My Two-and-a-Half Year Old

Two-and-a-half years have come and gone and on this, the third half-aversary, not a single thought of a cake or celebration crossed my mind. Still, this is an age when “and-a-half” counts as a significant thing. Sonja is so much more than a two-year-old and so far from a three-year old. Continue reading

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My February Quarantine

In typical Suite Story form, I started this blog post two weeks ago and gave up, because I thought writing about my irrational fear of the norovirus and the even more irrational fear that I am going to contract said virus in February, would be really boring. Probably it will be. But after failing to conquer this fear, it occurs to me I have issues.

Emetophobia – the fear of vomiting – is the fifth most common phobia according to Scott Stossel, author of the book My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind. Scott says he hasn’t vomited since 1977. That’s an impressive streak. I had my own 15 year streak going, and that lasted until about 20 hours into labor. Then five months later, in February of 2012, the whole family was struck with the norovirus and a new fear was born.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have never had norovirus, you’ve probably heard it mentioned on the news before. It is extremely contagious, and every year it sickens at least one entire cruise ship. The passengers must give up their dreams of a sunning themselves on the beach to endure what I imagine is a slow, nauseating and foul-smelling return trip home. The ship is then scrubbed stem to stern with a bleach solution because bleach is the only thing* that kills this nasty little bug.

If you happen to be stricken with norovirus, the symptoms, which mimic food-poisoning, are short-lived. You’ll suffer about three days – but those are probably the most miserable days you’ll have all year. But wait – that’s not all. You’ll continue spreading germs and infecting friends long after you feel better. Unlike a cold, in which you cease to be contagious as your symptoms dissipate, norovirus will cling to you and everything you touch for three whole weeks. Talk about your axis of evil.

I recently read this excellent article on explaining why this bug should instill more fear in you than a CDC certified outbreak of swine flu, or the release of a new Miley Cyrus album. Slate gives the scientific specifics of why the virus spreads so easily and is so difficult to kill. I wish I had taken my fears and turned them into something useful by writing this article, but I didn’t. Instead, I’m writing this sad blog post because I can’t leave my house until I turn the page on the calendar.

The unfortunate thing about having mildly crazy fears like emetophobia, or the as-yet-unclassified “fear of February,” is that no one really cares. The fact that I try to force myself into a 28-day quarantine isn’t something that requires an intervention. In fact, sometimes I think it’s a great idea because we save money by dining in and shopping less.

After reading the Slate article, I thought well hell, there is no avoiding the unavoidable. I might as well live my February life as any other month. If I’m going to get sick, I am going to get sick. There’s a certain logic in that, but there is also a certain, perhaps better, logic in avoiding large, indoor crowds of people who may be exhaling germs in my general direction. Still I did well. I bucked up. I ran errands. I went shopping. I attended co-op preschool with my daughter as if nothing was wrong. And then a whopping three times I became convinced I had contracted the norovirus, and let’s just say those weren’t the most well-rested nights.

So screw it, I say. What’s the point in going out and hoping I won’t get sick, if that’s going to  scare me into actually being sick? I know at some point I will get sick. I will get the norovirus again. I have a child. This child will eventually go out into the world where other height-challenged persons will breathe germs on her which she will bring home to me. It probably won’t be in February, and then I’ll have a whole new month to fear. But for now, all I can do is what I can do, and all I can do is quarantine myself. Also, I can stay the hell away from any cruise ships.

*If you or anyone in your house has had norovirus, you can also spray Lysol Brand iii on anything you can’t bleach. Has to be Brand iii though, other Lysols aren’t approved for killing norovirus (a strain of rotavirus, which is how it is labeled on the container.) As a nice little bonus, this stuff smells pretty good so I like to use it year round, just in case.

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My Beverage Station

When Shaun and I were younger, living in an apartment, we would fantasize about the customizations we would make to our very own house, when we finally bought one. First and foremost on our list was to add a carbonation station in the kitchen, loaded with Coke syrup (for me) and Dr. Pepper syrup (for him.) Was this the best we could come up with? Probably. I think we also added a bowling alley. Hey, no one said we were very creative.

When we were shopping for houses, we saw one in Kent that stuck with me. We made an offer on it but we didn’t get it, this being in the days slightly before the housing market collapse. This house that we saw had nothing on the one we actually bought. It was smaller, it was but one story, it wasn’t near work or family. But this house had a brand new kitchen. Kitchens sell houses, or so the hosts used to say when I worked on Sell This House, and damned if they weren’t right. That kitchen sold that house to us, if only our offer had been accepted.

The house we actually live in is quite nice, except that the bathrooms and kitchen need to be remodeled. I wish this were a post about how we are about to embark upon such expensive and photogenic endeavors, but no. Sadly, this is a post about how I realized, with my recent creation of a “beverage station” in our kitchen eatery, our dream had come true.

A few years back Shaun bought a newfangled SodaStream machine, a heavily-promoted small kitchen appliance for which the syrups are now ubiquitous. It’s how ordinary folk like yourselves can make gourmet soda at home. I tried but never cared for the soda stream as all of the syrups contain some sort of sweetener. As you may recall, I’m not exactly sweet on saccharin.

But as you also may recall, I developed a love for tea and recently exchanged my old plastic iced tea maker for a new-and-improved deluxe model complete with glass pitcher.

And as you also may recall, if you are my number one fan, I embarked upon some winter “spring” cleaning during my Christmas break, moving the microwave to a corner and adding Shaun’s soda stream to the kitchen cart with my iced-tea maker, finally bringing the long-contemplated idea of the beverage station to life.

Kitchens are important, no doubt about it. The lost kitchen in Kent would have made some very nice dinners. Maybe that house would have been great too (but my hunch is the oddly-shaped trapezoidal living room would have been way worse than our slightly off-kilter rectangular one) but it seems either way, our dreams would have come true. So long as you’re looking at the one very specific dream through rose-colored glasses.

Behold the Beverage Station

Behold the Beverage Station

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My 2014 American/Chinese New Year’s Mashup

Last night, I marked the arrival of the new year – 2014 – with all the revelry bestowed upon any ordinary Wednesday. I did not make any resolutions, I did not go anywhere and I was asleep before midnight. Besieged by a headache and end-of-year fatigue, I didn’t even get to my annual New Year’s Resolution post, but I did post four other articles, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

As people around the world partied and imbibed to herald the arrival of 2014, I was thinking more about a friend who celebrates Chinese New Year, which will occur this year on January 31st. Continue reading

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My 2013 Blog Stats

I was not going to publish this again this year, as I didn’t think the numbers were really worthy of sharing. However, I was curious how this year compared to last, and oh how easy it was to click that link from last year’s post. So this is another one that’s just for me, for reference.

My favorite part of this whole report was the search terms that sent traffic my way in 2013. They were: should i take the job, should i take this job, do i take the job, which job should i take, and should i take the job?. It again lends credence to the theory that I might have something, if only I would keep up with blog # 2 about job hunting.

I was also amazed to learn that I uploaded 206 pictures this year.

Supposedly I had 66 new posts this year, but I think that number will jump to 76 once the “helper monkeys” factor in all the posts from the last couple of days.

So here it is for reference, future self:


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My DSP 2 Playlist

That’s it for the second annual December Song Project. Once again, it’s been fun. In case you missed any of the scintillating action, here’s the final playlist:

1) Home by Jack Johnson

2) Changing All Those Changes by Madeleine Peyroux

3) I’ll Be There in a Minute by Pomplamoose

4) Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles from the Cirque du Soleil Love album

5) Baby It’s Cold Outside by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone

6) Only a Girl by Randy Newman

7) Beautiful Night by Paul McCartney

8) Heroes & Villains by The Beach Boys

9) El Paso by Marty Robbins

10) Santa Claus is Coming to Town by The Crystals

11) Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake

12) Lithium Sunset by Sting

13) Stranger by The Presidents of the United States of America

14) Mr. Rabbit by Caspar Babypants

15) Silver Bells by Dean Martin

16) Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin

17) I’m Not Running Anymore by John Mellencamp

18) Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel) by Billy Joel

19) Run Around by Blues Traveler

20) Ray of Light by Madonna

21) Cousin Dupree by Steely Dan

22) Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living) by Eels

23) Lodi by Creedence Clearwater Revival

24) Donde Esta Santa Claus by Augie Rios

25) Chinese Dance (Tea) by Tchaikovsky

26) Please Don’t Scream by Nataly Dawn

27) Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon

28) Picture Book by The Kinks

29) I’ll Take You There by The Staple Singers

30) Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan

31) Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep by Diana Krall


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My DSP 2: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

Song: Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

Artist: Diana Krall

Year: 2005

Favorite Lyric: When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all

Significance: This song is from a Christmas album Krall did back in 2005. I had never heard it before probably because I’ve never seen White Christmas, but I liked it. I don’t listen to the album much but this song stuck with me. For some reason, I think of it as a New Year’s Song. It makes no reference to any holiday, but I would say that New Year’s Eve would be a perfectly nice time to reflect on the year and count your blessings. I also like this song to end the DSP 2, as it takes it down a notch, soothes and calms the soul, another good thing to do at the end of the year. Once again, I wish all my readers a happy new year and I hope that your 2014 is filled with blessings.


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My Best of 2013

I used to love doing top ten movie lists at the end of the year, but I would be lucky to cobble together a list of ten films I even tolerated over the past three years. So last year I decided just to call out my favorite things of the year, whether they were products of the year or not. That was fun so I’m doing it again. Just think of me like Oprah, except substantially less famous and influential.

Breaking Bad, The Final 8 Episodes

Oh yeah, you knew this would be first up. This was a stellar ending to a stellar show. The sixth of the final eight episodes, entitled “Ozymandias” was the best hour of television, ever. SPOILER ALERT – This episode, which sees the murder of Hank by Neo-Nazis, is such an incredibly painful gut punch. We the audience know that even though Hank and Walt are on opposite sides of the law, Walt has been firm in his stance that Hank is family, and family is off-limits to baddies. However, by the beginning of this episode, everyone assumes he’s gonna die, because at the end of the last episode, he’s severely outgunned by the Neo-Nazis. But Walt pleads for his life, offers the thugs 80 million dollars to spare his brother-in-law. Hope! And then - gut punch. And the episode only gets better from there as Walt’s Empire, like that of Ozymandias, crumbles around him. Television doesn’t get any better than this. It can’t. It doesn’t have to. Oh how empty 2014 will be without you, Breaking Bad!

Mad Men Season 6

Mad Men is always good, always. From Peggy stabbing boyfriend Abe, to Grandma Ida’s late night robbery of Don’s apartment while his kids are there alone, to Sally catching Don in a compromising position, there was plenty of outstanding writing this year. There were, alas, a few frustrations when it seemed like Don’s story lines were being rehashed, but it turned out to be a slow-play setup for some major growth on our main character’s part. I for one am anticipating greatness out of the final season.

The Wire 

I started watching The Wire in October in an attempt to fill the void left by Breaking Bad. It’s an HBO show that began in 2003, and is often mentioned in the same breath as Breaking Bad as the best show ever. I have to say it’s good but it’s no Breaking Bad. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, they’re both fruit, or in this case shows about drugs, but the similarities end there. If I were still in school, I’d find a way to turn the similarities and differences between these two shows into a term paper. (And I’d get an A on it too.) I am currently two episodes in to season 4 (there are 6 seasons total) and I can already tell this is the best season (yet.) Season 4 seems to be a sweet spot in long-running series. You’re in deep enough to really care about what’s going on, and the writers haven’t run out of ideas yet.

The Public Library

This was the year I reconnected with my local library, taking Sonja to as many story times as I could swing. She absolutely loved dancing to the music and playing with – or at least in the vicinity of -the other children. I also utilized the e-book loans for the first time (awesomeness), and it is from said local library that I have been borrowing the aforementioned The Wire. Shaun and I gave up on the disc portion of Netflix a while back because any time I would receive a movie from my ever-dwindling list , I’d sit on it for weeks before finally “forcing” myself to watch. I could be using Netflix to watch The Wire, but then I’d have to wait three days between every stinkin’ disc. With the library, I get all episodes at once and three weeks to watch them, and that’s more than enough time to binge out and put the next season on hold. This wouldn’t work quite as well with a current, in-demand show, but my parents have watched all of “Homeland” this way. They just have to wait for months behind hundreds of others who have it on hold. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

I am shocked I got less reading done this year than last year, but at least I made time for this gem from Seattle-based Maria Semple, a former Arrested Development writer. Like most fiction I wind up reading, this is supposedly being made into a movie. I hope they don’t screw it up. I certainly hope they don’t move the central location from Seattle. Semple’s description of the abundant and moronic five-way intersections alone had me tearing up with laughter.

The Great Gatsby (book and 2013 movie)

The Great Gatsby has been my favorite book since I read it as a senior in high school, and I try to re-read it every few years. This year I reread it in preparation for the 2013 movie adaptation starring Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan. I liked the movie and I know I’m somewhat alone in this feeling, but I’m probably a bigger fan than those others so therefore I am right. Actually, I think like Gatsby himself, most people just wanted too much. If you want the book, read the book, but if you want to see a good film that can stand on its own merits, watch this.

Home by Jack Johnson
Changing All Those Changes by Madeleine Peyroux
New by Paul McCartney
Please Don’t Scream by Nataly Dawn

I group these three songs together in the new music category. I don’t care much for new  music, so this is a pretty good list for a single year for me.

Tea and the Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker

Tea wasn’t new to me in 2013 but it was definitely a year for perfecting the art of Iced Tea. The Mr. Tea maker, as I like to call it, helped a lot, by making it easier to make a whole pitcher (8 cups) of tea at once. Plus I blended jasmine green and oolong for my favorite combination yet, and found that Cost Plus World Market is an excellent place to buy tea.

Here’s to good tea, good entertainment and good stuff in 2014. Happy New Year!

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My 2013 Year-in-Review

I take time out of my sometimes-busy, sometimes-not-so-busy schedule, all year ’round, to write this blog, specifically so that I can look back and reminisce many years from now. An end-of-year piece should be nothing but fluffy retread, and mostly it is. Somehow though, there’s always something I miss. And c’mon, who doesn’t love an end-of-year retrospective? So here, in words and pictures, is my 2013.

January Continue reading

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My DSP 2: Things Have Changed

Song: Things Have Changed

Artist: Bob Dylan

Year: 2000

Favorite Lyric: Lot of water under the bridge, lot of other stuff too

Significance: I was not always on the Dylan bandwagon, but after seeing him live when he toured with Paul Simon, my appreciation grew. This song was used in the film Wonder Boys, one of my favorite of that year and of the decade. And in fact, Dylan won this film its only Oscar. I don’t know why, but Christmas/New Year’s always seems like a good time to revisit this gem of a movie, which had me thinking about the song. Here it is, complete with weird movie tie-in video.



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