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“Christmas With the Darlings” broke so many molds that I’m still surprised.

While I’ll readily admit that Hallmark Christmas movies once got me through a psychologically fragile time, they have been widely criticized in recent years, and rightfully so, for dropping the ball on everything from feminism to representation. You can find dozens of critiques on this all over the internet. Have a look at this recent one by Tressie McMillan Cottom, or read some of my own criticisms — and theories about the movies’ appeal — in the aforementioned piece about my mental health.


I watched the latest release this past week from Hallmark’s 2020 holiday lineup, and it left me wowed. For real. I’m torn between wanting to sing its progressive praises and not wanting to spoil the plot, but after you read this, you have to watch Christmas With the Darlings. …

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Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

I didn’t know I had it. I’m glad I took extra precautions anyway.

Let’s start by making one thing stupendously clear: COVID-19 is terrifying, and it’s serious. My mother spent nearly a week in the hospital, plus two more ER visits in the week after being discharged. Words don’t touch the fear, stress, heartache, and anxiety that my entire family felt as a result of our household’s infection — and we’ve been among the lucky ones. So I’m not here to encourage anyone to visit (much less lodge with) others during this pandemic.

Even so, it feels important to talk about my experience. The holidays are right around the corner — Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa — and we all know that some people will be visiting and sleeping at loved ones’ homes regardless. Just like there’s no such thing as 100% “safe” sex — only safer sex — there’s no such thing as 100% “safe” socializing during COVID-19 either… but, just like people have sex anyway, some people socialize during COVID-19 anyway too. …

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Why you NEED a pulse oximeter in a COVID-19 world

If you read no further than the end of this paragraph, that’s perfectly okay. My objective is to save lives, so I’ll put the absolutely most crucial words right up front. Here they are: BUY A PULSE OXIMETER. Today.

How did a pulse oximeter save my mother’s life when COVID-19 hit our household last month? Here’s our story.

Silent hypoxia (also called “silent hypoxemia”) is a frighteningly real possibility* with COVID-19. Silent hypoxia is the condition wherein your oxygen saturation drops dangerously low without you even realizing you’re in the throes of a life-threatening emergency. …

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Photo by author, 2016

How it feels to look at the USA from afar

Note to the reader: I’ve lived in Berlin since 2016. Shortly before the 2016 presidential election, I wrote the following piece to share on my personal social media account and an old blog. It expressed fears I had for the future of the US, informed not just by my own sense of right and decency, but also by my more-than-passing familiarity with German history. In the intervening 4 years, my fears have sadly not diminished; they have compounded. So I will share it here, lightly edited, for a larger audience before the 2020 election.

Voted today at the Embassy. I filled out my ballot at a tiny table at a Deutsche Post office on Behrenstraße, but the Embassy is where I submitted it. Our embassy is in a very prime location in Berlin: it sits to one side of the Brandenburg Gate, arguably Germany’s quintessential landmark. On the other side of the building is this entrance. The one with a Statue of Liberty-inspired Berlin bear and a gigantic star. And this entrance is next to a different landmark; just across the street from it, there stand the 2,711 columns of Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe *(see end note). The Holocaust targeted many different groups, and Berlin has memorials to various of them. …

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Photo by Qijin Xu on Unsplash

… and yet I’m still liberal despite being immersed in right-wing propaganda.

My hometown, Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is a smallish, economically depressed mining town that makes international headlines for its racism and xenophobia. I’m certainly not bragging about this, nor out to shame the city, but see for yourself: NYT (here and here), BBC, and — especially — this memorable profile in National Geographic’s “Race Issue.”

It’s a place where a department store clerk once gave me the stink-eye over the fact that I dared to complain about graffiti in the ladies’ room that used slurs like “sp*cs” and “anchor babies.” It’s a place that fascinated my immigration-scholar professors and colleagues when I was in grad school, for the infamy of its unconstitutional, anti-immigrant ordinance from 2006. …

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I didn’t see this as the major red flag that it was.

Reader please note: this story includes a discussion of suicide, and mentions emotional abuse. If you need help, call the National Helpline.

Mid-May in the central Andes, and the rising sun cut diamond rays like some kind of celestial laser light show over the sierra’s jagged silhouette. I was at Machu Picchu with my boyfriend, enjoying a simple breakfast of crackers and bottled yogurt on a quiet, grassy terrace. A tiny bird hopped around collecting my crumbs, essentially having breakfast with us. And a proud new-mama llama strutted her cría around a central plaza at some distance, introducing her baby to the rest of the herd. …

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Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

I have a weird pattern with guys.

One of my biggest pop culture pet peeves is the trope of the “Woman Who Just Doesn’t Get It.” You know the one. Woman longs for Man who holds her at arm’s length, and then once her character arc plays out and she “grows” into a more (ostensibly) mature, or less (ostensibly) shallow, or less (ostensibly) masochistic version of herself, she finally sees that her love interest is a jerk, or that she’s been deluded about imagining she had a chance… and falls instead for some dude she had only lackluster feelings for at the beginning. [*Cue audience swoon.*] That’s how things “should” happen, shouldn’t they? …

I had to overcome PTSD to resurrect them.

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Quito, Ecuador — Photo by Dayan Quinteros on Unsplash

My coal-town childhood was an unending reverie of escape. I was generally more content to sit in my bedroom than to play in the sunshine because my favorite “toys” were picture atlases, phrasebooks, and the world-band radio my parents had given me for my 8th birthday. I resolved very young that someday I’d see the sights from these atlases in person. Someday I’d need the words from these phrasebooks. And someday — I liked to imagine (because what little girl doesn’t hope she grows up pretty?) …

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Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

And you accept mistreatment in the meantime.

A friend was telling me about a man whose conduct was both emotionally abusive and sexually inappropriate. Despite his behavior, she’d seen qualities that she really admired in him, so she valued their connection and wanted their relationship to improve.

“I just wish he’d see, you know?” she lamented.

“You wish he’d see what?”

“I wish he’d understand that he’s being unfair. I want to make him see that I’m not all these negative things he says I am. …

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And other practical, painless self-love hacks that actually work

For many years, the concept of “loving” myself felt so alien and ambiguous to me as to be pointless. Like many people bent on personal growth, I tended to focus on what I didn’t like about myself, rather than what I did—because I was convinced that it was the things I didn’t like that were preventing me from “loving myself” in the first place.

Sound familiar?

Eventually, though, somewhere along the way, I decided to lower the bar: I will just accept myself. Let me start there. Turns out, that was key.

Self-acceptance is the essence of self-love. (How can you love what you won’t even accept?) With self-acceptance, you naturally begin to treat yourself with more kindness and appreciation… and therein lies the love: in action. …


Laura Rosell

Love, sex, dreams, soul, adventure, healing, feeling. I kinda experience life as magical. Memoir is my jam.

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