Saturday, May 30, 2020

My Baby Trusts Everyone (And I Don't Like It)

A happy Chinese baby. Image source.
I wrote this when little Square Root was 4 weeks old. 


The most surprising thing about my newborn baby is how he doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. Emotionally, he seems very simple. He likes when people hold him- and it seems like he doesn't even need to know who it is that's holding him- he'll just go ahead and fall right asleep on them. When he needs something, he makes little sounds and movements, and if several seconds pass and nobody has given him what he needs, he cries.

He doesn't seem to know anything about the concepts of safety and danger. And therefore, I worry about how vulnerable he is. It's not just that he can't take care of himself- of course a baby can't take care of himself. It's that he'll loudly announce when he's in need, and automatically trust anyone who comes along offering to help him.

I look at little Square Root, and I wonder about when children learn fear. When I did start to be afraid? When do children learn that, when you're in need, when you're vulnerable, you don't necessarily want other people to know it, because they might use it against you? You can't just plainly show your emotions to everybody, because they might judge you. They might think less of you. It's not safe to just let the entire world know when you're helpless and vulnerable.

It's an important skill, hiding how we really feel, until we're with people we love and trust and it's safe to break down and cry and let the emotions out. We have to, because that's the way the world is. But is that a bad thing? Can you imagine a world where it's totally fine to just break down crying while interacting with various strangers in public? Or like, cry in front of everyone at your job? How would that even work?

He's so small and vulnerable, and so I worry about him. I want this time to go faster so he'll be a little more grown and therefore less helpless. Parents of newborns are all worried that their child will accidentally cover their face with a blanket and die. But... when he's old enough that I don't have to worry about that, he'll be crawling around and getting into all kinds of trouble around the house, and I'll worry about that. And then when he outgrows that phase, it'll be time to send him off to preschool or kindergarten, and I'll worry because he's away from me. And then eventually he'll be old enough to go places alone, or to stay at home alone, like maybe when he's a teenager, and so I'll worry about that. And then after that, he'll go off to college, and I won't even know where he is or what he's doing every day.

(I say I want the time to go faster... but then I look at photos we took on the day he was born, with his little smushed head, and I feel like his appearance has already changed so much since then. He's never going to look like that again. He's never going to be that small again. And I feel sad about that, for some reason.)

He has no fear at all right now. He doesn't know anything about danger. He doesn't know that we shouldn't trust everyone. Hendrix and I are constantly thinking about his safety, trying to do everything right so he doesn't get hurt accidentally, buying all kinds of high-quality things for him, reading books about how to take care of a baby, and Square Root doesn't care about any of that at all. He doesn't care about his own safety.

Basically I worry about him because he doesn't even know how to worry about himself. 



Saturday, May 23, 2020


A group of seals sleeping. Image source.
1. How much do we bleed during our period? My absurd journey through the world of menstrual research

2. GoFundWho? More equitable ways to crowdfund in a crisis (posted May 15) "Many donors need there to be a lot of tears. They need to hear a sob story. They want this person to have never made any mistakes and for their hardship to be something unavoidable[.]"

3. The woman behind 'Roe vs. Wade' didn't change her mind on abortion. She was paid (posted May 19)

4. Ravi Zacharias Dies of Cancer (posted May 19)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

If You Haven't Been Financially Affected By COVID-19, Donate Your Entire Check

Image text: "And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. - Luke 12:18" Image source.
Hey so, the US government sent me a check for $1200???

I know it's part of the big relief package to address the economic effects of COVID-19. But I haven't experienced any economic effects. I'm in China- we stayed at home for something like 2-4 weeks, but now we're back at work and I get paid just like normal.

Yes, the pandemic has very much screwed up my future plans regarding moving to the US (mentioned in this post). Very very much screwed up. Yes, it is having a big effect on my life and I'm not happy about it. But it's not a financial effect.

If anything, I'm actually better off financially. I'm not traveling or going out to eat. I'm saving so much money. And that sucks, because I would rather travel than save money, but here we are.

So the point is, I don't feel it would be moral to keep the $1200. Sure, I would like to grow my savings account because we need money for our future plans, but no, it would be wrong to use pandemic money for that. Morally, I need to donate the whole $1200 to people having worse COVID-19 problems than me.

Like, don't be like Jeff Bezos, who is massively profiting off a deadly pandemic. (I would say that's an example of "living in sin.")

#ShareMyCheck has a good list of suggestions of where to donate money.

Let's do this. If you received a check from the US government, but you haven't been financially affected by COVID-19 and you already have an emergency savings account, then give away the money. It's the right thing to do.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Another COVID-19 Update From Me In Shanghai

Guests wearing masks at Shanghai Disneyland. Image source.
Shanghai Disneyland reopened on May 11, and the Carnival of Aces theme for this month is "quarantine", so hey, this is a good time for me to give another update about how things are in Shanghai.

Basically, in late January everyone in China was in a panic about the coronavirus, and there were a bunch of new policies to help stop the spread. Temperature checks when you enter a public place. Notify HR at your job if you've traveled, and self-quarantine at home for 2 weeks if you have. Stay home as much as possible, and wear a mask if you go out. Wash your hands. The city of Shanghai extended the Chinese New Year holiday for an extra week, so that people would stay at home.

February 10 was the day that people started going back to work in Shanghai. I went to the office that day (quite nervous) and found that actually most people at my job were working from home. For the next 2 weeks, I worked from home some days and went to the office some days. And during those 2 weeks, I saw that the number of people on the subways increased gradually- like, at the beginning there were entire rows of empty seats, but by now the subways are back to full capacity.

By late February, most people at my job were back in the office- though some were still required to work from home or use vacation time because they'd traveled or because a relative from Hubei province had visited them. We all wore masks in the office. Things were getting better.

And then in early March, the rest of the world suddenly went through the exact same thing. In response, the Chinese government required all international travelers to quarantine for 2 weeks upon entering the country. If you're low-risk (based on health checks and where you traveled from), you get to quarantine at home; otherwise you're in a quarantine hotel. Then they made the rules even more strict: Starting March 28, no foreign citizens can enter China. Even people like me- I've lived in China for 6 years, I have a residence permit, I have a job and an apartment here, I married a Chinese man. Nope, can't enter China. Fortunately I am already in China, so this isn't a problem. But I know people who left in February because of the coronavirus, and now they can't get back in. There are even families who are separated because of this- various family members stuck in different countries.

Meanwhile, things are starting to open again. There are some events going on- not anything too big though. (And still a lot of Zoom events.) Restaurants, malls, hair salons, gyms, etc- they're open. Some places require you to show your green QR code in order to enter- this is a system which checks what cities you have traveled to in the past 14 days and assigns you a color to indicate how high-risk you are. If you get green, then you won't be restricted from entering public places.

Things are open, but we're very much not "back to normal." We're still all wearing masks. Security guards are still doing temperature checks when you enter public places. Travel is still highly discouraged. And since I have a baby, I'm being even more careful- I go to the office 5 days a week, and we've had to take our baby to get his vaccines a bunch of times, but besides that I've only been out to a restaurant 1 time and a mall 1 time since this whole thing started in late January.

So basically that's the situation in Shanghai.

So I'm fine; I'm not worried about getting the virus, and my job hasn't been affected by this. But I am an immigrant, and this whole pandemic situation is uniquely bad for immigrants. I worry about my family in the US. I don't really know what they're going through- yes I talk to them every day, and I read the news, but that's not the same as being there. And I don't even know when I'm going to be able to see them again. Maybe in the summer? Maybe at Christmas? Maybe not??? Who knows??? We're safe here in China, so we're not going to travel anywhere else until it's safe there. (Also the Chinese government won't let me back in if I leave.)

And I wanted to start working on our plans for moving to the US. I sort of hinted at this last year in my "6 Years Later" series. I'm ready to be done living in China. Even more so now that I have a baby and I'm thinking about how I want to raise him; in the US I'll have access to all the resources I need to raise him the way I want to. So it's time to start thinking about where we want to live, and how to find a job, and how much money we'll need for moving expenses, and how to get my husband a green card. Or rather, it would be time to start thinking about that, but now we're in a pandemic and all the plans are on hold. And also the US economy is a disaster, and also racists are being racist to Chinese people. We certainly can't move to the US right now- so when, then? Next year? The year after? Who knows???

I know my situation is much better than a lot of people in the world, but still it's hard because I'm an immigrant. I worry about what's going on in my country, while I'm so far away. And it's screwing up all my move-back-to-the-US plans. But for now, I'm okay.


Here's the link to all my COVID-19 posts

Thursday, May 14, 2020


1. Father, son arrested and charged in killing of Ahmaud Arbery, GBI says (posted May 8) GOOD. But NOT GOOD how they murdered Arbery in February and they're only being arrested now, and only because of public outrage because the video of the murder was released. #BlackLivesMatter

2. Dumbledore's BIG Plan - The Philosopher's Stone [Harry Potter Theory] (posted April 21) "I'm sure we're not the first to wonder why the obstacles guarding the stone are so easily defeatable by a first-year when they're supposed to be keeping out Voldemort." YES! Oh wow I love this theory.

Sunday, May 10, 2020


A sleeping baby. Image source.

He comes out with a smushed face and a full head of black hair.
He cries.
And he is perfect.

So sleepy, he can't stay awake to eat.
I breastfeed him and rub the back of his head.
And he is perfect.

He learns how to open his eyes and look at people.
He laughs. He cries.
He poops, and then smiles like it's the best thing ever.
And he is perfect.

He stops in the middle of breastfeeding to look up at me and smile.
And he is perfect.

I wake up in the night and listen to his breathing.
And he is perfect.

He amuses himself making gurgling sounds and spitting.
He grabs everything with his little hands, puts everything in his mouth.
And he is perfect.

He cries in his carseat, until he falls asleep.
And he is perfect.

He rolls over.
He gets his first tooth.
He outgrows his clothes.
And he is perfect.

He poops all over his clothes.
He poops all over my clothes.
He poops all over his clothes and my clothes in the middle of a 12-hour international flight.
And he is perfect.

He opens his mouth to eat his baby food.
He grabs the spoon and won't let go.
He smears it all over his face.
And he is perfect.

He can sit now.
He sits in his playpen and waves his toys around.
He drools on his books.
And he is perfect.

He screeches happily while watching us eat dinner.
He sits in his stroller and bounces.
And he is perfect.

I hold him, and he clings to me like a baby monkey.
Sometimes I think I hear him say "ma."
And he is perfect.

He wakes up way too early and doesn't want to go back to sleep.
He lays in our bed and kicks us.
And he is perfect.

Every time I look at my son, he's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.


Welcome Baby Square Root!

Thursday, May 7, 2020


1. On Answers in Genesis’ Portrayal of Noah’s Son’s Wives (posted April 29) "I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe—just maybe—Answers in Genesis should have taken more proactive steps to avoid perpetuating nineteenth century American race theory in their portrayals of Noah’s son’s wives."

2. Dave Ramsey Keeps Offices Open After Staffer Tests Positive for COVID-19 (posted March 19)

3. Everything You Think You Know About Toxic Shock Syndrome Is Probably Wrong (posted 2019) "I sure wish I had known the risks and science behind TSS up front, so I didn’t have to spend my entire pubescent life worrying about it."

4. Is Jim Bob Duggar and His ‘Ministry’ Approaching the End? (posted May 2) "Derick has spoken about Jill and he being in therapy to recover from the pain and ill treatment doled out by Jim Bob Duggar."

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

An Invisible Virus and an Omniscient God

Virus or bacteria cells under a microscope. Image source.
This pandemic makes it so obvious that there is no personal God who intervenes in the world.

There isn't a God we can trust to protect us. There isn't a God who takes action in response to prayer. There isn't a God who speaks to Their followers in "a still small voice" and gives "a sense of peace" when we need to make hard decisions.

And I keep feeling like this is so obvious now. Like, after COVID-19, how can anyone believe that "God answers prayer"? Surely everyone sees that, right?

Oh but then I remember what it was like to be an evangelical Christian. Yes, I used to have a personal relationship with God. I know how evangelicals are going to talk about this. I know there must be people out there talking about "God is in control" and sharing extremely self-centered anecdotes about how it's so wonderful and miraculous that God let other people suffer and die but not us. And "God is going to use this crisis to draw people to himself", how it will make people desperate and show them they need God, and wow isn't that a good outcome from this terrible situation.

I know there must be Christians writing those blog posts right now. I haven't looked for them. I don't have the time or emotional energy for it. But it's important to remind myself, no, it's not "obvious" to everyone that there isn't a personal God who talks to people.

(Actually this makes me think of back when I was a kid, and my family went on vacation, and my parents would say things like "Look at this spectacular view! This is amazing! How could anyone see how beautiful this view is and not believe in God?" Perhaps my statement that "this pandemic makes it obvious God doesn't answer prayer" comes across just as illogical as "the outdoors exists, so how can anyone be an atheist?")

I keep thinking about how viruses are invisible. You don't know who's infected, so you need to limit your contact with EVERYONE. You don't know if the thing you just touched was infected, so you need to wash your hands regardless. Wash your hands over and over, every day, even though the majority of the time, in reality you don't have coronavirus on your hands and you aren't at risk. But you need to wash your hands anyway because you have no way of knowing that. The virus is invisible.

And isn't that quite stressful? What if you just washed your hands, and then you weren't thinking and you touched a door handle with your hand, and then you're like "ah crap, should I go back and wash my hands again?" Like, if you want to be safe, you should, but wow that's such a hassle. And it's probably fine to not wash your hands... you just washed them a few minutes ago, and then you only touched 1 thing, so it's probably okay.

I'll throw in a disclaimer here: I am in China, and my experience with the pandemic is much different than that of my friends and family in the US. I did the whole "stay at home" thing for about 2-3 weeks in late January and early February, and since then I've been back at work, back at the office 5 days a week. China successfully flattened its curve, so people are able to leave their homes and do stuff. We are NOT back to normal though- it is still strongly recommended that people don't travel, everyone is wearing a mask, and the security guards are still checking everyone's temperatures when you enter a public place... though they've gotten lazy about it and aren't really bothering to use the thermometers correctly at this point. In the US, though, a lot of people have stayed at home for 1-2 months already, with no clear idea of when it will end. I am having a very different pandemic experience than you.

So when I talk about being worried about whether or not one needs to wash one's hands, well, I'm actually not worried myself. But I can imagine a lot of people in the US are.

And I think about myself, years ago, back when I had a personal relationship with God. The relationship was the most important thing in my life. It was the driving force behind everything I did. It was my identity.

I prayed so much. I talked to God CONSTANTLY, and I spent so much time sitting there quietly, trying to listen to Him. I asked Him for help and guidance and answers. Prayed so hard, and listened. And I believed He did tell me things. I believed He did give me answers.

Christians talked about "discernment" and I was fascinated. Apparently, "discernment" means that if you're a good enough Christian, if you have a really really close relationship with God, you'll just have a *sense* of when things are true or not true. Wow, I thought, that's amazing... is that for real? To just have a *sense* for truth. Wow, how useful! If you get really good at it, think of how useful that will be for scientific research. Just think up various hypotheses and you'll have a *feeling* of which ones are true, and then of course you track down the scientific proof and show the world- but the reason you knew that proof existed was because God told you. Discernment.

No, I never heard Christians talk about "discernment" that way though. I never understood why not. I guessed it was just because it was extremely rare for someone to actually be that good at it. No, instead when Christians talked about discernment, it was always about knowing the right choice to make among several good options, or about knowing some personal background information about someone. So, cold reading.

But why? Why didn't "discernment" mean you know scientific facts?

In particular, why aren't Christians in the United States using "discernment" to make up for the lack of COVID-19 testing? Surely in the US there exist some Christians who are close enough to God that they're that good at "discernment"... right?

Wouldn't it be the easiest thing in the world for God to tell Their devoted followers "get your food from this grocery store instead of that one" or "don't waste a pair of gloves on this, you don't need them because there's no virus here" or "don't go visit these specific people"?

If we really do have a "personal relationship with God", and this God gives answers to people who devote themselves to listening, then why isn't God telling us about invisible, life-threatening danger lurking in our mundane, everyday lives? God can see it no problem. And people can, apparently, have a "personal relationship with God"- constantly in conversation with Them. So what gives?

Why doesn't God warn people "you need to wash your hands now"?

And yes, I know that evangelicals can scrape together answers to this. Basically "this is God's plan." And God isn't a party trick or a tool you use or a vending machine, so that's why They don't spit out information reliably and on demand. Basically God has reasons and we just don't know what those reasons are, but surely they are good reasons because God is so perfect and loving.

That doesn't cut it for me.

How can you have a "personal relationship with God" if God KNOWS you just touched something with a deadly virus on it, and God DOESN'T SAY ONE WORD to you about it? What kind of "personal relationship" is that?

Yes, if I have information that is critically important to one of my friends, I will first evaluate whether they love me enough, and if they've had any selfish thoughts recently, and if their motivations for wanting this information are 100% completely selfless. And then I will give an extremely vague hint about it and hey, if they know me well enough, I'm sure they'll get my meaning. And if they miss the hint, oh well, I'm not going to try to communicate better. If they loved me enough, they would have gotten it. Really, it's their fault. Yes, that's how personal relationships work. That's how you treat people you love.

Okay, I'm sure there are Christians who prayed for God's guidance about cancelling events and travel plans. They pray for God's guidance about big things, and they believe God answers and tells them what to do. Sure. I don't believe that, but it's not as much of a glaring problem. For me, the issue is the small things, the many many times over the course of a week when you fail to keep 100% isolated from the outside world. And probably, it's okay, because you mostly limited your contact with potentially-infected people and things, so your risk is very low and you won't get the virus. Probably, you're fine. But wouldn't it be nice if God let you know whether you just made a mistake that could turn deadly? Why on earth would God not tell you?

Sure, maybe "God has a plan" and there is some grand reason for it. Sure. But if that's true, doesn't it call into question everything God has said or done during your entire "personal relationship"? How can you really believe God tells you where to live, what job to take, who to marry, if They don't even tell you something as simple and critically important as "go wash your hands right now"?

Take your answers and exceptions and caveats, all the reasons why a supposedly loving and personal God doesn't say one word to you about your exposure to a deadly virus, and incorporate them into your understanding of what a "personal relationship with God" even is. (That's what I did.) Yeah, usually Christians only trot out those caveats when they need to answer someone's doubts, and the rest of the time they very much DO NOT act like they actually believe the caveats. The rest of the time, they believe God tells them what job to take and what theme to pick for their church conferences, and finds them a parking space.

Hey, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe God totally is serving as a virus test for Their most super-super-devoted followers. As I said, I don't have a personal relationship with God anymore, and I'm in China so I don't know what y'all are doing over there in the US. Perhaps I'm wrong, and God does tell people "go wash your hands." But that's leads to more awkward questions about why God only tells certain people. I devoted my entire self to God back then, and I never ever got any answers from Him as clear and tangible as "this public surface is infected, go wash your hands." I wanted that kind of relationship with God. I wanted it so much. I wanted to know Him, and hear Him, to be so close to Him that we could just communicate easily like that. I believed that the more godly and devoted I was, the closer I would get to that kind of relationship. I never got there. So hey, hey maybe my "God doesn't tell people whether they need to wash their hands" is wrong. Maybe They do. Maybe there are some very very high level super Christians that do have that kind of personal relationship with God. But not little Perfect-Number-from-10-years-ago. She obsessed over God all day every day, but nope, that wasn't enough to reach that level of clear communication from God. Hard to imagine how devoted one would have to be, then. And why would God only give answers to that small minority of super-Christians? Why not Perfect-Number-from-10-years-ago? She did everything she possibly could, but wasn't godly enough, apparently. Yes, indeed, this raises awkward questions. (But hey, what do I know? I'm in China, where the "evil" "atheist" "communist" government has handled things well and kept us safe.)

Basically, COVID-19 is a huge, glaring example of the problem of evil. How can there be an all-good, all-powerful God if suffering exists? And specifically, I'm stuck on this one particular detail- that we can have a "personal relationship with God" and communicate with Them all the time, but They don't tell us the very small, simple things we need to do to avoid the virus. That makes no sense, and therefore there is no "personal relationship with God."


By the way, I am a Christian. I don't have a personal relationship with God anymore, and I don't pray, but I am a Christian.


I Didn't Like the Ocean in "Moana" Because it was Too Much Like God
Prayer Rates Don't Correlate With Actual Risk
My Racist Personal Relationship with God 
My Identity was in Christ
They Prayed About It (a post about the #NashvilleStatement)


And all my COVID-19 posts are here.