Thursday, January 24, 2013


Before you read any further, this post is going to be boring and it's the last one until some time like another month or two.  I have to quit here for this length of time to keep up with the demand of my real job.  So, if you are waiting to see how many of my family members (myself included) have mental illness, you have to be patient.
Last weekend, I met my eye doctor at Costco.  It took me a while to realize who he was and then I missed the chance to report to him that his suggestion worked.  If any of you are having eye sight issues, continue to read.  Otherwise, you can stop here.

About 10 years ago, my friend who had very bad vision suggested me to have my eye sight corrected by LASIK surgery.  I was quite impressed by his successful surgery because it freed him from wearing glasses, which I had complained about for years.  Using glasses may not be a problem for many people, but for me, it's quite troublesome.  I swim once a week, run every (other) day, and ski once or twice every winter...  Glasses are not compatible with my need of fresh air.

So I started to look around for LASIK free consultations.  Some eye doctors sent me home because they believed that I passed the golden age for such invasive procedure.  If my nearsightedness (myopia) would be surgically corrected, I would have to wear reading glasses pretty soon, they said, since I was entering the critical age 40 for eyesight to change.  Other doctors suggested an alternative to solve my dilemma: having only one eye fully corrected by LASIK and leaving another stayed being nearsighted.

That was called monovision - later I found.

What a strange solution, that would never work, I thought.  But the eye doctor explained to me that many people are indeed functioning well with one good eye.  He let me try to wear corrective lens on one eye to walk around the mall.  I did as long as I could stand and returned to his office.  I said, "It made me feel dizzy!"  So I left my eye doctors and had continued to use contact lenses on both of my eyes for the next few years.

But this did not last long enough, because few years later, I started needing reading glasses.  I bought many pairs of those from the supermarket, yet none of them would help.  They would only allow me to read a couple of words and then words would become unfocused.  Thus, I'd managed by removing contact lenses whenever I needed to read for long periods of times.  You can imagine this could be quite a problem because all I do all day long is reading!  Thus, I finally paid another visit to an eye doctor.  This was the one that I met at Costco and he had hard time with me.  I asked him to find me a solution.  Guess what he told me to do?

"You could try monovision, that would buy you few more years without the need of reading glasses."

Great, the expert has spoken - monovision is the way to go.  How would that work?!  Well, your brain will learn new tricks, the optometrist said to me, believing that I would listen to him immediately - yes, I usually can make people trust my sincerity when I smile and node my head.  However, when he tried to find what my dominant eye was, he found he could not decide, because it changed - depending on which way he was testing.  In another words, I might not have eye dominance.

Oh, by the way, do you know anything about dominant eye?

Finally, the eye doctor said my left eye vision was worse than the right so let's assume that was the dominant eye.  In fact, I kind of suspected that my left eye was worse because I only was able to use one eye, usually the left one, when I examine my micro organisms under microscopes at work.  Fair enough, if that was the one that functioned better, it could be the dominant one.  I agreed.  So, we started a long fitting process - it was painful for the both of my optometrist and me.  He gave me a free lens per week to try on, I would come back to his office after only two days of trying.  The monovision made me want to throw up.  I could not see, I could not drive, I could not walk, I could not function at work... it just made me feeling weird!

At that point, my eye doctor ran out of ideas and told me to go home to live with my life in my old ways.  He completely forgot about the reason that I went to him.  I was going to get a prescription for a pair of workable reading glasses from him, remember?  "Your eyes are fine.  You don't have astigmatism, so just go ahead to get a pair of reading glasses at any supermarkets."  He again, sent me home without further help.

Doctors are so powerless, sometimes.  So, I decided to be my own eye doctor.  Doctors don't live in my life, how would they know what exactly I want and like, right?

I must confess that I have already been my own eye doctors for years.  How so, you say?  Well, because I've never fully trusted any of optometrists to know my eye sight more than myself.  Look, all they do is to put various corrective lenses in front of you and then ask how you feel!  See they rely on how we feel about those lenses.  So, I only used their prescriptions as a guideline to order contact lenses.  I had been wearing few degrees lower then what my prescriptions indicate about my eye sights.  For example, I would ware -2.0/-1.75 lenses for a prescription of -2.5/-2.25.  After seeing my last eye doctor, I'd started to use -1.75/-1.5 lenses so that I could still read without taking my contacts off.

Given this history of wearing under-powered lenses, I began to understand why my eye doctor could never get the "monovision" to work for me.  He was reluctant to try lenses too much lower than what my prescription indicated.  He did not fully understand my situation, indeed.  I have a severe balance defect - my small brain does not talk to my inner ear bones very well, so, I have been living with motion sickness or kinetosis since birth.  I suspect this was why I felt dizzy when my eye doctor was performing fitting process: the lens that fully corrects my left eye vision would exaggerate the vision defects of my right eye, which then led to a worsened motion sickness!

I reasoned, if I could under correct my left eye, which then could bring my both eyesight closer to each other, that should eliminate the trouble of kinestosis.  So, I ordered few pairs of contact lenses online and started to test this idea.  Did I mention we Chinese don't follow any rules, whenever possible?  I must admit also that I tend to believe a strong will is the solution for every problem.  Nonscientific, I know.  So is the existence of God!

Once this was understood, the problem became very simple.  I just removed the right eye contact lens, voila, the letters on my computer screen became as sharp as if I removed both of my contact lenses!

I had been wearing one under-powered contact lens in my left eye ever since.  It's been few years now and this monovision experiment seems to be working!  I live in a happy life without the need of a pair of reading glasses at all.  But I do, keep few pairs of glasses handy, such as in the glove boxes of cars and my purse.  I used them to add on the top of my contact lens for the times that I need sharp vision.

So, monovision does work for me, although it needs a bit of modification.  If you are like me at the cross points of needing a pair of reading glasses, try monovision!

The good news is, my father is 83 and still reads newspapers and news on computer screens regularly without the help of reading glasses.  I wish I could be just like him, except he does not have myopia.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cause and cure for depression - I, Sijie

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist nor a clinician.  So, if you are clinically depressed and on the process of looking for cure, you may have landed in a wrong place.  I am here only to talk about what I know about causes and cures of depression that I've learnt from my personal experience.

I have decided to take an emotional break because last post had drained my mojo.  So, be patient.  I have too many things in mind, but too little time to tell.  I do remember my other promises though.  So today, I want to start a new topic with some depressive stories in our family.  You are the judge to determine whether depression has a genetic component.

I used to think the world is consisted of only two kinds of people: sane and insane ones.  In the city, the insane ones lived in special hospitals, where they could not go in and out freely - I saw one of these on the way to my train watching.  In the countryside, however, the insane people would be everywhere on streets.  They were not bothering anyone in particular.  Most of the times, I saw them talking to themselves, dancing in broken clothes, or searching trash cans for food.
But soon I came to understand the world was more complicated and people were complex, their state of mind could not be simply described as sane or insane.  The existence of a spectrum of people with different levels of craziness challenged my concept of normal.  I started to doubt whether there were truly normal people in this world.  Aren't we are all more or less insane?  The real sane ones do not exist, they are just wearing thick masks all the time.  

Disagree?  Oh, well, cannot win you all.

Now come back to the story.

If you have read some of my posts, you probably already knew that we moved from the city to the countryside when I was 8.  One of the many good things came out of this move was that Daddy frequently traveled out of town.  No, I did not mean that I did not like him home with us, I meant that I loved the clothes, toys, and candies that he would bring back from each of his trips.  Clearly, being the first girl wearing a polyester pink shirt in town had brought me a lot of pleasure (for the younger readers here, synthetic fibers once were considered more fashionable than cotton ones!)   One day, Daddy came home without bringing us clothes or toys, instead, he brought us a beautiful girl.  She was wearing a sunset red shirt made of some kind of special synthetic fiber that felt like silk!  I felt like that I was watching xiannüxiafan (a fairy coming down 仙女下凡!)  The girl got everything that I wished for - her hair was long, black, and shinny, her face was round with fair color, which emphasized her rosy cheeks perfectly, and her eyes, my god, the enchanting eyes, were big, black, and bright, with double eyelids!

"This is cousin Xiaosi from Guiyang.  She will be staying with us for a while."  Daddy told Bing and me who were too busy to study the girl from head to toe.  We completely forgot our manners.

 "Call Sijie, don't just stand there looking silly."  Dad said to us.

"Sijie."  Bing and I greeted her.

Si (四) means the number 4 and the fourth; Jie (姐) means older sister.  Sijie does have a name, but in China, younger siblings are not encouraged to call older ones with their real names.  So, Sijie is what we know of her.  She is the fourth child of Aunt San and uncle Playboy.  As I said before, Aunt San and uncle playboy were phenix-dragon marriage (龙凤配), thus, all 5 of their children are extremely beautiful (three princesses) and handsome (two princes).  However, I noticed a bit gloomy look under Sijie's charming smile.  Oh well, that could be simply from a long and exhaustive journey, I thought.

But later, I found out that I was not being overly sensitive.  Sijie was indeed quite sad - she was troubled because she had failed the entrance exam to high school and was worried about that she could never be able to get a decent job.  In the city in early 70s, a middle school diploma isn't not worth much, which could also lead to no decent husband in the future for a girl.  She was devastated and the family was devastated.  She had stayed home for an entire year already after middle school without doing anything useful.  Slowly, she developed a severe depression (but we did not give her that horrible name, of course.  We were just told that she had not been happy at home.)

Aunt San and her family situation was one of the affairs that Mom worried about the most.  She had been separated from her family when Mom was only 16 when the big family split in early 50s.  Aunt San might have kept Mom updated about the uncle Playboy's situation, but Mom had a lot of her own troubles to deal with already at that time and did not want to get into worse troubles keeping the tie with her "black" family.  Plus, Mom was a lazy writer (she had never written a single letter to me during my 4 years of college study!  Not one!), so she never really found out what it meant that "uncle Playboy's lost his job and Aunt San was raising 5 children with her single income as a department store clerk".  When Daddy finally got a chance to Guiyang for a visit on one of his business trips, he witnessed the extent and severity of their financial hardship.  So, Daddy decided to take Sijie with him.  On the one hand, this would help her to forget her own troubles (Daddy's words were let her Kaikaixin/开开心 (to feel happy).  On the other hand, this would also release Aunt San's financial burden.

So Sijie followed Daddy to our family for her first visit.  That was the summer of 1973.  She was 17, Bing was 13, I was 11, and my little brother Yanghe was only 1.  Since Mom and Dad often went out to the crop fields to help the peasants to grow rice, Sijie was home babysitting Bing and I and helping out with other house chores - I remember her cooking at home while Bing and I went swimming in the river - that seemed to be the only thing we did for summer holidays.  But she did not need to take care of our infant brother because he was the responsibility of my Dad's Mom.  Yes, our grandma was at our home also at that time (surprised?  Well, you should be shocked if you know all these people lived in only two bedrooms: each room had one big bed and one small bed, so it was better than most of other families.  In the room 1, Mom, Dad, and the infant shared the big bed, Bing had the small one.   in the room 2, Sijie and I had the big bed and Grandma had the small one.)

What, you guess that we must have had a great summer?  

Yes and no.

Yes, because Sijie shifted the dynamics a bit of the balance.  Before she had joined us, Bing was my boss and he abused me a lot.  Now with Sijie's presence, Bing had to control his act because Sijie would fuss at him if he dared to abuse me.  In this sense, we indeed had a good time.  Bonus to that was that Sijie liked singing Beijing Opera, which I also enjoyed a lot.  She had learned it from her Dad (uncle Playboy) and his actor friends.

No, because she cried a lot.  She often seemed to be sad and upset about Mom and Dad.  She called Dad names, like "hanging corner relative (挂角亲戚)".  She would say to him, "If you did not marry my Yiyi [she called Mom Yi (Aunt) Yi (mom's first name), I would have never known who you were."  She also fought with Mom from time to time - for the record, Mom was a saint, no one in the world would have any problems with her!  Seeing Sijie was mad at Mom would be quite a shock to Bing and me.  Worst of all, she often would hide herself in a room, alone, which was scary to me.  What puzzled me was that Mom and Dad's attitude toward her.  They even seemed to be afraid of her.  Instead of disciplining her, they always would cheer her up by providing whatever they could get: food, fruits (expensive items then), candies... It seemed like Mom and Dad spoiled her to rotten!

"Mother, why Sijie is so thoughtless (不懂事).  She does not act like a big sister.  She is a big baby!"  I complained to Mom one day after she yet again threw a tantrum.  I thought that I had all the reasons to blame her: she was the oldest among us 4 children in the house, she should have known not to cause any troubles to the elderly; she should have been our role model; she should have always been obedient to our parents!  "She gets everything, but that still does not seem enough!" I added seeing Mom did not respond.  Then I said, "Why do you and Dad treat her like a Qianjinxiaojie (princess who is worth of thousand Jin (pound) of gold, 千金小姐)?  She..."

"I know that you are upset, but Sijie misses her family."  Mom did not let me finish my sentence since she know that I would have not stopped if she did not stop me - see, I could be a whiner, too!  Then she went on to tell me that she in fact had a disease called depression.  

It was serious, so serious that she did not like herself anymore.

I was scared.  Although I did not really understand what depression meant at that age, at least, I knew I should try my best not to trigger her sadness.  

Needless to say, our roles changed soon after that.  Bing and I were "taking care of the mood of Sijie" while she was taking care of our stomach.  Bing of course took much better care of her.  He would help her to get water out of a deep well and then to carry it home.  He also taught her how to bike and then together, they biked everywhere in town.  He even massaged her feet nightly (Sijie's inherited Aunt San's feet.  She has a bunion, a bony hump at the base of the big toe that hurts when she walks)...  

In this way, we had grown strong tie that summer.  To our major delight, Mom and Dad told us that Sijie was going to stay with us another year or more.  She was admitted to the high school in our town.  Our town was small, so small that there was only one high school for the locals.  Dad must have bribed some important people to get Sijie in without an entrance examination and a Hukou (户口, a local ID) of Sijie.  

So, slowly, Sijie had begun to change from crying more than singing/smiling to the opposite.  She was busy, day and night.  In the day, she needed to catch up with lessons.  In the night, she needed to go back to school to finish up some homework.  On weekends, she would also need to lead a group of girls to practice dancing and singing... She hardly had time to eat and sleep, let alone time to cry.    

I enjoyed the new big sister.  I loved to follow her to night classes.  Because I could play with her friends before and after each night class.  She always stayed a bit longer after classes to be socializing with her classmates.  They would gather together to knit gloves, scarfs, and socks while chitchatting.  So, I became a little friend of her friends.  Sometimes, they would tell each others scary stories about ghosts or international double agents.  Other times, they would talk about what we called "yellow novels" (黄色小说) that contained love making contents.  Those books were mostly hand-copied (手钞本) and forbidden to school pupils.  All in all, I was thrilled and proud to have Sijie to look up to.  Sijie also seemed to enjoy having a little protege.  

But our happy times did not last long enough.  One and a half years later, Sijie magically acquired admission from one of the high schools in her hometown.  So she returned home in Guiyang.  During my later visits to her city, I have heard from my other cousins (Sijie's siblings) that she only had few miner episodes of depressive moments, which happened coincidently with the time after her high school graduation and before she had found a permanent job.  She had not had depressive thoughts ever since she had gotten her a steady job as a department store clerk (her Mom's job slot, which was passed on to her upon Aunt San's retirement - it was the government's policy then.)

Sijie's story seems to me that her depression was caused by school-less or job-less situations.

Now, Sijie is retired.  She is happily living with the love of life who is a scientific publishing house associate editor.  They have given birth to one smart and happy boy, who is now one of the best accountants in the city.  Sijienow and still frequently appears on stage singing Beijing Opera to this day.

Indeed, life is good to her for a long while now without the dreadful depression!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A difficult love story - I

For all non pretty girls out there, I want to tell you a secret: you are one lucky girl.  Sure, you won't get tons of guys chasing after you, but in the mean time.  But if you do, your  likelihood of meeting someone that is worthy of your love for life.

How do I know?  Because I am one of those ugly lucky girls.

My ex-boyfriend John, whose love for me ended about a decade ago, just came to visit me lately and this post is definitely inspired by his visit.

Different from other ex-boy or -girl friends of mine that you might come to know from this blog site, John is not replaceable.  The void that he left in my heart has never be filled.  My love for him is long lasting.  The bastard stole my heart and kept a piece of it...

... John and I used to work on the same floor in two different laboratories.  As there was one lab between our two labs, we had not really seen each other all that much.  I'd have never noticed him otherwise, if he was a heavy smoker and funny walker.  Back in those days, cigarettes enhanced personal charm to me.  His funny walk, well, a bit like Charlie Chaplin, he points the left leg to the left and right one to the right, instead of pointing straight to the front.  His side-way walking always made me wonder how a person could get anywhere.

Neither my English nor my knowledge of the Western culture at the time was proficient to allow my my building an effective network with the Americans.  John and I remained to be strangers for a few semesters.  I spent most of my week days time in the lab, alone, either learning how to perform experiments or study.   On weekends, I had to collect and wash dishes in a Chinese restaurant 20 miles away.

Naturally, my social life was mainly consisted of chatting with those hard-working Chinese at night, after the Americans had gone home to their families.  We were mostly students or postdocs who attended classes in the day and tried to make discoveries in the night.

Things started to change soon after a while tho.  Sometime at the end of first year, I had been lucky enough to receive a partial financial aid from the department.  This financial semi-independence allowed me to quit the restaurant busgirl's job and spent more time in the lab on weekends, ...

... which also means that I had more times to hunt for handsome guys.

I was once young, you know.

Then my evening life started to become fun: computer nerds from the Computer Sciences department had been called in to "fix" my computers; lab rats of the neighboring labs were called in to "show me" how to perform certain tricky experiments; few of the funny writers that I came to know via various websites were frequently communicated...

One evening, while quietly studying in the lab, I was drawn to some running steps from the hallway.  So I got out of the chair and went out to check out what was making those steps.  I was greeted by 3 cute puppies with short legs, which was accompanied by three little cuties pies - the Caucasian dolls are all having blond hair, blue eyes, pinky skin, and watery cheeks.  Then the six of them and I spent a wonderful 15 minutes together.

Kids and puppies were apparently not the only ones in the world who could understand my broken English.  I discovered that the owner of the kids and puppies, John conversed me just fine.

John came to the lab to finished up some experiments that night...

... and his image in my mind from just another white guy to a man owns three cutest children with three cutest puppies.

Then I started to go to his lab whenever I saw a chance.  I particularly like to go in when a "translator" was there.  The translator was a postdoc from Taiwan.  He acted as a perfect third wheel because not only could he translate, but also was able to fill me in with other gossips, such as how John went through the hell to win a full custody for his 3 children.  I found out that John and his wife divorced while their youngest was barely one year old, so John had to quit his PhD graduate program in Purdue University to work as a lab technician, in order to care for his children.

I don't remember since when, those computer geeks and lab rats stopped showing up in my lab.  In the same time, my computer chats with other people from all over the world had also been replaced by those "instant messages" popped out on my screen from John.

Slowly, John had become my personal handy man - not only would he help me to deal with those machines called rotovap and GC, but most surprisingly, he would help me with the homework.

As a foreign student of that time, I have never met someone with a perfect 2400 score from the GRE test.  For some reasons, I found that John had gotten that and went straight into his office to ask for evidence.  John often sat in his office, with his feet crossed to each other on the top of his desk and with his hands controlling a computer keyboard that is rested on his lap, and with his eyes staring the computer monitor from far.  He would not make much eye contact with intruders like me.  When he found out that I was rushing into his office only for some ridiculous GRE score that he had years and years ago, he laughed, "Oh, it's so long ago and I am pretty sure that I had thrown it away!"

"What was a big deal about it, anyways?"  He added without even move his eyes away from his computer screen.

"Are you crazy, it's a perfect score and I can't believe that you are throwing such an important grade record away!"  I was disappointed, because if I had it, I would make thousand copies to send to everyone in the world that I knew!    

Clearly John did not needed that GRE score to measure his intelligence and sadly I then realized that that there might be a huge gap between his and mine intellectual levels.

Damn, I am jealous of smart people.

So I started to knit a net to catch this smart.

The next semester came, I registered a mandatory class called Physical Chemistry.  For the readers who have not taken this course, it's about how molecules/atom/electron (micro particles) move in spaces towards multi-directions!  As I heard from former students that this class was a grade killer, which was deadly to someone like me who wished to keep a straight A record.

So I went in John's office again and expressed my anxiousness to him about the infamous P-Chem.  To my major surprised, he said, "Oh, P-Chem is really easy and I am sure that you will do just fine!"
Putting his legs back to the top of his desk, his eyes turned back to his computer screen, leaving me standing there with my nervous soul hovering on the top of my head, "You mean you would still can easily get an A in this course now?"  I asked, just to be certain about what I heard.  "Sure I can, if I would study for it."  He said, confidently.  "You mean you can still help me with it?"  I continued with a clear doubt in my expression.  He finally moved his head slightly away from the computer screen and looked at me in the eyes, "I sure believe so!"

Somehow I suspected that he said what he told me just to get me out of his office.    

Yes, I know that "Westerners assume everyone is honest until prove otherwise?" but do you know that we Chinese are exactly the opposite?  We assume everyone is dishonest until prove otherwise, repeatedly!!!!

Anyway, I have heard enough times that "Americans are bad at science and math" and could only take what he said to me for a grain of salt.      


What turned out was that he actually had not lied at all.  He indeed was still quite familiar with the materials that I learned from the P-Chem class, as I found out at the beginning weeks of taking this course.  After a while, I had gotten a hang of it and became self-proficient.  So I found myself enjoying words like "quantum chemistry, forms of energy, forces, thermodynamics, atom, entropy, equilibrium, kinetics".  I even often needed to make up problems to intrude his personal space.  In the mean time, I also sensed that he started to enjoy "helping" me.  Needless to say, I earned an A relatively easily.

In retrospect, I think it was his trust in me that had boosted my own confidence, cleared my fear, most importantly, stimulated my competitiveness, and eventually led me to excel.

Life from then on was forever different.

I am indeed a sapiosexual!

I know what you have been waiting for...

No, we had not slept together...

... until have passed another semester!

You have got to be patient with us Chinese!

Nay, I was just joking.

The true story is that I was then living with my ex-boy friend with whom I grew up.  I had to wake up to revisit our relationship after he moved away...

One night, while I was reading aimlessly online, an instant message popped out at the bottom right corner.  It was from John.  And he invited me to come to see him.  At his house!

My heart started to pump quickly.

Promptly ditched the computer, the running experiments, the research papers, the lab, the ...whatever..., I drove myself towards to "the house with a torch light on".

I was lost in the middle of the darkness.

The University Town was tiny, but I managed to get myself lost in the middle of it - in fact, it never occurred to me that there might be more than one house with a torch light on?  

Right at the moment when I was turning around intending to drive back to the lab, I noticed a guy with a cigarette in his hand standing in the front porch of the house that I drove past a millions of times, in that single night!

So IN I went...

... then I never come out.

Yes, we did it!

(I know for what you have been reading until now, ha ha!)

We finally had sex, oh, sorry, I mean we made love.

We made the best human contact that one could ever imagine.  We had done that like rabbits...

Until today, I still insist to believe that he was the one who luckily took my virginity.  I truely did not understand how I got myself pregnant before him.  If he did not get himself tied up, I believe we would have produced many little rabbits by now.

Life is complicated, indeed!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013!

Fabrice and I are party people.  I mean that we both like to invite people to our house for parties.  We are very proud of being good hosts.  We enjoy showing off our French and Chinese cuisines, which are usually the food that one cannot get from regular French or Chinese restaurants.  We enjoy having friends over for good company.  Most importantly, we even enjoy the cleaning after parties - the part we work as a team, you see.  Consequently, we also get invited frequently to our friends' houses for parties.  Every single party is different and some casual, some elegant and formal, some big, some small..., we are totally enjoying our social life that this world can offer.

Since we were kind of stuck in town for an entire winter holiday, I had pushed Fabrice to throw a New Year's Eve party.  It was a last minute decision since I was tied up by some work and Fabrice was not sure whether he was up to it.  A bad start already, as you can see.  Inspired by the last two big Christmas parties that we have been to, we (ok, I) had decided to throw our New Year's Eve party in the same style.

Neither Fabrice nor I actually had organized big parties before, let alone New Year's Eve Parties, where people are expected to get drunk together!  Needless to say, it was sort of a disaster.

First, we sent out the invitation via evite, an impersonal website that people usually use to send invitations to someone they barely know each others, such as kids' parents for birthday parties!

Second, it was only a week ahead of time.  Three out of the 8 families that we had invited already had been out of town.  Thus, we could never reach critical mass of people.

Third, we asked people to arrive at 6 pm.  It would have been okay if all of us had little kids.  But most of the "out of town" families that we invited are the ones with small kids.  Only one family came with kids of our kids' ages.  Thus, for an adult New Year's Eve party, 6 pm was too early to get drunk until midnight.

Fourth, we prepared way too much food.  It was our first New Year's Eve party, Fabrice and I had different ideas about the type of food that we were going to serve.  My idea was to serve only simple and elegant finger food, but Fabrice insisted on adding some personal touch with his first experimenting dish - peppery and creamy fish.  The hot food just did not go well with wine glasses-occupied hands and rest of the finger food!

Fifth, we over-prepared for it.  How could that be, you say?  Well, Fabrice wound up spending most of his critical food-preparation time on shopping - he had to go to purchase a new table cloth at BedBath&Beyond but the mall he went did not have such a store so he had to get the table cloth from Macy.  Then he had to buy a center piece because he did not agree to my idea of using a bunch of flowers.  Yet as he could not stand the old-fashioned style of Macy for this important item, he had to go Pier1Imports at another shopping Mall for it - he got one beautiful candleholder, which I could not find from their online store: it's the combination of this and this, but only simpler and more elegant with 6 places, not just the 4-5 as the pictures show, and few candles with great fragrances.  I mean he went on Dec 31st of 2012, the last minute, to shop for decorative items while one of us, I, was home cleaning the house from head to toe!  By over preparation, I also meant that we rearranged furniture and finally we hired baby sitters for keeping the kids entertained!

Overall, the worst part was the "wait" - we have never needed to wait for our guests to arrive for any of our previous parties.  Our 5 families arrived sequentially, far apart from each others, which made the party a bit too quiet, at least for the beginning part.

Alright, our first and second families did arrive at scheduled time.  The first family has two kids who are Zhuzhu and Niuniu's daycare friends.  Thus, the kids had good time together.  Since we were expecting 5 other families, we kind of waited for the rest of the 3 to show up so that we could serve the hot food.  The members of the second family, which was consisted of 3 adults from 3 different families - one was whom we originally invited, but since his wife and their kids were out of town, he had invited his temporary "date" and her cousin who came from Holland for a visit, were already kind of drunk since they had a bottle of champagne before joining us.  As soon as they finished another bottle of champagne at our party, they decided to head to "The Downtown" - who can blame them?  If I was the Dutch guy, I would have also definitely preferred to get wasted in some random bars at a New Year's Eve in a foreign land, which sounds much more exotic.  At least, they were polite enough to wait for our third group to show up, at about an hour and a half into the party, to leave.

Our third family was a couple who had never been to our house before, thus the initial warm-up time took a bit longer, which made the situation a bit awkward since the fourth party had not shown up until almost another hour later - maybe not that long, but it felt like it, at the moment when our first family with 2 little kids was just getting ready to leave.  The kids, you see, cannot generally wait past their bed time for too long.

A perfect "come and go" party thus far!

And it had never really become a typical party where people cerebrate New Year's Eve by drinking a bit and then losing up a little more than usual.  

At this point, I had to give up the idea to have a big party.  Pulling all the chairs close to each other, I changed our standing NewYear's Eve party a regular sitting down one, which relaxed everyone remaining at the party - we were no longer anxious for anyone else's coming, we enjoyed our own selves.  Just when the 6 of us, 3 couples, chatted like old friends, our last family showed up.  He came all by himself, leaving his son and wife all by themselves at home.  His early riser son had already gone to bed.  He announced.  The New Year's cerebration in his family had started at 5 pm in honoring his Dutch visiting Mom.  Oh, well, one is better than none.  So, he received our warn welcome.  Soon,  the Dutch guy became the center of the attention, because he was introducing us various web-based techniques to digitalize the world.  By this time, the 11-yr-old daughter of our third family called, for the third time, to ask her parents to come home.  The parents however, were enjoying the party quite well by now so they delayed their the parenting duty for another hour or so.  They headed home around 11 pm.

The rest of the evening was more like a regular party of ours - small group of people chatting around one topic at a time.  It was certainly not a typical New Year's Eve party, but it's cozy, warn, and brainy,...

...which ended few minutes after the midnight.  We cheated to open a final champagne bottle 10 minutes early to wish each others a happy new year.

Considering a slow start with variable times for our guests to come and go, it was a bit of disappointing.  We could never get a chance to have anyone to drink more than they should.  Also, some of our guests did not have a chance to meet each other.

Lesson number 1, for New Year's Eve parties, better start late than early - most of our guests do intend to stay past midnight!

Lesson number 2, for parties to be fun, invite either a small group of close friends or a large group of people, use personal email, and communicate often to know their arrival time.  

But I must say that it was not all a disastrous party at the end.  We did enjoy each others.  The best of all, I had my new year's resolution made up: creating and managing an active professional website - yes, you heard it right.  One of our guests, the Dutch guy, of course, was a computer nerd and he knows just where to start.  It was not bad after all!

Happy 2013, y'all!