Becoming American – Kate Paulk

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Becoming American – Kate Paulk

What feels like an eternity ago I started a journey that has involved a lot of money, multiple panic attacks, quite a lot doubt, and at least one complete meltdown. The first stage of that journey ended at about 10:15 am on July 20th, when I became a citizen of the United States of America.

I say “about” because I’m not sure exactly what time it was: despite the bureaucratic persnicketiness I’d battled in the past, actually becoming a citizen is remarkably simple (Qualifying to become one, on the other hand…)

The procedure went a little like this: around 8:30 in the morning the not quite twenty of us becoming citizens gathered outside Berks County Courthouse Courtroom 5A ( with friends and family. Soon after we were ushered into the courtroom, where soon-to-be citizens were asked to sit on the right, and friends and family to the left.

The atmosphere was friendly and cheerful while the final round of paperwork (a short form confirming that we hadn’t done anything to render us not of good character to become a citizen in the time since our naturalization interviews) was dealt with and everyone had the chance to check over their naturalization certificates and make sure there weren’t any mistakes, as well as to sign the certificate. Mine had no mistakes, but I’m not so sure about the resting bitch face photo on it. It’s recognizably me, which is the important bit, but my vanity is a little miffed I wound up with such an ugly picture. Oh, well.

We were also told how the ceremony would progress, reminded (several times) that during the ceremony photography wasn’t permitted but photos before and after were allowed, and that a group photo would be taken and mailed to us all. It was all very friendly and low-key.

At close to exactly ten am, the presiding judge entered the courtroom and the ceremony started. There were a few short introductory remarks from the president of the local county Bar Association welcoming everyone and especially those of us taking citizenship, then the pleasant elderly gentleman from Immigration (with a mouthful of a title) formally moved that the oath be administered.

When the judge gave his assent, he called the names of our nations of origin. Me being from Australia, I was the first one listed. Some of the others were from (I don’t remember all the countries: there are just what I do remember) Italy, Romania, Mexico, Vietnam, Philippines… Quite the diverse collection of origins. Each of us stood as our original nation was named.

We were asked to raise our right hands, then the judge read the Oath of Allegiance (in “Do you…” form rather than the “I…” form on our printouts) At the end, all of us said, “I do, so help me God.”

That was the moment I became a citizen of the United States of America.

It wasn’t the multiple forms I’d signed, or the signature that went on my certificate, but giving the Oath of Allegiance – an old-fashioned, purely verbal action on my part.

The local high school’s US Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard presented the colors once we’d given the oath (and did it very well, too), then a music student with a lovely sweet soprano sang the National Anthem – which is when my eyes started to leak, because it hit me right then that this was my National Anthem now, and it went from being a nice song if rather difficult to sing well to meaning something (meaning rather a lot, as it happens).

After that, we new citizens gave the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time, then the first speaker gave his remarks.

And that cemented quite a few things: he spoke about how we’d gone from being tenants to being homeowners, and that like a home, a nation like the USA needs a certain amount of maintenance or it will fall apart. That maintenance consists of such things as voting in all the elections – and that local elections are more important than the presidential race, because the local officials are the ones who run your courts, your schools, your towns; it consists of jury duty, and being part of your community, and all the many little things that make for good citizenship across the full spectrum of life.

The judge’s remarks were just as focused on the responsibilities that go with citizenship as the rights it confers. He pointed out that we weren’t expected to abandon the culture and traditions of our respective homelands, but to meld them into the culture and traditions of our surrounding community, to integrate ourselves and our distinctive traits into the larger whole to help make the USA a better nation – and that this is the spirit of E Pluribus Unum.

The judge also made a rather strong comment that it’s a bad thing to sit around with your hands out waiting for someone to do things for you: instead look to President Kennedy’s famous remarks “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

After all of this, it was almost an anticlimax to be called out to collect my certificate and a collection of other bits and pieces (including a passport application form). Almost.

I’m still processing the thing, but it was a pleasant surprise to have such a traditional (in all the good ways) ceremony and so much emphasis on the duties that go with citizenship and exercising one’s rights, and on the need for all citizens to fulfill those duties for the nation to remain healthy. To be told outright that to be a citizen of a nation like the USA is hard work, because too many people seem to have forgotten this – a nation that is ruled by “We, the people” must be maintained by “We, the people” or it becomes corrupt and slides back to a tyranny where a few people control things and everyone else is expected to do as they’re told.

I’m up for the job. I just can’t do it all on my own: the other two hundred million or so of you are going to have to help.

254 thoughts on “Becoming American – Kate Paulk

  1. Mine had no mistakes, but I’m not so sure about the resting bitch face photo on it. It’s recognizably me, which is the important bit, but my vanity is a little miffed I wound up with such an ugly picture. Oh, well.

    Driver’s license photos are similar.

      1. My second passport photo I was wearing a white shirt and all you could see were my eyeglasses frames and my hair. Apparently that’s enough for various officials around the world.

        1. In high school, it was something of a game to see how many students you could find who looked more like the picture on your student ID than you did. The answer was disturbingly non-zero in many cases.

        2. They didn’t tell you to remove your eyeglasses? That’s a requirement for many ID photos.

      2. There’s a difference between a resident alien in Japan and a terrorist? 🙂

      3. Strangely enough, I’ve actually looked okay in most of the recent official ID photos I’ve had. I’m smiling in both my passport and driver’s license photos, and they both bear at least a passing resemblance to me.

        Of course, tomorrow I have to get a new ID photo taken for the new job, so I’m pretty sure the streak will end.

      4. My latest round of getting a US passport photo had a requirement that I not be photographed smiling with teeth visible. I’m not quite sure what facial recognition software requirement drives this, but it was a change from what was previously in force for the passport I was renewing from the late 1990s. I think mine basically shows a slight closed-mouth grin rather than a deadpan booking-style photo, but I recall that standing there against the backdrop in my local Costco for that photo without smiling was actually hard for me to do.

    1. Several years ago, my DMV photo was such that my first reaction to it was “would you sell a used car to this man?”. Passport photos are in a class by themselves…

      1. “No, no, don’t smile. We want the ‘escaped convict’ look associated with passport photos.”

      2. A campus cop in Georgia (USA) told me years ago that you were supposed to look like what you looked like at 0200 when you got pulled over after going on a two-day bender. I have no idea if this is true, but it would explain a lot.

        1. While that may be what my drivers license photo looks like, (except with no hat, I ALWAYS wear a hat, but they want an ID photo of me basically in disguise, because I’m not wearing a hat?) but when I was 18 I was booked in the county jail. I’m probably one of the few people who is smiling (almost laughing, really) in my mug shot.

          The way the local jail was set up, they had two “booths” for taking mug shots, really it was one booth with a camera at each end, so if they were booking two people at the same time, you had a camera man beside you, taking pictures of the other bookee that was ten feet away and beside your camera man. They were booking some drunk chick (fairly good looking, and more than fairly well drunk) at the same time. The camera man beside me asked her, “do you have any tattoos?”
          “Yep,” she replied and pulled her shirt and bra up to show off the tattoo on her breast… Click… went the camera taking my mug shot.

          1. Sometime ago in the past I knew of a fellow who’s license pic was him, with a bandanna on his head, and sunglasses over his eyes, cig hanging from his lips.
            He was an undercover cop, so any other cop, pulling him over would know, when looking at this really not within the rules photo, that he was a cop, without blowing his cover.

          2. I have the same no hat picture when I always wear a hat. Whatever. I did point out that odds were 99% I would be wearing a hat if and when anyone asked for my license, but they weren’t concerned about it. Perhaps more important is that the eight inch hat pin did not cause any reaction among the deputies (yes, our county uses sheriff deputies for driver’s licensing) when I had to take it out to take off my hat. I really ought to mention that to the sheriff. But I probably won’t remember to.

            1. As long as it is less than, if memory serves, 8″ long, you’re good. Seriously, in England (IIRC) after a murder-by-hatpin, the law stated that they could be no longer than 8″. (The gal stabbed her sleeping spouse and the infection did him in.)

                1. This is one reason why I want to commission a set that will go through TSA scans and still be functional stilettos.

    2. I feel for you. Ever seen Psycho? The original with Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins? My first driver’s licence photo made me look exactly like Norman Bates.

    3. I just plain don’t take good photos (which is why I’m procrastinating on the one for Amazon, can’t do that much longer…).

      DL photo is the worst, though – imagine a mug shot of a child molester after the neighborhood mob catches up with him.

      1. I will just about guarantee that someone can take good pictures of you. It may take some skill, but it can be done. I always looked terrible in portraits, then had a friend take a semi-candid photo of me for fun and went “Holy cow, I look good!” Even a skilled amateur with a little time and effort can make you look good. The Oyster Wife and I have been learning basic photography skills as part of our new business, and it’s amazing the difference that a little education, practice, and caring about the result (we need to sell this stuff!) gives.

        1. I work for a photography studio, and it drives me a little bit nuts to see the steep decline in posed photos in favor of photo booths. We spent a long time learning how to make your dance photos look good, and you’d rather have photos you could get anywhere?

          1. I agree. A good photographer can make such a huge difference, and not just anyone can do portraiture. My husband and needed to have a portrait done, and having a professional made a humongous difference – we ended up with some photos that we are really happy with.

    1. This 🙂 We’re glad your here!

      You probably know more about American Civics than most college students! I’m gonna go cry now 🙂

      1. You probably know more about American Civics than most college students!

        Probably! HA! Try certainly. … And, yeah, it is no laughing matter.

    1. Nah, they just take it before you’re ready. And straight on to the camera is not a flattering angle.

      My driver’s license photo actually looks pretty good, since it was taken shortly after I started working at a photography studio. You learn all the subtle posing tricks.

  2. Welcome; we’re glad to have you.

    And I wish everyone had to sit through a speech like that in order to register to vote.

  3. Welcome home Kate.
    Paperwork, oaths, haven’t committed crimes since your INTERVIEW? Why is it so hard for Progressives to understand that we welcome Kate, who wants to be with us, is willing to put up with the bureaucratic B.S. and is probably not sending 1/2 her income back to the family in Australia; and we don’t want people illegally crossing the border, committing additional crimes (crossing the border was first) and expect Citizenship via an act of Congress and no effort on their part?
    Our legal immigrants are part of what makes and keeps America a great nation. Thank you Kate for wanting to become a part of it.

    1. Oh, they understand fine. They understand Kate and others like her want to be here to be able to do something, make something, or contribute something. They are go getters who got here, found out how to become a citizen, and got to it inspite of government instead of relying on its magic.

      Progs can’t have more people like that showing up.

      They need people who sneak in, have no respect for the law, and sit around waiting for progressives to fix things. Those kind of people will vote to give progs what they want the most, more power.

      1. Oh it means plenty. It means every November they get to vote to try and be able to tell me how to live my life.

        I wouldn’t care about their considering citizenship to have little value if they didn’t value it enough to vote.

        1. Herb, are you seriously trying to tell us you believe Proglodytes believe citizenship a requirement for voting or being able to tell you how to live your life?

          1. No, but they know it makes both easier and if there is anything that defines a progressive as much as the will to power it is utter laziness.

            I actually have some respect of those who embrace the will to power and are willing to act to gain power if only in the way you respect an enemy you truly fear. I have no respect for the average progressive (who Captain Capitalism nailed this week).

          2. Neither citizenship, nor vitality, nor independent existence are requirements for leftist voters.

  4. > my national anthem

    Due to the marvelous efficiency of four different states’ school systems, I only *last week* found out that the “national anthem” I was taught was only one of four stanzas. It was via an essay by Isaac Asimov, himself an immigrant, called “All Four Stanzas.”

    If anyone else is surprised, the essay pops right up with a web search.

    1. Indeed, there are only four stanzas. But, like the German national anthem, we only sing one and forget about the others. (The Germans try not to sing the one that starts off: Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles, uber alles in der Welt. I wonder why?) This can be somewhat helpful, though. Apocryphally, KGB infiltrators were so well-trained that they were required to memorize all four. So if the FBI wated to know if someone was a spy, all they had to do was ask them to repeat part of the second stanza.


        The Star-Spangled Banner
        O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
        What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
        Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
        O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
        And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
        Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
        O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

        On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
        Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
        What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
        As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
        Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
        In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
        ’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

        And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
        That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
        A home and a Country should leave us no more?
        Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
        No refuge could save the hireling and slave
        From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
        And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

        O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
        Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
        Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
        Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
        Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
        And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
        And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
        O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

        Officially they use these four.

        1. After reading the article I wonder where the other verses came from. *Ponders* to research! *dashes off in comical comic book fashion*

            1. If you read the article, it claims that he only wrote four. Hence the search for where the discrepency is. The article, or elsewhere. 😛

                1. No fewer than 3 hymn books with 6 verses, all attributed to Key for the words, and having held in my hot little fist a full 28 stanza poem, also attributed exclusively to Key, that was supposed to be set to the same tune and contained those same first four verses.

                  1. If you have links to these, please post them. I’m not questioning you, I sincerely would like to see them.

                    1. Yankee Doodle? I thought the (unofficial) national anthem was Sweet Betsy from Pike? Or perhaps Barnacle Bill the Sailor?

                      I am sure that was what the bunkmates at summer camp assured me.

                    2. Unfortunately they were physical hymnals. And a physical copy out of one of the museums in Monterrey. I’ll see if I can find the old versions and at least point you to which edition it was. (One was Presbyterian, One was Methodist. The other I don’t remember seeing identifying marks. Odds are they drew on the same source though.)

                    3. Wrydbard:

                      I was about to head over to Archive at to look at hymnals. A coworker has an old United Methodist hymnal at the office, but that one had no patriotic songs. IIRC, Broadman Hymnals had four verse and now only have one, but wouldn’t swear to it.

                    4. Kevin, thanks for the link. I wasn’t aware of that site. 🙂 I’ve got a physical one at home, and will check there. Y’all are starting to make me wonder if I imagined it all some how.

                    5. Everyone knows the unofficial national anthem is America, the Beautiful.

                      Certainly better than the UK where the unofficial one is God damn the Smurf.

                    6. I don’t care for America the Beautiful, but I believe the unofficial national anthem is either Battle Hymn of the Republic or Dixie, depending on your location.

                  2. Everything I could find (on a quick search) says that Keys wrote only four verses.

                    There was a fifth verse “added” during the ACW but it wasn’t by Keys and wasn’t considered an official addition.

                    So count me in on “wanting more info”. 😀

                    1. I’ll see if I can find them. The paper copy was at one of the military museums in (of all places) Monterey California. Unfortunately they were all physical copies not on-line.

        2. O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
          Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

          This line is referenced in that book that seemingly applies to everything in life, Starship Troopers. There’s a trivia quiz website which I’m trying to add some Heinlein quizzes to, and my first attempt is on Lt Col Dubois.

          1. Do they at least have the correct words to the last verse of The Battle Hymm of the Republic (which I have heard song correctly exactly once in my entire life, during the 9/11 memorial service at the National Cathedral)?

              1. As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,

                That line is wrong…the original is “let us die to make men free”.

                The lack of actual courage that is required to change both the poetry and intent of that line is pervasive in the modern world and annoys the hell out of me. I probably shouldn’t get that upset about changing one word but it just really rubs me raw.

                1. The purposes for a soldier versus an evangelist are different. While most missionaries of various sects I have known would be willing to die for their faith, it is not an inherent part of their work. Thus in a hymnal, particularly for everyday use by the laity, the revised phrase is more applicable to their experience and their efforts to build God’s kingdom.

                  1. Perhaps in that context it is defensible. Notably several explicitly military verses (the second and third verses) are also missing:

                    I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
                    They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
                    I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
                    His day is marching on.

                    I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
                    “As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
                    Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
                    Since God is marching on.

                    But “live” or “fight” are used almost exclusively today, including in military contexts which, importantly to me, is the true home of the song. While called a hymn and invoking God the Father and God the Son it is, in the end, a soldier’s song inspired by the singing of marching troops. Its removal is of a piece with our erasing how the Civil War in its abolishionist aspect was a holy war, arguably a crusade, due to our desire to deny the power of faith in the modern world.

                    1. And they don’t have the “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school” verse, either…

                    2. I wear my pink pajamas in the summer when it’s hot
                      I wear my flannel nightie in the winter when it’s not
                      And sometimes in the springtime
                      And sometimes in the fall
                      I jump right in between the sheets with nothing on at all!

                    3. My United Methodist Hymnal, being done by United Methodists, who are all either professors, retired professors, or future professors, has it as “live” with an * and note at the bottom “Original: die.”

                    4. Pffft. Dying isn’t original. People have been doing it for years. Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.

                    1. As I said, many of us would be willing, but that doesn’t make it a core part of what we put forth in the way it is for a soldier. On the contrary, I see far too many who think they’d be willing to face martyrdom with strength and grace, but won’t live and work to build the kingdom or spread the word or serve their neighbor or stand up for the truly oppressed… The ones who really live to make men free, in this life or the next, will readily die to do so as well. Those who don’t aren’t likely to do so.

                    2. I think in this instance it is appropriate to remember General Patton’s observations on that matter.

                  2. I thought a) it was written to be sung by soldiers and b) it’s use by evangelists/missionaries was to compare themselves with soldiers. In both cases, the singers are claiming to be God’s soldiers, and while a soldier’s job may be “not to die for your country, but to make the other poor bastard die for his” a soldier must be prepared to lay down his life for his cause.

                    So yes I agree with Herb, it is a travesty that they change such an important line in the song.

                2. Hmm . . . I remember it as . . . die to make men free . . . in an edition of the Broadman hymnal in the 1960s. Wasn’t able to find it in a 1940 edition I have here. However, it is found The Baptist Hymnal, 1926 version. But in the 1975 version of The Baptist Hymnal, it’s changed to live.

          2. Not only do the Methodists and others drop two verses of “Be Thou my Vision,” they have taken to omitting “High King” for “Great G-d” or some other phrase. What, pray tell, is wrong with:

            Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
            Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
            Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
            Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

            1. You’re sooo twentieth-century! Chuch isn’t *about* God any more. It’s about affirmation, and feeling good, and always paying your tithe on time, and not those old bits about not doing whatever you want/

              1. Twentieth century? TWENTIETH century?!? I’ll have you know my clock stopped in 1896. Heck, some days I feel rather like early September, 1683.

          3. The third verse kind of fell out of favor during WWII; given how closely we were working with the Brits, it seemed kind of impolite to be singing about how much the British suck.

            1. Tsk – you say that as if the Brits lack a sense of humour about themselves, yet they’ve elected Jeremy Corbyn as head of the Lame Party.

              I mean, did you catch that part about “this House and Prime Minister’s Question Time should be an opportunity to debate seriously the issues that face our country and our place in the world”?

    2. And I’ve always disliked the fact that we limit ourselves to the first one. I’d prefer that, if we have to use only one, we use either the second verse (“Does that star spangled banner yet wave? Hell, yeah it does!”) or the fourth one (“America rocks?”) rather than the somewhat ambiguous start to the song.

      1. When I was in school (junior high? high? I forget), we always sang the fourth verse when we sang the national anthem. And yes, it’s extremely cool.

        1. We were told to memorize The Star Spangled Banner for high school graduation. I found an old hymnal and learned all four verses. Then, at graduation, we only sang the first verse.

  5. Welcome! We need all the help we can get. I am sure you will roll up your sleeves and dig right in.

  6. Congratulations, and welcome. Thank you for sharing your experience. Like others here, I wish all American high school students had to do this in order to graduate.

  7. Hi Kate!
    Now there is another Yankee, newly minted, among all my Yankee Cousins…
    (Grandpa Pete was a Minnesota Dane, and a Millwright, ere he came to Canada, for the milder weather)… Grin.

  8. Remember the opening of “Wonderful World of Disney” where Tinkerbell flew around the castle then waved her wand and colors flew out? That, right there, was the instant the magic happened.

    Most of American law is like that. Title to property passes at the moment of death, a deed is effective upon delivery, a contract is formed when there is a meeting of the minds. You can’t see or feel or touch the magic but it happened just the same. Lawyers’ paperwork is merely after-the-fact documentation to help us remember the magic.

    With all due respect to the judge, you didn’t become an American when you spoke the words “So help me God” but when you meant them. Nobody could see or hear or feel what happened in your heart at that instant, but that’s when the magic happened. That’s when you became an American.

    Welcome home, indeed.

  9. *stands, applauds* Welcome home.

    Guest artists at the regional symphony concerts are always surprised when they begin with the National Anthem. And everyone stands and sings.

    1. They do that at the season opener at Symphony Silicon Valley. A big US flag rolls down at the back of the stage.

      And I’m not the only one who quietly ends with “Play Ball!”

      1. Once evening church service on the 4th of July, we sang the first verse of The Star Spangled Banner for a benediction. The preacher then said “Gentlemen, start your engines – and go home.”

        1. I worked for a boss who raced stock cars. To this day I think he believes that “Gentlemen, start your engines” really are the closing words.

          1. My dad is on the same wavelength as FlyingMike. He insists the last words are actually “Play Ball.” 🙂

      2. As I am decidedly not a sports fan, I never associated it with the start of a game. One day a few years ago I was somewhere with a TV on in the background and a game was about to start and the tune played. It was in the afternoon sometime, and my immediate reaction was, “What? It’s not the end of the broadcast day.”

    2. Here in Dixie it’s traditional to play the anthem at auto races. And you *will* put your phone aside and stand up with everyone else, or the 75-year-old lady with the pointy shoes in the next upper row will start kicking you until you get the hint.

      Sadly, I’ve seen that happen more than once… I’m not sure where those yuppies come from, but at least they leave slightly less ignorant than when they arrive.

      1. Even as a dam foreigner I stand (still) for the anthem. Basic manners. I did once (at the start of a race) get asked why I didn’t do the whole hand over heart thing and I replied: “my lot were sending the rockets”.

  10. Pennsylvania really does need the attention to state and local elections. Kathleen Kane hopefully is not going to be Clinton’s VP.

    Not like my own locale isn’t also badly screwed up.

    1. Last I heard, there was some possibility that she might actually be indicted. Anything ever happen about that?

      1. I haven’t heard much, but that might be Moe Lane quitting politics, and Redstate focusing so much on the presidential campaign.

        In all seriousness, the name I’ve heard floated for VP is Kaine, not Kane.

        1. Opening scene of the new movie Senator Kaine: A man staring directly into the camera and whispering, “Rose Law! Rose Law!”

  11. Finally! Now we get to teach Kate all the seeekrit American stuff! Like why there are always more hotdogs in a package than hotdog buns in a package. (Ducks. Ducks steal the hotdog buns.) And why all audio ads for monster truck rallies are required by law to have 20% of the content in reverb. (Elder God habitat protection). And why the pedestrian crossing light buttons never work. (Actually, I don’t know why. Anybody?)

    And to conclude: YAY! (exunt, singing “Be Kind To Our Web-Footed Friends”)

    1. Actually, for the most part I think we’ve gotten to the point where hot dogs and buns both come in packages of 8. Except for the Hebrew National hot dogs. The kosher folks make a delicious hot dog, but for some reason they insist on putting 7 hot dogs in each pack.

      1. My answer to that is easy – buy two packs and the cook can eat one or two right off the grill (while everyone else waits for them to be brought in)

          1. Keep in mind that spare frankfurters may be sliced and added to soups, mac & cheese and other dishes. They can even be skewered, dipped in corn batter and deep-fried for a delightful means of consuming mustard.

    2. I actually know the answer to the hotdog/bun question! Hotdogs were originally sold as strings of connected sausages. Hotdogs weighed roughly 1.6 oz. each, so 10 hotdogs made up a pound. As for hotdog buns, virtually all commercial bakers buy their baking pans from Ekco corporation, which makes 32 bun pans. Even other manufacturers have conformed to this 32 bun standard. There’s no efficient way to divide this output into 10 bun packages, so 8 bun packages are the standard.

      1. Heh. All of the baking pans my wife inherited from her mother (and likely her grandmother) are embossed with the Ekco name.

    3. Pedestrian crossing lights work where I live. Thing is, I watch the traffic lights, so I can be ready to move when it is time.

      1. They work where I am too, but this place is “Nowhere, Middle of” according to some. (We’re centrally located!) Or maybe it’s that well, mythical things (like me?) can happen here.

    4. In areas where the traffic lights have been synchronized (e.g. most of NYC) the crossing light buttons were left in place but they have no impact, because otherwise it would interfere with the synchronization. In other cases they’ve just not been maintained. I don’t think any of them are actually fake, like the fake thermostats sometimes installed in buildings, but I could be wrong.

    5. “And why the pedestrian crossing light buttons never work.”

      Actually, they do. Just not for what you expect them to do.

      It keeps you occupied while the timer counts down at the same rate.

      Well, it turns out that some systems do pay attention to the button presses. With some value of /, the system can shorten the time to switch. (I used to work for a company that had a division that supplied traffic lights for unincorporated parts of the state. Never did find out where any of these systems actually were installed, and after 45+ years, it probably doesn’t matter.)

      1. I think out here they also tell the walk sign they actually need to signal pedestrians to go. You don’t hit the button. you don’t get a walk light, even though the light still cycles.

        1. That’s how they work here. The walk signs light up on the next opportunity. If you time the button press just so, it seems to be instant. If you try in the middle of things or just after the lights changed to allow cross-traffic (from pedestrian point of view) you get to wait until things cycle.

        2. My small town has three traffic lights. About ten years ago they “upgraded” them. The “WALK” and “DON’T WALK” parts turned into what look like some kind of international symbols, apparently for “Joshua tree” and “hand jive.”

          As with most “obvious” symbology, such as the mysterious icons on the dash of my truck or on the back of my camera, I have no freakin’ clue as to what they might mean.

          1. The trouble with the hand go/don’t go is when they start to wear out and fingers disappear. Uptown CO Spring has crossing signals I refer to as the Bless You, the #### You, the OK and the Romero Zombie.

            1. On a more serious note, some crossings give so little time to cross that people in wheel chairs have died trying to cross.

          2. Our town and the one next to us each has a blinker light, red in one direction, amber the other. Which reminds me of boot camp, where a bunch of the guys were talking about hitting the Red Light District during the one day of boot camp liberty. One of my fellow recruits from Podunk remarked that his town had a red light, but it was only a blinker. One of the more worldly fellows took him aside to explain what a Red Light District was. And everyone heard him bellow out, “Y’all mean you have to PAY women for that?” I guess Podunk was a jumping place…

      2. Dang. Don’t put > or < characters in the text…

        That should have been "some value of [buttonPresses] per [timeElapsed], and accounting for vehicles detected during the time in question"

    6. “…why the pedestrian crossing light buttons never work.” – They do, when they’re new. It’s just that they get worn out quickly by all the people who beat on them 27 times as soon as they get to the curb.

  12. Kate, you are barely a day an official citizen, and we are thankful that you are. You actively choose to become one, to pursue it the legal way. For that we also thank you. As I have said all along, this nation is the richer for those who have joined us like you.

    1. Ah, I just want to know, why the congratulations — that Kate is a citizen or that she made you cry at swim lessons? 😉

      1. Congratulations on becoming a citizen, naturally. My husband became a citizen seven years ago last month. That’s why I cried. Stupid emotional stuff.

  13. Pro tip for singing the national anthem: start it lower than you think you need to. Most songs start somewhere in the middle of the range they need, but “The Star-Spangled Banner” starts near the bottom, which is why you so often hear people straining for those upper notes. The song is actually little more than an octave, which most people have, but they don’t tend to have an octave ABOVE the middle of their range.

        1. My choir director many moons ago used to lean on the grand piano with his belly and do “pushups” by breathing. It was rather impressive.

      1. Amen.

        C major is the lowest appropriate key for the National Anthem. We just need to teach the rest of the world to sing harmony. Plus the National Anthem sounds really good in four parts.

    1. I need to learn how to sing it. Not that I’ll ever be soloing it, but I should be able to *sing* the thing.

      1. I’ll never be able to sing it, but I can say the words off-key and possibly off-tempo as well as I can for any other song.

      2. Given some renditions you may be worthy of a baseball, football or other game…or maybe 2020 DNC Convention

        1. If we changed anthems my choice would be the Battle Hymn of the Republic. That’s one kick-ass song! On the other hand it might rub southerners raw, it’s only been 150 years since the ACW.

      3. My mother likes to tell the story of a man accused of being a German spy in World War II Brazil. He was brought in by the local police for questioning. They grilled him on all things colloquially Brazilian: sport, history, politics…
        The accused said all the right things.

        Then they asked him about the Brazilian national anthem, and he started to sing it. So they took out and shot him.

        He sang all four verses.

        So maybe just stick to verses 1 and 3 🙂

    1. On behalf of the family, Kate, I would like to apologize for not having cleaned up a bit better. We’re in the midst of a major remodeling, having some difficulties with the present contractor (frankly, the interview process for the new one is not going as well as we’d hoped) and the Subs seem to have completely given up.

      Still, welcome to the family estate! It’s a bit run down from what it once was but it’s still one of the nicest places to be, and we have plans, long-term plans, to restore the foundations and clean out the debris from the last flood … windstorm … drought … drunken family brawl.

  14. Under the present regime, it seems, everybody physically here (and many here only virtually) are entitled to all the Rights & Benefits of citizenship, while the Duties are required of only a few.

    Oh well – they’ve been devaluing the currency, too. Frankly, I wish ALL here, even those born here, had to go through such a process.

    Welcome to the only nation of which you can become a “proper” citizen through such a process. You never hear anybody speak of being
    “born [French/German/British/Italian/Russian/Indian/Chinese/etc.] in the wrong nation,” but America is a nation of the heart and mind, and many of our citizens never make it here. I’m glad you (and Sarah, and such others as my grandparents) did.

        1. That is why the Democrats are so aggressive in making sure their votes are cast for them. Just because a person doesn’t feel up to voting is no reason for their representatives to be denied those votes.

          Heck, the way most Dems see it, if it wasn’t for them those minorities wouldn’t even have votes, so it is the Democrat Party’s duty to collect them.

    1. Oh, the Duties of Citizenship are required of all … it’s just that we are so much about tolerating differences that we’ve gotten into the habit of tolerating those who don’t care about their duties!

      Don’t let those folks get you down, Kate – still plenty of us to work/live/love along side of! Welcome, welcome, thrice welcome!

  15. Welcome Kate, from one who went through it some time ago. Your story touches some very familiar points. The leaky eyes, for example. Do they still have the “renounce allegiance to any foreign prince or potentate” phrase in the oath? I liked that one.

    On the Anthem, thanks everyone, I learned something new. It turns out that some other countries have the same story. The Dutch national anthem is a song of 15 stanzas. The “official” version has two (stanzas 1 and 6, of all things) but you typically hear only the first one.

      1. Yep, it’s still there. Quite a few of the folks taking the oath were practicing because the language was so unfamiliar to them – they were fine with colloquial-level English, but the oath uses formal phrasing you rarely see in everyday life (they knew what the words *meant*, but not how to say them).

    1. Oh, it is covered, but according to the current scope and sequence guidelines the material is stretched over fourteen years and is usually taken up in the last ten percent of any school year in which it is scheduled.

      1. …which is why we get all the articles showing how the average natural-born citizen knows less American history than our newly-naturalized! (Doesn’t help that history in American schools is rarely taught in a way that captures interest or imagination.)

        1. Or, sadly, by people who think the civics side and American history is a GOOD thing.

          Who wants to sit through endless hours of being told how oppressive your putative ancestors were?

          1. Keep in mind that very, very few classes get through even the first two-thirds of the recommended scope & sequence … and a goodly portion of the last third of that two-thirds is skimmed more than studied.

    2. Boy Scouts learn more civics earning the three citizenship merit badges (Community, Nation, World) then they do in school. Or at least that’s what they’ve told me. I have them actually read the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, in full, and discuss each paragraph and its’ meaning.

      Having them read it out loud also tells me whether they learned reading by phonics or by look-guess or some other modern educational method. If by phonics, they can actually read them. Elsewise, it’s a slog getting them through it.

      1. You think US civics education is bad? Check some other countries. Growing up in Holland, I had even less. For example, I never learned that there is a Dutch Declaration of Independence. I wasn’t just ignorant of its words — I was ignorant of its very existence. Imagine that. I didn’t learn about it until after I became a US citizen, from reading a Belgian (of all things) website.
        Yes, things could be better. But at least American kids know about the Declaration. They know about the Constitution, and they may even have read some of it. Do they understand it? Perhaps not, but at least there’s a start.
        On the question of what things are worth doing, I would say: teach the Constitution at every opportunity. Especially teach Article 1 Section 8 and what its plain English words actually say and mean.

        1. I can still sing the Preamble to the Constitution. 😀

          OTOH, I am often dismayed by the number of people who can’t tell the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration.

  16. “That was the moment I became a citizen of the United States of America.”

    I suspect, like our esteemed hostess, you have always been one, you just took the long way around to get here.


  17. Welcome Kate.

    Congratutations on doing something some few here do: becoming an citizen by an affirmative act instead of just breathing. I wish more of the birthright crowd would follow your example and truly become citizens by a positive, personally disruptive action instead of slouching to a voting booth at 18 and protesting about their various rights (usually to someone else’s money much more than to freedom of speech, assembly, or arms).

    1. I wish more of the birthright crowd would follow your example and truly become citizens by a positive, personally disruptive action

      What would you recommend as such an action? I remember that we had a discussion here a while back on the subject, but I don’t seem to have saved it, and the subject’s been on my mind. On Independence Day this year I sat down with the elder minions and we read the Declaration together. It made me think of this again. Some of us are ineligible/unfit for military duty, and most of the civil service rubs my conscience raw, so Troopers-style service is not always an option. What then can we do to make our dedication concrete?

      1. Find an join a non-religious equivalent of the Meninite group that goes and rebuilds homes after natural diasters (they go worldwide hence the preference for a similar group) if you are physically able.

        The key points are:

        1. You sacrifice 2-4 years of your life where career advancement, etc are put off.

        2. The work you do during that period is to the benefit of the nation as a whole.

        Hell, one of the ones in SST was being a test subject for experimental equipment.

        1. One of the examples being given at the ceremony was as simple as being a block parent for your school.

          There are plenty of places where volunteers can help out in a civil service sense, it’s just a matter of finding them (says she who can’t volunteer for any of the local charity orgs because they don’t operate outside business hours, and who has issues donating blood thanks to veins so deep I have to ask for the best miner in the clinic).

          1. Keep writing. You’ll touch more people that way.

            That said, try Habitat for Humanity, if you’re okay with their work. At one point, in Moscow, when I had a twenty month old and a one month old, I wrote thank you notes for them to their donors. They were quite happy to have someone willing to hand write notes, and they really didn’t care where or when I did them.
            I know you break code, do you write code? My husband’s made a couple charities’ websites and the local volunteer fire department. Where we are, lots of people still use dial-up, so these groups want very light weight websites. Actually, if you live in a volunteer fire district, call those guys. They need people whenever the alarms go off, and plenty of those are outside business hours, and not all the jobs are physically demanding.

  18. Congratulations–as if the word were adequate. Thank you for coming on board. We need all the help we can get to preserve what we have.

    Your next great moment will come when you step into the voting booth for the first time. I was born here born a citizen,, and it still humbles me.

  19. Welcome Kate! And kudos to you. We know it isn’t easy, but at least this crowd knows that it’s worth the effort.

  20. Every time I hear this story from anyone, I cry. Thank you for making me cry again Kate. We’re glad you’re here.

  21. Welcome Ms. Paulk, I’d appologize about the (political) mess but things like this have been happening since 1800 and Jefferson and Adams’ dustup.

    1. WEll, this is a country that wears its heart AND its dirty linen on its sleeve, as it were.

    2. Comment for forgetting to check the box saying notify me of new comments.

      (I leave it as an exercise of the reader to develop an acronym for that.)

        1. Well, that’s just boring and doesn’t point out the end users inability to use the basic function of your friendly neighborhood WordPress (delenda est).

  22. Thank you, to everyone! There are way too many posts here for me to thank you all individually, so thank you. I really appreciate the warm welcome.

    1. Speaking of warm welcomes, no matter what some jokers will try to tell you, branding is optional these days.

      1. The only Berks county I’m aware of is in Pennsylvania, a bit west of Philadelphia, with (IIRC) Reading as county seat.

  23. Kate, one important word of advice: becoming American does NOT entail a requirement to eat only American cheese. There are some sacrifices no nation may demand.

    1. American cheese is not real cheese, rather it is a plasticized substitute of roughly the right hue.

      1. American cheese is too cheese! If one grew up eating only kosher, in the 60s and 70s, One had few options in eating cheese. There was American cheese and Muenster cheese, in one brand– Miller’s. I’m sure there’s a larger choice today. Regular rennet is a meat derivative which made all cheese made with it unkosher.

        1. Hmm, looking around my books . . . you can make cheese with plants instead of animal rennet, but 1) it’s trickier and 2) you seem to get either really soft cheeses like cottage cheese and queso fresco, or you have to make hard cheeses and those can be a bit bitter compared to the usual hard cheese. I suspect a few super specialty import places and some farmers’ markets would have them.
          A link for the curious:

            1. I should think that any supermarket that stocked kosher products would carry it. It’s probably a different company though. Specialty cheeses were imported from Israel.

        2. Kosher rennet can be made, but must come from kosher-slaughtered calves, which are themselves in much smaller demand than kosher cheese. (There are technical reasons why this is not considered a prohibited meat-and-milk mixture.) I believe it’s for practical reasons, though, that the OU, the main kosher-certifying agency in the US, does not certify any cheese made with animal rennet.

    2. I was amused by an Australian cartoonist who was surprised that when asking Americans about a planned “dis” of American cheese in the comic, that they said something like “Go for it. Chances are you won’t be nasty enough about it.”

  24. I now eagerly await your denunciation of your privilege and acceptance that ALL the world’s ills are your individual and collective fault.

    Or you could just tell the next pinko/commie/libtard “Love it or leave it!” That works too.

  25. Is the North American continent big enough for all of us? Let’s find out. 🙂

        1. SpaceX is working on fixing that. Currently the first flight of the Dragon 2 is scheduled for early next year, to be done on automatics. Assuming that it performs acceptably, an actual crewed flight to the ISS will happen later in the year.

            1. They have facilities in Texas; but their main offices and manufacturing facility are in Hawthorne, CA. I applied with them three years ago, and had I been accepted I would have had to move to Hawthorne.

  26. Kate, this was so beautiful — and necessary at a time like this — I wanted to thank you. Thank you for reminding all of us soft, unappreciative natural-borns, what it truly means to be an American. We too often forget. We too often take for granted. We too often act like it will all just keep going on and on and on, like a perpetual motion machine. Without work. Without effort. Without taking our responsibilities seriously.

    I applaud and salute you, Kate! 😀

    1. Kate choosing to become an American means more than any of the morons currently running for office.

    2. Thank you, Brad. I really appreciate that.

      It is all to easy to take the benefits that go with being American for granted, as the wretched excuse for a reporter who “covered” the ceremony demonstrated.

  27. Kate: Thanks for joining our nation, and for being one of the creative, communicative people whose sensibility and ability to inspire and influence others (at least those with the wit to understand you) may get us through the next ten years (+/-). Welcome.

  28. Welcome to Team America! We have the best public libraries and fast-food joints!

    Your Friends of the Library can sometimes use volunteers, especially for big annual projects. Your local city or county council can really use good writers who attend their meetings and report accurate summaries of the goings on therein on whatever social media platform most of the locals use (and you might be able to side line as a stringer for the local paper & earn a little cash-y money as well.)

    Using your God-given talents and hard-earned skills to do some Good in the community and make a profit? It’s the American way 🙂

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