Grandma Through the Fence

Marian says she’s the “ugly old lady who lives on the other side of the fence.”

She is anything but ugly.

Her white curly hair is like a halo and her smile may be comprised of false teeth, but it is genuine.

Industriously, she hangs her laundry on the line before the sun comes up. The damp cone-shaped bras, floral bathmats and eyelet lace curtains are like a row of triumphant flags declaring her existence. I look for them each morning and let out a sigh in relief over my coffee when I see them.

When she saw me outside today, she called me over just to hug me. She kissed both of my cheeks and my forehead. She told me I was a good mom in such a way that choked me up.

She knows all of my children’s names and talks to them over the fence. Sometimes she brings them cookies and asks them about what they are imagining while they play.

She always accepts short-stemmed dandelion gifts – through the holes in the fence – as if they are prized roses. She tells me she has little dishes on her windowsill just for that purpose.

Marian loves raspberry tea.

She works the polls annually and knows the names of all of the neighbors in her precinct. She flips to their page in the signature book as soon as they walk through the door.

She has many fancy hats and seldom wears the same twice in a row to church.

She stalks my white lilac bush as soon as it starts to bud. At the first few blossoms, she asks for me to cut her a few so she can take to them to her mother’s grave at the cemetery on the hill. She died when Marian was 12. Marian found her. White lilacs were her mother’s favorite flowers.

When Marian was in her 40s, her husband died. She says God used her suffering to help her become more aware of the suffering of others.

Her son lives with her now, but I have a feeling that, even though she’s ancient, she probably fusses more over him than he does over her — “I am an independent woman!” she says, stubbornly.

She will talk away your afternoon if you let her. (Sometimes I have to interrupt and rescue the unsuspecting workers who come to do various tasks on her property.)

She is like a grandmother to me.

I love her.

March Giveaway Winner

Photo: Terry, Shannon, Matthew, Jessicca, and Nathanial.

Hooray! Shannon from Boise, Idaho is the March giveaway winner!

The theme for the March Giveaway was “burdens carried”. Readers were asked to leave a comment about a physical or metaphorical burden that they have either had to carry or was carried for them.

She writes,

Praise God for the burdens he has allowed me to go through and has lifted for me. Every burden or need has always brought me closer to God, and a great way for me to teach my children Gods true love.

Our most current burden was our move. We moved to a new state with no friends, no family and no church. After a lot of prayer we had a very successful move, have made friends, and found a great church. What an awesome way to teach my oldest, who is 11, if we place our worries, concerns, and fears on God he will carry us through.

There has been many burdens in our family the past few years, yet each one has brought us closer to God. My husband and I are closer than ever, and my family is safe and healthy. I wanted to thank you for reminding me to Thank God for the burdens he lifted for me today.

After her oldest began to struggle emotionally over problems at school, she decided to teach her children at home. They are very happy with the decision.

My oldest was becoming physically ill from the stress of public school. He is such a kind boy that he was made fun of and developed such stress over being teased that he would get headaches all the time.

My daughter had a speech problem, the school’s answer was to put her in a speech class. I then found out she was being taught Spanish instead of actually working on her speech. After using a charter school for a year, she was finally tested and we found she has Dyslexia.

Now, she loves to read. Her speech is clear (except when she gets excited), and she is finally understanding why she was struggling.

We have been homeschooling for 4yrs now, and I would never trade the time I have had to show my kids there real potential.

When asked what she and her family are looking forward to this spring, she said,

Being in a new state there are many things we would love to do. Idaho is a great place for families who love to do outdoor things, we hope to do a lot of hiking, fishing, and some gardening.

As teacher, Shannon used the web as a resource. She highly recommends

25 Random Things About Me

I was tagged on Facebook by my seven friends Christa, Susan, aka Mrs. Carlson, aka Susan “Whimsy” Carlson, Valerie-the-Wannabe-Pyro, Rebekah, Laura, Robyn “Pigeon” Vannoy, and Amy for “25 Random Things”. I was already tagged for the “16 Things” meme and there is no way I’m writing 25 additional things, so I’m only writing nine more! If you really want to read the other 16, click here.

17. This August, Tom and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. We were married in the Chapel of Atonement at the Church Farm School, a boarding school for boys, in Exton, PA. There was an extreme downpour between the wedding and the reception – which was at the Catranis’ house. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my wedding. It was the most relaxed, fun wedding I’ve ever attended to date. Potluck wedding receptions are the way to go! Secretly, I wish more people would get rid of the formality and stuffiness of their wedding.

18. My shoe size is 7.5 US. While I have rather small feet at home, in Japan, 24.5 cm is an L or LL size! It took me a while to find the only L size pair of house slippers in the grocery store bin. They are red felt printed with a calico-pink flower pattern. If you saw my slippers (see them while you can, because they are rapidly falling apart!) by themselves and tried to guess whose shoes they were (wouldn’t that be a fun bridal shower game?) you’d bet they belonged to the cute white-haired lady in the kitchen ;)

(Speaking of shoes, my favorites are my brown Nike cross trainers (shh! Sometimes I wear them in the house if the floor is particularly sticky!), my black ankle-high high-heeled zip boots, my vintage leather, 16 eyelet black Dr. Martens, my black satin pumps, and my strappy brown chunk-heels. My next shoe purchase will likely rain boots. Maybe a pair of Chooka Koi Tattoo Boots or perhaps these Autumn Rose Wellingtons from Victorian Trading Company?)

19. If I were to order a drink in a bar, it would likely be either Guinness,, Makers Mark Bourbon (on the rocks) or a Sapphire Gin and Tonic.

20. I am attempting to learn Japanese out of necessity. The best Japanese lesson series I have found is at JapanesePod101. I have Rosetta Stone and did learn some Japanese from it, yet I enjoy JPod101 so much more. If you are serious about learning Japanese, it’s worth it to upgrade to the full version which includes quizzes, online flashcards and multimedia to enhance your lessons.

21. Curry is one of my favorite foods to eat and to make. I love how curry is a mainstay dish all around the world, each location with it’s own unique flavor combination. The story of how curry was introduced to Japan is quite interesting. Incidentally, A Taste of India in Exton, Pennsylvania,is my favorite place back home for Indian cuisine. Their curry is lick-the-plate delicious.

22. I have never gone on vacation. Ever.

23. Complaining is one of my pet-peeves. The only exception is if something is genuinely wrong, and the goal is to find a solution or because the situation is bad enough that beer and hugs are required. FWIW, I also loathe nagging.

24. One of my goals in life is to build my own house. After living in Japan, the house would have to include some tatami rooms, hot-water-on-demand, a tub that overflows onto the floor, and a loooong kitchen sink suitable for gutting a small shark if necessary. Unlike my present house in Japan, it would have heat :) The kitchen would open up into the great room so that I would never be separated from guests because I had to check to see if the food was ready.

Tom has talked about having perimeter floors in our dream house that make the sound of birds softly singing when walked upon. Such floors are called uguisubari, aka Nightingale floors, and they were designed as an ancient security alarm to alert homeowners when ninjas are prowling about. Apparently, he walked on uguisubari while touring the Nijo Castle in Kyoto.

The house would also have to come with both flower and food gardens, as well as an orchard. It would need enough pasture for a dairy cow so we’d have fresh milk and I can make my own cheese, as well as and a creek for fishing.

The list goes on. I admit – I keep a scrapbook full of house ideas, complete with paint swatches, just in case this dream ever comes true.

25. Cleaning secret : I use a plastic garden rake to gather up all of the toys on the floor to aid with the cleaning process. This idea originated from my mother-in-law, who raised seven children and welcomed the neighborhood to play :) I find that (quickly!) gathering all of the playthings lessens the cleaning anxiety by creating a place to walk without having to step on little Legos, for example. It makes the mess seem less.

Tom… I ‘m tagging you. I have no expectations, but, I admit, I am kinda hoping you’ll play along and write up a list of your own.

Tagged by Diana on Facebook : 16 Things About You

I was tagged by my sister-in-law, Diana Tiebout Albrecht :) Who will be tagged next?? Muuuhhhahaa

The Rules:
Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 random people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you!

1. My Bible (NASB for those who care) is held together by duct tape. I know where everything is located, have many notes scrawled in the margins and love it so much, that I don’t want to get a new one.

2. I was homeschooled from 4th grade through graduation. Maybe this explains why I’m so nerdy? I love to learn new things, so I’m always into trying new things, making new things.

3. Non-fiction is my favorite genre to read. I am warming up to fiction, but it’s only with effort. It’s easier for me to appreciate a mundane true story than to try to spend time following a plot only to be disappointed with the ending. We are listening to the Harry Potter books on mp3, and I love them. Memoirs of a Geisha and Perfume: A Murder were some more recent fictional titles I have enjoyed.

4. I voted for Ron Paul in the Primaries. Yes, I’m THAT kind of Republican. I did not in good conscience vote for a major party candidate in the Presidential election.

5. While I’m not afraid of death (even wrote something to be read at my funeral) , and I’m thankful for the days I’ve already had, there are a few things that probably are “fear of death” related that make my heart pound, vision go blurry, palms sweat and dizziness to set in: Heights (I even have to hold onto something when on my step ladder), children too close to train train drop-offs, children getting hit by a vehicle (when I was five, I was one inch from being killed by a speeding car in the Macy’s parking lot – I still remember my braids flipping around and hitting me in the eye as the car went past), drowning (for all my swimming lessons, I still can’t swim) and accidentally breaking the law – police lights behind me make me feel like I’m going to throw up.

6. I’m married to someone who is the complete opposite of point #5. He’s not afraid of anything… except mollusks, stinky diapers, and parasites.

7. Strawberry Shortcake has been my traditional birthday dessert for as long as I can remember. The berries are perfectly ripe at the end of May. I add orange juice and sugar to the cut berries for the topping, the shortcake is the classic Bisquick recipe, and I top it with homemade vanilla whipped cream.

8. I never thought I’d have children. I have five of them, and I love them very much. They have taught me more about life in the past 7 years 10 months + 9 months gestation than I have learned up until that point. It was crazy to have “so many” children within such a short span of time, but at 28, I can no longer have biological children. God knew!

9. Writing is one of my favorite things to do. My major in college was Journalism, with the career goal of being a war correspondent.

10. I love flowers, and have been known to dig up and transplant all of the wild violets growing in my lawn just so that they don’t get run over by the lawn mower. I collect tiny jars just so I have a place to put the flowers my children pick for me – which always seem to have incredibly short stems! Last summer, I labeled every flower and tree at my house in PA with copper tags.

11. The Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements produced my favorite architectural styles.

12. Japanese Cherry Blossom by Bath & Body works is a fragrance that I wear almost every day.

13. I am a Bradley Method natural birth instructor. This is my favorite approach to natural birth as it gets your body ready for birth – you wouldn’t sit around and eat junk food if you knew you had to run a marathon nine months from now! It also trains the husband to be an advocate/coach in the delivery room.

14. I have a motorcycle permit. I will have to take my license test in Japan. Hopefully this spring? My helmet rocks. Riding our Shadow with Tom is one of my most favorite things to do.

15. I love my MacBook. Never thought in a million years I’d own a Mac, but I have come around. It is my favorite computer EVER.

16. Not too many people have two great sets of parents – biological and in-laws. I’m very blessed.

“Mark’s Here” – From My Dad’s Blog

This is an entry from my dad’s MySpace blog:

There are a few things in life that I’ve often have pondered and the mystery of it all is more than the human mind can fully comprehend. One of these mysteries is the death of a loved one.

May 31st 2007 this mystery unraveled unexpectedly as it came knocking on my door when we were told in the hospital waiting room that my Dad of 82 , who had been in surgery for 11 hours for heart surgery was having difficulties breathing on his own. We were told that the oxygen wasn’t getting through to his blood even though the heart surgery was more or less successful. Furthermore we were told that we should prepare ourselves for the worst. My heart sank but then I reached out to God who I knew held the keys to life and death. As I prayed I asked for His will to be done in my Dads life I knew that it would be best if I left it in his hands. My Mom lowered her head into her hands as she sat in her wheel chair and quietly sobbed as we prayed with her and reassured her that he wasn’t gone yet and not to give up. The minister prayed with her as well and tried to be of comfort. Who ever had cell phones placed calls to various individuals and support groups as we waited. The moments quickly progressed and then we were told by the doctor that we should go see him for the last time while he was still alive.
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