Mukbang And True Crime with Stephanie Soo; Childcare And Coronavirus : It's Been a Minute Guest host Elise Hu looks at how the pandemic has exacerbated existing problems when it comes to the care of small children. A Massachusetts childcare center owner shares her story about reopening, while a public policy professor talks about the difficult choices women often have to make between their careers and caregiving. Also, a look at how mukbang and true crime collide in the world of Stephanie Soo, a YouTube star and host of the Rotten Mango podcast.

Pandemic Childcare; Plus Mukbang Meets True Crime

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Hey, y'all. It's your guest host, Elise Hu. So I have three girls who are all under the age of 8, and all of them have now started school. The youngest is fierce, an agent of chaos when she chooses to be. And we've all been home together non-stop since March.

EVA: Hi. I'm Eva, and I'm 7 years old.

HU: What's your name?

ISA: My name is Isa, and I'm 5 years old.

EVA: Elise is our mom.

HU: So, girls, how is Zoom school going so far?

ISA: I like it.

HU: What do you like about it?

ISA: I like that I'm learning to read.

HU: What do you like about it?

EVA: I like that...

HU: Wait, do you even like it?

EVA: I don't know.

HU: What do you mean?

EVA: I like it because I have nice teachers that teach me every day.

HU: But what is it like going to school on a screen?

EVA: I don't feel that good about that, actually.

HU: Who are you? What's your name?

LUNA: Carinia (ph).

HU: That's not your real name. What's your real name?

LUNA: I'm not helping (ph) you.

HU: You're not going to talk to me.

EVA: She's Luna.

HU: How old are you, Luna?

LUNA: No. No. No. No. Don't say it. I want you to put on my skirt.

HU: How old are you?

LUNA: I'm 3 licks (ph) old.

HU: How many?

LUNA: (Speaking Chinese).

HU: That was 3 years old in Chinese (laughter). Can you say 3 years old in English?


HU: (Laughter) OK.

LUNA: (Unintelligible).


LUNA: Put on my skirt.

HU: OK. Can you have Yani put that on for you? I've got to finish talking to your sisters.

LUNA: No, you...

EVA: (Unintelligible) starting it over.

HU: We don't need to start it over.

EVA: Start it over.

HU: Why do we need to start it over?

EVA: Because it's a mess. And I also need to go to...

LUNA: Here, mama. Put this on.

HU: OK, I'm going to put it on in a minute. Why don't you just give me a...

LUNA: (Crying).

HU: What? OK, let's start the show.

ISA: OK, let's start the show.

HU: Like, with more enthusiasm.

EVA: Your voice is too shy. You've got to be brave. OK, let's start the show.


HU: You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Elise Hu, filling in for Sam Sanders. Today on the show, we're talking about child care and how the pandemic has exacerbated caregiving problems that already existed. It's been a lot, as you just heard. And that was only two minutes from my house, y'all. This is my life every day forever.

Now more than ever, working parents are in desperate need of child care. But the industry's on the verge because of the pandemic. Even before coronavirus, there was already a nationwide shortage, with mostly women making the painful choice of whether to give up their jobs and careers to do the caregiving. Later on, we'll talk to an expert about why that is and how we even got to this point.

But first, I wanted to talk to someone who's dealing with all of this firsthand - a daycare owner.

JESSICA DE JESUS ACEVEDO: I think something that now is going to be a little bit more reinforced is with regards to the wearing of the mask...

HU: Yeah.

ACEVEDO: ...And personal hygiene. Every family, every person kind of has their own opinion or belief. But as a teacher...

HU: Well, also, it's hard to get a 3-year-old to put on a mask and wear it correctly, too.

ACEVEDO: Exactly.

HU: I don't know about you...

ACEVEDO: Exactly (laughter). No, it's so hard.

HU: That's Jessica de Jesus Acevedo. Along with her sister, she runs the child care center Little Star Of Ours in Cambridge, Mass. After closing earlier this summer due to COVID, they're about to finally reopen their doors for the fall but at a slightly smaller capacity. That doesn't mean things are business as usual for anyone.

Have you heard from families that can't return now because of lost jobs or can no longer pay?

ACEVEDO: Yes, ma'am. So we have had - some of our families were on unemployment.

HU: Yeah.

ACEVEDO: Some of our families, both parents were unemployed or one parent was unemployed. But we're trying to do our best at, you know, if parents are looking for work, they're trying to work, that - we're working with them to have child care (laughter). So just because we're unemployed doesn't mean that we can't figure out a schedule or provide child care.

HU: But I do want to talk about the business side of this for you all because as a center, you were forced to close for almost six months, which is...

ACEVEDO: Yes, ma'am.

HU: ...Really hard on the parents who need you as a place to help caregive (ph) but also a huge financial strain for child care centers. So what did you do to get by?

ACEVEDO: So the first month or two, we were still, like, OK, well, we're set to open. And then once we got closed down for another two months, we had to just completely stop payments, tuition and stop asking people for money.

HU: Yeah.

ACEVEDO: So for two months, we completely stop our payments. We didn't ask for anything just to be mindful of our families and, you know, of their needs at the time. You know, we weren't taking care of their kids. We weren't able to open. Some of them were able to join our Zoom classes, but some of them weren't because their parents are working.

So we made a decision to reopen in September. Well, we knew, you know, we had some time to figure out our plan (laughter), to see what was happening, you know, just information that as a business owner, I really need to hear before I open my doors and put myself, my business and the people that work for me in a liable position.

HU: Sure. But does this mean, as a business owner, that you were going without pay and your teachers were going without pay while you were providing all these Zoom supports, whether it's Zoom meetings with parents and consulting with them, but also...


HU: ...Providing, you know, Zoom classes for the preschoolers or the, you know, daycare kids?

ACEVEDO: So the way that we did it was that, you know, they were still paying tuition. So this was what we were putting out instead of taking care of your child. So it was like, OK, you're paying tuition, so join the circle time. But again, like, that didn't work for every parent. That didn't work for every schedule. And then once we stopped asking for payments, we saw kind of people choose different routes. And it was difficult because, like you said, we weren't getting paid. So I had to push everybody, including myself, to join unemployment, which is something, as a business owner, I never wanted to do. But I had to file for unemployment because I had absolutely no income coming in from anywhere.

HU: Yeah. Well, we read this wild survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children because it found that without support from public dollars - so without government assistance - as many as half of the country's day care centers could close by December, which is wild. How close are you all to having to make tough decisions like that?

ACEVEDO: I think we already had to make those tough decisions in regards to whether or not to reopen.

HU: So that's good news then. The fact that you are reopening soon means that you're able to make ends meet.

ACEVEDO: Yes, ma'am. But I don't think that's necessarily going to be the same situation for everybody. A lot of what's happening is, like, such a transition with technology that, you know, if you're not staying on technology, if you're not savvy of, like, how to find your next customer or how to email people back, like, it's going to be impossible to run a business like this, so, you know, families that were living and running their business off referrals and lost all their clientele or stuff like that. Also, I think about how many women - minority women - are in this business that may not have proficiency in technology and in Zoom and in emails, that it really does put them behind because the modern family is finding child care on Google (laughter). So if you're not on Google, it's really difficult. And I think the information that you found is completely accurate because I applied to a grant for the city, and I got denied because my business was in my home.

HU: Wow.

ACEVEDO: And I think what I've been advocating more for is that there are working families still struggling. There are people working 40 hours plus still struggling and unable to pay their bills. So we can not only focus and fix focus on at-risk families. And, you know, like all of our families are at-risk right now if we don't support them.


HU: Thanks again to Jessica de Jesus Acevedo. She runs a family child care program in Cambridge, Mass.


HU: So this child care thing, it affects pretty much every parent, including one who studies this very topic.

I heard you have two kids at home. How old are they?

TARYN MORRISSEY: I do. My son is 6, and he just started first grade this week. And my daughter is 4, and she's in prekindergarten.

HU: Is the 4-year-old physically going to school and the 6-year-old is on Zoom? How is that all working out?

MORRISSEY: They're both on Zoom. So I live in the District of Columbia and am fortunate to have public preschool. And so my daughter's actually been in the public school system since she was 3.

HU: Wow. Yeah, I remember what that was like.

MORRISSEY: (Laughter).

HU: I had so much more money.


HU: Taryn Morrissey is an associate professor at American University. She studies public policy and how it affects children and families.

So on the topic of child care - that's what we're talking about today - so overall, how many people in the U.S. actually rely on some form of child care?

MORRISSEY: Well, about 60% of children before the age of kindergarten - so who have not yet entered kindergarten - regularly participate in a non-parental child care each week. So it's more than half. And this is higher when children are between 3 and 4 years old, it's nearly three quarters of children are enrolled in some sort of non-parental child care. And it's less for infants and toddlers. But it's become a normative experience before kids enter school.

HU: All right. So now here we are in the back half of 2020. We've been on a tilt-a-whirl. What is the state of child care now in the middle of this pandemic?

MORRISSEY: It's pretty awful. I mean, it was really hard to find and afford high-quality child care before the pandemic, and the pandemic has made it just nearly impossible for most families and for a multitude of reasons. It's because many child care providers had to close their doors, either permanently, or almost nearly all of them had to close them temporarily because of public health concerns. The United States is expected to lose about 4 1/2 million licensed child care slots permanently because of the pandemic. And there weren't enough to meet demand prior to COVID. So after - finding child care after this is all over, whenever this is all over, is going to be really, really hard.

HU: I want to ask you how things got this way. That is, why is our child care system, our day care system, after-school support system - why is it such a patchwork of these ad hoc solutions instead of something that is more sustainable when we do have these major shocks to the system like a pandemic?

MORRISSEY: I think as a society we have ambivalence towards mothers working, especially mothers with young children. I mean, it's still just - a 2013 Pew poll found about 51% of those surveyed thought it was good that a mother stay at home...

HU: Wow.

MORRISSEY: take care of the children. And so - but this is in a reality where the vast majority of mothers work. And our policy hasn't kept up with that reality.

HU: Yeah, it seems like we're still trying to maintain this nuclear family ideal from the 1950s or something, when the vast majority of families are two working-parent households - right?

MORRISSEY: Right, or a single parent that has to work. I think it's at age 5 children become this public good that we all invest our tax dollars to educate. Yet we know that the developmental sensitivity of the first three years of life in particular with early childhood generally is so important for later life outcomes, whether it's health, whether it's economics or educational attainment.

HU: This gets to the next question, which is why does society sort of undervalue this? Like, why is child care up to individual families to privately pay for or individual parents to sort of solve for rather than something that's everyone's responsibility since our economy depends on it?

MORRISSEY: I think increasingly people agree it's become - that it's moreso of a societal or public good. I think the economic return, so to speak, of investing in early childhood has been recognized. People recognize that parents are struggling and that young parents just don't have the political voice that they should because they're so strapped for time, particularly now. You know, they don't have an AARP-like advocacy group that's organizing around their needs. And the - having young children is a temporary condition - right? It's temporary, but it's quite expensive and has lasting impacts.

HU: Let's talk about those impacts. What does it mean for us that child care is set up this way as private responsibilities? What are the implications of it?

MORRISSEY: Child care in most states costs more. Center-based child care for an infant costs more than public college tuition in most states. And this comes at parents' lowest earning years of their careers generally.

HU: (Laughter).

MORRISSEY: They don't have time to save. I mean, you would have to start saving as a high school student to pay for your child's childcare.

HU: I just want to sit with that for a second. I mean, I realize this because every time I'm having to look at, you know, $27,000 a year to sing "Wheels On A Bus" (ph), I'm outraged because I went to a large land-grant public university, which was not $27,000 a year. OK. So I want to ask about you. You said you have a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old. They're both going to Zoom school. You're a professor and a public policy researcher. How are you managing?

MORRISSEY: It's not easy. I will say we're in a great circumstance. I have a flexible job that I can do from home. My husband has a flexible job that he can do from home. We're sleeping less. We're working at night and on weekends. And we're making it work in that way. But it's certainly not sustainable.

HU: Yeah I (laughter) - I have so many friends who adjusted their working hours to, like, 3 a.m. It's earlier and earlier depending on when the kids wake up so that you have that little (laughter) - that little window of time to think.


MORRISSEY: It's so hard - when the house is quiet, those fleeting hours when (laughter) it's quiet.

HU: Well, I guess I'll sacrifice sleeping.


HU: Thanks again to Taryn Morrissey. She studies public policy at American University. All right. Time for a break. When we come back, the trifecta - mukbang, true crime and who said that? You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. We'll be right back. Hey y'all, can you close the door real quick. I'm going to finish this one section. Hey, Ava (ph), can you please close the door? I'm rolling. Please.


HU: We're back. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Elise Hu, in for Sam Sanders - going to pivot now to talk about food because my next guest eats copious amounts of it, and she records herself eating...


STEPHANIE SOO: I love it. Usually I hate beans, but that's just cheese and rice and sour cream.

HU: ...While she talks about gruesome cases of true crime.


SOO: So she left her shoes. She left her purse. There's no signs of forced entry.

HU: That's Stephanie Soo. In that video, she's eating the entire Taco Bell menu, a hundred dollars' worth.


SOO: We've got soft tacos. We've got nacho cheese.

HU: Three types of nachos, Taco Bell fries - did you know Taco Bell had fries? - quesadillas...


SOO: Potato taco.

HU: ...Different types of burritos, and all while intently retelling the story of an actual murder.


SOO: We're just going to jump right in.

HU: All her episodes are like this. It might sound crazy, but Stephanie Soo is an icon in the mukbang world, an online trend that started in South Korea and features people eating tons of messy food in front of a live virtual audience. Stephanie's YouTube show devoted to her mukbang - it now has more than 2 million subscribers. We caught up recently, and she told me why she decided to make a show marrying her two loves, true crime and food.

SOO: So it started with me, like, talking about my day. And then I was like, oh, my God. I watched this true crime mystery, and, like, the husband killed his wife for life insurance money. And I was like, what do you guys think about that? And then it just evolved into, like, this thing. And now everyone's like, we don't want to see your face unless you're talking about murder.

HU: Oh, my God.

SOO: So now it's - yeah.

HU: Can you (laughter) - can you talk a little bit about, like, the first episode or first time you feel like it really turned, like, which murder story or which particular crime story it was that then got a big reaction and it kind of took off for you?

SOO: It was probably the Ted Bundy one.


SOO: So this is the story of Ted Bundy.

OK, that one was - it was a very questionable video in an interesting way.


SOO: You've been questioned before, and yet you were not arrested.

HU: Say more.

SOO: Like, I ate the last foods that Ted Bundy ate before he was executed (laughter). I'm laughing because I'm uncomfortable, not because I think execution's funny. Yeah.

HU: Well, it's his last meal, right? It was essentially, you ate Ted Bundy's last meal as kind of the hook...

SOO: Exactly.

HU: ...For why to talk about Ted Bundy.

SOO: Yeah. So I was like, you know, this is a good segue because I can't just be like, hey, guys, so I'm eating Chick-fil-A, but, like, Ted Bundy.

HU: (Laughter).

SOO: So I ate his last meal, and then I talked about him.


SOO: Just a rage of murders. People knew the murderer's name was Ted. They had a sketch about him.

And people just really started responding. And it was just - it was fascinating, yeah (laughter).

HU: And I just want to, like, address the segment of the audience that might not be familiar with mukbang and how big a genre it is. But why do mukbang in the first place? Like, did you say in your mind, I really want to be a YouTuber and have something take off? What was your motivation?

SOO: Ok. So I worked retail. So I moved to Los Angeles, and then I started working retail, which was a - that was a whole trip. Oh, my gosh. Retail's insane in LA. And so a lot happened at work. And I was just taking some time off. I was like, OK. This is - I'm just going to take, like, a couple weeks off, and then I'm going to get back into it. And I started watching YouTube mukbang videos. And at first, I had probably the initial reaction of everyone that has never seen a mukbang video, which is, oh, my gosh. Like, I'm on the weird side of YouTube. Like, what is this? This kind of disgusting but also so entertaining, and I can't stop watching (laughter).

HU: Right.

SOO: Yeah, and I would text all of my friends and, like, my mom who - because I'm from Georgia, so I would text her, and I'd be like, look; I'm on the weird side of YouTube. And I would just link her videos to other mukbangers. And eventually I was like, OK, maybe I should - maybe I should try one. Now, here's the thing. I had a really good intentions, really bad execution because my first mukbang video I was like, you know, everyone is eating just delicious In-N-Out burgers. They're eating Korean spicy rice cakes. Why don't I...

HU: Lot of jajangmyeon.

SOO: Yeah, lots of jajangmyeon. Why don't I go get a frozen burrito from Whole Foods, like, just one burrito? And that was my first mukbang. Like, just a literally - a silver platter with, like, one burrito on there.

HU: Oh, I can't wait to find this archive tape.

SOO: (Laughter) Oh, my God. And I was like, why did I ever think that this was a good idea? And so I didn't tell anyone about it after I filmed it and posted it. I was like, OK. Like, no one is going to watch this. It was just for shirts and giggles (laughter). And so I posted. And then I woke up, and I had, like, 42 views. And I was like, dang. Wow. I'm a star.

HU: Forty two people watched you eat a frozen burrito from Whole Foods.

SOO: Yeah, and...

HU: But it - was it validating? Did it say to you, OK, now I feel like I want to get more viewers?

SOO: Yeah because, like, I didn't tell 42 people. So I was like, wow. I need to give the people what they want. I need to give these 42 people more videos (laughter).

HU: Yeah. So it seems like such a dream just to be able to talk about something you're passionate about and then eat delicious foods. But there is that other side of sort of you're feeling like you're responsible to the audience and their preferences. So I want to ask, are you dealing with greater pressures now and how because you've become a mukbang celebrity?

SOO: I think the sense of I feel like everything I think I have to say out loud is kind of - I feel like almost - I feel like sometimes, I don't have the time to, like, process things by myself and then to share what I've processed.

HU: I feel this way, too. I'm sure Sam Sanders does as well.

SOO: Yeah. And it's just, like, woah. Like, let me think about this real quick, and then I'll get back to you. But they're like, tell me right now about this very complicated thing, how you feel. And I'm like, wait. I need to process this.

HU: OK. I want to talk a little bit about the times that we're in in this global pandemic because it's one of the reasons I can't - I don't get to join you for...

SOO: Yeah.

HU: ...Mukbang anytime soon. How does the fact that we can't go indoors to eat at restaurants together with our friends had an impact on mukbang broadcasts? That is, does our quarantining and our pandemic lifestyle affect your viewership in any way or affect what the audience says in terms of how they relate to you?

SOO: Yeah. So I actually did see, like, a small spike of viewership and views. And also, watch time was a lot longer after the pandemic started. So it does seem like people are like, OK. I'm stuck at home, and maybe I'll just eat with you.

HU: And that actually ties into the explanations for why mukbang is so popular - right? - because when it was first a thing in Korea, a lot of people talked about how maybe it was a response to how society had really fractured, and people were really lonely and disconnected from one another. And we're all on screens with each other. And that's even more so now...

SOO: Yeah.

HU: ...Right? - during this pandemic. So do you think that's why mukbang is popular?

SOO: I think so. I feel like there's something about eating while watching something that is not someone eating, if that makes any sense. So I think that's why I was so fascinated with watching mukbang before I even started. There's just a difference of eating food by yourself and then watching - I don't know - let's say a vlog of someone, like, traveling to Italy. It just - you kind of almost are like, oh, wow. And I'm just, like, eating mac and cheese, and you're just, like, in Italy, right? So I think when you watch someone who is also eating and just having, like, a normal conversation with you, there's something just so intimate about it that I really, really enjoy.

HU: Mukbanger Stephanie Soo - so excited we're talking.

SOO: No, thank you for having me.

HU: Time for a break. When we come back, we're going to have some fun and play Who Said That. Stick around. We'll be back.

We're back. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Elise Hu, filling in for Sam Sanders. I'm talking with Stephanie Soo. She's a YouTube star, and her specialty is mukbang and true crime videos. She also hosts a podcast called "Rotten Mango."

Hey, Stephanie.

SOO: Hello.

HU: So next up, we're going to do something I love doing when I fill-in host. It's a game called Who Said That.


KANDI BURRUSS: Who had been saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: Who said that?

SOO: Oh, my gosh. OK, I've listened to this segment before. I feel like I'm going to get, like, zero out of however many there are.

HU: Well, you win nothing, and you lose nothing. So the stakes are nothing.


HU: The game is simple. Stephanie, since you haven't played it, I'll give you the rules really quick. I give you a quote from the week of news, and you've just got to guess who said it or what it's about. So if you just know the news story but not the specific voice, it's fine.


HU: OK. First quote - tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in a jetpack. What was it about?

SOO: See, if I say it, I might get to - does it have anything to do with Russia?


HU: No.

SOO: Oh, OK. OK.

HU: Unless this human was Russian, no. You want another guess?

SOO: Yes. So, I mean, I can't even distinguish between real life and movies anymore. 2020 has been weird. Is it a movie trailer?


HU: OK. It happened near LAX.

SOO: Wow. OK, so someone was in a jetpack just flying around LAX is what you're telling me.


HU: Boom. You got it.

SOO: Are you serious?

HU: (Laughter).

SOO: Why were they flying around in a jet pack all over LAX?

HU: I couldn't believe it, either. An American Airlines pilot was landing a plane at Los Angeles International Airport when he dialed up the control tower to report a human person in the air in a jetpack.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Tower, American 1997. We just passed a guy in jetpack.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Tower, American 1997. OK. Thank you. Were they off to your left side or right side?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Off the left side at maybe 300 yards or so, about our altitude.

SOO: But that - I mean, it's just so fascinating how calm he is. He's like, listen. American Airlines tower, jetpack, man. Got it?

HU: (Laughter).

SOO: Like, who does that? I would be freaking out. I'd be shouting into the little device.

HU: Oh, there's more.


HU: There's more, Stephanie Soo. A JetBlue pilot reported the same thing, and that pilot warned other pilots the same day. As of this taping, the FBI is investigating the incident. Your random guess...

SOO: Yeah.

HU: ...Was the correct answer. OK, next quote. This one is more of a who is it about rather than who said that.


HU: Here we go. The quote is, with her signature flower crown, she's dancing her way from Big Cat Rescue all the way to the ballroom. Who are they talking about?

SOO: Oh, my gosh. I know this one, and I have to sing it to you in a TikTok song which is about Carole Baskin...


HU: Boom.

SOO: ...Who whacked her husband (laughter) - allegedly whacked her husband. But Carole - isn't she going to be on "Dancing" - is she? Is it confirmed that she's going to be on...

HU: "Dancing With The Stars" - that's what it's about. That's what the quote was about.

SOO: Wow.

HU: That was an announcement on "Good Morning America" about Carole Baskin from the Netflix documentary series "Tiger King" about Joe Exotic. So Carole was the tiger activist and CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla. You are familiar with all of this. She will be a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars," Season 29.

SOO: Do you think these corporations are, like, just trying to make 2020 more crazy? They're like, let's just add more to this (laughter).

HU: Yeah. Just pack it in.

SOO: Yeah.

HU: It's so 2020, y'all.

SOO: Yeah. Do it before the new year.

HU: You've already won, I should point out, 'cause you already have 2 out of 3 correct...

SOO: Oh, OK.

HU: ...Even with that accidental first one correct. But I have one last quote for you, Stephanie Soo. Final quote - Arizona is one of the best locations for ballooning. It allows for pretty optimal conditions. Who said that?

SOO: Ballooning - what - OK. Do I get a clue what ballooning is? Is that, like, hot air ballooning?

HU: Or other kinds of balloons.

SOO: Balloons, balloons - I want to say - did a governor say this?


HU: It's a magician.

SOO: A magician. I don't know any magicians by name.

HU: His last name...

SOO: Yes.

HU: ...Rhymes with the word sane or cane or lane.

SOO: David Blaine.


HU: Boom.

SOO: Did he really?

HU: You're killing it today - a hundred percent.

SOO: Oh, my (laughter).

HU: OK. The story behind this one - David Blaine, the magician and illusionist, took flight over the desert in Arizona, holding on to - wait for it - 52 helium-filled balloons - so not hot air balloons. The stunt was livestreamed on YouTube. What if our Who Said That question one and question three are actually the same person?

SOO: Exactly. Stay tuned next week to finish this mystery (laughter).

HU: There you go. Stephanie Soo, host of "Rotten Mango" - you can catch her show on YouTube and wherever you get your podcasts.

Thank you so much.

SOO: Thank you (laughter).


EVA: Hi. I'm Eva, Elise's daughter. Now it's time to end the show as we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag, and they do. Let's hear a few of them.

GABBY: Hi, Sam. This is Gabby (ph) from Oakland, Calif. The best part of my week was when I had my first hug since before March 13. My friend and I had just finished eating burritos in the park together. And we hugged as we were getting ready to leave. It was literally a breathtaking moment because we held our breath as we hugged even though we'd both recently tested negative for COVID.

ANDREA: Hi, Sam. This is Andrea (ph) from San Diego. The best part of my week was getting my DD 214, which is the form that means I'm officially out of the Navy.

ASHLEY: Hi, Sam. It's Ashley (ph).

DANIEL: And Daniel (ph).

ASHLEY: And the best thing that happened to us this week is we finished the Colorado Trail.

DANIEL: Took us 47 days to walk 500 miles from Denver to Durango.

ASHLEY: We are so excited to be done and drinking beers.

CONNOR: Hey, Sam. This is Connor (ph) from Bowling Green, Ohio. The best part of my week was having a first-semester, first-year graduate student tell me that her experience in my course made her feel seen and validated. That's why I do what I do.

CAROLYN: Hi, Sam. I'm sitting alone in my empty classroom right now after finishing the second week of virtual school for my high school seniors. And it's been really hard because I'm used to having kids face-to-face with me. But the best part of my week was that I decided to steal your idea. And I've had my seniors for the past two weeks post on Friday the best part of their week. And it was really wonderful to know what sort of joy they're personally experiencing and what's making them happy. That's what's making me happy this week. That's my best thing. Thank you.

ASHLEY: We love the show. Thanks. bye.

ANDREA: Huge fan of the show. Thanks, Sam.

GABBY: Thank you for all you do, Sam. I love your work.

HU: Thank you to those listeners you heard there. I love these. Carolyn (ph), Connor, Ashley and Daniel, Andrea and Gabby. You can send your best thing to us anytime during the week. Just record yourself and send a voice memo to

This week, the show was produced by Jinae West, Anjuli Sastry and Andrea Gutierrez. Our fearless editor - Jordana Hochman. Our director of programming is Steve Nelson. Our big boss, the senior vice president of programming at NPR, is Anya Grundmann.

All right. Until next time, I'm Elise Hu. Sam will be back from his "Grey's Anatomy" binge next week. Talk soon.

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