Showing posts from September, 2013

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…

Speaking of Apples...

Me, to the barista at PCC: Does your coffee have apples in it?
Barista: No.
Me: Apple juice?
Barista: No.
Me: Do you ever sell apples?
Barista: No.
Me: Do you have any apple smoothies or juices?
Barista: No.
Me: Why do you have an ad featuring apples?
Barista: This is healthy thing.

Makes perfect sense.

Apples to Apples

Fall is upon us, and many food blogs are sharing about apple picking and apple pies and favorite kinds of apples. I would like to share with you my own personal type of apple.

Green, soft to the touch, a product of Mexico, and perfect for making guacamole. And clearly apples, as labeled there by the grocery store. I'll take a bushel, please. But maybe not for the approximate price of $5.50 USD for two pieces...

The Yangpu Bridge

I love the look of bridges, when I'm safely on either side of them. We've lived near a bridge or three in every country we've ever lived in. I have quite a few funny stories from my past which revolve around bridges. Taipa, our home in Macau, was an island, so the only way on or off was one of three bridges from the Macau Peninsula. Being afraid of heights, crossing bridges are not my favorite. Even the ones that sit close to the water make me nervous. I've seen too many action films which feature a car spinning out of control and crashing off the side of a bridge.

The Yangpu Bridge is one of several bridges which span the Huangpu River. The Huangpu River flows through Shanghai, dividing it into Pudong and Puxi. Pu means river, while dong means east and xi means west. So Pudong, where we live, means east of the river, and Puxi means west of the river. This is my favorite bridge here, the towers rising out of the water reminding me of the wishbone pulled out of Thanksg…

Depression is not a dirty word.

Fair warning, this is a long, serious, and intensely personal post.
Did you know that today, September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day?
Per the International Association for Suicide Prevention: Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, especially among young people. Nearly one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds. The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.
My life was affected by suicide from an early age. My fourth grade teacher at a private school in California's San Fernando Valley took her life during the school year. A close classmate from the public school I attended in 5th and 6th grade took her life in 7th grade after I had moved away. A boy I knew in middle school killed himself. A close friend in the 7th and 8th grade attempted suicide, and my mom took me to visit him at the hospital a few hours from our h…

September Issue

My fabulous in laws sent me Vogue's September Issue, which I am positively giddy about.

While my years of being remotely fashionable have passed along with my subscriptions, I still love to peruse the glossy pages of the year's thickest fashion magazine. There's so much inspiration, with exotic locations and artful photography. Yes, the American edition of Vogue magazine is available here in Shanghai, along with most other international editions. But the cover price in America is $5.99. And the cover price here in Shanghai is over $30. Which is a painful habit, even if it's only an annual one. So I was happy when one of Michael's coworkers came to Shanghai on a business trip and hand carried some items from the States over for us.

Yes, I posted this photo on Instagram, and someone pointed out that I could just get Vogue digitally, instantly, for much cheaper. This is true. And I take advantage of e-everything these days. But some things are better in paper instead…

Stuff on Scooters

We see all sorts of stuff being toted across town on the backs of scooters and bikes. I promise when the weather cools down, I'm just going to go sit on a corner and photograph every weird thing that comes by in an hour.

Here's the scooter brigade last weekend, waiting for the green light at an intersection.

Do you see what I see? Would you like a closer look? Here you go. Maybe you don't see it. I'll zoom in. As often as I see cars and bikes/scooters tangled up, I know that's one piece of cargo I wouldn't want to come into forceful contact with if all I'm wearing is regular cotton pants! Ouch. At least it looks a little dull, right?


As we waited to pay our bill in our local branch of our mobile phone provider, I took some time to play with the iPhones. As the minutes ticked by and our number was nowhere close to being called, I started reprogramming all the iPhones from Chinese to English. Michael figured out how to work the automated payment machine just as I finished up with the last phone, giving me no time to change them back. Oops.

Good thing I didn't have any more time though. My next step was going to be to take a bunch of selfies and change the wallpaper to my photo. Which would have probably got me banned from the store, standing out like I do, and giving them photo evidence of my mischievousness. Not really such a good example for my kids that day. But I know it's the kind of thing my own troublemaker Dad would do, and I am my father's daughter, so I'll blame his influence if anyone asks. Okay, Dad?

Passport to Adventure

As a kid, all I ever wanted was to travel the world, living an adventurous life. When I'd exasperate her, a favorite frustrated phrase of my Mom's was, "Heather, what are we going to do with you?" My response never varied: Send me to Germany! No clue why my answer was Germany, but the ironic fact is Germany ended up being the first non-American country my feet touched, years later.

I've grown up to do exactly what I dreamt of, traveling the world. Of course, it's a far slower pace than I'd like. And a far slower pace than many of our fellow expats who are off to new countries every month or two (or every week, depending on their job description). What we're doing looks a lot like traveling by way of living in individual countries a year at a time.

But we recently hit a specific milestone that I have been longing for since I was a young teen, holding my first blank passport in hand: to fill up all the pages. In my young mind, that was the benchmark fo…

2013 Shanghai Disney Resort Moon Cakes

You may recall my post from last year about the Mid-Autumn Festival. It's coming up again, and Michael recently brought home this year's edition of the mooncakes from work. One is a fruit pie, the other filled with coconut paste (see last year's post for identical images of the mooncakes themselves). Adorable packaging, yes?
Funny, the day before he brought these home, I tossed the packaging from last year's mooncakes as part of my purge/organizational project in the home office. Still slugging along with that never-ending time of joy. At least I have some pretty new stars to keep for a year before tossing!


My husband had a very Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy birthday this year.

He turned 42, which everyone knows is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. He's pretty much my everything! Happy birthday Michael!