My last 300 days in Japan

The next 300 days will be busy.

 

300 days sound like a long time- it’s almost a year, after all.

However, when you love where you live but have a departure date looming it will go by faster than you want.

 

I highly doubt I’ll ever have a chance to live here permanently, even though I’d love to.  My Japanese level is lower-basic, and I write so slowly that I might as well say I can’t write at all. I consider this “it” for me, so I need to be diligent to do all I want to do while I can.

We have been lucky enough to have done all the major things we wanted to do by year 2 of our 4 year tour here, even when I got cancer about a year and a half in. I didn’t let being sick stop me because I wanted to soak up all I could from this country.

Before we even touched down in Tokyo my husband and I had made a bucket list of things we wanted to do and accomplish while here that ranged from the (now) mundane, like using a drink vending machine, to the incredible, like reaching the summit of Mount Fuji.

So, now what? What can I do with 300 days? I’m sick a lot post-cancer, so I have to accept that there’s no way I can fully use every single one of those days.

We’ve done all the big things on our bucket list, but my mind is racing with all the little things I want to do, buy, see, taste, and experience.

Most of those are related to experiences with our friends and are also linked to the prime photo seasons here.

Fall has already come and gone, so I have late winter and early spring (ume) and spring (sakura) to look forward to.  It’s a truly magical time of year… there’s nothing like it.

I want to (maybe) visit the Harry hedgehog cafe in Roppongi, but over the years I’ve struggled with the whole idea of buying into animal entertainment.

Beach at Yoron

Empty beach at Yoron

David hasn’t been to a maid cafe yet, though I’ve been to plenty.

We want to scuba dive in Okinawa. We dove in Yoron, a teeny tiny island near Okinawa that locals say has more cows that people.

Yoron is different that Okinawa, though. It is in a different prefecture, has a different culture, and has different marine life. However, it was incredibly beautiful and quiet there and most days it was just the two of us on the beach.

We still haven’t been to the Skytree or Tower Tower (I know, I know- shame on us).

Those are our big “to-do” items left on our list. That, and stocking up on all my favorite Japanese products and fashion before we move.

 

Time is ticking….

 

What do you like to do before you move?

Do you have any tips about things that were on your “must do” list while in/visiting Japan?

 

Advertisements

Makeup for Thyroid Patients/Super Dry Skin-Product Test (Continued- with Holy Grail find)

Got dry skin? REALLY dry skin? Me too….

I’ve been diligently pursuing my “holy grail” products since June 2016 and it has been a frustrating ride, to say the least.

I have some updates, though, and wanted to share to keep other dry-skinned brothers and sister from wasting money like I did.

All of these are YMMV, of course.

If you want to see my first round of product testing here’s the link.

A quick rundown of my situation:

  • Super mega crazy dry skin
  • Cool pale/classic ivory
  • Slight redness mainly on cheeks, chin, and nostrils (possible mild rosacea? My derm didn’t agree, though)

Now, to the data!

To pick up where I left off, there were some products I wanted to try.

Wishlist: 

  • Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse
  • Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid
  • L’Oreal True Match Lumi 
  • MAC Face & Body

Here’s my verdict on these:

Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse

  • I found this to be a pretty good drugstore foundation for my situation.
  • However, it was still a bit too dry.
  • I found this to be medium coverage
  • The color match was good, and the texture was good, too.
  • I kept this, but am actively trying to sell or trade it because I found something better.

Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid

  • I couldn’t get this in my location, and I gave up in terms of testing this brand

L’Oreal True Match Lumi

  • This was a good foundation if your goal is sheer coverage, but I was looking for medium to full coverage
  • I was not a fan of the color N1-2. I found it to be too dark and there’s not a ‘cool’ in this particular product.

MAC Face & Body

  • I was told by a local makeup artist that this would be too sheer for my goals, so I didn’t bother trying it.

My new favorite store: Sephora

I expanded my wish list after I learned about Sephora.com’s amazing return policy.

They will fully refund any unused or gently used products with or WITHOUT the original manufacturer box and return shipping is FREE from USPS. 

Considering my location this was my best, most economical option.

Here’s my tests from Sephora. I must have been too focused on taking notes on these that I forgot to take my own photos- sorry about that!

All tests included my full skincare routine, a gentle exfoliate with a konjac sponge and primer. 

1. Makeup Forever Ultra High Definition Stick Foundation

Initially I thought this was one of my Holy Grail products, but after a few wearings I accepted it just wasn’t meant to be.

MUFE Ultra HD Invisible Cover (Sephora.com)

*115=R230 Ivory

*Medium to full coverage

*Tested with Maybelline Babyskin primer and Laura Mercier Foundation Primer-Hydrating

*I tested with and without color correcting my red areas. I found that it did cover the redness pretty well, but not fully

* Pretty matte by the end of 8 hours

*Didn’t seem to cling to dryness, or my peach fuzz

*I didn’t like the feeling of how thick and heavy it was, even though it can be sheered out with a blender

*$43

Verdict: Return

2. NARS Sheer Glow

I hated this foundation. I really, really wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t.

NARS Sheer Glow (Sephora.com)

*Mont Blanc  light with pink undertones

*Sheer coverage

*Tested with Maybelline Babyskin primer and Laura Mercier Foundation Primer-Hydrating

*It really attached itself to dryness and peach fuzz

* The color was a bad match for me

*$45

Verdict: Return

3. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

This was another product that I really wanted to love, but couldn’t stand.

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation (Sephora.com)

*3.75 Fair with Rosy Undertone

*Really sheer coverage

*Tested with Maybelline Babyskin primer and Laura Mercier Foundation Primer-Hydrating

* Took 2 layers just to get so-so coverage

*The color was too light for my skin tone

*Clung to any dryness and peach fuzz

*Didn’t seem to want to blend well (at least for me)

*I didn’t like the fragrance. It smelled nice in the bottle, but I tend to avoid putting products with fragrance on my face, as it makes my red cheeks sting.

*$42 for the TRAVEL SIZE!

Verdict: Return

4. Laura Mercier Silk Creme Moisturizing Photo Edition Foundation

-sigh- another product I wanted to love, but my skin had other plans.

Laura Mercier Silk Creme Moisturizing Photo Edition Foundation

I also thought this was one of my Holy Grail products for lighter coverage days, but in the end I just had to accept reality.

*Rose Ivory

*Moisturizing

*Tested with Maybelline Babyskin primer and Laura Mercier Foundation Primer-Hydrating

*A bit too sheer

*This seems to be buildable, but for my skin texture and condition building layers of makeup just doesn’t result in a good look for me. YMMV, of course.

*My redness shined through, even with color correcting (though I could have just been using a poorly pigmented color corrector at the time)

*Totally my fault, but I ordered a shade that was just a tad too light

*Clung to my dry patches and peach fuzz

*$48

Verdict: Return

——————————————————————————————————–

Are you ready for my Holy Grail foundation? 

Well, it’s not technically a foundation..but I digress.

After trying a lot of Western foundations I decided to research and test a Korean product.

I found a BB primer that was medium to full coverage and included Hyaluronic Acid, which is a product that promotes moisture and lubricates tissue and is found naturally in the body.

BEHOLD….

Missha’s  M Perfect Cover BB Cream with SPF 42 PA +++

Missha Perfect Cover BB (from Misshaus.com)

I wish I had known about product before. This would have saved me so much trouble and frustration!

*Provides great coverage, and covers my redness without color correcting. Even better coverage when I do color correct.

*Tested with Laura Mercier Foundation Primer-Hydrating and The Body Shop’s Drops of Youth Wonderblur (not a fan of the Wonderblur, too hard to work with)

*Cruelty free

*Scented… which is a bummer for me, but not a deal breaker. This scent is light and disappears during the day. It also somehow doesn’t irritate my red cheeks.

*Limited colors, so it’s only an option for fair to medium tones. I’m a Western Ivory, but Missha’s #21 Light Beige is a tad too light, and #23 Natural Beige is a bit  too dark. I’m mixing them to get a better match.

*CHEAP! This cost me less than $20 USD a tube.

So, as of 9/1/2016 this is my Holy Grail in terms of foundation/base.

WHAT.A.JOURNEY.

Have you found your Holy Grail product yet?

Skincare and Makeup for Thyroid Patients/Super Dry Skin-Product Test

I’m on a mission to find the most hydrating medium-to-full coverage makeup for extremely dry skin…starting with drugstore brands.

If you’re in the same situation as I am I hope you’ll join me on this journey and let me know what has worked for you!

About me:

2 years ago I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and had my entire thyroid removed.

My life has been turned upside down ever since.

I once had normal skin texture with no redness,  hair that didn’t fall out, no dry scalp, and a body that responded to exercise and diet with the appropriate response (weight loss/muscle gain).

Those days are over, apparently… and 2 years later I’m just now starting to come to terms with it.

Lately  I noticed that my skin looked awful in cosplay photos- it was dull, dry, and made me look way older than I really am.

This made me seek out some new information and help on how to choose makeup that isn’t a heavily advertised Japanese BB cream.

I needed something that matched my skin tone and moisturized my now desert-like skin.

I’ll warn you- these images could be disturbing to those who have an aversion to dryness!

About the photos:

  • All applications are on a clean face with PCA moisturizer and Maybelline Baby Skin pore eraser primer underneath.
  • No undereye concealer except for the Skinfood that I had on hand. It’s the wrong color- I’m kinda new to this whole “color correcting” thing.
  • Photos are taken with my phone using the “daylight” setting on my vanity mirror
  • Today I bought Laura Geller’s Spackle primer, though I’m not sure it will make a difference in the end result.

A quick rundown of my situation:

  • Super mega crazy dry
  • Cool pale/classic ivory
  • Slight redness mainly on cheeks, chin, and nostrils
  • Current mood: embarrassed. Thyroid skin is such a hassle!

Skincare:

First things first. I needed a good skincare routine.

Seeing as I never had skin problems before and always just bought whatever the Clinique rep recommended (a generic, normal skin regimen) I had no idea where to start.

At first I was getting regular facials. I thought that was the first step. However, even with the hydrating facials I was left dry.

Then I went to the Korean district of Tokyo and blindly bought whatever the salesperson recommended.

He recommended sensitive skin products  without touching my skin. From a distance it still looks normal, so as you can imagine this was a total fail when I got home.

The only silver lining was that the kit included one of those super soft face brushes. I sold my failed skincare locally and moved on.

Then I bought a trial kit of PCA’s dry skincare products.

So far I’ve been able to stick with it, but I feel that there’s got to be a more moisturizing brand out there. If you have a suggestion, please comment! 

Makeup- the hunt begins:

Earlier I mentioned that my face is now dry. Unless you have a thyroid problem (hypothyroid, hashimotos, no thyroid, etc) then you may just be thinking “winter skin” level dry. Think again.

I am quite sure that my daily dryness is worse than the average person’s worst winter dryness day.

I started researching and found a few leads. I live on a remote military base with very limited products, so unfortunately some of the best suggestions online were nowhere to be found.

I did find a few to test, though.

 

1. Maybelline Dream Velvet Soft Matte Hydrating foundation

Maybelline Dream Velvet Soft Matte Hydrating foundation

The general rule of thumb based on my research is that if you have dry skin that you want to avoid a matte base because it will make your skin look dull and more dry. I found this to be true, but this was marketed as “hydrating foundation” so I decided to give it a try.

These are my notes from the application: 

 *Doesn’t blend well with dense brush

* Sits on the really dry places

* Feels nice overall, light and doesn’t feel tight

* Lasted about 2 hours before I felt like it got a dull, matte look (it was a soft-matte, after all, so I wasn’t surprised).

Verdict: Changed to Toss

 

2. Covergirl + Olay Facelift Effect Firming Makeup
My Notes:

*Exfoliated

Covergirl + Olay Facelift Effect Firming Makeup

*Same blending issue- doesn’t take the dense brush well.

*Used fair tone, might be a shade too light

*Doesn’t seem to cover redness or take the translucent powder under my eyes very well.

*Rubs off when I blow my nose , sweats off

*This felt dry and cakey to me

Verdict: Toss

 

3. Neutrogena Nourishing Long Wear Makeup with tone correcting complex

 My Notes: 

Neutrogena Nourishing Long Wear Makeup with tone correcting complex

*Blends somewhat with the dense brush. Had to finish with finger tips.

*Feels nice overall, light and doesn’t feel tight

*Kind of deals with my redness

*Has a seriously matte finish, though

*Most expensive of all the foundations I bought

Verdict: Toss

 

 

 

 

 

4. Covergirl + Olay Simply Ageless 3 in 1 

I got frustrated and thought I was maybe imagining the redness I kept seeing so I did a half and half makeup comparison.

My Notes:

My right: Neutrogena Nourishing Long Wear Makeup with tone correcting complex My left: Covergirl + Olay Simply Ageless 3 in 1

*Half and half CG+Olay Simply ageless (my left) and Neutrogena (on my right)

*Hard to tell since I’m new to this whole makeup thing, but seems to look more hydrated/shiny/dewy compared to the other side.

*I liked the feeling of the CG, so I’m going to try it again with my new Spackle primer.

*It seems to have more unfavorable chemicals than I’d prefer

Update: tried it with the Spackle primer. Nice and dewy at first, but I felt a change after about an hour or 2. I’m going to give it a go today and see how it does. It’s not tight or flaky..yet.

Update 2: I didn’t realize it at first, but this is a scented product. The third time I tried it I didn’t use any of the other skincare items I was using before because I suspected they caused the tingly redness on my cheeks. Nope, this product made my cheeks kind of tingly and red all by itself.

Verdict: Changed to Toss

 

 

5. Covergirl CG Smoothers

My Notes:

Covergirl CG Smoothers

*Didn’t blend very well with brush. finished with hands.

*Dried really matte, feels dry, but not as dry as Neutrogena.

*Doesn’t help with tone evening, cheeks still red even before adding blush

 

Verdict: Toss

 

 


 

Here’s a few I want to try. They’re unavailable in my area, though, so I’m going to try to find them on Amazon.

Wishlist: 

  • Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse- I have tried this since this post and it’s kinda awesome- I’ll update this post later with photos and a review. 
  • Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid
  • L’Oreal True Match Lumi- I have also tried this. I feel it’s so-so, but still a keeper. I’m not a fan of the N1-2 shade, it’s kind of dark on me. I’ll update later on this, too. 
  • MAC Face & Body

 

Have you found the holy grail of foundations for us super dry skin types?

Do you have a favorite skincare brand that I should think about buying? Please let me know!

Some Surprising Facts About Everyday Life in Japan

As a foreigner I’m constantly aware of how different Tokyo is from where I’m from in America.

Here’s a few facts about my daily life in Tokyo that most people wouldn’t notice unless they get a chance to live or visit here.

You might be surprised to learn that:

  • Crows are humongous here, and are known to swoop down and take small pets. I’ve even seen them attack people if the person has food.
  • You can find a vending machine almost everywhere you go. There you can buy hot and cold drinks, some depending on the season. In the winter you can buy hot canned corn and sweet bean soup, and they’re delicious. It’s not very expensive, usually less than 200円 (less than $2 USD), but those costs do add up over time if you’re on a budget.
  • There is a convenience store at almost every corner, and the food they sell is not only cheap and edible…it’s also delicious.
  • But… you can rarely find a trash can once you leave the store. People carry their garbage with them until they get to the next こんびに (convenience store) or train station, etc.
  • Many Japanese people do not use paper towels in the kitchen, they use washable cloths. They also call paper towels “kitchen paper.”
  • Most homes do not have a dishwasher.
  • Homes usually only have a clothes washer, but not a clothes dryer. Most everyone hangs their clothes and bedding out to dry.
  • It is more convenient to ride a bike, walk, or take the train than it is to drive and park. (within the city, anyway). Parking costs money and paid parking lots with an open spot are sometimes hard to find if you don’t have one of the fancy car navi systems that shows you open lots.
  • In Tokyo most Japanese people hurry- even employees. They will actually run to go open up their cash register,  help a customer, etc.
  • Often English is used as a novelty… not as an indicator of what kind of business it is. For example, there is a place near me called “Flamingo Saloon” with an old-west style sign. It’s a hair salon. This can be very confusing for a new person who can’t read or search online for services in Japanese. There’s a learning curve, for sure, and sometimes that curve is going to the place, realizing it’s not what you thought it would be, and leaving.
  • You can find the kcalorie content on pretty much everything, and sometimes it’s even listed on the menus. This helps when trying to decide what to grab to eat when you’re out and about.
  • Inanimate objects “sing” to you, or make other such noises…and I love it. My rice cooker plays “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when you turn it on and when it’s finished cooking,  my hot water boiler plays “Fleur de Lise” when it’s finished boiling,  the trash truck plays a song the entire time it’s driving, the floor waxing/buffing machine in the train station also plays a song… the list goes on, and on. I think it’s really interesting and pleasant.

Of course these are just a few examples of what  I’ve experienced while living here. I  might jot down a few more later, or write a new post about it. I’m not sure yet.

What did you find surprising when you lived in or visited Tokyo?

Added 3/12/16

  • Japanese packaging is so easy to open- from onigiri to shipping boxes. It’s very convenient!
  • Surgical-style face masks. How could I have left this out of my original list? People wear face masks for many reasons. Sometimes they’re sick, sometimes they’re worried about getting sick, and sometimes it is due to allergies.
  • There are so many choices for shampoos and conditioners that many drug stores will sell trial sized packages of most of the popular brands on the shelf.  This is great when you’re not sure what to buy-especially if you can’t read all of the package. It is very cost effective compared to buying a large size of a product that you might end up not liking.

 

Losing Erik to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease/Chronic Renal Failure

You might have stumbled upon this because you’re searching for information about feline chronic kidney disease (CKD) or chronic renal failure (CRF). You might be frantically reaching out for any bit of recent-real-life information like I was.

I want this information to be an account of what happened to our family and to our sweet boy.

It happened so fast, and he exhibited only a few of the physical symptoms that vets tell you to look for.

Even on his very last day the vet wasn’t sure that it was time just by looking at his bright eyes and cheerful, active body language and attitude.

But it was time. And I want other people to learn from our experience.

In mid-August 2015 our battle with feline chronic kidney failure began.. only we didn’t know that’s what was happening.

I took details notes about his symptoms, behavior, and the resources I found, so I thought someone else might find them useful.

I included our story and also specific examples of behavior like eating, litterbox, etc. If you’re more interested in that just scroll to the bottom.

RESOURCES

Before I share our experience I wanted to be sure to provide this well known site that thoroughly discusses feline kidney failure.

This online guide was essential as my husband and I learned how to care for Erik throughout his disease. It also helped us prepare for what it would be like to euthanize a pet and what we should expect, since neither of us had ever experienced that.

I highly recommend reading every inch of this website.

Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease

 

TIMELINE

August/September:

In August our otherwise big, healthy, loving boy had been hiding from us. Erik loved people, though, so he eventually came out and sat on his heating pad.

I went to cuddle him as usual and felt his paws and ears- they were almost ice cold. He was alert, sitting up, and showing no signs of distress. I fully expected he had a cold or something very minor, but I still took him in right away.

When we got there they said his blood pressure was dangerously low and that he was severely dehydrated, which came as a huge shock to us. How did this happen? What was wrong? We still don’t know what happened.

They gave him fluids and ran blood tests, ultrasounds, and x-rays. He was back to normal and they sent him home with us that night.

At that point I thought maybe he had acute kidney failure, but to this day I have no idea what would have caused it, as there was nothing that he appeared to “get in to”, eat, etc. and we don’t have any dangerous chemicals in the house.

He was perfectly fine from then on. Like it never happened, until a few weeks later I noticed he was drinking more water than usual. He and his brother always loved to play in the sink and the bathtub, but this was different somehow.

I thought he was just not wanting to drink from the fountain. Their water fountain was old, so I thought maybe buying a new ceramic one might help.

It didn’t. He was constantly  jumping in the bathroom sink and tub.

Then maybe 3 weeks later I noticed he appeared to be losing weight little by little. Then later the obvious food-pickyness started. Erik LOVED to eat. He loved all kinds of food and was an adventurous eater. But when he started to turn up his nose at even his favorite foods I was concerned.

During all this time he had a few followups and  I had been researching the symptoms. His blood work was normal. At his first episode I thought he had liver problems, but the vet said that was not the case.

October:

Then, 2 days before we left for our vacation in October I noticed more pronounced weight loss around his spine and hips.

The food pickyness had gotten worse. His attitude never changed. He wasn’t laid out, he wasn’t lethargic. He wasn’t crying or showing any distress…but he was dehydrated again and his BUN and creatine were stage IV kidney failure.

Erik needed to be hospitalized and given IV fluids and observed. We cancelled our vacation and visited him every day of his 12 day hospitalization. He didn’t want to eat until we visited.

He was released after his blood work seemed stable. He would bounce stage II and III depending on the day of the blood work. We started subQ fluids at home after that.

November:

Around mid-November I noticed he was a little wobbly. He was still walking, but he just didn’t seem as sure footed as usual. I thought it might be because of his weight loss.

His coat was still bright and soft, though his fur was a bit spaced out where we were giving him his subQ fluids.

Erik had  to be hospitalized a few more times between October and December. The vet tried hormone therapy, but he didn’t respond as well as we had hoped.

IMG_9753

Erik loved to snuggle

At one of our followups the vet also discovered that he had severe anemia that had not been present in previous blood work. This surprised everyone because he never showed the tell-tale signs of anemia except for the slight wobbliness.

Since he slept with us we lowered our bed to the floor to make it easier for him. We tried everything we could think of to make his daily life easier. We kept him warm and tried to bring things to him so he didn’t have to do too much.

We were presented with a last-ditch option- a transfusion. At first we said no, because it was highly invasive for both Erik and his brother, and it was only going to give him a few more months, at most.

After thinking about it we did try it. And we are glad we did. It gave us almost 2 extra weeks with him. In those 2 weeks even though his health quickly deteriorated he remained bright, loving, and cheerful.

December:

He had one major seizure 5 days before we said goodbye. Though he was awake he was rigid and urinated freely. It lasted only a few seconds and he acted like nothing happened afterwards.

In his last week he was passing blood in his urine in both large clots and in liquid, and the vet said that was to be expected due to his condition and the recent transfusion.

He had very small seizures, too, but I don’t remember how many. My husband would whistle and sing to him and we’d pat him until he seemed like he could see us again. We think that he had high blood pressure at the end, as well.

Next he started bleeding from his gums a little bit. I knew it would be happening soon, so I was doing everything I could to help my family emotionally prepare.

Erik loved to sleep on my chest and 1 day after the light bleeding started I woke up to find blood on my chest, my face, the comforter, and his little chin. I was too shocked to panic, and he just looked up and me and smiled, snuggling against my face.

I wrestled with my gut vs. my heart. I couldn’t believe it was time. I wanted more time. I needed more time. But when we saw him go to the litterbox then come back and lie down, turn his head slightly (as if he was having a light seizure) and cry my husband and I rushed him to the vet and prepared ourselves.

Making the decision to say goodbye when your pet has such a will to live but his body is dying is the most painful experience of my life so far. He was not ready to go, but his body would not have lasted much longer. CKD cats can go peacefully on their own, but the likelihood of him having a heart attack, more seizures, and other episodes like that was just too much to risk. Neither of us wanted him to suffer more than he already was.

It seems that, for us, his kidney failure related anemia is what took him. He could no longer filter his own blood.

In the end he had lost at least 2-3 kg. We actually didn’t ask what his weight as at his death, but I know he was a fraction of the big, beefy boy he had once been.

Eriksgoodbye

Saying goodbye

This is the last photo we have of him. As we waited for the vet to arrive we sat in the car to keep him away from unnecessary stress.

Shortly before it was time to go inside he weakly reached over and put his paw on my husband’s hand, gripping it tightly. Erik-chan loved to grip us when we held his paws or held him in general, so this was a special moment for us all.

I wish we could do more for him. I wish there was more that can be done for every cat who gets this condition. I want there to be other options, and I hope they’re available in the coming years.

Progressive, degenerative diseases with no cure, both human and animal, bring sadness and loss wherever they’re found. I hope that someday that will not longer be the case.

 

AT HOME CARE

We gave him nightly 200 cc of nightly subQ fluids. He received 1 kidney pill and 1 vitamin daily (both Japanese medication) and was usually such a good boy about taking them.

I would sit behind him, placed my hand through his arms so my arm was on his chest and my hand could tilt his head back.

Throw the pill in there, and blow on his nose or put water or food on it to get him to lick and ensure that your cat swallows the pill.

At times Erik was the master of stashing the pill in his cheek and spitting it out when I wasn’t looking, so just make sure it’s been taken. To be sure I started giving him a treat afterwards. If the pill fell out we started the process again.

LITTERBOX

I’m including a bit about the litterbox because I didn’t see this in any of my research.

Once the nightly subQ treatment started Erik started using the bathroom more frequently. I expected that due to the nature of the therapy.

He flooded the litterbox, which we read about but didn’t know what to make of it until we saw it.

What this meant was that he urinated to often and so much that it meant we had to change the litter much more often. Almost daily. To avoid this we added a layer of baking soda and litter. Then we placed a cheap dish-drying tray on top of that and covered it with litter.

That seemed to work well and prevented us from changing it so much.

Another thing I had never see before was the way the urine “leaked” through regular hefty trash bags, but it never had before. We used the same bags as we did before he got sick, but once his condition worsened we found that the urine literally leaked through the trash bags.

We had to double bag and put it in a cardboard box just to make sure nothing got through as we were changing the litter.

EATING

Eating became an exhausting daily battle of trial and error.

IMG_1589

We tried buffet style daily to figure out what he would eat.

Every day was different. I bought baby food. I bought kitten food. I bought every kind of canned food available to me. My family is stationed overseas so we didn’t have many options, but I bought them all. I tried everything to get him to eat.

He rejected the recommended Science Diet KD and Royal Canin. He would nibble if I added tuna juice, but that’s all. He wouldn’t eat much of it.

I baked chicken, and he wouldn’t touch it. So I bought a turkey and baked it. I found that he would eat bits of roasted turkey if I sat by him and hand fed him. Then he stopped wanting to eat that, too.

Eventually I decided to try Japanese wet cat food. Same thing- I bought 1 of every small can.

We found that he loved the Japanese version of Sheba and he heartily ate that until he left us.

KIDNEY TRANSPLANTS

Depending on where you live kidney transplants may be an option. I am in Japan, and this is not a common procedure.

I found 1 university several hours away from me, but they said due to his age and advanced kidney failure that a transplant would be much more risky- that he would likely die from the operation instead of kidney failure.

If you can catch it early and find a medical school or clinic that will agree to do this you might consider it. It is expensive (I was quoted something like $15k.), but at this point I was desperate and didn’t care. I just wanted to try my best to do everything I could for my baby.

 

SOME PHOTOS OF ERIK-CHAN

Rest well, sweet boy. We love you so much. You brought us almost 11 years of joy, love, and laughter.

 

 

 

Our Visit to the Famous Kitsunemura (Fox village) in Japan

Kitsunemura, 蔵王キツネ村 or Fox Village near Zao in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan is now world famous thanks to bloggers, so naturally it was on the top oIMG_1519f our Japan bucket list when we learned we were moving here.

Mainland Japan has 4 seasons, the best being fall and spring. Summer is hot and humid. Winter is okay, but I don’t particularly like being cold.

For us, a well-timed trip is key to our overall experience. Making the journey only to find that you’re either too early or too late to see the seasonal flowers or trees kind of puts a damper on the trip’s mood, so I’ve been faithfully checking the foliage reports in Miyagi and Twitter posts from that area for the past month to see what the trees looked like.DSC_1231

 

I finally found a US holiday that aligned with the foliage up north’s schedule (the leaves turn later the farther south you go), so we took the
opportunity and went.

We decided to drive, which was about 3.5 hours and cost 8212 yen going there, and 7630 yen coming back on the toll roads.

If you decide to take the shinkansen it will be much more expensive, but that’s up to you. You’ll need to arrive at Shiroishizao Station and take a cab to the village. Just spend a few minutes googling and you’ll find several articles that provide detailed instructions on how to get there by train.

DSC_0941With only a week’s notice, I was fortunate enough to find  a very nice, reasonably priced ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) with an in-room hot spring and included breakfast, which allowed for my husband and I to enjoy onsen together.

DSC_0965I’ve been told by Japanese people that it is very rare to find a mixed-gender public hot spring (onsen) these days, so I thought it was a nice luxury that we should try.

The breakfast at the ryokan was delicious, the onsen made our skin feel unbelievably smooth, and the crisp mountain air made for a refreshing break from our fast-paced Tokyo lives.

I wish we could have stayed longer. Or that we could go every month. Or.. just live there.

 

The staff members at both the ryokan and the fox village were very kind and accommodating. Granted, we communicated in elementary Japanese, so I can’t speak to how well they could assist foreigner guests.

I’m not sure about the hotel, but I know that kitsunemura has seen many, many foreign guests over the years.

If you speak zero Japanese, just be prepared to try to use hand gestures, writing, or however else you can think of to communicate if you find that the staff member you meet doesn’t speak or understand much English.

Kitsunemura has over 100 wild foxes living in a large, open space with plenty of room to hide, play, eat, and sleep. They also have a small petting zoo with lots of rabbits, some minature horses, a few crows (?), guinea pigs, and small goats.

There has been some visitors who felt the animals were not well taken care of, but when I was there clean water was abundant, the animals all looked happy and those who were awake were curious, wild, and playful with one another.

I feel like the staff at kitsunemura aim to take excellent care of all of their animals. and I was pleased with the experience.

Overall… 10/10.  We both really enjoyed the ryokan and onsen, and who couldn’t enjoy watching wild foxes play and lounge in a large, natural habitat? 

The logistics, you ask?

Total run down:

Tolls: 15,842 yen. About 3.5 hour drive from northwest Tokyo.

Gas: ~ 8,000 yen

Hotel: ~21,000 yen

Kitsunemura: 2,000 yen + 400 yen fox cuddle experience

Omiyage (souvenirs): 1,500 yen

Meals/road trip snacks: ~4,000

And now, for adorable kitsune (fox) pictures! (mix of iphone and dlsr that my husband and I took)

Just click the thumbnail to view the full image.

 

 

My First (and Last) Time to Skydive

In August I had the opportunity to use an event credit I had with a local adventure club, so I decided to use it towards skydiving.

Yes, skydiving.

It has been on my bucket list since I was in middle school, and even though I’m terrified of heights I thought I should do it if I had the chance.

The problem is that my husband exceeds the height and weight limit of skydiving companies here in Japan, so I had to go it alone.

Even though I really wanted him to be there I thought it would be no big deal to go by myself. We had just climbed to the top of Mount Fuji 2 weeks before, so I was sure this would be easy.

Except, it wasn’t. The whole language barrier thing kind of poses a big problem when you’re about to jump out of a plane at about 4,000 meters.

The day started by all of the club members arriving at Fujioka station early in the morning. This is a very small station and the closest store is about a 10 minute walk. It was so early that the store wasn’t open yet, so I started walking around foraging  for breakfast.IMG_0792

Luckily I was able to meet and talk with an older couple who owned a hardware store. My Japanese speaking ability is intermediate, but I was able to ask them if they had any snacks for sale.

Instead they gave me a bag of pastries and snacks and wouldn’t let me pay them. I told them I was skydiving that morning and they wished me good luck and sent me on my way.

I ran back to the station so I could be sure to catch the shuttle to the jump site and made it just in time.

So, we arrive to the site and we get the safety briefing in English. No problem. All of that was very clear.

What wasn’t clear is what would happen once inside the plane and how it would happen. You know, the logistics of who would go first and whatnot.

They were doing back to back jumps that day, so while everyone else was geared up and in the plane I was standing out waiting on my teacher to parachute down, unhook from the last jumper, and hook on to me.

By the time my teacher hit the ground he literally ran to me, strapped my to his chest, and threw me on the plane- no introductions, nothing.

What I didn’t realize (and nobody told me) was that since I was the last person on the plane I would be first one off.

So, we’re up in the air. It’s a hot summer day. We’re all sweating and terrified. I’m sitting on a stranger’s lap and he’s trying to point out mountains and such as we rise higher and higher in this little tin can of a plane.

DCIM100GOPRO

About this time I’m thinking “hm, maybe I can still change my mind?” but at that same time my teacher threw the plane door open.

What happened next was somehow both simultaneously instant and in slow-mo. The door flew open. I’m thinking “oh, that’s a nice view” but then I realize he’s PICKING ME UP. I guess I’m supposed to be moving by myself at this point but I’m frozen and confused since I didn’t know I was going first.

He sits me on the edge of the plane. I still don’t know what’s happening. Then he throws us out the door. Untitled

My stomach goes up into my lungs. Then I realize I’m seeing the sky. I shouldn’t be seeing the sky. For several days after I thought we were having trouble in the air,  but now I think he was just trying to have fun with me. I was not having fun.

So, after what felt like 5 minutes of facing the sun he jerks my pack and throws me so that I’m under him, facing the ground.

Untitled3By this point I’m already confused about what just happened, it’s hot and muggy, and I’m free falling from 4,000 meters. There really is nothing like feeling the wind hitting you was you plummet towards the earth.

When our neon-green chute caught air we both jerked up  and thought I was going to vomit. But luckily that feeling didn’t last long.

The view parachuting down was nice. However, my teacher thought it would be fun to do some kind of turning left-to-right action, which I had to ask him nicely not to do because I already felt quite sick. IMG_0806

I was so thankful to hit the ground. Everyone else on the trip seemed to have a blast, and I’m glad they did. I, on the other hand, had a headache for the rest of the 1.5 hour train ride home and felt shaky for the rest of the day…but I did it!

I can attest that the sights, sounds, and feelings were certainly unique and something I will always remember, but once was enough for me.

What was the craziest/most adrenaline pumping thing you’ve ever done?