Getting Old Sucks (not me, of course, I haven’t had a bday for years!)

As I do NOT celebrate another birthday this week, I am surrounded by signs that everyone around me IS getting older and my body is starting to betray me.  WTF!  Dr. Ken was kind enough to work me into his rotation today after I procrastinated months to visit after suffering with shoulder pain.  Dr. K. informed me that, despite overall crazy good health, I probably had a “frozen” shoulder from taking a shove from the well-meaning dog who was jostling for premium positioning on my lap–my 60 pound lap dog that he thinks he is.  Now, in most people’s minds, especially children, “frozen” is cool and popular in the movie sense.  Not so much when that “frozen” settles in your shoulder restricting most movement and requiring assistance, Thank You Thom!, for clothing changes as needed.  What do people do who don’t have lovely partners to assist when the tough times hit?  I can’t even imagine that type of life and hope it never happens to me.  Scary and sad!

Bum shoulder=wine or Aleve but not both
Bum shoulder=wine or Aleve but not both

So, off to the Ortho Dude I go!  Thousands of dollars later despite having insurance, I will probably go through the MRI machine and get some cortisone shots as well.  Now, this also could well be the Curse of the Frozen Shoulder and Izaak was just a pawn in the bigger mystery of the universe.  See, my sis also had frozen shoulder(s) when she was my age, not that I age, so is this just coincidence or a family genetic curse???  Who knows but it hurts like hell and now wine or Aleve are my go-to’s for support to get through a happy day.  However, as the optimistic Dr. K. pronounced, “It could be worse!” So, living up to my motto from way back, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (shout out to Kelly Clarkson who sings it so well!), I will take my pain and put that happy face on it for as long as it takes to heal…WebMD says could take a year.  Blah!  Need to buy stock in Aleve and purchase my own winery I’m thinking.  Hmmm……

Just like the shirt says
Just like the shirt says “Happiness Rocks”

In the meantime, we enjoyed some awesome rock last night as KEXP sponsored a lovely evening of music played off the roof of Pike Place Market and featuring iconic artists:  Mike McCready, Duff McKagan (both from Pearl Jam), Barrett Martin and Mark Arm just banging it out with thousands crowding Pike Place Market on a lovely August evening.  Rock on!

We’re also gearing up for the kids (Baby Mia!) to come and visit us in Seattle over Labor Day–Children’s Museum, Aquarium and playground time galore.  Then, it’s off to Amsterdam for a week of urban fun on our fall vacation.  I foresee lots of biking and lovely photos to share with everyone.  When I tell folks where we are going on vacation, it seems like EVERYONE BUT US has already been to Amsterdam.  Time to catch up with the masses who all love it there.

A few days after we get back, my best friend Patti comes to visit with her husband Larry and we will show them all around our hometown as well as take the train to Vancouver for the weekend.  In addition to a burlesque show at our new favorite club, The Triple Door, we’ll just have to Ride the Ducks with them….SO FUN!  We do like to have fun wherever we go.  Damn, life is good even with a bum shoulder!

Day Four of Fashion Challenge is all about puppies and comfort

Lounging with the pups on a lazy Sunday
Lounging with the pups on a lazy Sunday

Sunday dawned rainy and grey…big surprise for a Seattle winter, right?  So, the fashion challenge today was finding something to wear that would be appropriate for puppy cuddling AND watching lots of football.  Very low impact and high comfort.  Warm, cozy, loose, and simple….tomorrow will be the start of a crazy work week and the outfits will have to actually be acceptable to interact with people on a professional level.  HORRORS!  But today, Thor and Izaak were my constant companions and their standards are quite low as long as I could quickly transition from bed to couch to quick trips outside to do their thing and get them back in out of the rain fast to get a biscuit.  Ahh…to have a dog’s life!

Wrapping me in warmness, this grey sweater cardigan has been my favorite for a few years and is always top pick for travelling on cold planes because it’s like wearing your favorite blanket but more socially acceptable.  To spice it up, I added a jeweled scarf that my daughter had gotten for me (again, she IS the stylist I can always count on) plus some super cozy black pants that are perfect for pairing with my faithful UGGs to walk the dogs in the rain.  People mock us UGG wearers but there is a reason that they NEVER go out of style and they cost so much–they are like walking in warm, dry pillows from heaven.  Seriously, I’m a huge fan though I admit they do look clunky.

Add some simple earrings and the cross necklace that I adore from a trip to Sedona many years ago and it was the perfect Sunday outfit!  Tomorrow, the Spanx goes on, the stiletto booties get dusted off and the work week begins.   Let the Fashion Challenge continue on!

Thor’s Incredible Improbable Journey

From his very humble beginnings in China as the runt of the litter, riddled with illness and unwanted by everyone including his mama, by all measures, Thor should not have even lived let alone be now enjoying life in Seattle.  Rescued by a kind expat who found him in the Shanghai stable where she rode horses, he was given a second chance at life.  However, she almost immediately faced a life crisis of her own when she had to leave China quickly due to personal issues.  She reached out via our apartment complex’s Shimao Riviera Facebook group that Thom belonged to and improbably we became foster parents to a Chinese rescue dog in July 2014.

Teeny tiny Thor barely weighed a pound when we got walks between James' legs
Teeny tiny Thor barely weighed a pound when we got him. Here, he explores walking between the legs of the giant, otherwise known as my son James.

Thom quickly started taking Thor to the vet to do whatever it took to nurse the little one pounder back to health.  I had been in the U.S. on business and came home to meet the little ball of fur that would steal our hearts despite all the odds against him.  Sequestered inside for the first few months as he got his shots, we were finally able to take him outside at about four months old.  Teaching him to climb stairs was vastly amusing and the look on his fuzzy face when he met his first cat, who promptly hissed at him, was priceless.  Of course when we found out that we were repatriating to the U.S. in October, we knew Thor had to come too.  Though we feared what a transatlantic flight experience would be like with a puppy, we prayed heavily and, miraculously, he silently sat underneath the seat and was perfect the whole trip to the point we were poking him to see if he was still alive he was so quiet.  Amazing!

What a face!
What a face!

Not that Thor is always perfect.  Last week, as we transitioned from our temporary apartment to our new digs in Seattle, he went through a “I’ll piss on Thom”  rampage every day as his teeny tiny bladder needs what feels like constant attention vs. his older brother, Izaak, who only needs walked a couple times a day.  Thor’s more of a “walk me every two hours or I’ll piss on you” type of dog.  Thom especially hopes his bladder grows stronger quickly as he ages but, in the meantime, water is regulated and walks are frequent.  He is just getting old enough to be fixed so, on Valentine’s Day as is our custom on this romantic day with our dogs, we will take him to the vet to be changed forever.  Maybe that will help?  Here’s hoping!

Cuddle buddies!
Cuddle buddies!

Thor’s brother, Izaak, our eight year old Vizsla who stayed with our daughter while we were living in China, has become his new chew toy and constant partner in crime.  Izaak has taught Thor to raid our trash cans.  They also just love to chew on toilet paper right off the roll-yum, yum.  Thor can only dream of getting big enough to eat off the kitchen counters and drink out of the toilets like Izaak can do if left unmonitored.   They love chasing each other, lapping the apartment.  Our neighbor below us doesn’t find it nearly as fun and pounds on his ceiling (with a broom??)  to show his displeasure.   Too bad grumpy person–dogs just LOVE to have fun and while Thor at four pounds doesn’t sound like the thundering herd, Izaak topping out at 50+ pounds probably does sounds like a small pony galloping around.   So sorry!  Thor has also become the consummate sock stealer and only needs a second left alone to take off and hide under the couch to chew on his ill gotten goods.  Our pet sitter, Madeline, found out the hard way as she must have left the dynamic duo alone for a few minutes, in which time Thor stole her socks while Izaak collapsed on our bed/pillows for a quick nap-check out this tag team of devious dogs below.  P.S.  Izaak chose Thom’s pillow to park his ass and I got doggy drool on my pillow.  Ahhhh, being a pet owner is fun.

Thor guards his stolen sock booty while Thor naps on our memory foam pillows
Thor guards his stolen sock booty while Izaak naps on our memory foam pillows

Shanghai Farewell Tour-US Citizenship for Thor

Thor is coming!  Thor is coming!  Back to the U.S. that is!  Our adorable four month old puppy, Thoraxis, has become a part of our family so when we found out we were headed home, my first thought was OH NO THOR CAN’T GO!  We hadn’t brought our beloved Viszla, Izaak, to China due to the expense and hardship it would take on his health being a big dog who would have to ride in cargo.

Izaak the Regal and Gorgeous Dude
Izaak the Regal and Gorgeous Dude

So, Izaak stayed home with Hannah and Mike to become Ollie’s (their Great Dane) brother from a different mother and he has loved his new family.  But, soon we return to Seattle and will welcome him back into our lives to walk and cuddle with–Izaak loves to spoon.

Thor The Magnificent Rescue Puppy
Thor The Magnificent Rescue Puppy

Luckily, we worked out the details with my company and Thor can now make the trip back with us.  He has gone through so much in the three months that we have had him.  Thom and James got him while I was in the U.S. on a business trip in July when he became available as a rescue dog.  The runt of the litter with health problems, he has now gone from a sickly one pounder to a healthy four pound bundle of energy with THE sharpest baby teeth.  After getting all his vaccines, he has now graduated to outside walks which we used to enjoy so much in Seattle with Izaak.  After being afraid of steps, both up and down, Thor now takes them with no hesitation and seems to at least tolerate other dogs he meets outside.   Good news for his cohabitation future with Izaak.

Thor looks so skinny when he's wet yet didn't fit into his cute outfit
Thor looks so skinny when he’s wet yet didn’t fit into his cute outfit

While walking the local streets, Thor looks right at home and plops down on the dirty sidewalks to rest intermittently because he does have short legs after all.  After stepping in his own deposit on the street, though, Thor had to endure only his third bath of his short life, which he desperately needed.  Now I understand completely why most dogs in China wear booties–after stepping into their own DNA and that of many other folks who spit and poop on the streets, you do not want that dog jumping on your furniture and sitting on your lap. YUCK!

Thor tries on clothes but alas he's too fat now
Thor tries on clothes for his new Northwest home-plaid shirt and sweat pants

I did find him the cutest outfit to wear (over Thom’s loud objections) that had a checked shirt and sweatpants, but found out quickly that he had grown so much that it was too tight.  After laughing at him falling over because he couldn’t move in it, we stopped the puppy torture and decided to regift it to my sister’s Chihuahua, Sierra Marie, who is teeny tiny and needs some cozy fleece to keep warm on those cold Midwestern nights.  We’ll just have to keep on looking for appropriate street wear for Thor to style in Seattle.  He needs to be a hipster to fit in at Stumptown coffee–he would look cool rocking some skinny jeans, suspenders and a bow tie… just saying.

Dogs Play in Shanghai Despite The “Rules”

So, residents in my apartment complex have obviously not been informed that the unofficial rule is you’re not supposed to have large dogs in China.  On our walk today around the property, we came upon the British Lawn, a large expanse of green lawn and trees-a really lovely oasis for us in the chaos of China, our very own small Central Park.  This morning, and perhaps every Sunday morning, it seemed that the British Lawn had been turned into a Shanghai Dog Park, complete with one guy driving his pooches crazy chasing after a remote controlled car all over the greens.  Super funny to watch Mr. Golden Retriever run ragged chasing the car until he finally said F*&K It and stopped, panting with his tongue hanging out.  Where’s my water, Mr. Owner???

Unfortunately, our new rescue dog, Thor, is teeny tiny and still waiting for to get all his shots so he won’t be seeing the light of day or playing on the lawn any time soon–maybe next summer, Thor!

Good idea, bad execution--no bags to be had in nice container
Good idea, bad execution–no bags to be had in nice container

Now, the complex does provide a container to provide Pets Poo Poo bags, but, of course, it was empty.  Thus, the pooches do their business whenever and wherever they want and the owners don’t really police it.  Watch where you step!  Take off those shoes at the door!

The Property “RULES” state:  “Do not walk your pets on the lawn.”. I guess if no one uses a leash and lets their dogs run wild, it’s technically NOT walking your pets.  Oh, and I have no idea what this rule means but am dying to find out: “Behaviors such as bare-backed are not welcome on the lawn.”. Hmmm…. could mean so many things if you think about it, all interesting.  I guess I’ll have to walk around more looking for bare-back activities..more to come.


I’d REALLY like to NOT die today!

So I don’t know if talking to yourself, silently usually, is a sign (and not a good one probably) but I find myself repeating a few mantras daily to myself.  I think that mantras are usually supposed to be calming and inspirational.  Perhaps soothing and meaningful spoken during yoga or meditation.  But, I live in China and have a new puppy so my mantras are more down to earth, usually screamed and sometimes with accompanying rude hand gestures:

Mantra #1-usually spoken to China drivers:  I’d REALLY like to NOT die today!

Mantra #2-always spoken to Thor:  PLEASE do NOT pee on me.  SERIOUSLY.  You have vampire teeth.  STOP biting me.

Yes, this is my life and I like it.  It’s complicated, messy (literally with Thor) and challenging, just the way I want it to be.

First, as to the “not dying today” mantra, when you live in China and walk to work, by the time I hit the first crosswalk and the bus is gunning for me and the scooter I didn’t see going the WRONG WAY on the street touches me and the car is driving down the damn sidewalk instead of the street, I am usually making my pleas to God.  I’m REALLY not ready to go yet–places to see, family to take care of, blogs to be written, etc. Give me more time please.

Yes, that's a car entering the crosswalk after driving down the sidewalk.
Yes, that’s a car entering the crosswalk after driving down the sidewalk.

Now, if I get hit in a crosswalk in China, I’m going down and I know it.  No bystanders will assist (not that people are mean here but they just don’t get involved) and no ambulance will come.  If I can’t limp or crawl to a taxi, which will never pick me up if I’m bleeding so why even try, then I’m toast.  Dead toast.  So, I’m nimble, look both ways and behind me to avoid getting hit and I pray ALOT.

Now on to Thor.  He really does have vampire teeth.  WHAT.  THE.  HELL.  When do those sharp little suckers drop out and he gets normal teeth?  Can’t come soon enough for me.

Thor The Vampire
Thor The Vampire

And he has a bad habit of peeing everywhere but the pee pads.  Yes, it’s a big apartment and he has little legs so maybe (and I’m giving him a HUGE benefit of the doubt here) he gets tired halfway to his room and he just has to let it go.  Okay but when he’s sitting on my lap all warm and cuddly and then I’m feeling a cold, wet sensation, that’s just not cool.  We had to take up all the rugs after he decided that they seemed like pee pads too and James stepped in poo on the kitchen rug.  While he was gagging, Thom scrapped the shit off his foot and washed it.  A dad’s job is never done!  Tough love Mom that I am, I would have told him to hop right on into the shower and wash it off himself. He’s 21 for God’s sake.   Guess that’s why Thom stayed home and raised the kids while I worked.  They are all the better humans for it.  Good job, Thom!

So, I’ll keep on dodging traffic and watching where I step, all the while repeating my mantras and enjoying this crazy life I lead.  Hallelujah!



It’s Human Eat Dog Festival Time

The headline in the Shanghai Daily reads, “Early dinner for lovers of dog meat”.  NOT. KIDDING.  It seems that there is an annual summer solstice festival in Yulin City in southern China where residents gather to eat dog meat and lychee in celebration of the longest day of the year.  This is so wrong on so many levels that I can’t stand it!  We didn’t bring our beloved Izaak to China with us because it was very difficult and a long hard journey for him to endure.  Now, while I miss him so much, I am feeling much better about our decision.

Many Chinese Dog Owners love and take care of their best friends
Many Chinese Dog Owners love and take care of their best friends

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is huge here and beliefs around what each type of food you eat can do for your body.  Apparently local residents believe that dog meat strengthens the body, especially in summer and ensures good health throughout the winter.  Man’s best friend elsewhere is just another way to prepare for the long winter ahead here.  I get that life in China is rough and that people will try anything to stay healthy but let’s just get these folks some Walgreens with OTC meds readily available and they can go back to enjoying their puppies as pets not meals.

Now, I see dogs everywhere I go in China and while they sometimes have pink hair or are wearing jogging outfits and booties, you don’t see dog meat on the local menus.  A co-worker did admit to having dog “hot pot” with a friend and told me it was considered a delicacy in some places.  He also said it was delicious.  I don’t think I’ve looked at him the same ever since.  Yes, I am judging you.

Animal rights activists have caught wind of the dog meat festival and are protesting.  The paper said that strays are grabbed off the streets and could have diseases.  Oh, so the animal rights activists are concerned with the effect on the people eating the dog and not really advocating for the dog???  Activists are also quoted as saying “the public backlash was damaging the image of Yulin and China.”. You think?  The local government only asked restaurants to take “dog” off the menus and signboards but did not ban the sale and consumption of dog.  So, if you are travelling in Yulin in the near future, as always in China, watch where you eat.  That could be Fido in your Hot Pot.