Saturday, June 29, 2013

Birthday Wishes


Benjamin's Birth Day
So this month is all about the milestones! Next up - on Sunday my youngest child turns 10 years old. We're out of the single digits in the Chase family!

He has two wishes for his birthday. The first is a laptop computer of his own. He needs it for school, and the desktop computer the boys share is dying a slow-but-loud death, so Michael picked up a new laptop down in Hong Kong today on his business trip (quite a bit less expensive than Shanghai due to the high import duties in China).

His second wish is one I need help for. Today I took Ben with me to get the ingredients for his Mama-made birthday cake. He was chattering away with excitement about his big day and told me that the month of July is his favorite EVER. His birthday is June 30, so I had to ask why the sudden love of July. His response nearly broke my heart - because the mail takes so long to get from America to China and so all his birthday cards would come in July instead of June. He was practically singing with happiness about all the cards he was going to get.

Now here's the thing, I don't think Ben has ever received more than a handful of birthday cards in his whole life. Most are from my Mom and Dad. So I don't know what makes him think he's going to get a deluge of mail this year, but by golly I can try and grant his wish.

If you're reading this and you're a friend or family member, then you probably already have our address (hint: check the back of our Christmas card!). Can I ask you to please grab an envelope and some paper and write him a little birthday greeting, maybe add a doodle of a soccer ball or a dog, and then add $1.10 worth of postage and mail it to Benjamin Chase, Birthday Boy? Even a postcard would do the trick, but I won't say no to an actual store-bought birthday card.

If you don't have our address and still want to play along, please email me (hrosechase at gmail dot com) and I will send you our mailing address. I don't want to post it here publicly. Thank you, thank you, thank you. While Nathan is all about the technology, Benjamin is certainly more old fashioned, loving board games, playing in the great outdoors, drinking hot tea, and evidently delighting in receiving hand-delivered birthday mail! If you include your return address, Benjamin will indeed write you back. He's cool like that.

Ben, the almost-ten-year-old with Lucy Rocket, saying, "Please send mail!"
 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Boys (will be boys)

The other night Michael and I were discussing my photography habits. Which is to say that taking photos is a huge habit, and I make a practice of stopping and snapping away at things that catch my eye or inspire me all the time. Cataloging and storing all these photos is becoming quite the digital nightmare. He was encouraging me to delete right away all but the very best shot. And I do cull my photos if there are obvious bad ones right away. But I also find that sometimes a whole collection of very similar shots become quite magical when strung together instead of just having a solitary image.

Today I was looking for a specific photograph and came across this ridiculous series of photos of Nathan and Benjamin, shot on the parking lot tram in Disneyland, California, in 2010 (Nat's 10th birthday, Ben was 7). Sure, the very last photo is the obvious keeper, but I can't help but laugh at what it took to get there!


So glad I didn't delete a single one of these. It's a good reminder that the boys' reaction to having their photo taken today is pretty much the same as it was three years ago. Some things never change.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rusty


Living abroad changes you considerably. One thing that has challenged my thinking here in Shanghai is the way things are used well beyond the point where they'd be tossed in America (and in many other affluent countries). Take the rust-covered bicycle above. There's no doubt it would be taking up space in the landfill in the States, but in China it is used every day as the primary mode of transportation for the person living behind that red window frame. 

A friend of ours is headed to America in August for two weeks, and willing to bring back a suitcase of goodies for us. Two years ago I could have filled it with a long list of things I thought were impossible to live without. Now we are practicing the art of making do or doing without, something that gets easier only by doing it. There was a time when I craved the ease of going into Target in America to pick up everything we needed in one shopping trip. But during our visit to America in February, our 2-3 visits to Target in one week left me overwhelmed and grumpy instead of joyful. 

I see a change in my children as well. The toys and games the boys have damaged or broken or lost in the last couple of years create a hole in their young lives, one not be easily filled by running out to replace. Even if they have the money, there isn't the availability. I've seen them mourn a loss and then treat their remaining belongings with greater care. A broken zipper on Nathan's hoodie prompted a request for me to fix it, not just run out and buy a new one. A broken board game inspired Benjamin to find a way to repair it on his own instead of asking for a replacement. 

In the midst of challenging days, the sight of rusted bicycles all over town reminds me to be grateful for the things I have, and even for the things I don't. Some lessons can only be learned through experience. China has much to teach us. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

#17


My beloved and I tied the knot 17 years ago today. Our marriage is at that teenage stage where it's old enough to drive and have a job, but not buy lotto tickets or vote. It's also the most stunningly beautiful it's ever been- all the acne has cleared up and the baby fat is gone. 

I love you, Michael Chase! So grateful you are my happily ever after! 


Friday, June 21, 2013

For your eyes only

Yesterday I went to get a long overdue pedicure at a place where I have a membership, and therefore get an okay discount (I mainly go there for massages). I have a choice of taking a taxi for 36RMB (~$6USD) or taking the Metro train for 4RMB (~70¢), each way. If I'm by myself (and therefore do not have whining children with me complaining about taking the subway which can be crowded and noisy), I always take the train.

Empty train car - one time event!
I prefer the train to be honest. It takes about the same amount of time, sometimes less if it's rush hour and the streets are clogged above ground. It gives me solitude, which sounds funny considering I'm generally pushed up against another three or four travelers. It makes me feel confident in a way that only mastering public transportation in a foreign country can. I know I'm in a minuscule minority, but I also find it peaceful... The never ending rhythm of arriving and departing trains reminds me of the waves on the ocean. 

I generally pop in my earphones and listen to music and completely zone out, always amazed when my muscle memory seems to get me to my destination without my brain weighing in, even when it involves three trains with two interchanges. I did the same commute last week with a captivating book shoved in my face (Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, so good), and I was quite surprised to find myself at the ticket barrier of my home station... with no memory at all of the three-train ride! 

Yesterday, however, my reverie was disrupted by the silent crowd on the train who were staring so hard at me I feared they might bore holes through my body. Since I look around and see a mass of people who all have similar characteristics, I forget that when they look back at me they don't see a familiar pattern of body type and hair/eye color.

Most of the time I choose to ignore it. Sometimes I become quite self-conscious, thinking there is broccoli in my teeth or my skirt is riding up or I've accidentally smeared black permanent marker all over my right eyebrow. Again. And then sometimes, like today, I'm filled with the overwhelming urge to do something absolutely crazy to really give them something to stare at. 

Earlier this week my virtual friend (and Michael's real life friend from high school) Gerb posted a video which has given me some awesome ideas for the next time I feel overwhelmed by the stares. If I make the news, I'll let you know.

 


P.S. I recognize every single filming location in that video... it's like a love letter to Los Angeles. Feeling a little homesick! (Email subscribers please click through to the site to see the video.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Costco-sized pain

It has taken our family twenty-three months to go through this bottle of Ibuprofen (generic name for Advil or Motrin) which contained 500 pills, purchased at American warehouse membership store Costco. 

I just opened the second and final bottle in my stash of over-the-counter medicines from America. 

So what I'm saying here is we really need someone from America who has a Costco membership to come visit us in the next twenty-three months, bringing a replacement, so we don't run out when the summer of 2015 arrives. Okay? Okay. 

Reminder: we do have a spare bedroom with its own private bathroom and a view of the Huangpu River and the Bund. And we are excellent hosts so you won't actually need any ibuprofen yourself. Which is good, because when one has only 500 pills, one may find it hard to share. Don't want to run out unexpectedly, you know?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Heat Wave

Last year at this time, my family and I were shivering through the month of June in Shanghai, having left the already blazing hot and humid Macau behind. This year? I'm already walking down the street, feeling beads of sweat joining up with friends to form rivers while watching torrents of salty moisture dripping from the ends of my hair. I'm reminding myself of the promise I made while painfully shivering in the miserably cold (to me) Shanghai winter: I promise I will not complain about the summer heat.

This is me, not complaining. Instead, I'm gonna work my hot mess status like a tabloid queen. If I can do it without passing out. Water... please...


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

Hey Dads out there! Hope you have a great day!

Lots of love to the three most important fathers in my life...

My own Dad, Marty, who in addition to instilling a great love of Disney in my life (see below), is the perfect gentleman with a wicked sense of humor, a strong work ethic and character, and a great love for my Mom and us kids. He was the first person who taught me how to face challenges head-on and to pick myself up and make beauty from the ashes when things went sour. I never give up, because he never has.

 
My Father-in-law, Jim, who raised five children and is the most humble servant I have ever met. No matter how inconvenient, there has never been a single time that he's said no when I called in need of assistance. And he makes some incredible lemonade. Which I wish I was drinking here in Shanghai right now! (Photo from our last night in America during our visit in February.)

 
And of course, the father of my own children, Michael, who goes to crazy lengths to keep our family healthy, happy, and whole. We celebrated him yesterday on Saturday by going to a brand new Texas BBQ restaurant called Stubb's, based out of Austin, TX. Steaks and smoked, grilled, meats are expensive everywhere, but the price here in Shanghai means we don't eat as much beef as Michael would like. But June is a bonanza for him... both Father's Day and our anniversary plus a surprise date night on the first of the month after payday. Stubb's was amazing, and being right off our Metro line means I suspect we'll be going there more often (much to Michael's great joy!).
 
 
Once again, Happy Father's Day to all you dads and dads-to-be, as well as all those men who step in and positively influence a younger generation. You're doing a great job, so keep it up!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Passing the time

Whoa, has it really been over two weeks since I last posted? Apologies all around. Unfortunately, the Blogger mobile app on my phone has somehow changed a little bit, so any photos I post end up quite pixelated on the blog (and yes, I already played with the settings to make the photo quality higher, no change). I always have to go back in on the computer and upload a better photo (the same photo, actually, just uploaded via the computer). This takes some of the fun out of blogging on the fly while in a taxi or waiting for the train, and therefore the number of posts is going down.

There's that and then also I'm working like crazy right now to make up for my previous mess up which I posted about here. My deadline to get everything done is July 4, so you may not be seeing much of me here before then. When I'm done with everything I have to do, Michael has promised me a weekend away by myself to soak up some solitude and just write. I can't wait. I need it. As much as I need oxygen right now.

We've had friends in town this week from Macau, and we spent a very intensive two days playing tourist during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday. The city was packed with tourists (Chinese tourists, not foreigners) and all modes of transportation were clogged with people. We did go to Yu Garden, which is a gorgeous traditional Chinese garden dating back to the 1500's. It was a quiet and peaceful oasis in the middle of the noisy, crowded city, and a highlight of the week. Since it's not free (40 RMB, ~$6.50 USD on public holidays) it wasn't full of the tourists that filled the areas outside of the walled garden. I'll be back here on the blog again soon, but in the meantime here's me and my beloved in the garden: