Monday, October 10, 2016

Things I could feel bad about. But won't.

Michael and I got to jump on a plane from Shanghai to Los Angeles to attend a four day conference on leadership, creativity, and humanity two weeks ago. It was something we really wanted to do, but the limitations to our finances living here in Shanghai mean that we can budget a trip to America only every other year, and this was not our year. But in the beautiful way that things sometimes have a way of working out when you are absolutely meant to be somewhere, someone else totally unrelated to the conference provided the funds via an envelope filled with cash to cover the cost of round trip airfare and the conference admission. The conference was amazing. So much good stuff that I'm still mulling it over and trying to find ways to adjust my life to fit all the new information we were flooded with. But this isn't a post about the conference. I don't even know how to write about it just yet. In addition to the four conference days, we decided to stay an extra three days in Los Angeles, one for Michael to have work-related meetings in Glendale, one for us to go to Disneyland, and one for us to do some shopping.

One thing I didn't know about myself until I moved abroad: I hate shopping. I grew up hitting outlets and thrift/resale shops long before that was a cool thing, digging through rack after rack to find a gem or a bargain. But living in China there is so little emphasis placed on what you wear (I do not exaggerate when I say I see people, grown people, in pajamas, each and every day). Plus, I'm just getting older and caring so much less about what people think. Between the two, I have lost any desire to spend hours finding just the right thing to look cute. I know I've said this before somewhere, but my curvy body doesn't necessarily lend itself to finding something off the rack here in Shanghai, land of slim and slender people of China. At this point in my life, I want to look covered (in something black, preferably) and feel comfortable. And I don't want to spend two hours in a dressing room trying to find something that'll work.

One trick I've found as an expat was to head to some of my favorite online retailers and buy things to be sent to my in laws house just ahead of our visit. Then I can take my time trying things on and sorting them into piles to keep or to return to the retail storefront (it's not because I'm such a hardcore fan of Old Navy that most of our clothes are from there, it's all about the ease of returning stuff!). But a tricky thing to cope with and work around is sizing. In China, if I buy something, I'm likely to be a size XXXXXL. As in 5XL. So I look at the sizes on the websites in America and think that I at least better buy a size XL because surely anything smaller would be way too tiny. But then I try it on and see how baggy it is and it just blows my mind that I can actually fit in something that doesn't have an "X" on it at all. Seriously.

But then there's also variations due to style and personal preference. My preference will always be baggy over tight, but there's a difference between baggy and hanging off the shoulders or cinching a belt just to make something stay above your curvy hips. When we left America over five years ago, bootcut jeans were still in fashion, and jeggings weren't yet a word. Then the skinny jean phase hit. Now we are apparently in a sort of a culotte phase, or at least a sort of straight leg jeans era instead of the super skinny jeans. Here's what I know about my body: my weight has barely fluctuated since we left America. I lost a little weight after the hysterectomy, but even so, my waist has become thicker and my face rounder as I entered medical menopause (yay me). My hip and chest sizes haven't changed at all. And I still wear the same size jeans today that I did six years ago, even though living here in China makes me feel like surely I'm a lot bigger than I used to be. I'm not... I'm just surrounded by people who are a lot smaller than I am. So even when I bought skinny jeans in the last few years because that was the style, my normal size fit. But I sized up because of preference. My abdomen is criss-crossed with scars from various surgeries and I hate anything tight there at all. When the straight leg style became available again, I bought the size up and realized it was way too baggy and ill-fitted. So I went back down to my normal, pre-China, pre-jegging/skinny jean size.

For this last super quick trip to America, I wanted to get a few pairs of pants to replace two pairs that died a death of being worn out last winter. So I bought my usual size, resisting the urge to buy up a size, and had them shipped to my mother in law's house. When we visited her, I went and tried everything on and found almost everything fit just fine. Except in one area. One truly shocking area. And it was not my waist, which I confess has gone up nearly 3 inches since the hysterectomy/medical menopause. It was not my curvy hips or my sprinter's thighs or my round-from-sitting-too-much derriere. It was my big, bodacious calves! I was shocked to find that nearly every pair of pants I'd bought were stretched incredibly tight across my lower legs. They weren't even snug in the waist or hips, but the calves were begging for mercy. This wasn't just one pair either, it was three... in different styles and fabrics and brands.

I packaged them back up to return them to whence they came, and thought a lot about my calves. Actually, I had a lot of negative thoughts about my calves, a part of my body I'd not really ever considered before. I mean, we're taught to stress about our belly and our hips and our breasts and our upper arms from a pretty young age. But nobody mocks someone's big calves on the schoolyard or puts "How to have tiny calves by summer!" on the cover of one of those cursed beauty magazines which love to highlight flaws.

My calves are extremely muscular. While the rest of me has some gentle padding (thicker in some places than others), my calves are pretty ripped. Seriously, if you were here right now, I'd flex one and make you feel it. And yet there I was, feeling rotten about about the one part of me that's arguably pretty darned awesome. I mean, my summer staple clothing item (whether in fashion or not) is capri-length pants. Because they cover my large sprinter's thighs and highlight my sweet calves and tiny ankles (thanks Mom for the tiny ankles!). So why was that a bad thing? I tried to let it go, and when we returned the pants I did search around and find some that fit and didn't make my calves bulge like the Hulk.

However, calves have been on my brain since our return to Shanghai. I've noticed just how many flights of stairs I climb in an average day here, and it's a lot. Most of the Metro stations only have escalators either going up or down, not both, and sometimes not at all, so you can't get away from stairs. And because I'm suddenly paying attention, I've noticed that climbing a flight of stairs really engages my calf muscles. What does 5+ years of daily stair climbing do to a body? I mean, I wish it did more, but I'll take this. I could feel really bad right now about having what are apparently freakishly large calves by American beauty standards. But I'm not going to. Really, I'm not. I'm just going to say way to go, you beautiful and strong body! You really keep us going places! And I'll leave it at that.

I mean... I have enough other things to feel bad about when I scrutinize myself thankyouverymuch. Like my eyebrows... I was chatting with two girlfriends while in L.A. who complain of wild and unruly eyebrows that they have to pay someone to wrangle into submission. Another girlfriend here in Shanghai just asked me to go along with her to some local salon that only does brows, asking if she should book the appointment for two or just one. Ha! Me? The few hairs on my face that have bravely gathered together to make up my eyebrows are completely translucent and extremely sparse. Efforts to use any kind of eyebrow pencil or powder to make them pop, even by my favorite professional make up artist, make me feel like a clown. So I just wear glasses which draw attention to the frames, instead of wearing contacts which would put the 13.5 hairs that make up my brows front and center. Yes, I do think about this more than I should. And yes, I do feel bad about it. And indeed, brows are things discussed on the cover of those cursed beauty magazines which love to highlight flaws. And I hope that if you know me in real life you won't start staring at the space above my eyes, slight tilt to your head, wheels turning as you ponder how someone survives with so small a brow. Awkward. Instead, can I suggest a friendly, "Hey gorgeous!" I promise I'll return the favor. Because wow, have you seen yourself today? Your beautiful and strong body is really taking you places! Go you! 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Hello? Anyone still here? Deep apologies for the lack of posts. My biggest excuse is a big one: the country I live in blocks my website (all Google products including Blogger), and the workaround I have been using to still access it (along with facebook, gmail, and instagram) has been less than reliable this year, so I haven't been able to access it at all in 2016! The only posts I've done were from Dubai, where the internet is far more open and uncensored.

However! Thanks to a photographer friend in Los Angeles who was here visiting recently, I found a new blogging platform which isn't blocked and can be accessed pretty easily. It's a platform that has sprung up since we left America 5+ years ago, so I'd never heard of it. It's not free, but I think it'll be worth it.

After going through a pretty rough season where I didn't write at all but instead poured my heart out in painting, I'm happy to say I'm back to making art with the written word again. I've focused so much on fiction for all my writing, but in the past year I've seen that the actual stories that come from my colorful life are what I want to write about. So that's what I'm doing lately, laying down moments of happiness, pain, and wonder from a lifetime of wandering. We'll see what happens with it.

Starting next month I'll start transitioning over to the other blogging platform and hopefully get back to bringing new content to My Wandering Life. We're still in Shanghai, by the way. But we did move house, away from our flat on the 38th floor overlooking the Huangpu River, and into a much lower flat right at the tree tops where my view is a sea of green. Oh, and a little project my husband is working on opened two months ago. Shanghai Disneyland is the most beautiful and amazing place, and I've been seven times and every time I go there is more to see. I'll share more with you soon. It's super photogenic! We're here for the long haul though. About to jump on a plane and head to the beach on an island in the South China Sea where the boys will engage in water sports and I will sit under a canopy and doze with a good book. Life is good.

More soon, I hope! You can find me on Instagram for more in my day to day life. It's supposed to be a photography site, but I don't know how to not write when presented the option! I'm Roseknows.

Monday, February 15, 2016

MIKA in Shanghai!

I can't remember when I first discovered singer/songwriter MIKA. I just know his music makes me happy. His Popular Song with Ariana Grande, which borrows the hook from the song Popular in the Broadway musical Wicked, is very addicting. I have the video on my phone, and when I need a quick pick me up, I watch it and laugh at the tale of revenge (and want Ariana's dress at the end).

But the song of his which has particularly resonated for me while we've lived here in Shanghai is Celebrate. In the past (rough) year, I've scribbled "It will be OK" all over the place, including on the front of my journal (which I would never rip up the way MIKA rips up his in the music video below), a line from this song.

I love his videos. They are all so creative and energetic, and everything I've read and heard says that his live performances are the same. But we live in Shanghai, China, where many BIG commercial groups come through, but not so many smaller international groups. At least not smaller international groups I've heard of or want to see. Regardless, MIKA has been on my live performance wish list for quite some time, definitely since before we lived in Asia this last time around.

At some point late last year I got an email saying MIKA was playing in Shenzhen, which is in southern China. We did fly down to Hong Kong to see Star Wars, but that was something the whole family wanted to do, and it was our Christmas gift to each other this year. I sighed and thought, "so close." And then yesterday this image came through my spammy email:

Did I buy tickets for Shanghai less than two minutes after seeing it? Why yes I did. And I'm so excited. I've been playing his new album, No Place in Heaven, all morning. Good stuff. There's some really great things about being an expat, living abroad. But sometimes we don't get access to things we would if we were living back in Los Angeles, where we were spoiled for entertainment choices every single night of the week. We only get 20-something foreign films in movie theaters a year here (which is why Star Wars didn't come to China until January 2016, China had already hit it's quota for foreign films in 2015). So when we do get any musical act, musical, theatrical or dance production come through which looks even remotely interesting, we go see it. If enough shows sell out, more artists and performing groups may feel encouraged to come to Shanghai. Win-win for all of us. 

If you're in Shanghai and want to see MIKA, tickets are available for Thursday February 25 (Friday is sold out! Hooray!) by clicking on this link. Hope to see you there! 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Friendly Face

We've just returned from a holiday in the United Arab Emirates, visiting one of my best friends from Macau who now lives in Dubai, and a friend I went to high school with who I haven't seen in 23 years since our high school graduation day who now lives in Abu Dhabi. It's Chinese New Year here in China, and my sons, who go to a local Chinese school, have over five weeks off of school. So we looked for a place which was warm and where we have friends we could crash with (we're about to pay for the second term of the school year, so we needed to economize).

It was lovely and wonderful and exactly what we needed as a family (my husband only got to join us for a few days) and I'll write more about it later. But something funny happened, which happens pretty much everywhere we go in the world: a total stranger approached me for help in a place I knew next to nothing about. It's happened to me on my first day in London (with a Chinese man who was lost on the Underground), during a holiday in Tokyo, and immediately after our arrival in Macau, plus plenty of other times on vacations throughout the world.

It happened twice during this trip to Dubai. Once, when the boys and I were were wandering along the coast of the Persian Gulf (which in the UAE is called the Arabian Gulf, I was corrected multiple times), enjoying the warm air and listening to the turquoise waves crash on the incredibly soft sand (see photo at top of post). "Excuse me, We're trying to find the Metro?" It took me a moment to realize the young couple were actually addressing me. Having just taken the Metro, and done the same walk that they were going to need to do (25-30 minute duration), I asked their final destination, looked up the proximity to a Metro station at the other end, saw how close it was to where we were, and quickly judged the price of the Metro vs. the cost of a taxi, and recommended that they just take a taxi to save time, spending about the same money. I'd passed a taxi stand so I sent them there, and I went back to enjoying the sun and surf.

The second time was at about 1:30 a.m. at the Dubai International Airport, while I was gazing off at nothing, waiting in a long line at Starbucks before our connecting flight to Moscow. A woman walked directly up to me, thrust her phone at me, and said, "I can't connect to the wifi, can you get it to work?" She didn't have an iPhone (which is really the only smartphone I have any experience with), but I took the phone and spent several minutes trying to help her figure out the slightly complicated way the airport has to get you on their free wifi, and then back into the messaging app she was trying to use to send a friend at her destination a text about her delayed flight. Off she went, a quick "thanks" over her shoulder. There was a man in a suit with an American accent in front of me, and he turned to ask if that was my mom. "Nope, never met her before." He looked slightly taken aback. "Why did she ask you for help?" "Beats me. She really should have asked my 15 year old son over there. He's the expert with all things wifi." He grinned widely, and said, "It's your friendly face."

I don't think I'm particularly friendly... I'm an introvert and don't go making conversation with random strangers if I can help it (that would be my Dad). But I do have insatiable curiosity about everything in the world around me. I'm highly observant with a great sense of direction, and I ask a thousand questions. The best thing that ever happened to me was when I got an iPhone (my first ever smartphone) and had Google at my fingertips to answer any question in seconds. My brain exploded with happiness at all the new information which was mine instantly! My kids say I know everything. That isn't true at all. The more I learn, the more I realize there is so much I don't know. But I do know how to find answers, and if someone asks me a question I don't know the answer to, I tend to drop everything until I can find the answer or can point them to another person who can answer it. I'm not really sure why people confidently approach me for directions and help, especially when I'm lost in revelry over the beauty of the shoreline, or completely zoned out waiting for caffeine in an airport terminal after midnight. But it never, ever annoys me. So maybe even if I don't feel that I'm particularly friendly, the guy in line was right... my face must say otherwise.

Now if you walk up to me and ask me something about Shanghai, where I have lived for four years, you'll get the full guided tour with fun facts and even commentary on where the best western toilets are while we're out and about. Go ahead... come visit and test me on this!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


There are three big events on the horizon! Star Wars, my birthday, and Christmas! 

Star Wars episode VII won't actually release in China until the end of January 2016. There is no way we would be able to go six weeks without having the film spoiled for us. So our big family Christmas gift this year is to pluck the boys from school (the don't get a break for Christmas) and fly down to Hong Kong where we have tickets to see it the day it opens there, December 17. Fun fact, it doesn't open in America until December 18. And fun-er fact, we're a day ahead of America here, so it's actually like we get to see it two days before America. Do I sound a little braggy? Yeah. But let me. Most every film that comes to China arrives 4-24 weeks later than the rest of the world, if at all. So please indulge me my excitement of being able to see our most highly anticipated film since Les Miserables early. And actually, we did the same thing when Les Mis came out, we flew down to see it in Hong Kong for Christmas of 2012. It didn't arrive in Shanghai until July of 2013! 

It's not all about Star Wars though, tonight in our creative group, The Playground, we made Advent calendars to countdown to Christmas.

So excited that it's finally December again!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pumpkin Everything Season

I love pumpkin everything. But the only pumpkin anything you can get in Shanghai would be pumpkin soup (which I love and the rest of the family doesn't care for). There was that one time I ordered pumpkin cheesecake, and got chunks of pumpkin pulp mixed into a savory cheese mixture (after one bite it was disposed of). I did find some decorative pumpkins in the store yesterday, and joked that this was our urban pumpkin patch. 

At least the pomelos (a citrus fruit common to south east Asia) were getting into the spirit of this time of year:

They look like little scarecrows! 

All of you Americans reading this, please go have a pumpkin spice doughnut from Krispy Kreme followed by a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks in my honor and remember how lucky you are to have never had the combo of cheddar and pumpkin pulp anywhere near your tastebuds! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Time Hop

There's this wonderful app called Timehop which shows you everything you've posted on any social media site on this day in the past. It's a little bittersweet and a whole lot of awesome.

Some days there's nothing to see... for whatever reason there was nothing at all worth posting about on a particular day. And other days it's filled with photos and status updates and links and all sorts of things that show a little slice of my public history. Here's today, screen grabs from my phone in the Timehop app:

Pretty cool, right? And funny that on this day in the last five years I was actually in five different countries... Five years ago-America, four years ago-Macau, three years ago-Shanghai (no photo, just a status update), two years ago-France, and one year ago-Hong Kong. The only insight I can give you about why this particular day has been filled with so many countries would be that the first week of October is "Golden Week" for China, a week of public holidays where everyone is off work and school and it doesn't count against your accrued vacation time. So many people spend this week traveling. Except us, this year. We're broke having just paid the boys' tuition. But a week of just hanging out at home is good too. 

What I really want to draw your attention to in this post is what happened two years ago today. The second photo above. Here's the full photo:

2013 was our Year of The Mouse, where we went to all the Disney theme parks, world wide, in one year. When Michael, Nathan, and I stepped into Disneyland Paris (seen above), the three of us could claim we'd been to all of the Parks. But Ben had to wait a few more months until we went to Japan and took him to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, as he'd not yet been born when we lived in Japan and so couldn't say he'd been there. 

But why I'm writing this post, and why I think this app is so bittersweet, is that this week, two years ago, was the last time that Nathan, my firstborn child, was shorter than me. We came back home to Shanghai from a week in Paris and London, and I noticed that when I stood eye to eye with Nathan, his eyes were actually looking down at me. We measured him, and sure enough, he was taller than me. 

I always believed it was Pixie Dust and Disney magic which kept you from growing up. But I guess it does nothing to keep you from growing taller. Now, Nathan is six feet tall, and even looks down at his Dad. He's the tallest member of the Chase side of the family, and on the Rose side only my "little" brother and two cousins are taller than him. Nathan turns 15 next month, and he's definitely not done growing yet. Ben is creeping up there, but to walk in Nathan's footsteps and overtake me by the time he turns 13, he'll have to grow three inches in the next nine months. He says he's up the task. Cheeky.