29 July 2013

It's Not Just for Teens... (Audio)

Our children are our greatest treasure, and they grow up with the examples that we, as parents, set for them. In Episode #6, Anush tackles a 50 year old post geared toward Teens, and turns it around to allow us to see how we can facilitate our children to rising up to their full potential. It's all Inside the Pomegranate.
Links: Pomegranate & Eye handmade jewelry by Anush
Avon Walk Team In Her Shoes Page
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
Look for Inside the Pomegranate on BluBrry
Subscribe to Inside the Pomegranate by Email
Get Inside the Pomegranate on iTunes

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It's Not Just for Teens...

This week, I wanted to talk about something that was posted on Facebook.  You know how it goes.  People post things, and if you like that post, you have the option of sharing it with your friends.  And although I understand what is being said in this small post, I was a little miffed by it.  I posted it up top, so please read and I'll tell you what I think.  

Now the fact that this article had no author sent up a red flag.  Is this for real? or just a phoney baloney fake aimed to get a reaction. I did some research and found this on the Huffington Post website.  It said, " According to a 2010 post on the newspaper's website (the Pierce County Tribune), staff members came across a clipping with a letter from Judge Phillip B. Gilliam of Denver, Colo., published on Dec. 17, 1959. The website seems to suggest that the letter originally appeared in theSouth Bend Tribune a few weeks earlier. The full text of what may be the original letter can be found on the Pierce County Tribune's website and it ends with different words than those presently circulating on the web but essentially says the same thing.  Basically, stop your whining and do something productive.  

Okay then...so the article is legimate.  So going back to it, what do I think is wrong with it?  I guess I found it somewhat hypocritical ...kind of a "do as I say, and not as I do".  As a parent, I think it's really important for us to understand that our children don't just have lives of their own. They don't just "turn out" the way they are.  Chances are, if we are agreeing with the letter above, then we have,  somewhere along the line,  missed teaching a lesson to our children somewhere along with road. 

There are many, many youth that are doing a LOT to change the world. For example,  nephew is just returning from a month in Armenia with a group of kids his age.  They have been volunteering their time and talents at an orphanage there.  How many of us adults can say that when we were younger we volunteered a month of our time?  (or can we say that now?) And why did they do this?  Most assuredly, you can bet that their parents were behind them teaching them the importance of giving back to their community. 

Last year I learned about Malala Yousefzai, a 14 year old Pakistani girl that was shot in the head because she dared to want an education.  Obviously, she learned the importance of learning from her father who is  a teacher.  I don't know if you've followed her story, but this is one courageous, unstoppable young woman.  Despite the fact that she almost died, she is out there today, speaking on behalf of those that are repressed and kept from reaching their full potential by being denied an education.

These are just two examples.  I'm not saying that ALL kids are doing things to help themselves and their communities, but many are.   Yet how any of us are doing all that WE can do to make the world a better place?  Or even making our communities better?  I've never been one to look down on the younger generation.  Our kids are a product of their environments.  Just like hatred, bigotry and intolerance are learned, so is complacency.   And so are compassion, caring, sharing, love, tolerance and kindness.  

So let's go through this:   The judge says, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons and after you've finished, read a book. Some of this I agree with.  When I was growing up, Saturday meant chores day.  My job was to dust (and let me tell you, I'm not a fan of dusting to this day!)  But as children, we knew that mom couldn't do it all, so Saturday was our day to pitch in and help around the house.  As we got older, our chores broadened to include more things.  And if we wanted to do anything on Saturday night with our friends, you'd better believe our chores had to be done.  At a young age, if we include our children in small family activities, I think they grow up feeling that they are an integral part of the family.  That their contribution to the family unit as a whole, however small they may be, is important. 

As far as visiting the sick, I know this article is meant for teens, but seriously, unless we as parents have raised our children with caring and compassionate hearts, this just ain't gonna happen!  Think back -- when was the last time that WE visited the sick?  And it doesn't have to be "sick" as in physical sickness, but what about someone that spiritually sick.  Did we bring Christ's love to that person?  What about the homeless?  Do you teach your children that they are just God's children as well? or do we avoid contact, hold your purse tighter, tell your kids not to look and move on?  If the latter is true, then don't expect your children to grow up visiting the sick.  If it's a foreign concept to you, it's going to a foreign concept to them.  

Now building a raft?  I don't know about that one, but the concept is to be creative.  I think it's so important to be creative.  Challenge our minds to start something and see it through despite it's floatability. So I agree!  But again, it's up to us parents to instill in our children that creativity.  Children are naturally curious.  When they ask us questions, even if they seem over the top, rather than brush the question aside with an "I don't know" or "You're asking too many questions, don't you have something to do?", what if we answered them with "I don't know anything about raft building, but we can find out!" and then help them see it through.  If they're young, take a trip to the library.  Find books with pictures, show them.  If they want to look on the internet, sit with them, learn alongside them.  This shows them that 1) you value their curiosity and praise them for it.  2)  you want to spend time with them, and 3) that the chances of you ever building a raft are totally remote, but it's good to have knowledge about this because you an apply it's principles to other projects that may come up in life. Knowledge is power...and the more you know, the more you know!

Study your lessons and read a book.  Now this one we know has to happen.  Studying lessons is important, but telling your kid to read a book AFTER he's just finished studying? Good luck with that.  BUT it can happen if at a young age we, as parents, have set the example of the importance of reading for enjoyment.  Now this is a hard one because now we have recordings of books that kids listen to.  With all the time on facebook and playing Candy Crush Saga, (I admit...I'm hooked!) who has time for reading?  Right?  But reading for enjoyment is such a great escape.  If we as parents can be the example on this one, we are furthering our child's abilities greatly.  The best way, I've found, to go about this is to introduce your children to books at a super early age.  I'm talking about when they can't yet read.  When they are infants.  Those little board books made for their little hands.  Yes, they can't flip the page, and yes, they will just put it in their mouths.  But that's what these types of books are intended for.  Lots of colors and pictures, and a book that your baby can call his/her own.  The act of putting your child in your lap and flipping through this little 5" square of colors and shapes, the action of flipping the page for a new surprise.  All of this translates into "Books are magic!"  And then when they get older, regular trips to the library with their own library card.  Find out when they have story time at the library, and take them to it.  I know what you're thinking, "Who has time for that?"  I know, we're all busy.  But when you take your child to story time at the library, you get to look around for books that interest you too...and then guess what? your child gets to see that Mommy or Daddy like reading. "I want to be like them!  I have my own books too!"  etc.  Make time.  Cut out some of the other stuff.  If you're taking the kids to McDonalds or Starbucks, make a quick 10 minute stop at the library along the way.  Bottom line...if we want your children to be good readers, they need to see US reading and putting importance on it as well.

Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. This has a lot to do with what I mentioned above.  If we can encourage creativity in our children, and the love of reading, they will never be bored.  This is the bad part about having your TV be your babysitter -- it stunts creative play.  Here's a good example. when I used to teach kindergarten and first grade, we'd start off the school year with all kinds of great stories, projects, activites, imaginative play, etc.  Come Christmas, some of my students would get play stations or game entertainment systems for gifts.  After that, their creativity and interest would come to a slow and miserable halt.  All they could think about what beating the next level and bonus points.  Creative play...what's that?  Homework would come in with minimal effort.  I could always tell which child received this "gift" because of the huge change. And these would be the kids that would be "bored" much faster than the rest.  Just something to think about when you're picking out this year's Christmas gifts for your child.

Okay, telling your child that you owe the world your time and talent so no one will be at war in sickness or lonely again?  Is this judge a parent?  That's putting so much pressure on our child. Rather than looking to our children for this, let's look at ourselves.  Are we doing everything we can to make the world a better place?  If we don't want the world to be at war, are we doing everything we can to instill peace?  Is our homelife peaceful?  Are WE living peace?  Are we helping our children to look at those that are sick, lonely, and homeless and teaching them that we are all God's children, and we all belong to one another?  Or are we telling them, "See that man there?  He didn't study and listen to his parents, and look what happened to him?"  I've heard that.  As a note, during our In His Shoes homeless outreach, we have met many educated people on the street.  We have regularly provided meals for a homeless man who is an MIT graduate from Ghana living in a box on the street.  A very sweet young man who has the misfortune of being born with a stutter,  he's educated, but "not employable" and is trying to work himself back into a normal life.  So you see what I'm saying.  Every story is different and it's not up to us to judge.

And finally the grow up and stop being a crybaby part.  We  don't need to tell our children to grow up.  They grow up too fast anyway.  In this day and age with the movies and TV that's out there, they are learning way more about "adult" subjects than is appropriate (in my opinion) for their age.  And while "crybabies" can be annoying, I think it's so important to hear our children, and be in tune to their sorrows and sadness.  Because our children are growing up in a society that is so fast paced, with peer pressure and you tube, and the world at their fingertips, being a parent can be challenging.  Do we know what our children are looking at on the computer?  Do we know what's going on in their lives?  When was the last time we asked our child who his friends are?  Do we know our child's friend's parents?  It's a fine line, I know.  We don't want to be the cop, but we can find this out in a loving way.  Sitting down together as a family at dinner is a great time to do this.  In my family, it was the one time during the day that we could all four of us sit down together and thank God for what we had, and discuss our day.  We would learn so much at that time.  By giving our children the time to talk, and giving them our full attention, we pick up on so much that is going on in their lives. In a relaxed atmosphere, they are more at ease to open up to sharing what is happening in their day to day lives. When we provide the stability of a sacred home life filled with God's love and compassion, we set a foundation for our children to reach their full potential of making the change that we wish to be a part of in this world.  We can do it...together...with our children.  

On a separate note, special thanks to all of you who are supporting us with your kind donations for Team In Her Shoes' participation in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  We'll be walking 39.3 miles to raise money for breast cancer research and provide mammograms to women who can't afford it.  
If you would like to partner with us, please visit our webpage at www.avonwalk.org/goto/inher shoes

Still smiling after 39.3 miles.  My husband Ned and a whole bunch of our friends and
family greeted us at the finish line.  I am a 2 x breast cancer survivor!

22 July 2013

Recommiting (Audio)

ITP Episode #5: On this week's episode, we take a look at goals. Are you too hard on yourself? Are you a perfectionist? Anush takes a look at commitments....and then discusses re-commitment to our wellness goals with a kinder, gentler outlook. It's all here, Inside the Pomegranate!
Links: Pomegranate & Eye handmade jewelry by Anush
Avon Walk Team In Her Shoes Page
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
Look for Inside the Pomegranate on BluBrry
Subscribe to Inside the Pomegranate by Email
Get Inside the Pomegranate on iTunes

Play Now: 


Hi there!  Happy Monday.,I just got back from a team training walk.  Today we set out to walk 10 miles again, but according to our GPS tracking, our round trip ended up being 9.3 miles.  Still, it was a great walk, and I got a chance to visit with two more team members today.  We walked from the Santa Monica pier, all the way to Marina Del Rey and back.  And saw some beautiful scenery, some local people and their usual Venice Beach craziness, and some incredible flowers.  If you're on Facebook, you may want to "like" our page called "Team In Her Shoes".  I posted photos from this mornings walk.

This week I wanted to talk a little bit about commitment....and recommitment.  I think it's good to kind of take a break right now, being that we're half way through the year already, and take a look at where we're going....and if we're still on track.  So here we go with this week's pomegranate seed.

I don't watch a whole lot of TV.  There's always so much to do and so much going on.  Now that we've caught up on all the past episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix, my time in front of the TV is not spent watching but usually either writing, blogging, paying bills, posting recipes or making jewelry at my work bench, which is in the family room.  My mom has been staying with us, and having me in the same room at least allows us to spend time together.

This past week, mom was channel surfing and turned on a show called Extreme Weight Loss.  This episode chronicled the weight loss of an Iranian guy that weighed over 450 pounds.  At first we thought he was Armenian, so naturally we kept watching but I was interested in this show because of this guy's genuine commitment to his self improvement.  His story was that he wanted to get healthy.  And then one of the things he wanted to do was to propose to his girlfriend, but in Persian culture, as in Armenian, he would have to ask the girl's parents for her hand in marriage. And for that he wanted to put his best self forward.  So he worked hard at it.  Diet, exercise...and in three month's time he lost 137 pounds!  So the months went on, he lost another 67 pounds and he was looking pretty good!  The show kind of chronicles a year in 3 month periods.  So during that second three months,  hes lost a significant amount of weight..is feeling good about himself, so he goes to meet with the girlfriend's parents (which they didn't show), and the parents said no.  Our guy is a DJ and a sound engineer, and I guess his girlfriend's parents told him they loved him, but wanted a doctor or lawyer for their daughter.  The guy was devastated.  And I guess shortly after this meeting he and his girlfriend broke up.

I'm actually getting at something here, so bear with me. So what ends up happening, is that in his depression, the guy falls back on his old habits.  His trainer lives in a different state and on a weekly basis, the guy weighs in on video showing his weight in to his trainer who documents his progress.  it's all great from the outside, except that it's a lie.  We find out instead of reporting his weight to the trainer, our guy is  manipulating the video and lieing to his trainer - panning the video of  him stepping on the scale and then only showing the weight on the display.  So this continues for a while, and then the time comes for the 9 month weigh in. The trainer comes back into town and notices his client is very down. He  asks what's wrong. And the guy explains...he broke up with the girlfriend, he turned back to old habits...and....he's been lying to him about the weigh ins.  He had put on over 45 pounds. If you could see the disappointment in the trainer's face...,and even worse, the disappointment in the guy's for what he had done.  The trainer felt completely betrayed at being lied to, and then here's the part that really hit home with me:  The trainer expressed his disappointment, but brought up the absurdity of the lie.  Why would he do that?  What would cause this guy to feel that he had to "be perfect"?  Why couldn't he just be open at the beginning of his downfall and ask for help before the bad behavior escalated?  Betraying one's self is the worst ever.  The goals he had set forth to achieve were not put there by the trainer, but by himself.  So why then did he feel this need to lie?  Does this hit home with any of you?  Because it did for me. Not that I lie about things...no. But this need to have to do everything right.  All you do is set yourself up for failure, because the reality is that not one of us is perfect.

 For the guy, it was probably the first time in a long time that he had been in the limelight.  He was his trainer's best client.  He must have felt that need to not want to disappoint him after getting all the positive reinforcement not only from him, but from his family and friends who saw his transformation.  Who would want to end that run on Cloud 9, right?

But the truth of the matter is that at some point, we've got to take resposibility for ourselves, TO ourselves. We have to honor our commitments to ourselves just as much as we honor commitments made to others.  We are the ones that choose our goals.  The discipline that is learned is difficult. The road is not easy.  But ultimately, if we're to succeed, we can't do it for anyone else...to please anyone else.

And it's hard to keep that commitment going.  In the beginning, we're excited about change.  So we kind of impress ourselves, in a sense, about the newness of our commitment.  But as the weeks, months, years go by, it's hard to keep things fresh.  And I'm not talking only about weight.  Think about new year's resolutions.  Did you have a resolution that you made this year?  Have you kept it?  This applies to everything from drug or alcohol addictions, to just making some basic changes to get out and exercise more.  Or to spend one on one time with family.   Or with God.  Whatever your goal is, it takes persistence and focus.

What undermines us...okay, what undermines me is that need for perfection.  The all or nothing thinking.  We start off totally commited to the change.  And then we slip up --  of course, right?   And the once we've blown it, even a little bit, do we immediately start over?  Or do we wait for a special day or after a certain event passes in order to start over.

How about this scenario: You start a diet first thing Monday morning.  You do great on Monday and Tuesday.  Wednesday, someone brings bakery madness to your office.  You have just a half.....but then you start feeling bad that you blew it.  and you think...hmmmm...it was so good.  I'll just have the other half...and then start tomorrow.  But tomorrow is Thursday.  And that's so close to the weekend.  And you know you're going to a party on Saturday.  So you may as well, start over on Monday.  You go to the party and it's like girls gone wild...you're "stocking up" because you know come Monday you start your diet.  Right??? C'mon!  I know I'm not the only one out here that's done this.  Wouldn't we have been better of if we just understood that life is all about the journey.  There are hills, road blocks, smooth roads...and it's up to us to figure out how to navigate and then still get to our destination feeling good about ourselves.

Okay....so this is the deal.  RECOMMIT.  And do it now.  Not one of us is perfect.  So let's not be so hard on ourselves.  It IS about the journey and not the destination.   I mean, seriously, God forgives us, right? So why is it so hard to forgive ourselves? The commitment to make change is never easy.  And don't compare yourself to others.  This is a real difficult one for me.   If you follow my other blog, the Journey of the Pudgy Pomegranate, you know that I have a friend of mine that is dieting with me.  I sabotage myself by comparing my success (or lack of) with hers.  And the funny thing is that I'm not competitive in anything else.  So we go to our weekly weigh ins and inevitably, I get discouraged by my tiny loss compared to her significant one.  But how can we compare? Aren't we created uniquely by God?  So why then should I compare my dead slow metabolic rate with someone else? I'm going to try really hard to "Commit' to stop that.

Finally, the most important thing -- and the reason for all of this desire for self improvement int he first place is the idea taking care of what God has given us. We are all given this beautiful gift of life.  A few years ago, I had to take a stress test and got to see my heart beating on the screen.  It was an epiphany.  There is was.  My heart that has been beating since the first day I was born...and had gone through so much with me.  I remember being in tears watching how amazing it was...and thinking about how I had abused it.  Think about it. Our bodies are miraculous.  And it's up to us to appreciate them...and take care of what God has give us so that our bodies can serve God.  Right?  So if you've made your commitments in the past but they've fallen by the wayside, it's not too late.  Recommit.  In your heart, we all KNOW what we need to do.  We don't need anything special. We just need to do what is right for us....and then roll with the punches.  I haven't given up.  Have you?  I hope not.   I've recommitted and I will recommit over and over again.  It's a journey - a good one!--and the destination is a healthy, happy life.

On a different note:  I know Father Vazken has shared with you all about my jewelry business, and I never seem to mention it, so I'll take this time right now to give a shameless plug.  I make handmade silver, copper and bronze pomegranate necklaces out of metal clay.  I got into playing with metals several year's ago, and have been having a lot of fun with it. First it was just silver....but after buying a kiln that opened up the door to work in copper and bronze as well.  I also make eye bead jewelry.  Yes, yes...the eye beads!  Do I believe in them?  Nope.  But I do love the way they look.  And Ive designed my own beads which I have made for my company.  The name is Pomegranate & Eye (because I make pomegranates and eyes, right?).  And you can find me on Etsy at www.pomegranateandeye.etsy.com.  So I hope you'll go check out the online store.  And I'm also on Fcebook as well as Pomegranate and Eye as well as just myself. : )

15 July 2013

The Yin and Yang of Parenting (Audio)

ITP Episode #4: Welcome Inside the Pomegranate where this week's episode will cover Pet Peeves and when to do something about them; the joy and beauty of walking, and the yin and yang of parents!
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
Look for Inside the Pomegranate on BluBrry
Subscribe to Inside the Pomegranate by Email
Get Inside the Pomegranate on iTunes
Visit Pomegranate & Eye Jewelry

Play Now: 

The Yin and Yang of Parenting

A few weeks ago, I kicked off this podcast with a special Father's Day reflection about my dad.  In so many ways, I think I'm like my father.  But this week, we celebrated my mother's 80th birthday.  I've been thinking a lot about the other half of the equation - of who I am and the influence of my mom in my life.  As much as I am my father's daughter; I am my mother's daughter as well.  As a young adult, I really noticed the difference between my mother and father.  I used to think  they were opposites.  They say "opposites attract", right?  Whereas my father was free-spirited and unconventional, my mom was the grounding force.  If dad said, "The sky's the limit," mom would say, "Yes, but within reason."  I have some reflections to share with you about the incredible woman that is my mom and how she has impacted my life.

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin and yang is used to describe how opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world - like male/female, light and dark,  hot/cold, life and death.  So all this time I was thinking of yin and yang as opposities of each other, but it's not about opposites at all.  It's about complementing one another. Not opposing, but forces interacting to form a whole, greater than either separate parts - something more dynamic.  Thinking about it this way, made total sense.  My parents' lives were complementary of one another - each bringing their best to the table to create something greater than either separate part.

Growing up, I thought my mom was the prettiest mom around.  Back in those days, those Jackie O days, mom always had the coordinated outfits with the matching handbag, shoes and gloves.  At 80, she is still very much like that in a sense, matching her purse and jewelry to her outfit when she dresses up for church.  I still think she is beautiful.  Not only in her beautiful outward appearance, but more importantly, on the inside.  I remembered a funny story about when I was a teen.   When I was about 14,  I was in my mom's room watching her get ready to go out on a date with dad.   I asked her how old I had to be before I could go out on a date with a guy.  My mom said, "About 16."  "SIXTEEN!?"  I thought this was so unfair!  Sixteen!  Why that was like being an old maid.  I cried  (seriously! I totally remember having a major melt down right there and then plopped on my mom's bed)  and I tried to talk her down.  She started laughing.  "Look she said.  You're getting yourself all worked up.  Go wash your face and blow your nose.  Why don't we worry about this when someone has actually asked you out.  Then we can talk about it --  when you actually get asked out!"  ::sigh::: I resigned myself.  There was no reasoning with her.   And so when did that happen, you ask?  When I was sixteen, of course.  Mom knew.

Both sets of my grandparents were genocide survivors.  And while most of my parents' friends were trying to fit into American life, my parents clung to their Armenian heritage.  My mom loved all things Armenian: language, poetry, dance.  And my dad.  They met at a party and it was that Armenianness that first attracted them to one another.  Mom said it was fact that he spoke Armenian - AND he played violin.  We can't forget that.

They dated, they got married, and in L.A.'s Armenian scene, they were known at the time for their Armenian dancing.  When they'd show up at Armenian picnics or church bazaars, the band would play their song.  They would dance for the crowd.  They loved dancing and the crowd loved watching them.  Dad showing off his fancy footwork to mom's coy and demure graceful moves (her Naz Bar).  Even after we were born, mom and dad continued to dance in the Armenian Folkloric Dance Ensemble.  Our childhoods were spent going to dance rehearsals and performances, helping them and the other dancers with costumes backstage.  For my parents, dancing was an art form --  preservation of our culture. My mom taught my sister and I that Armenian dancing for women was not about swaying hips and shoulder shimmies.  It was not belly dancing.  It was about grace and modesty.  I remember how she would practice - because I would try alongside her.  She would glide smoothly taking tiny steps on her tip toes.  She was always so graceful.  She would tell me that when you were on stage and had your costume on, the audience shouldn't see your footsteps..you should appear to be gliding..."as if on rollers."  To this day, though her arthritis keeps her from dancing, whenever she hears Armenian music she still gets that beautiful nostalgic smile on her face and she moves her hands and arms to the music, still ever so graceful.

Mom was the one that would tuck us in at night.  She is and has always been a woman of faith.  Growing up, whenever I'd be devasted by some earth-shattering teenage drama, it was mom that would calm me down and tell me not to worry.  She'd tell me to pray and trust in God.  We would pray as a family when we sat down to eat at the table.  We prayed when we got in the car to set off for the day.  She always maintained a sanctity in our home and our family.  As children, when she'd tell us that God's angels were present at our kitchen table, I'd imagine little cherubs perched on the corners, and whenever milk would spill (which with four kids was pretty much a daily occurrence), I'd wipe it up quickly so was not to get their wings wet.  But as I got older and became a parent, and understood the importance of sitting down together as a family, I understood what she meant:  God had blessed our family, and this sacred time that we had together - to share a meal together and our day's events together - were holy and should be treated as such.  This is something that I held on to as a parent making sure that we would all have dinner together as a family.

She loves our Armenian church.  On Sunday's we'd pile in the little economy car - our '72 Dodge Colt -- that she had. Mom and dad in the front, me wedged between my two grandmothers in the back and my brothers in the way back. I don't even remember where my sister sat, but I'm guessing she was sitting in my mom's lap in the front seat!  This was before car seats and seat belt laws.   My parents sang in choir, my brother served on the altar, and later I'd join my parents in choir too.  If we had a visiting priest at church, you can bet that mom would invite them to our home for lunch. Years later, when my sister started kindergarten, mom accepted a position as executive secretary for the archbishop of our Armenian church diocese - a perfect fit for her.  She loved it there and spent 26 years at that job serving her church.

My father was a musician, yes, but  my mother is an artist.  She loved to draw and paint.  But with four children, she didn't have time. But she did some fantastic doodling when she was on the phone.  And I would love to watch her.  She'd be discussing the day's events with my aunt on the phone, and the whole time she'd be drawing.  Usually profiles of people, or eyes, or clusters and clusters of grapes with leaves and tendrils, each perfectly shaded and highlighted all done with a ball point pen!  One day, she decided the living room needed painting.  That's when she brought out her paints and started her masterpiece.  She painted a mural of Mount Ararat and Massis on the living room wall.  It was great!  You'd walk into the living room and there it was . The snow-capped peaks of the mountains, framed by the Armenian highlands was the showpiece of our living room.  So many years later, when I've run into friends I haven't seen in a long while, inevitably, the Mount Ararat mural always comes up in the conversation.  It was memorable.

And finally, whereas my father gave of his knowledge and music to others, my mother gave (and still gives) of herself.  She is a very caring person.  And though I tell her, "mom, don't worry about everyone else!"  She does.  She remembers birthdays and sends cards with beautiful handwritten sentiments.  She carries her camera in her purse and will take photos of others after church so that she can make prints and share them with them.  "It will make them happy," she says.   And when she makes her famous blue-ribbon winning choreg for Christmas and Easter, she must make huge batches to share with her family, friends and clergy. When friends and family have prayer needs, they call her and ask that she pray for them - Mom has the hotline to God.   Whenever you go to her home to visit, when it's time to leave, she has to walk you to the door and stand there as you pull away.  This is done so that she can pray for you as you're leaving.  She's really the best.  She is a giver and one that will make you feel good with her thoughtfulness.

Today, because of mom,.  I am a woman of faith, a proud Armenian American.  I too love to draw and paint (and I'm a CRAZY doodler when I'm on the phone!) Armenian dance for me is still all about grace and poise; and my prayer list is always growing with requests.   And whenever guests leave our home, just like mom, I stand at the door, wave, and say a little prayer after them.  There is so much that we learn from our parents - either in lessons that they've taught us, or just as a products of our environment.   It's funny how life comes full circle.  I am proud to say that I am my mother's daughter  Happy Birthday Mom!  I love you!

08 July 2013

Lessons from the Garden (Audio)

ITP Episode #3: Welcome to Inside the Pomegranate where Anush Avejic uses applied Christianity to take a look at daily life through personal reflection.  Whether it’s reaching out to the homeless, gardening, parenting, surviving cancer, or wellness it’s all here - Inside the Pomegranate!
In episode 3, Anush discusses her wellness journey as well as the parallels between gardening and life. 
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Lessons from the Garden

A collage of photos from my garden
Last week I told you a little bit about my garden.  This week's pomegranate seed is going to be about some lessons that I've learned from gardening.

Since we moved to this home about 7 years ago, I have always had a vegetable garden.  The first year was good.  I had a lot of luck.  But in subsequent years, my yeild has just kind of dwindled.  We live in the foothills, and our soil is poor.  "Poor"  is kind of a generous word actually...basically, we grow rocks.  So I started thinking that in order to have a good garden, I'm going to need to replace the soil  And this led me to thinking about raised beds.   We had re-done our patio last year and had about 600 bricks that we couldn't seem to get rid of.  So one Saturday morning, I had the idea to just use some weed cloth, cover over the existing garden plot, and then create two raised beds by stacking the bricks we had.  It took my husband and I about 6 hours to get all the bricks moved and stacked, but it worked.  The weight of the bricks keeps them in place.  After creating two new beds, we bought organic soil and filled the beds.  It was such a cool thing to see the water drain into the soil rather than pooling at the surface.  My new beds look great, but would the garden be a success?

I planted 5 types of tomatoes, some Armenian cucumber, lemon cucumber, yellow squash, peppers, peas, beans and artichokes.  Now those of you who garden know that Gardening is all about FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, and BELIEVING.  Think about it.  We plant seeds with the hope that they will sprout and grow.  If we didn't believe in that process, what would be the point of planting a garden at all, right?  And then we have to nurture the garden, water it, weed it, help it along.  See if there are pests along the way and if there are, find ways to get it healthy again.

There are a lot of lessons here.  I can think of my soil delimma as life itself. Through the years, life can become less and less productive.  We can even grow rocks...or have hurdles that we face.  Sometimes, it just gets to the point where you want to start over.  Whether it's something as major as starting a new career or changing a lifestyle, we may or may not have that choice.  But one thing that is offered to us, simply, and profoundly, is the opportunity to receive Holy Communion.  Receiving the body and blood of Christ after self-preparation, is a chance to receive a fresh start.  It's a chance for us to stop and evaluate our past and what didn't work.  And then to start anew and try again.

The next lesson is about support, friends, and being anchored in your faith.  My peas sprouted and grew about 7 inches.  It was time to stake them up because their long stalks need support.  They have these curly little tendrils that reach out to grab on to whatever they can.  I put a  support system up and some of them grabbed right on.  Some of the plants weren't close enough to reach the support,  and so they grabbed on to other plants.  If the plants they grabbed on to where supported, they grew up okay.  If you had two unsupported plants holding on to one another, they toppled each bringing the other down with their weight.  The support is our faith.  If we have a firm foundation in our faith, when we grow weak, we can rely upon it to help keep us up.   Sometimes we can even carry our friends with us when we are firm in our beliefs.   If we follow the true principles of our faith, meaning love and compassion, of course we will be there to offer a hand up to our friends that may have lost their way.  But if we try to do it on our own, we may be okay for a while, but eventually the weight of life itself becomes too much and without support, we find ourselves falling.

Just because it looks healthy, doesn't mean it is.  I have some very pretty squash plants.  They look green and they are flowering, but the flowers die and fall off.  I have yet to get one squash.  And then again, I have the saddest looking lemon cucumber plant.  It's lost all it's leaves but one, yet it will flower and produce fruit....slowly, but it does it.  This lesson?  Don't judge.  Life is not always as it appears on the outside.  It's what's going on on the inside that counts.

I also planted some Bird Nest Gourds.  These are ornamental plants that you can hollow out to create bird houses.  I thought it might be fun, so when I was planting all the rest of the garden, I planted some of these seeds as well.  I watered.  Nothing.  My other plants sprouted and grew tall.  No gourd sprouts.  I lost faith in them.  I thought it must have been a bad batch of seeds or maybe the birds ate them.  And then about 6 weeks later, they sprouted!  Surprise! Another lesson.  Don't give up, don't lose faith.  (I need to call on this lesson for my weight loss plateau...I know).

The Armenian cucumbers....I was all excited when Home Depot had seeds for Armenian cucumbers.  I gave them the prime location in the garden.  Right in the center of the bed.  About 10 days after planting, they popped up.  And yes, they grew.  But they have not yet fully taken off.  it's been 4 months now...and they are still about 3 inches high.  Some of them flower, but no fruit.  I have no clue what's up with them.  But the lesson here:  We're all the same.  Doesn't matter if it's an Armenian cucumber, or my sad little lemon cucumber.  A cucumber is a cucumber and I love them both equally.  : )  Oh, and I haven't given up on them (and I won't!  I know someday soon they're going to thrive and grow and  surprise me!  Til then, I'm keeping the faith!)

Prune!  No not the fruit.  But the act itself.  When your leaves get shriveled, and non-productive, it's good to prune away the old to allow for new growth.  Don't worry about holding on to the old.  It's good to check and see what's working and what's not and take action.  I have a grape tomato plant that struggles sometimes...but it does much better when I've helped it along and trimmed the stems that are not producing.  In this way, the energy can go into what IS working rather than working to keep the unproductive part alive.

And finally, water and fertilize!!!  On a regular basis you have to fertilize to keep things growing.  Prayer is the the Miracle-Gro of life and water is worship.  Through regular prayer and worship, you acknowledge that you are not in total control...that God is greater.  And you allow yourself to be humbled to understand that try as you might, not all things will be as YOU want.  But will be as they are supposed to be.  But by watering and fertilizing, through prayer and worship,  we are able to enjoy the fruits of our lives and to give thanks for the amazing harvest of life that is beautiful, full and filled with love.

And I hope the next time you're out in your garden, you take a look around and see how you can find similarities between your garden and your life.  I would love to hear about your observations.  Til next week, this is Anush, wishing you a Pomegranate Day, filled with hope, and ripe with possibilities!