more expensive than carrots, apples or any in-season fruit or home popped popcorn not done in a microwave.  But as Moss points out in his book, we’re pretty much addicted to the salt, sugar and fat in junk food.

The overprocessing and over commercialization of food in America is a real and serious problem.  I have no answers for a quick fix.  As with everything, I believe education is an important step. More people should read Moss’s book. More people should read nutrition labels.

One interesting point that Moss does make is that poor nutritional choices are marketed at certain economic classes.  Upper middle class folks and above, well their children aren’t taking Go-Gurts and Lunchables to school.  I see this as problematic in two ways.

First, there is a perceived notion that “healthy” food is “expensive” food.  This is sadly true when it comes to organic in this country, but the fewer processed foods in the grocery cart, the lower the bill.  Even if we buy minimally processed goods, it’s still cheaper than buying convenience foods.  A can of tomatoes mixed with some garlic and herbs, dried is fine, makes a fine pasta sauce without the added sugar, fat and salt found in commercial pasta sauces. It also costs less.  A PB&J, even using natural peanut butter and spreadable fruit on whole wheat like I do, is still cheaper than an Uncrustables PB&J. I’ll get off the soapbox now.

Second, and I see this as much more insidious, children in certain socio-economic groups are getting poorer nutrition and are already facing high cholesterol, high blood pressure  and diabetes, all of which are debilitating. But what I see as even worse, they aren’t getting what they need for their brains to develop to their fullest potential.  In this way the academic divide between rich and poor is ever so slightly widened.  All I can think when I think of this is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in which the strictly delineated classes are fed differently from gestation on. This, to me, is chilling.

I’ve written about food in America before, and I do see this as a major problem of American society.  If you’re looking for some hard facts about the situation, a good place to start is Moss’s book. But I think this might be something I come back to.

Follow up: Shortly after I posted this, I saw a photography project I’d seen before: One week’s worth of groceries from around the world. There couldn’t have been a better visual if I tried.  You can find an article about Peter Menzel’s project here.

February 5, 2013

Americans are getting to me

Walking home from class today, I realized that I was in trouble. I’ve been saying “Americans” a lot. As in “Americans are strange,” “Americans are screwed up,” and “I don’t get Americans sometimes.” This worries me because as my friend has pointed out, “Sweetie, you are American.” And this is my trouble. I’m starting to feel very alienated in my own country.

It might be because this term I have had two Europeans in my class, reminding me of what I left behind, but I don’t think that’s it.  This has been building. The sorry state of my profession in this country has been eating at me for a while.

I went to the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) annual conference in January. The MLA is my professional organization, and to hear modern language professors from all over America discussing the de-professionalization of the profession, the overuse of “contingent labor” (that’s a pretty phrase for underpaid part-time workers, mostly without benefits, who are the mainstay of college faculties all over the country), and the alarmingly poor job market, well, let’s just say I realized I should have gone to law school. Or med school. Or done anything else.

Alternately, I could be a literature professor and be well paid and respected. I just have to leave America. Again.

I think this might be part of my problem. I’m gearing up to leave again.  It’s not set in stone that I’m leaving, but I’m definitely looking at options. In order to leave, I have to remember all the things that bother me about America in order to make the leaving easier.

And I have to say, after five years back, I’ve had a good long look at the fruits of American education. The majority of students I have in class are truly not prepared for the work they are expected to do in college, so I spend my days teaching 6th-10th grade level skills.

I still teach one course a term in Sweden, and my student exams from that course are often better than the papers I get from my native students.  This breaks my heart.  It’s not that I begrudge my Swedish students their skills. But I am brokenhearted that what was once one of the top educational systems in the world is now broken. It’s not broken beyond repair, but I honestly believe the entire system needs to be dismantled and then rebuilt.

But even if we did that, it still wouldn’t work. Our society is broken, as well. There is precious little respect for teachers and education in this country. Oh, we say we respect teachers, but ask any teacher, at any level, and listen to what he or she thinks of the respect we receive. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Yeah, right.  People laugh, but they think that. We’re either inspired selfless zealots who teach to change the world, or we’re losers who can’t make it elsewhere.

Granted, I teach in New York City, mostly in community colleges, so I’m not getting the top of the high school classes, but I’ve taught at “big name” schools here in New York City, as well, and frankly, I’m not impressed.  So I’m back at the community college because I have a union supporting me (I’m part of the contingent labor force), and at least I think I’m making a big difference in people’s lives.  Whatever gets you through the night, right?

So maybe alienated isn’t the right word. I’m angry. I’m angry with the state of my profession, the students’ lack of preparation, the full-time salaries being offered that won’t even support me in New York City, the seeming waste of my education.  But I’m alienated, as well. How can I live in a country that thinks like this? How can something so precious, education, be so disregarded?

Hopefully, this is the beginning of me doing some serious writing about American society. I feel a strong need to write, to chronicle what is happening.  American education is on the edge of a huge change.  Thomas L. Friedman’s essay in the New York Times last week, “Revolution Hits the Universities” sparked much discussion with my co-workers, and that’s just the beginning. The Broad is back, but for how long? I spent 13 years out of America. Was that too long? Is it time for the Broad to be Abroad again?  Time can only tell.

September 27, 2012

Comfort food

Filed under: ex-pats,New Broads,Sweden,Uncategorized — by maggiec @ 6:12 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A woman hit me in the head with a yoga mat today. It was the start of a wonderful conversation.

I had stopped by a new “lot” store on the way home, and as I rounded the corner, I walked into a falling yoga mat. It doesn’t sound as dramatic that way, though. The woman who had knocked it off was very apologetic, and while she was talking, I noticed her accent.

She was German-Algerian and French was her first language, so I was wrong in my guess. But we both had lived in Geneva as she freelanced for the UN, so we had Geneva in common.

She also lived here now, but had been in Paris to visit family, and this store was new to her. I mentioned that it was a good place for German cookies and we were off!  We stood in that store talking for a good ten minutes, two strangers but tied by their search for familiar foods.  I think I enjoyed having that conversation again as much as I enjoyed telling her where to find certain things.

Ex-pats, when they meet their fellows in foreign lands, always have the “where can I get…” conversation.  Once I’d lived a place long enough, I was the one giving the newbies the information.  Some things are impossible to find in foreign lands, but we all learn where we can find many of the ingredients or products we need to make being an ex-pat less “foreign”.

As I’ve been back in America for five years, I don’t often have this conversation anymore. Today I realize how much I’ve missed it–the sense of being different, of spying out things natives may overlook. Of being on a foraging adventure with like minded folks. It was bonding over food–an activity as old as civilization.  Living in New York City I can find everything I miss if I’m willing to pay the price and perhaps travel a bit.  But some products are harder to find than others.  Real crème fraîche made with unpasturized cream is very difficult to find. The children’s candy staple Kinder Eggs are actually illegal in America. But for the most part, I can find things.

I still get cravings, though, and miss foods from “home,” but now “home” is Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.  The Taiwan part is easy. I go to Chinatown.  Sometimes I don’t even have to go that far. The other day I was walking down a block in the Garment District, and was all of a sudden back in Taiwan. Something delicious and exotic and very, very Chinese was wafting out of a small take-out restaurant; the streets were clogged and dark from construction; the languages around me weren’t English. I was so happy to feel “at home”!

Swedish food is only really a problem at the holidays, and I have a “connection” now. IKEA used to be a source, and still is, but they carry a house brand now, not the brand names.

Swiss food is the most elusive to find sometimes. Swiss wine is incredibly difficult to get outside of Switzerland, which is a shame. I developed quite the taste for it in my years there.  Choucroute garnie, a dish of sauerkraut, sausages, ham and pork pieces with boiled potatoes, is hard to duplicate (especially since I bought it ready made at the store). Filets des perche, a lake fish from Lake Geneva, are a regional specialty not usually found outside the canton.

The other day, though, at a large discounter I found petit suisse and swooned. It’s a fresh unripened cheese, often flavored with fruits or chocolate and given to children as a snack as we use yogurt in America but in much smaller servings, only a few ounces. I bought a package for my son, as it was a favorite of his when we lived in Geneva. He wasn’t interested, having forgotten it, so I had to force myself to eat it. A sacrifice, but I did it.

My conversation pal did tell me one great secret: where to find quark!  No, Trekkies, not the character.  Früchtequark (called fromage frais in French, but not the same as just any fromage frais) is fruit flavored or served with fruits and is wonderful. Oh, how I’ve missed it!  I actually dream of it sometimes.  But I’ve learned there’s a source in the Bronx of all places! Now I love the Bronx, but it’s not usually known for a large German population.  The Bronx is were to go for great Italian and Dominican food.

There are days I miss being an ex-pat terribly. But today, for a sweet few minutes, I was once again the world citizen, helping a fellow traveler find the familiars of comfort food.

March 9, 2010

The Contemplative Broad is Edging her way Back

It’s been a long time since I’ve really written, and I surely do have wonderful reasons for that.  I work too much.  Thanks to my wonderful sense of timing, I came back to America during a time of economic downturn, shall we say.  Because I want to live in New York City, where my family has lived for four generations now, I’m reduced to teaching part time, but I can’t live on one part time job, so for the three terms since I’ve been back in New York, I had three. Or four. In order to make less money than I need to live on. Welcome back, Broad.

But the other night it hit me that there might be another reason why I’m not writing about American culture anymore.  I’m too much a part of it again, and that makes it difficult.  One of the reasons I seem to thrive as an ex-pat, not something that everyone can manage, is that I prefer living life as a tourist.  I’m there; I’m participating; but I don’t belong.  The writer in me loves to be the observer, watching from the edges, dipping my toes in a bit, but never fully committing. I realized the other night that I feel like this emotionally much of the time.  That sounds ghastly, and I don’t mean it as such. I have a full and rich emotional life with friends and family I love deeply, but everyone who knows me well knows I need large chunks of time alone, as does anyone who spends a lot of time living an alternate life in created worlds.  So sometimes I pull back and think, “what interesting creatures.”  And it’s easier to do this pulling back when one is on the other side of the ocean or the globe itself.

So I find myself wanting to leave. I want to go back to my cocoon of geographical isolation.  When I lived abroad, I used to jokingly comment that in America people saw me as an oddball, and so I was just odd.  In Europe and Asia, my oddness is chalked up to my Americaness and thus given more of a pass.  It’s easier to have a reason for one’s oddness sometimes, so I prefer living abroad.  Many’s a truth told in jest.

But my biggest problem about writing is the longer I am back in America, the more appalled I become.  The educational system was bad when I left in 1995.  Now I’m back, teaching students who mostly weren’t in even school when I left the States, and their education has deteriorated to the point of farce.  For many years they’ve been taught to useless tests. There are more and more tests and less and less gym and arts and creativity and thinking.  But the tests are full of useless information.  When I get them as college freshmen, they can’t write, most have no basic grasp of grammar, and when it comes to having an idea of their own cultural context? Well, forget it.  My friends who are public school teachers are just as frustrated as I am.  And elsewhere in this column, I’ve written about problems with our students and education, so obviously this is something I am worried about.

I do not blame the students.  They are just as bright, just as savvy, just as eager as the crop I started with in the 80s, but what have they learned?  And sure, I teach at a NYC community college for the most part, but I’ve taught at very competetive schools, and I see problems across the class lines. 

But now I’m on the inside, and I just want to fix things immediately.  Passive observational columns don’t meet that need.

Health care is a huge debate, a mess really.  My son is one of the millions of uncovered Americans.  But after seeing the state of Sweden’s national health, I am very leery of nationalizing health care.  The best system I experienced was Geneva’s.  Health care was mandatory, but there was a very affordable government option for those who had no other choice.  My son was in the local cantonal hospital, and the care was good.  They misdiagnosed my kid, but I felt like they were earnestly trying to find answers, at least.  And I’ve written about the health care mess as well, but the more I see, the more disheartened I become.

And politics in this country.  I don’t even know where to begin.  I know that there was never a “golden era” of American politics, of politics anywhere, but, well. I’m speechless.  Luckily, Kurt Andersen isn’t, and he wrote the brilliant analysis “Is Democracy Killing Democracy” in New York Magazine in February.  I encourage you to read his article, but one statistic he gave got me thinking:

So part of the problem is most likely under-representation (though how on earth could we manage with 2100 senators, I don’t know), but another part is tied in with poor schooling, a lack of civic spirit on the parts of many, and so much else.  Believe me. It’s much easier to write explanatory essays for non-Americans than to figure out what’s going on in the here and now.
No, that’s not true.  I see things. I think of solutions, none of which are very politically correct, frankly.  I have much to say, but I don’t say it because it just would take too much time now that I’m so fully invested.  And as I said in the beginning, time is what I don’t have.
But now I’m going to try to write more frequently.  I think it’s good discipline, and oddly, people have been asking me to write.  So perhaps the Broad is back yet again.

October 31, 2009

Musings on class reunions

“I hear that you made something of yourself.”

I didn’t really understand that statement as a conversational gambit.  I must have looked blank, because she reworded it. 

“I hear you’re successful. You’re a doctor?” Not a statement, that, but a question.

Yes, I am a doctor, so does that make me successful?  On some scales, perhaps.  I don’t think of myself as successful—accomplished, yes.  Educated, most definitely, but have I attained the goals I want to attain?  Not all of them.

Unfortunately, I was at a venue that forced me to face how I felt about my life.

High school reunion. All those years. How do I feel about the experience now that it’s over? A little let down, I think.  Not that seeing people was a let down. I reconnected with some sweet people I was friendly with 30 years ago. Most are doing well, and I’m happy to see that. They are content with their lives, successful at what they do, and mostly healthy, and that makes me glad. 

There were other people there who didn’t talk to me at all.  No change. They didn’t talk to me 30 years ago, or 40 for that matter.  Most of them I went to school with from kindergarten on.  Geographical proximity should not be a reason to have to like someone, then or now, nor is it a reason to care what people think.

That’s the problem, though. Once upon a time, I did care, very much, what these people thought, and I let it upset me to the point that it affected the quality of my life. Some of those people bullied me something awful, and did pretty much up till sometime in my junior year.  By then, I started to grow up a bit, find my purpose, succeed at things others weren’t doing.  The summer before that year I was blessed with a trip to England, staying with an aunt and uncle.  Being off on my own in London every day helped me grow up and gain confidence.  Senior year I got very sick, so sick that I was initially told I would die within months.  Facing one’s own mortality at the age of 17 puts bullying into perspective very quickly.  Dealing with horrible pain helps one focus.  All of a sudden the opinion of people I didn’t care about fell far down on my list of things to worry about.  Not a method of dealing with bullying that I can endorse or recommend, but it worked for me.

So seeing many of those people, revisiting those feelings, was odd.  I don’t care—I am truly disinterested in their opinion about me and my life. (Unless, of course, they think I’m beautiful, witty, accomplished and interesting; then, please, tell me.  But somehow, I think that won’t be happening.)

Even with all of the personal emotions running around in my head, I tended to think about the event in a cultural context.

Americans seem to have a strong sense of nostalgia. Why do we hold class reunions? Could it be that we’re more mobile than many other cultures? We move a lot, so there’s more of a need for a homecoming.  I currently live about 50 miles from where I grew up. But there were people there from California, Florida, North Carolina and who knows where else? One of my best friends came from seven hours away, and she still lives in New York State.

People in other countries have reunions, but they seem bigger here, but that sounds American, too.  Bigger is better.  And ours seem more formalized. In other countries it didn’t seem as if people needed a zero in the years since graduation to get together—but we like the symmetry of 10, 20, 30.

I don’t like to look back. I think most people, deep down, didn’t love high school.  How could they? It happens right smack dab in the worst part of hormone hell.  We’re spotty, awkward, gauche, immature and confused, and that’s the best of us.  We’re tribal little beasts—enjoying being part of a clique, shunning those outside it.  As with many high schools in America, ours was dominated by the people who played sports—the jocks.  I was not a jock.  I was a nothing—I hung around with other non-jocks, but I was different even from many of those friends. 

Looking back, I can understand why.  I am the writer geek.  As genial as we all are, by nature we tend to stand on the outside and look in at life.  I wasn’t a loner, but I was separate, an observer.  And I think I scared some people.  I was smart, in honors classes, and a lot of my friends were not in the same classes.  Those honors classes were probably full of misfits and outsiders, though I was so busy being a misfit to notice other’s discomfort.  Back then there was no “geek chic”. We hadn’t been made “cool” thanks to films like Superbad and Napoleon Dynamite.

No, bad there we were just odd, and odd was bad.

I guess I should thank many of my classmates.  They prepared me well for a life lived as “Other” during my travels. And I think one of the reasons I enjoy living abroad is that I am odd, but when living abroad, that oddness is chalked up to my American-ness, so it’s exotic.  When I’m living in America, I’m just odd.

No real analysis here.  I just wanted to share the oddness that is a class reunion.


January 9, 2009

Cold Irony

Filed under: colds,homesick,medicines,New Broads — by maggiec @ 3:49 pm
Tags: ,

When I lived in Sweden and wrote the original “A Broad Abroad” I wrote a column called “I Want My CVS,” an ode to the drug store chain prompted by a bad cold.  In it, I lamented the unavailability of American cold remedies, for when I’m sick, I long for the familiar.

Well, today I was given a thump on the head by the irony gods.  While walking the aisles of my local Rite-Aid drug store, all I really wanted was a packet of Lemsips.  For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Lemsips is an over-the-counter cold and flu medicine sold in the UK and Australia.  It’s a powder you mix with hot water to get a warm lemony drink with pain killers and decongestants.    My husband turned me on to it in Switzerland, because in Geneva we got stuff from all over Europe.  It wasn’t sold in Sweden, but there was a local equivalent that also came in black currant flavor, my favorite.

So there I was, wanting my Lemsips, searching in vain.  At the bottom of the shelves, after much scanning and back and forth, I did find Theraflu’s lemon-flavored version of the product and considered myself lucky.  Black currant is pretty much a non-starter in the US.  I can often find black currant tea, and now because people tout its health benefits, black currant juice, but it hasn’t really reached the OTC medicine flavorings yet.

I grabbed a couple of bags of Ricola drops (from Switzerland, of course) and out the door I went.  As I got in the car, the irony hit me.  Here, I want familiar things from my days abroad.  When I was there, I wanted things from “home”.   Human nature is amazing, isn’t it?

The other day I said something about Americans and used the term “they”.  My sister said, “Hey, hon, you’re an ‘us,’ not a ‘they'”.  She’s right, of course.  I am an “us” in the US.  How quickly we change our point of view.

So I sit here in my fuzzy robe, with my Vicks VapoRub (available world wide, you’ll be happy to know, but in the US, I cop to using a store brand), and my Ricola, tea and tissues.  I downed the Theraflu, which was sweeter than Lemsips but did the trick.  I don’t know if it’s helping the congestion and sore throat, but it made me feel better emotionally, which, I swear, is the only thing these medicines really do!

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