Friday, April 29, 2011

Ma ma ma ma ma My Fiona (does anyone get that?)

Catching up on a few layouts. I'd like to introduce you to Fiona. She has been my sanity saver these past several weeks. Not just mine, but my kids' too. Whenever I wonder if the shaking I'm feeling is actually the earth under my feet or just inside my head, I look to my Fiona. She's particularly sensitive and is a quake barometer in our home.

This is my Benjamin Ficus tree. We like to name a lot of things around our house and she - yes, its a girl - is named Fiona. Seven years ago when we first bought her we thought that would be a good name. We love our Fiona.
Fiona doesn't get as much care as she needs, but she still seems to thrive in our home. When we first got her one of my students who is a professional gardener told me that Ficus trees are moody and hard to grow. Thankfully, Fiona is not. I don't know much about houseplants, but I know enough to give them water and a little fertilizer. I trim her branches every once in awhile if I notice she is looking out of balance. Even with such minimal care she grows and adds beauty to our home.
My kids love to decorate her. At Christmas time she gets a little garland and some small ornaments. Throughout the rest of the year she gets bejeweled with anything from hanging monkeys to plastic beetles. She is like a pet, a member of our family.
She is long overdue for a trim. My student happened to notice just how unruly Fiona has become so she and I agreed that on her first lesson in March she would give Fiona a professional trim. She warned me that I might be shocked how deep she would cut back on her branches, but assured me that she would grow back even thicker and more lovely.
That professional trim never happened. It was Fiona that first told me of the earthquake happening. I didn't even feel the shaking yet, but noticed that she was shivering slightly so I knew what was happening. As I stood there watching her, she started shaking uncontrollably as the ground all around us was shifting violently.
In the days and weeks following the initial quake there were so many aftershocks that we became dizzy. Its quite common, I hear, and this happens to my children and I a lot. Each time we feel as if we were shaking our eyes immediately look to Fiona to see if she is shaking or not. Then we know if its just us or if its an actual earthquake.
My gardening student is due to come this Friday for her lesson and she will give Fiona that trim. I know she needs it and I want to give her the best care I possibly can. I am so thankful for this overgrown, unruly, beautiful Benjamin Ficus tree - lovingly named Fiona.

 papers and elements from Terra by ViVa Artistry
page template from Fuss Free Artisana 2 by Fiddle-Dee-Dee Designs

This next one is a layout done a few months ago actually that appeared in the March 2011 edition of The Artisan Notebook. This is the phone that kept me in touch with the outside world after my computer was broken. This little device also has been such a wonderful blessing to me over the past few months. 

Magenta, fuchsia, plum, purple, wine, bordeaux, violet. Call it what you will, I love this color. Its strong yet feminine. Its playful yet serious. I can't even remember how many things I've bought just because they were this color. My husband and I went to the electronics store the other day because he wanted a new cell phone. He showed me the latest smart phone model he was planning to buy - it only comes in two colors, black and bordeaux. I wasn't in the market for a new phone, but as soon as I saw this one I just had to have it. It looks nothing like a phone traditionally looks - it looks like a slim new compact camera. I've had some people look at me like I'm crazy because I'm holding my camera up to my ear and talking into it! Its such a great toy. Its a cell phone, mini-computer, camera, game console, schedule keeper, internet browser all in one. And the best part is it comes in my favorite color!

papers and most elements from All About Me by ViVa Artistry and Microferk Design
page template is from Fuss Free Set Eight by Fiddle-Dee-Dee Designs
bright pink bow from Yes, its Spring by Janelle Mayanara
font is Jellyka, le Grand Saut

Its amazing how much we are blessed by some of the things in our lives. Both of these "objects" helped save my sanity and I am thankful for these little blessings.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A home bazaar

Yesterday was the bazaar and let me just say it was a wonderful success. How many women can you fit into 480 square feet? (that's roughly the size of my dining, living and tatami room area where we held the bazaar). Good question, and the answer is quite a few. I could ramble on here, but a picture is worth a thousand words so I'll let he pictures talk for themselves instead.

 a few of my waterfall albums

 handmade lunch mats, bags and pencil cases

 phone straps, necklaces, bead accessories etc.

 beautiful display of beaded rings

 more bags

 some knit caps, coasters, booties, etc

 more bags

 mats, hair bands, coasters and bags

 tissue cases, bags, bags and some really cute birds

 preserved flower arrangements

 more preserved flower arrangements

 Ice Flower blocks

 more bags and cases

 more preserved flower arrangements 


 more shoppers

and more shoppers

Thank you so much to all the ladies who came and bought our handicrafts.

And last, but not least, here is a picture of my friends and me. I want to thank them all too. I had so much fun getting together with them planning this (during our eyelash perms) and yesterday during the actual bazaar. We're planning on doing this all again in November, the Christmas version. Sounds like fun to me!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Laugh until you cry

I have a new friend, her name is Beth and she has five kids. My very dear friend Kerry has five kids too and I can never imagine how I'd manage with five. Forget eight, two is enough for me.

But I digress. A few months ago another friend had linked up to a post on Beth's blog on her Facebook page. I just happened to notice it and clicked over to read what all the raucous was about. What I found would brighten many of my days. See my little list of Favorite blogs down there on the left. One of the links is for Five Kids is a Lot of Kids. That's Beth's blog. When you have time, I highly - HIGHLY - recommend paying her a visit. She is a hoot.

The other day Beth was asking her own readers what more they would like to read on her blog. I couldn't think of anything else - just more. More please, more! You made me laugh on some of my darkest days, Beth. Just keep it coming!

Anyhoo, in her survey I just happened to mention that I have a blog as well and she actually come over for a visit. Something in my posts about the recent quakes and events in Japan struck a cord in her heart and she asked if she could repost a little bit of what I wrote. She also then lavished praises on my little ole' scrap creations for which I adore her even more.

I don't mean to lead you over to her blog just so you can re-read what I wrote here. I would just love it if you went over to her blog and laughed so hard that tears are running down your face. Its definitely not your typical parenting blog. In my case that's good. I have volumes of books of expert advice and still I blow it royally on most days. What inspires me most is her humor and straight-forward ferocious love of her children. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry. Please, head over there and spend the next hour or so laughing.

Oh, and definitely don't forget to click on her international singing debut track from April 13th. I have a 12-year-old girl too and just the threat of singing this to her has nipped all car-sickness in the bud.

Hugs to you Beth. If you can laugh and love this much with five, then surely I can do it with two. Thank you for so much inspiration! Hugs!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why we stayed

(For the record, part 2)

There's a lot of talk around Tokyo these days about those who left in the panic of the first few days after the earthquake and those who decided to stay. The Japanese word for foreigner is "Gaijin" it literally means outside person. When the nuclear crisis first came to light there was a panic all around, both in the foreign community and amongst Japanese nationals as well. When faced with such great uncertainty that could very well be a life or death situation, many people decided to leave. Sadly, those in the foreign community who left Japan at that time have been dubbed as "Flyjin" or foreigners who fled. I'd like to note that it was not only foreigners who left. Many Japanese people arranged to stay with relatives in other areas of Japan as well.

Fear of the unknown, fear of just the possibilities and the worst case scenerio was enough for many people to pack up and leave. Some at extraordinary cost and sacrifice. Prices for tickets paid at the airline counters in Narita and Haneda airports were in some cases 10 times higher than usual. I heard of people paying $5000 for a single ticket in economy or $8000 in first class when that was all that was left for a one way ticket to the west coast of America. Usual prices for this time of year are less than $1000 for economy.

For the record, I don't blame any person who made the choice to leave. I seriously considered leaving as well. There were several days that I would wake up - after a relatively fitful and sleepless night - in a complete state of panic and want to leave. My husband was supportive of this decision, but wondered if it was really necessary. He was a great comfort and anchor to me in those horrible days. Even in those times of fear and doubt, when I thought of going home to America, there was never peace in the decision to leave. My children and I could have gone to my family in America (not for $8000 a piece though...) for the two weeks of spring break. It would have been a rushed and panicked visit and we would have been returning to Japan when the situation was still ongoing anyway. Without a doubt, my family and friends in the states absolutely wanted us to come home. We had offers for refuge from friends and family in other locations in Japan, New Zealand, Italy and China as well. We are so thankful for each and every offer we received. Thank you all!

Or we could stay, save our money and go home during summer holiday for a longer and more leisurely - definitely a more relaxed - visit instead. No matter how much my head wanted to get away and go home, in my heart there was no peace with that decision. The day finally came when I just told myself that we would stay. Until ordered out by the American Embassy we would stay. From that moment, there was peace in my heart. Over the next few days I thought a lot about this. Why? The only reason that fits, the only one that gives me this sense of peace, is that God wants me to be here.

A dear friend of mine and I were "talking" on FB when she so lovingly complimented my strength in the face of crisis. I didn't feel strong - I still don't. Here is what I replied, "A friend of mine and I were talking last night about what kind of witness would it be if we just left our Japanese friends and family. God calls us to represent Him in all places and situations. If I am to show that He is with us in the crises then I have to be here too. If ordered to leave we will, but for now I want to give His smile, His touch to the people around me. " It's absolutely not my strength that keeps me here.

Its not so easy to just pick up and leave your home, your job, your children's schools, your friends and family. All this when you don't honestly believe it is necessary. I don't blame anyone who left Tokyo or Japan during this time. I was there too, but just couldn't take that final step. I hope no one thinks less of those who left, or for that matter those who decided to stay.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

While you were sleeping

Actually, while I was computer-less and not tied to the news wondering if we should evacuate, I actually did some more paper scrapping. There is such a thing as too much information and after I got my fill, I turned off the TV and scrapped.

I mentioned that a few friends of mine and I will be hosting a bazaar later this month. I made quite a few more waterfall albums and I even made two real pages! They are quite generic but you just gotta love Basic Grey and Prima.

Whoever is the lucky buyer of my pages - wink wink - can put any photo on the page and can even change the photo from time to time. All they have to do is slip their photo into the postcard-sized clear photo pocket. I was able to find some frames that are about 3/4 inch deep at a local shop. The color was not so appealing so I sanded them down and repainted the frame. At least I hope someone will like these enough to buy. But if not I'll just keep them for myself.


Thanks so much for stopping by. Please come back soon!

Friday, April 8, 2011

For the record

I don’t keep a diary. I keep most of my memories instead on scrapbook pages. My blog is about my scrapbooking, so here is where I choose to record my small version of the events of March 11th, 2011. I record this more for me than for others. Because I don’t want to forget. Not that I would. Its not something you forget, much like “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” “Where were you when the space shuttle Columbia blew up?”

Four weeks ago today, at 2:46 p.m. I was home alone, brushing my hair and refreshing my makeup in the bathroom. My work starts from 3:30 on Fridays so I was getting ready for my students. My children get home from school around 3:00. I heard a noise, like a scratching on a window screen. My kids and I sometimes play little pranks on each other when the other is unsuspecting, so I thought my son had gotten home a bit early and was scratching at the window screens near the front door. I kept hearing the noise, expecting it to stop and for him to come in. But the noise just continued. I put down my brush and starting walking toward the front door. It was then, and not until then, that I noticed my Benjamin Ficus tree in the living room shivering. “Hmm, it must be an earthquake,” I thought. You see I’ve been here 19 years now so I have become a bit immune to the little shakes that go on sometimes. The shaking had stopped for just a bit, so I was about to go about my happy little way.

As I was standing there watching my tree, the real quake came. It might have been sudden, but in my memory it all happens in slow motion. My tree – lovingly named Fiona – started shaking in earnest. But it isn’t so much her shaking that I remember, I remember the sound of the walls around me, the ceiling above me. Creaking, groaning. My dining table just to my left shaking, the shaking growing more intense by the second. I was ready for it to stop. I kept waiting for it to stop, but it didn’t. At some point, I no longer felt safe standing there, but had no foresight to run outside. So I ducked under my dining room table. I was on my hands and knees, waiting, waiting for the sound – the horrible sound, the shaking – the endless shaking to stop. I was holding on to my dining room table legs to keep the table over me. It’s a very sturdy table, but it was wanting to make its way across the floor, as if it too were trying to run away. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but the next thing I remember was screaming out to God, “Oh dear God! Make it stop! Oh dear God, where are my babies. Oh please, please keep them safe!” The shaking, the creaking, the groaning continued. Tears streaming down my face. Where were my kids? Why was this taking so long to end? And then it did. The shaking of the earth had stopped, but my own body could not. Shaking, crying, praying. I ran out the front door. I needed to find my children.

As soon as I was outside, I was surrounded by other mothers in my building, holding their babies, searching for their children returning from school as well. “Oh wow, that was so scary! Are you okay??? Is your house okay?” That was all we could talk about. Just then I saw my boy. My boy! He came up the walkway, smiling just as he always does. “Cool! Did you feel that?” he said. “Yeah, I felt it,” I answered. “I was over there on the bridge. It felt like I was surfing the ocean at first. But then it really starting rolling like a wave and I got scared and ran off.”

Oh thank you God. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for keeping my boy safe. Thank you for sending your angels to hold that bridge up. Thank you!

Back in the house about 10 minutes later. My son and I had calmed down quite a bit. His positive and carefree attitude is contagious and I was feeling better. We had survived. We were safe and as far as I knew at the time the worst was over. Enter my daughter, a little bit late getting back from school. As soon as she walked in the door she started screaming and crying. “I was so scared mommy. I thought I was going to die. I thought I would never see you again.” Just those words opened up my own tear ducts again and all I could do was hold her and cry with her. She told me that she was still in her classroom when the quake struck. The kids have earthquake drills all the time so they know exactly what to do. Duck down, get under your desk. She and a friend were chatting at her desk. When the quake struck, the teacher screamed out, “Get under your desks!” Her friend ducked under my daughter’s desk. All my baby could do was put her head under her chair. She was scared – she told me she was scared that she would be crushed and all that would be left of her was her head. Oh that girl has such an imagination. I wish I could have been there with her. I would have gladly shielded her from anything. At least I could hold her now.

Thank you God. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you that my baby girl is safe and back home with me. Thank you that her school walls were strong enough to hold up around her.

It was after all this that I finally thought about my husband downtown. Surely he was okay, but I needed to tell him that we were okay. Just a quick text message would do. But landlines, cell lines, all communication lines were jammed with millions of people thinking the same thing. I didn’t get in touch with anyone for hours.

I knew my family in America would be worried about me and I needed to let them know we were okay. It was finally at this point that I went to my bedroom and was going to sit down at my computer to email them. Where was my computer??? It’s a desktop, but it wasn’t on my desk. The quake had shaken it off and it was on the floor, crashed upside-down. I put it back on the desk and tried to start it up, but it would not even power up. Well, crud. Here was the sole casualty in our house – my computer. I needed to get in touch with my family – or they would be worried sick.

I was able to get on Facebook from my Android phone. My niece is on FB as well, and I wrote on her wall that she needed to tell Grandma and Grandpa (my mom and dad) that we were okay. She proved invaluable to me over the next few weeks. Without a computer I spent hours typing into my Android FB application, giving and getting updates. I have never been so thankful for a phone, so thankful for a social networking site in my entire life.

 It is at the same time both comforting and eerily disturbing to see that the rest of world continues to function normally even when I cannot. Everything seemed to stop at once. And the things that did continue on around me I can barely remember. I could not communicate freely. I could not breathe without fear. But at least I could live. I could not feel the passing of days as they should be, only living from one fear or one relief to the next. My wall was covered with fearful and tearful messages. In reply I received so much love and support, without which I do believe I could have disappeared into a dark cave. But my friends and family kept me afloat, they kept me informed, they kept me warm with their virtual hugs. Some far away were even more frightened than I was and I found myself comforting them. In encouraging others I too found strength. I found my determination to stay and grow. There are still uncertain times, but - at least for now - my panic has subsided and I feel the passing of time again.

A boiling Spring sea
ate my land. The people grieve.
Still, blossoms will come.
(haiku by HeatherT)

all papers and elements from Douceur by Laitha Designs at The Digichick
font is DJB So much to Say

 At times life is wicked and I just can't see the light
A silver lining sometimes isn't enough
To make some wrongs seem right
Whatever life brings
I've been through everything
And now I'm on my knees again

But I know I must go on
Although I hurt I must be strong
Because inside I know that many feel this way

Children don't stop dancing
Believe you can fly

lyrics from Don't Stop Dancing by Creed

all papers and elements from Spring Love add-on by ViVa Artistry
page template from Spring Blooms 2 by Busy Bee Designs
font is DJB So Much to Say

  "This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life." - unknown
papers and elements from Wishes, Hopes & Dreams by The Digichick Designers
page template from Easter Baskets by Busy Bee Designs

Thank you to my family and friends for hundreds of prayers breathed, not only for Japan in general but even specifically for myself and my family. Thank you to my family and friends for giving me updates from the foreign standpoint. Thank you to my family and friends for not thinking me completely crazy when I decided to stay. Thank you for keeping me sane. Thank you for your hugs and prayers. I love you.

Thank you for bearing with me as I  write it all down.