Showing posts from 2013

A Dolly for Christmas

I've been having some serious issues with Blogger, which may explain my absence here in recent weeks. Because life has been so busy with loads of fun holiday activities, I've not had much time to sit and figure out what's going on, and posting at all is an exercise in massive amounts of patience. Life will shortly slow down a bit and then I can resume posting about our European vacation and Holiday fun.

In the meantime, I would like to point you to my friend Rory's blog, Chocolate Hair/Vanilla Care. Each year her daughter receives just one Christmas gift from her parents, and this year she asked for an American Girl doll. Rory took the amazing step of adding in yarn extensions and styling the dolls hair to look just like her daughter's! See the post here.

In my pre-American Girl doll childhood, Cabbage Patch Dolls were the thing to have. I wanted one so badly, but they were out of reach cost-wise for my family. My grandmother Rose began to create rag dolls in the…

Merry Christmas!

We are simply having a wonderful Christmastime. I hope you are too! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


A harsh reality of expat life is that you say goodbye more often than most people. This life is like an airport, with constant arrivals and departures. 
My son Nathan, at 13, has decided the pain of saying goodbye is not worth meeting any new friends, knowing there is a shelflife on time spent together living abroad. My hope is that now that he and his peers are on Facebook, and have access to other types of instant electronic communication, he'll see that the world is small and with some work no friend is lost forever. But I certainly know how he feels! 
When I first arrived in Shanghai there was a group of women I got to know right away. They were unique and diverse and well travelled with amazing stories. Over the past 18+ months, I've said goodbye to all but one, the rest having repatriated or moved on to their next post. Today, however, brought with it the sad goodbye to the final person in that original group of ladies, my friend Kellee. 

This was such a blow because it was…


Good news, our canine friend is back home and back in her usual spot.

She did not need surgery, Lucy Rocket just had a case of acute pancreatitis and is now on a low fat, high protein diet for the next six months. Considering it took two years for her to get up to her goal weight of 2kgs, I'm not sure a diet is a good thing for this petite little thing!

This whole ordeal has been quite interesting. I carry a little baggage from my childhood, having had a grandmother who loved her animal friends far more than the humans in her life. My little brother and I would get to see her only once or twice a year, and when we'd make the journey south to see her, she'd spend the entire time talking to her Weimeraner dog, Schotse. My grandfather would take my family out to his favorite (expensive) steak house during our yearly visit, and my grandmother would take two tiny bites of her steak, and take the rest home in a doggie bag to feed her doggie, who she was always so anxious to get…

His Eye is on the Sparrow

So, Lucy Rocket is quite a sick little puppy.

And I am one nervous wreck. You can tell because it's 2:35 a.m. and I am blogging instead of sleeping.

We noticed some mild gastrointestinal upset over the last two days, but she was just so darn perky and happy and full of energy, that it was tough to take it too seriously. And then late last night she just started growing lethargic, and then this morning she curled up in her pet carrier and started crying. This was just not right, so the minute the vet's office opened we took her in.

Let me be really candid here. Human health care in China is one thing, but canine health care here initially frightened me, because pets, especially dogs, don't necessarily have the same status here they tend have in some other countries. I have seen dog meat sold here with my own eyes in two different places, both in my neighborhood. Friends around town have posted photos of the same in their own neighborhoods (I have taken no photos and will …

Street musicians

While I rarely give my pocket change to the panhandlers all over Shanghai, I always tend to drop a coin or two into the hat or instrument case of musicians playing on the sidewalk or street corners. Even the ones playing the screechy Chinese instruments that sometimes aren't that friendly to my western ears. I'm ever hopeful for a surprise like this little girl got when she tossed some change to a musician:

If it ever happens to me, you'll be the first to know!

There's a teenager in the house...

Happy birthday, Nate the Great!


I had a big writing deadline and I slid in under the wire. It was a script on the theme of HOPE, and man was it really difficult to write. I found a bunch of images for inspiration in the thick of the project, and the Star Wars fan inside me particularly loves this one:

The process took a whole lot out of me, and left me nothing for this little space. I'll be back to regular posting and sharing more of our Chase Family European Vacation (which sadly did not include one of my favorite Chases- Chevy) soon.

In the meantime, a favorite photo from this week:
That's my Ben in the middle from America, Alex from Australia on the left, and Ben from Canada on the right, playing in a Japanese soccer league on a rooftop gym with the Shanghai skyline in the background. Photos like this exactly capture why I love this life as much as I do. Love these boys and their mamas, all friends in the neighborhood. And in K-9 news, tonight Lucy Rocket is having a friend spend the night for the firs…

Thing One and Thing Two

I have a couple of Things running around the house today.

Funny thing, exactly ten years ago I had a couple of Things running around too. Well, one was more sitting there, looking round and cute, but you get the idea.
I think I'll make them dress up like this every ten years. Check back in 2023 for Nat at almost 23 and Ben at 20. If my exceptional good luck for getting my children to dress up in Dr. Seuss characters holds up that is!

Vertical Milestones, Disney and Otherwise

Today was the 2013 Shanghai Disney Resort Cast Appreciation Day. In Disney lingo, a Cast Member is an employee. For last year's Appreciation Day, the company rented out a small ballroom, which comfortably fit the 100 or so employees and their families. This year, the company had to rent out a section of the largest park in Shanghai because there are now over 1,000 employees! It's growing by leaps and bounds! Shanghai Disneyland made the news this past week because it finally went vertical. All the underground work got to a point where they can start growing above ground, and a big ceremony was held to celebrate the first vertical beam going up into the sky. It's still two years from opening day, but it's coming along! They fed us lunch and provided many fun activities for families to do, including learning the art of Chinese knot tying, Chinese calligraphy, and paper silhouette portraiture. We were pretty much there for the photo opportunities though, as my boys wer…


Safety harnesses are for sissies if you make your living washing the windows of the high rise buildings on the Shanghai skyline. Here was the view from my bed on the 38th floor upon waking this morning:

A little wooden plank, a single rope, a bucket, a squeegee and maybe a spare pair of underpants are all you need to be in business.

I can't imagine the day will ever come when I will not feel my stomach lurching into my throat when I see this kind of thing in China. And I see this kind of thing nearly every single day. Thankfully, it's not always directly outside my bedroom window!

American Tourister

Have you ever met anyone who went to London for a holiday who didn't come back with a photo of their entire family or group of friends shoved into a phone booth? No?

Well who are we to be the one family who resists the ultimate touristy shot.

London School Daze

For me, the best travel experiences are ones we get to share with people who actually live in our vacation destination. For our trip to the UK, we were very fortunate to stay with our friends, the Braden family. As mentioned before, we've known them since 2005 when both our families lived in Hong Kong. They had a profound effect on us and our expat experience, and I credit them with being our inspiration for continuing to live abroad.

I love being able to see the average, everyday things they do wherever they happen to live. When they lived in Manila, our first day of visiting them we got to go help out at the health clinic where Glen served some of the poorest of the poor, and then visit some of the patients in the neighborhood served by the clinic, which consisted of dangerously constructed lean-to dwellings all stacked together, housing an impossibly enormous number of people in conditions which were shocking to say the least. But you know what? All four of us would say it is …


I took my poor, hurting son to the corner coffee house to get him a mango smoothie to soothe the pain of his new braces. The only other thing he can seem to handle putting in his aching mouth right now is scrambled eggs, and man-boys cannot live on scrambled eggs alone! While on our stroll, we passed the local Chinese school on our block, and paused to look at the kids doing strange calisthenics. He expressed his great gratitude that we are not a sports-oriented family, and that his father isn't one to get really into watching ball games on television. I asked him why he felt that way. "Because if Dad was into sports, he would make me be on these teams and I'm really bad at them."

I thought for a moment, and responded, "That may be true, but if we were into sports, you probably would have played on one team or another since the time you were old enough to walk, and gone to a sports camp or two every year. By now, you'd probably be pretty good playing at leas…

Mind the Gap

The trains and subways in Hong Kong and Shanghai all have cheerful warnings to pleasemind the gap  or watch the gap when you are boarding the train car. However, the gap they warn you against is no more than five inches, and level with the platform, so unless you trip, the gap isn't going to cause you much damage or hardship. I've always chuckled to myself over the somewhat unnecessary warnings. And then we went to London, where the saying has been in use for a hundred years by the train conductors, and printed and used in automated announcements since 1969 (to save the conductors from having to repeat it over and over again the story goes).

In London, the gap between the platform and the train car is sometimes so wide, and so different in height, a full grown man could seriously fall between if he wasn't paying attention. A few of the Underground (Tube) stations were curved, with curved platforms. And while the tracks curved as well, each individual car is obviously stra…

Heavy Metal

We've entered the orthodontia years.

Nathan is currently moaning himself to sleep over the pain he's feeling in his mouth, and I'm feeling like a super lousy parent for signing him up for a couple of years of braces. Thankfully, the actual braces are a whole lot smaller than the ones his Dad and I had to wear at his age, and thanks to advances in technology, the estimated time he'll need treatment is also smaller than the four years I wore them and the five years Michael wore his. If it was only a matter of some crooked teeth, I'd be tempted to be very un-American and let them be. However, he's got some actual issues with the way his jaw is formed, and the longer we wait the harder it will be to fix. We've already waited longer than is ideal, but this nomadic life isn't conducive to ongoing treatment. Thankfully, a long search here in Shanghai netted a great dental group with a gentle specialist Nathan can tolerate (it's been a long road with this …

A Dog's Life, Abroad

Happy 2nd Birthday Lu!
Are we the type of people who take birthday portraits* of our dog? Evidently.

Lucy Rocket was born in Hong Kong but joined our family in Macau and then moved with us to China. Every single night when we're laying in bed reading while Lu snuggles between us, I turn to Michael and say, "Thank you for this dog." We only got her because of Nathan. Our oldest son can be quite socially and physically awkward, anxious and tense, yet when you put an animal of any kind in his arms, every muscle in his body relaxes and he becomes suddenly graceful.

Living abroad doesn't make it easy to have a pet with a lifespan longer than a goldfish, so despite repeated requests for something with fur, I consistently said no. But one night we were watching movies at a friend's house, killing time during a typhoon, and Nathan was communing with our friend's cats for hours. Completely zoned out, just watching the kitties. None of the tweenage tension he normall…

Home Again

We are back home in Shanghai. It was quite a struggle to voluntarily get back on a plane leaving Europe for Asia. Quite the struggle indeed.

We had a marvelous, busy, adventurous time, and I'm full to the brim with excellent memories. I also filled an SD card with photos and had to buy a second one with a larger capacity. As a family, we took over 3,000 photos between my DSLR, my iPhone, Michael's iPhone, and the little Cannon digital camera that Michael used to use but now our budding shutterbug Ben has taken over. 3,000 photos in two weeks works out to over 200 photos a day. I won't be posting all of them (in fact I only just started looking at them), but I did find one from our first day of going into London town that made me giggle as only the mom of two boys who love jokes about bodily functions can giggle...

Here's a quote on a bench, from Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra:

The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne, Burn'd on the water; the poop w…

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Since my surgery, I've noticed my emotions are far closer to the surface than ever before. I joked in the weeks after my operation that my hormones were apparently set to 14 year old girl mode, because I can go from tears to anger to joy in three minutes flat. It's crazy. It's crazy for Michael to watch but even worse from inside my head. It is however, getting much better. Thank goodness. However, I've been in a bit of a funk lately.

We have had a series of moderately stressful things drop on our heads in rapid succession over the last three weeks. Family issues in the States, unexpected financial turbulence, miscommunication (or one-sided communication) resulting in significant angst, trouble with our offspring, health concerns, a friend's terrible life-changing accident, another's marriage ripped apart, a week that brought a dozen emails and phone calls from people who personally wanted something from me, mainly a significant commitment of time, plus some o…


I'm juggling several photographic projects at the moment. Some are yearlong projects and some are just on going. I just wrapped up a project which documented Benjamin's ninth year of life from his 9th birthday to his 10th birthday while he was standing in doorways throughout the places we visited that year. I'm going to start a new yearlong project with Nathan starting on his 13th birthday, which will revolve around art (if I can talk him into it. He's a hard sell).

I have another project I'm working on continuously during our time here in Shanghai. Shortly after moving here, I noticed all the manhole covers and utility covers are stamped with the year they were created.

Pudong, the area on the east side of the river, is a relatively new place. None of the familiar buildings in the skyline even existed 20 year ago. So all the manhole covers in this area are from the late 90's or begin with the year 2000. Over on the Puxi side, west of the river, there are olde…

You know you're in China when...

Image can see dead people while sipping a cup of java.

Taken at Punan Hospital, Shanghai.


Why not both? At the same time? Is it just me, or does this seem like a strange combo for a shop? Do they graft on new eyelashes using the stuff they attach fake nails with? This is a mystery.
Um, yes. Wait, do you mean the people who worship nature are fantastical? Or is this two separate thoughts combined onto one tee? I'm confused.
So far lost in translation I can't even guess what goes on up on the 17th floor. Hold me. I'm scared. I don't want to be appyopyiated. Or do I?

Flash Flood

  There was this time during my first year of college where I drove solo up to my parents' house, four hours north, at night in a heavy rain storm (sounds like the start of a mystery novel!). To get to their house, you could take a significant short cut off the main highway through a very desolate and rural area filled with oil derricks (seen in daylight in the photos in this post). At some point after I'd left the highway, the California Highway Patrol cut off the exits at both ends of the short cut due to flash flood warnings in the oil fields. These were the days before cell phones (I had a pager though!), so I had no way for anyone to warn me or for me to call anyone if I got stuck. 
 It wasn't too long before I realized I was experiencing the heaviest rain of my life. I slowed the speed down in my little red pick-up truck to nearly a crawl, as my windshield wipers beat at their fastest speed and my headlights only lit a few feet in front of me. The roar of the…

Waste not

This pile of bikes can be found in a little alcove on the side of our building. It's right next to a grassy patch where we take Lucy Rocket to do her business. I noticed it right after we moved in.

Whenever I would see it, I would think about how sad it was that people would just discard their bikes in such a haphazard manner. I thought of it as a graveyard for rusted and unwanted bicycles. Bikes here are so cheap (seriously, a decent adult bike can be found for under $50 USD), it made me think they are almost disposable, and treated as such.  One evening after dark, I went down and happened to walk past this little alcove and discovered the bikes were all gone. I figured the junk hauler had come along and loaded them up. But the following morning I passed by once again, and all the bikes were back! As I was standing there, I watched a tiny Chinese woman ride her bike up and toss it on top of the pile. I paid close attention for a week or so, and discovered the bikes primarily be…