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In the middle of the night last night, I began to wonder if becoming a Foreign Service Officer was right for me.  I began to  have doubts.

Why, you ask?  Is it that possible threat that you face, bombs exploding, being caught in a war zone, being kidnapped or killed?

Nope.

Is it that you would have little control over your life, down to even what furniture you have, being thrown into the winds on someone else's command?

Not really.

Or, could it possibly be the job itself, having to defend policies you don't agree with, dealing with insane managers, insane employees, and being thrown in to tasks that you have little experience or preparation for.

Not so much.

It is the heat.  Or the possibility of heat.

Siberia I can handle.  Antartica even.  But the Sahara?  I might go insane.

This all comes up because we are having a heatwave in Seattle.  Seattle, where it constantly rains, and so no one has an air conditioner.  Including myself.  I found myself at 1 am, sticking my head in the freezer, returning to my warm bed with two fans propped up to cover me, laying with a ziplock bag of ice cubes in rotating sections of my body.  I checked, and it was 80 degrees.  At one in the morning.

I began to feel like I couldn't breath.  I worried that I was about to pass out.  And I was lying down.  I thought maybe I would die.  The thoughts in my head just made things worse, and I could feel my temperature rising in my panic.  Back to head in freezer.

And I thought, could I really handle Iraq?  The Congo?  Hell, even DC?  This puts all my plans into jeopardy.  Hell, throw a bomb at me, as long as I can sleep in an air conditioned apartment, or walk home in the rain!  But dear god, keep me away from the desert.  And what if I end up in an arid country where I have to wear a headscarf, or dress modestly?  Just the idea makes the thought of becoming a nudist quite tempting.  Even if I did have to look at scary, naked middle aged pot bellies.  And other furry creature appendages.

If Global Warming goes in to full effect, I am SCREWED.   
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I managed to survive the Christmas insanity, which is truly a miracle.  Because this Christmas was even more insane than usual, which actually made it more sane, in a way.  At least for me.  Because I'm insane and thrive on insanity.

I could go into the whole story of how it took me 5 days to get to my mom's house (Seattle to Portland), with an alcoholic train ride, two days crashing at degroovy friends' house, and having to drag my mega-gift-filled-suitcase many blocks in deep snow.  But I won't. 

Or, I could talk about how I became the workhorse for my family, shoveling snow, cleaning, cooking, decorating, dragging the fake tree plus two gargantuan gifts through aforementioned snow down to mom's place,  and shoveling more snow around my mom's car.  But I won't.

Instead I will talk about what the season is REALLY all about.  The Goods.

Typically every year I freak out.  I mean I really have a meltdown.  I wait until the last minute before I buy gifts, and totally stress if I spent enough money on everyone, if I forgot something, if someone isn't going to even like their gift, and lament how poor I know am because of all the money I shoveled out to make other people happy. 

My parents and brother then spend exorbitant amounts of money on me, buying me some lovely gifts, and other gifts that I look at and go, crap, why did they buy me this??  What am I supposed to do with it?  And then I stress out because I feel I can't get rid of it, or stress because I have to deal with the hassle of getting rid of it.

But this year, dear reader, was different.  Partly due to some crazy spirit that hit me the day after Thanksgiving to buy everything up front (then saving me from all the last minute stress).  Partly due to mom's pending retirement, and her cutting back on buying random gifts.

Sidenote:  I think my favorite quote of the season was Mom saying "I saw stuff and then I thought about getting it for you, but then I thought, she's just going to get rid of it in two years anyway, so I didn't buy it".  SUCCESS! 

Anywho, back to my story.  So, partly due to my timely gift buying, partly due to my mothers restraint, but probably mostly to do with the drama with my brother and new sister-in-law.  THAT is a whole story, which I will not get into here (too long, plus I don't think posting family laundry on line is the healthies thing for the family relationships).  In any case, my new sister-in-law gets overwhelmed by the amount of gifts we get each other, and it was brought up by my brother in a socially-inept e-mail sent to the family as a directive in November, which then caused a huge blow out, of which we have yet to recover, though we are progressing.

The result:  A modest Christmas.  It was interesting, because I, the baby of the family, who usually gets inundated with gifts, had less to open than others did.  I began to feel resentful, where are MY gifts? 

And then I realized, what the hell are you complaining about?  Isn't this what you always complain about - getting too many gifts?

Oh yeah.  OH YEAH!  Yes!  I don't have a lot of crap to haul home.  It ACTUALLY fit in my suitcase!  Amazing!  I don't have a lot of gifts that stress me out, because what am I supposed to do with them (well, there is one, a gift card from a store that is SO NOT ME, I wonder if I got regifted).

And then, for all the stress of getting things for friends and coworkers, I found I didn't get as much back.  And I thought, why do I worry about getting things for everyone, just so they won't be offended?  Why do I spend my money, when the only result is the other person feels awkward for not getting me something, or that they should have given me something, or something.  Something.

I really need to put this whole kick I'm on of reducing consumption, and becoming more minimalist, to work at Christmas time.  My favorite gifts to give were two cross stitch pieces I made with dirty language on them ("Shut Your Whore Mouth" and "Don't Make Me Cut You" - thanks subversive crossstitch!).  So perhaps I should just get crafty next year.  Or take people out for a drink.  Or something, something that doesn't come in a bag with a receipt.

Don't let me buy a whole bunch of crap next year, will you?