26 August 2013

Branches of Love (Audio)

ITP #10: After experiencing the Magic of last week's Feast of the Assumption, Anush shares how the lesson of the week - being tied to the vine - help us become the branches of love, extending Christ's love to those in our lives.
Article: The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret For Three Decades
--by Lori Weiss, syndicated from huffingtonpost.com, Jun 29, 2012
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Branches of Love

I hope you all had a great week. My week was full and nonstop, but a really good one. After attending Asdvadzadzin services last Sunday, it just kind of left me pumped up!  We had just gotten back from our vacation in Oregon in time for Sunday's Service, and the following day was our homeless outreach to Skid Row.  I wanted to share about that outreach today, and just talk about the idea that Fr. Vazken spoke about in his sermon last week.  Tying into the vine, which is Christ.

So just a little background for those of you who don't know about our homeless outreach.  We started visting Skid Row 6 years ago.  Skid Row is the area in downtown Los Angeles, that has large homeless populations on the streets.  The poorest of the poor.  Some who are fortunate, have a tent to sleep in, others have a flattened box to lay on, and still others have nothing at all.  When we go out to visit our homeless brothers and sisters, we take two large thermoses of hot water, many cases of Cup o' Noodles, water bottles, wrapped snacks, used, donated clothing, and always after The Feast of the Assumption, we take blessed grapes.

This small gesture, of taking grapes to the homeless, is very well received and appreciated. Food and clothing are always appreciated by those that have very little.  But sharing a blessing is different.  And I don't know who it's more special to: the deliverer of the blessing or the recipient.

 First off, receiving any kind of fresh fruit is a treat.  Those that live on the street are used to eating the leftovers of others.  Finding food in the trash, or if lucky, receiving the doggy bag of someone walking by.  So here's what happens.  We drive around the streets finding encampments of people and pull the cars over and serve them.  When we pulled out the grapes and offered them, their eyes lit up.  I didn't tell all of them that these grapes were special, but to those that questioned our new menu item, I would tell them.  "These grapes are blessed.  And we brought them for you to receive the blessing as well."   When I talked about the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, some of their eyes would soften as if remembering something in their teaching from long ago.  Others knew.  One young man was very moved.  He told me, "I am going to eat these grapes and receive God's blessing.  Thank you so much."  And he turned to his friends and told them "If you don't want your grapes, you can't throw them away...give them to me...they've been blessed.  In church."

The blessing of being able to reach out to the homeless is one that I so appreciate.  As much as I have a soft spot for the homeless, and my heart hurts for them, I am spoiled.  I complain about my job.  I complain that I can't get a grip on the housework.  I can be wasteful in my ways.  I focus on stuff that is so trivial sometimes.  Stupid stuff, like, for example, maybe my pillow cases don't match my sheets, y'know?  Does that really matter when my brother doesn't even have a pillow, let alone a sheet, a blanket..or a bed.  So you see what I'm saying? It's humbling.  And being able to share God's love with them helps me, helps all of those that participate on our crew, to put things into perspective.

It's a privilege to serve.  Once we load up the cars for our outreach, we gather in a circle on the lawn of the church for a prayer.  We thank God for the opportunity to be his hands and to reach out.  We ask for protection and  that He help us not to judge.  And that He allow us to bring His light and love to those in need.  Last Monday we fed and clothed about 160 people.  And that helps the rest of the week seem a bit lighter.

And then on Thursday, when I listened to this week's episode of the Next Step with Father Vazken and his conversation with Linda Zadoian about the Feast of the Assumption...and grape blessing, it made sense about why this week felt so different.  I was at church last Sunday, and I felt that magic they were talking about...and it did carry forward thoughout the week.  We were still riding on the wave of that day and its lesson.   I think that's the beauty of these special days...that they are supposed to carry us with their meaning so that we can live the message not just that one day but for the remaining 364 days of the year.  

So I started thinking of ways that we can reach out to others...and be tied to the vine.  It's not only about feeding the homeless.  Maybe that's just not your thing.  But there are other ways to extend the love.  We can show others the love within us...the love that God has empowered us with.  When we are loving and compassionate, we understand that we all belong to one another.

We can be kind to one another.  And to ourselves.  If we view everyone, including ourselves, as gifts of life that God has created, we can see in one another the possibilities for greatness and change in the world.  By encouraging one another, being kind and nurturing, we can increase that potential to make the world a kinder and more loving place.  And sometimes it's easy to be kind to others, but not to ourselves.  How many of us are hard on ourselves?  How many of us are forgiving of ourselves and our failures.  Let's say we're walking down a flight of stairs and we trip.  Should we then throw ourselves down the whole flight because we messed up and didn't do things perfectly?  No, right?  So then in life, why are we so easy to toss in the towel when we make a mistake...or have a set back?  See what I'm saying?

We can show, every day, that we are instruments of God's love and peace by living that love and peace.  Be loving.  Make peace with those that have wronged us (or that we've wronged).  As for forgiveness, don't be a party to negativity or gossip.

We can extend the hand of friendship to those we don't know...or those that need a friend.  Don't be shy.  What about that new guy you see at church who is just standing there at coffee hour.  Be welcoming.  You know, one of the neatest men at our church, Baron Sarkis, is part of our church family because we took the time to say hello.   He went to two Armenian churches before ours and  he said no one even said good morning.   After watching Fr. Vazken on television, he decided to try our church.  And he is now part of the family. Why?  Because he felt welcome.  He's 76.  His family lives in another state. He is here all alone, and we are now his family.   He tells us that we extended friendship to him.  Just a smile and a hello is all it takes sometime.

And finally, I read a beautiful article today that I wanted to share with it you, and it's about this very thing...spreading the love and how a group of women made a difference in so many lives and how the lesson of sharing that love spread to others.

The Business 9 Women Kept A Secret For Three Decades

--by Lori Weiss, syndicated from huffingtonpost.com, Jun 29, 2012
Somewhere in West Tennessee, not far from Graceland, nine women -- or "The 9 Nanas," as they prefer to be called -- gather in the darkness of night. At 4am they begin their daily routine -- a ritual that no one, not even their husbands, knew about for 30 years. They have one mission and one mission only: to create happiness. And it all begins with baked goods.
“One of us starts sifting the flour and another washing the eggs,” explained Nana Mary Ellen, the appointed spokesperson for their secret society. “And someone else makes sure the pans are all ready. We switch off, depending on what we feel like doing that day.
“But you make sure to say Nana Pearl is in charge, because she’s the oldest!” she added with a wink and a smile.
Over the next three hours, The 9 Nanas (who all consider themselves sisters, despite what some of their birth certificates say) will whip up hundreds of pound cakes, as part of a grand scheme to help those in need. And then, before anyone gets as much as a glimpse of them, they’ll disappear back into their daily lives. The only hint that may remain is the heavenly scent of vanilla, lemon and lime, lingering in the air.
Even the UPS driver, who picks up hundreds of packages at a time, has no clue what these women, who range in age from 54 to 72, are doing. He’s just happy to get a hug and a bag filled with special treats. What he doesn’t know is that he’s part of their master plan. A plan that began 35 years ago -- when the “sisters” got together for their weekly card game -- something their husbands referred to as “Broads and Bridge.”
“Pearl says it was all her idea,” Mary Ellen teased, “but as I remember it, we were sitting around reminiscing about MaMaw and PaPaw and all the different ways they would lend a hand in the community.” MaMaw and PaPaw are the grandparents who raised four of the women, Mary Ellen included, when their mother passed away; and they took in Pearl as their own, when her parents needed some help.
“MaMaw Ruth would read in the paper that someone had died,” Mary Ellen remembered, “and she’d send off one of her special pound cakes. She didn’t have to know the family. She just wanted to put a little smile on their faces. And we started thinking about what we could do to make a difference like that. What if we had a million dollars? How would we spend it?
So the ladies began brainstorming.
“One of the sisters suggested that we should all start doing our own laundry and put the money we saved to good use. I admit, I protested at first. There’s just something about laundering that I don’t like. But I was outnumbered! So among the nine of us, we’d put aside about $400 a month and our husbands never noticed a thing. Their shirts looked just fine.”
And then the women started listening. They’d eavesdrop -- all with good intentions, of course -- at the local beauty shop or when they were picking up groceries. And when they heard about a widow or a single mom who needed a little help, they’d step in and anonymously pay a utility bill or buy some new clothes for the children.
“We wanted to help as much as we could,” Mary Ellen said, “without taking away from our own families, so we became coupon clippers. And we’d use green stamps. Remember those? We’d use green stamps and we’d make sure to go to Goldsmith’s department store on Wednesdays. Every week they’d have a big sale and you could spend $100 and walk away with $700 worth of merchandise.”
The Nanas would find out where the person lived and send a package with a note that simply said, “Somebody loves you” -- and they’d be sure to include one of MaMaw Ruth’s special pound cakes.
The more people they helped, the bolder they became.
“We gave new meaning to the term drive-by,” Mary Ellen said with delight. “We’d drive through low-income neighborhoods and look for homes that had fans in the window. That told us that the people who lived there didn’t have air-conditioning. Or we’d see that there were no lights on at night, which meant there was a good chance their utilities had been turned off. Then we’d return before the sun came up, like cat burglars, and drop off a little care package.”
For three decades, the ladies’ good deeds went undetected -- that is, until five years ago, when Mary Ellen’s husband, whom she lovingly calls “Southern Charmer,” started noticing extra mileage on the car and large amounts of cash being withdrawn from their savings account.
“He brought out bank statements and they were highlighted!” Mary Ellen said, recalling the horror she felt. “I tried to explain that I had bought some things, but he had this look on his face that I’d never seen before -- and I realized what he must have been thinking. I called the sisters and said, 'You all need to get over here right away.'”
So 30 years into their secret mission, the 9 Nanas and their husbands gathered in Mary Ellen’s living room and the sisters came clean. They told the husbands about the laundry and the eavesdropping -- even the drive-bys. And that’s where their story gets even better -- because the husbands offered to help.
“They were amazed that we were doing this and even more amazed that they never knew. We can keep a good secret! All but three of them are retired now, so sometimes they come with us on our drive-bys. In our area, all you need is an address to pay someone’s utility bill, so we keep the men busy jotting down numbers.”
It wasn’t long before the couples decided it was also time to tell their grown children. And that’s when happiness began to happen in an even bigger way. The children encouraged their mothers to start selling MaMaw Ruth’s pound cakes online, so they could raise money to help even more people. And it wasn’t long before they were receiving more than 100 orders in a day.
“The first time we saw those orders roll in, we were jumping up and down,” Mary Ellen said with a laugh. “We were so excited that we did a ring-around-the-rosie! Then we called all the children and said, 'What do we do next?'"
That’s when the 9 Nanas moved their covert baking operation out of their homes and into the commercial kitchen of a restaurant owned by one of their sons, where they can sneak in before sunrise and sneak out before the staff comes in. They even hired a “happiness coordinator” (whose code name is “Sunny,” of course). Her identity needs to be a secret, too, so she can help out with the eavesdropping.
“We swore her to secrecy -- her parents think she works in marketing. And, really, if you think about it, she is doing public relations and spends a lot of time looking for people to help at the supermarket!”
These days, The 9 Nanas are able to take on even bigger projects, given their online success. Recently they donated more than $5,000 of pillows and linens and personal care products to a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. And this August, they’ll celebrate their second consecutive “Happiness Happens Month” by sending tokens of their appreciation to one person in every state who has made a difference in their own community.
And that million dollars they once wished for? They’re almost there. In the last 35 years, the 9 Nanas have contributed nearly $900,000 of happiness to their local community.
But that doesn’t mean they’re too busy to continue doing the little things that make life a bit happier. Sometimes they just pull out the phone book and send off pound cakes to complete strangers. And if the Nanas spot someone at the grocery store who appears to need a little help, it’s not unusual for them to start filling a stranger’s cart.
“Not everyone is as lucky as we were to have MaMaw and PaPaw to take care of them, to fix all those things that are wrong.
“So this is our way of giving back,” Mary Ellen said. “We want people to know that someone out there cares enough to do something. We want to make sure that happiness happens.”

So there you have it!  The blessings that we receive from loving and sharing are contagious to those on the receiving end of that love.  Let's pray that God continues to allow us to be the branches and that we remain tied to Christ, the living vine, and that He  fill us with His light and love so that we can shine for others and produce the sweet fruit that is His unconditional love for all of  humanity.

19 August 2013

Off to School (Audio)

ITP #9: It's time to head back to school. Whether you're a student, or a parent, the new school year can be an emotional time. On this week's Inside the Pomegranate, Anush takes a look at letting our kids go so that they can learn some of life's lessons on their own.
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Off to School

We just got home today from a week's vacation.  It's kind of sad to have it come to an end because we had such an amazing time.  For several years now, the state of Oregon has been calling to me:  "Anush.....anush.....come to oregon..."  Okay, not spooky like that...but I've had this feeling that I have to go to Oregon for some reason.  Neither my husband, nor I had ever been there, so this year, when we were thinking about vacation, I pulled a double whammy and said, "Hey Neddy....this year, for vacation, I want to go to Oregon."  "Okay...what's there?"   "I have no idea."  Always up for an adventure, he agreed.

Then the second part of the whammy.   "Let's go camping up the Oregon coast!!"  Although I have quite a bit of camping experience, and Ani and I have gone on mother/daughter camping trips, this was my husband's first time camping.  And I figured he's either going to love it or hate it, but I thought what's the harm of trying.  So I made the reservations and booked some very beautiful campsites on the Oregon Coast and off we went.  And I've got to say that it was incredible. And I have created a camper out of him!

The beaches are wide and expansive and clean.  If you love looking for shells, like I do, this is a great place to go shell collecting.  And rock collecting.  There are some really interesting agate beaches with beautiful pebbles.  And there are trees, trees and more trees.  The drive up the coast is lined with forests.  Huge redwoods.  And just the sight of it all makes you really appreciate God as the greatest artist of all.  The trees, the birds, the scenery, and colors in the sunset were all miraculous.  Sure, I live in California which also has the coast right there, but in Oregon there were miles and miles of pristene beaches...unspoiled.  The industry up there is timber and fishing, so great little towns dotting the coast and lots of friendly people.

We roughed it...slept in a tent.  Cooked out on the coleman stove, and although we weren't hugely successful at keeping our campfire going, it was good enough!!  So the whole experience was great.   My husband's one indulgence, or goal was getting a Dairy Queen every day for a Peanut Buster Parfait.  He's from Chicago, and I guess Dairy Queens are common there but not in CA.  So when he saw the Dairy Queens dotting the coast, all was right with the world.  Did you know there's no sales tax in Oregon?  And you can't pump your own gas.  Seriously.    We covered from Brookings to Astoria and back.  And on the way home we made a stop in San Francisco to visit my younger  brother and his family before heading home.  All in all, in 8 days we drove a total of 2015 miles! I'll post some photos of our trip on my blog.  If you'd like to see, please visit www.pomegranateandeye.com.

Well, how has your week been?  You heard that mine was great.  If you have children you know that either last week or this week is when schools are starting back up.  I was thinking back on the start of the new school year when I was in elementary and junior high school. Until recently, I think, the start of the school year was right after Labor Day, right?  For some reason it's in August now.  Anyways, there was great anticipation in  starting a new year at school  New lunchboxes, new notebooks and PeeChee folders (remember those?).  And then on the first day you'd need to bring your books home and cover them all. We'd use the brown paper bags from the grocery to cover our books.  New markers or crayons for projects...and a new eraser...the pink kind.  The Asian girls in my class always had the really cool plastic erasers from Japan that smelled sweet.  I was always jealous of them because of their scented erasers.

New school clothes.  The funny part about living in CA and back to school clothing is that mom would buy us fall clothing....the plaids and the socks and tie shoes and sweaters.  Of course we'd want to wear new clothes on the first day of school, so there's everyong all in their fall finery, except that the temperatures here in So Cal are in the 80s and 90s...hardly the cool crisp weather the clothing is meant for.  But back then, in the 70's, there were dress codes.  Shorts and tshirts were not allowed in school.  Neither were sandals. So we dealt with it. 

So as I mentioned earlier, on the way back down from Oregon we stopped in San Francisco for one evening to visit my younger brother, sister in law, and my nephew Vartan who will be starting Kindergarten this coming Monday.  After spending a very fun evening playing Pengaloo and Pikachu with him in his little igloo tent in the living room, the following morning were were able to attend Vartan's play day, a nice little get together of all the kindergarten classes at Vartan's new school.  We all met at the park, and each child was given a lei that coincided with the class they'd be in.  Vartan's lei was yellow....so immediately, he went in search of other children that had yellow leis on the playground.  It was neat to see his interaction with his new classmates....and in turn, it good to see the interaction of my brother and sister in law with the parents of Vartan's new classmates as well.

To those of us who have been there, and done that with our children, we know how difficult it is that first year.  Sending your baby off to school to fend for themselves can be very emotional.  As my brother and I stood together at the park, taking it all in, I saw him searching the playground for Vartan, making sure he was making friends.  Wanting to go up and check in with him, but being a strong daddy and holding back and letting him out there on his own.  But yet still present.

There's so much to learn when you're just starting out.  How to share, how to take turns, how to listen and not interrupt.  And then the realization that you're not the center of your teacher's universe like you are to your parents.  Being that we were visiting, I was trying to get some pictures of him and went up to him on the playground to see whta he was up to. There was a play train in the yard and Vartan was behind the wheel.  In front of him was another compartment...the engine compartment, and behind him other cars.  When I approached him he looked concerned.  When I asked what was bothering him he said,
"That girl is in the engine compartment."
I said,"Well, maybe she's the engine mechanic?"
 He answered,  "But I'm the engine mechanic".
 I said, "Well, you're behind the wheel...I think you're the engineer...and she's the mechanic."  "But I'm both!", he said.  "I am the engineer, AND the mechanic...I do everything on this train!"
I think this is the big lesson of kindergarten and of course, of life:  You CAN do everything yourself in life, but it's so much more fun when you allow others to share in your adventure.  I told him that Kindergarten was going to be different. He'd have a lot of friends that would all want to share in the fun.  And that everyone had to play together. I don't know if he bought it, but I could see him thinking about it.   And as I walked back toward my brother, I looked over my shoulder and Vartan had turned to the kids in the passenger cars behind him and was saying,  "Everybody get ready.  This training is leaving and it's going to Los Angeles!"  : ) And the little girl?  she was still in the engine compartment...as the mechanic!

And then there's us parents.  The start of school is an adjustment for us as well!  My sister in law has been a stay at home mom since Vartan was born.  Embracing motherhood and makiing sure that my nephew had diverse and challenging experiences, she signed Vartan up for all kinds of classes, workshops, activites that the both of them would attend.  Because of this, he's very well adjusted, social and makes friends easily.  And he has a super imagination too.  Now, suddenly, it's going to be different for his mom as she'll find herself alone while he's at school.  It's tough to let go now and allow all those experiences to come to an end and let the love and nurturing to do their thing.

It's like this for all our lives, no matter how old our children are.  My sister had posted photos of my two neices on their first day of school and wrote a comment on Facebook about how they were growing up and she remembered that song from Mama Mia...about how her kids were "slipping through her fingers."  One just started 5th grade, and the other high school.  I was thinking, "Just wait....til they start dating, and college...and weddings..etc."  It all flies by so quickly.

And then there's the big move if they're attending college away from home.  Suddenly after high school graduation, our kids are packing up and moving out....clothes and dorm room stuff, hot pots and ramen noodles.  Bedding and blankets.  And their rooms are empty until they come back for holidays or summer.  And then life after college:   I remember last year when I wrote about my "empty nest" and how I felt after my daughter got married.  It's much the same as that first day of school.  All of life is like a series of hills....start school, climb up through the grades, graduate.  Start a new school and you're down at the bottom of the hill again...you start the climb... freshman, sophmore, junior, senior....graduate...then start over with college back down at the bottom.  And then after school, real life. And the same with new jobs...starting at the bottom, working your way up.  If you change career's you're back at the bottom.

We love our children.  We nurture and provide for them. We teach them life lessons that we've gone through but that they can only learn if they experience it themselves.   It's our job to instill in them self confidence, curiosity, compassion, love, kindness, self-preservation and faith.  We pray for them....for their safety, for wisdom, for good friends and good judgment.   And then, when it's time, we have to let go...and let God guide them.  We have to have faith that we have done our best....and then believe that all our prayers are being heard and that God is holding our children in his loving hands and wrapping them safely in the wings of his angels.

To all of you starting off a new school year...whether students or parents. If you're a student, I wish you a successful school year with happy memories, new friends, a natural curiosity and a joy of learning.  And wishing our parents out there peace and faith in knowing that our children are right where God has intended them to be when we have raised them in a love-centered/God-centered home.  Oh, and one more thing:  College students....be patient with us parents and realize that it's hard for us to let go too.  Send us a text message and check in once in a while. Call home on the weekends.  Because we miss you more than you know.

And finally, I'm writing this on Asdvadzadzin, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.  I wanted to wish all of you Mary's out there...Mariams, Mar's, Marianas, (And all you Mary-name derivatives) and my sister Susan - who is a Surpouhi, a very blessed Name Day! Anoonovut Abreek!!


If you'd like to hear the audio version of this blog, it's available for download on epostle.net, iTunes, Stitcher radio and blubrry.


Day 1: Prairie Creek Campground in the CA Redwoods.  Car camping in my car.  Me, the Tree Hugger!  

Day 2:  Loved the bridges, the Heceta Head Lighthouse and the Sasquatch Sculptures as we made our way to our campground at Cape Lookout

Day 3:  Sand Dollar collecting on the beach at Cape Lookout,  Tillamook Cheese Factory, Seaside and Astoria Oregon.

Day 4: Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Whale watching at Depoe Bay, Tidepools at Nye Beach in Newport and watching the Sunset with Jiffy Pop back at our campground

Day 5: Finishing up the sketchook project, Driving down to our new campsite at Sunset Bay, driving through Northbend and crossing the 45th Parallel

Day 6:  Picking berries at our campsite for breakfast, packing it up and visiting Coos Bay, and Bandon by the Sea and some of the beautiful beaches at Ophir and Cape Sebastian...ending up in Crescent City

Day 7:  Driving down to San Francisco and making a stop at Coppola Winery to visit our vine (tagged in 2009)  Spending time with our nephew Vartan

Day 8:  Time with family and our drive back home!  2015 miles!!!

12 August 2013

My Armenian Orthodox Rosary (Audio)

ITP # 8: Ever wish the Armenian Orthodox church had prayed the rosary? Anush does. Tune in to learn about her own Armenian Orthodox rosary (and even how to make one yourself!) It's all on this week's episode 8 of Inside the Pomegranate!
Links: Blog: www.pomegranateandeye.com
I Confess with Faith
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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My Armenian Orthodox Rosary

Here's my coral rosary with 24 beads and a cross
Today as I was driving into work in heavy traffic, I instinctually grabbed for the beads that are hanging in my car.  Not just ordinary beads, mind you, but MY Armenian Orthodox Rosary.  First of all, let me explain.  I'm calling it MY  Armenian orthodox rosary because I don't know if the Armenian church has an official rosary.  I've checked online, and yes, Armenian Catholics do use them, but I found only two other references to Armenian rosaries.  One was a red, blue, orange and eye bead rosary that was for sale (seriously), and the other was on a site called the Byzantine Forum where someone wrote in asking about an Armenian Orthodox rosary, and the response came in that yes, there was such a thing and it has 100 beads but laity can use a 33 bead rosary.  That's news to me.  I've been brought up in the Armenian church and I've never seen actual rosaries being used.  As I was writing this, I was listening to this week's episode of the Next Step and it struck me as funny when I heard father Vazken mention rosaries as well.  But not in this context.

Most days, I take the bus to work in the mornings, and often times, I see riders with their rosaries, fingering them during their morning commute.  I like that.  I like the discipline of praying the catholoc rosary, though I am not a catholic.  But I have found myself wishing that our Armenian Orthodox faith had something like a rosary, because I find comfort in reciting prayer in a "formula" fashion.  I find that it's a way for me to quiet my thoughts and to help me focus.  And I suppose I like the ritual aspect of it as well.  The fact that praying a rosary is a "set" prayer appeals to me.

Several years ago, during my lenten journey, I started focusing  on the 24 prayers of St. Nerses Shnorhali.  The Havodov Khosdovanemk or I confess with faith  These 24 prayers are said in our church during our lenten Huskoom service. There is one prayer for each hour of the day, but during our evening service, we say them in succession.  My grandmothers are my heroes.  When the going has gotten tough for me, i often think about them and all they went through, and it gives me strength.   Both of them were genocide survivors.  And both were complete opposites of one another.  But both were strong women of faith.  My grandmothers knew these 24 prayers by heart.  And I imagine that reciting these prayers gave them comfort in the darkest time in their lives.  I decided, about 6 years ago, to memorize these prayers, but to memorize them in the language which I was most familiar with...English.

I had received a copy of these prayers from church and tucked them in my purse.  Then on one busride, as I watched the woman across the aisle from me praying her rosary, I decided that I was going to learn my prayers as well.  So I started with the first.  "I confess with faith and adore you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Uncreated and immortal essence, creator of angels, of humans and all that exists.  Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me a manifold sinner."  That busride was when i decided to learn the first of the 24 prayers. I would read a sentence, close my eyes, think about the sentence, and try to repeat it in my head.  I'd do something else and then come back to it, and try to remember what I had learned.  I'd check myself against the paper in my hand.  If I had the sentence right...I'd learn the second sentence...and then repeat it, but only after I had repeated the first sentence before it.  Each bus ride I'd add another 2 or 3 sentences, always reinforcing what I had learned prior.  Each week, I was learning about 2 prayers and finally, I had them all memorized.  It took months, but it made my busride meaningful, and my prayer life was increasing.  As I learned the prayers, I thought about them.  Each one of them ended with "Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me a manifold sinner."  Okay, what was a manifold sinner?  When I was in 12th grade, I took auto shop for a year and rebuilt the engine of my first car....but I that is a whole different Oprah...but in my head a manifold was an exhaust manifold.  I didn't like that....so i searched other translations...and found one that substituted the word "great"  Have mercy upon all your creatures and upon me a great sinner.

Then the word "creature" was kind of bugging me.  I kept thinking of the creature from the black lagoon.  But creature means "anything that is created".  So I ended each prayer with, "have mercy upon all your creation and upon me a great sinner."  And that was a better fit.  It just made more sense to me.

So this became my busride prayer.  I would start when I first borded the bus, and finish with the 24th prayer by the time we were on the freeway heading toward Eagle Rock, about ten miles away.  And I started seeing how having a physical rosary to hold might help to keep track of which prayer I was on if I got distracted (which is easy to do on the bus).  So made myself a rosary.  I used a piece of leather cord, and adding a cross to the center, I added 12, equidistant knots in the leather on each side making a knot for each prayer.  That's it.  It's very simple and unpretentious.  I also made one with some coral beads that I had...and I keep that one in my car.  I use those sometimes when I'm driving.

These prayers have brought me a lot of comfort.  They are in my mind when I walk around downtown L.A.; if I'm feeling troubled; if I'm stuck in traffic; when I'm having trouble falling asleep and I can't clear my mind, or when I'm feeling overwhelmed with too much to do.

Sometimes I will choose one to reflect on.  Othertimes, it's a way for me push myself to thinking.  I'll start with the last one first and go backward in order.  Since each of the prayers are individual, each is a complete prayer by itself.  Prayers 3-24 have a different name for Christ starting each prayer.  Sometimes I"ll only pray the names:  Heavenly Father, Son of God, Spirit of God, Uncreated Essence, Beholder of all, Searcher of Secrets, All provident Lord, Living fire, Jesus wisdom of the father, Lord, Heavenly King, Bestower of Mercy . Benificent Lord, and so on.

And I definitely have my favorites.  I think most of us have recited the Bahaban Amenaynee or O Christ Guardian of all.  And if you're active in Armenian Orthodcox church life, you know the O Jesus, Wisdom of the father, prayer because that's usually the prayer said before meetings when we ask God to grant us wisdom that we may think, speak, and do that who's is good in His sight.  I think the most amazing of these prayers is the 22nd, which asks God to, "Forgive all my enemies, and those who hate me, the trespasses they have committed against me.  Turn them from the malice they bear toward me that they may be worth of your mercy."  Mind blowingly cool, right?   Think about it.  Not only am I asking forgiveness for my enemies and those that hate me, but I'm asking for forgiveness for them, why?  So that they can know God's  mercy.  Ultimate forgiveness.  Not forgiving for my sake, but so they can share in the beautiful gift of God's mercy.  Repaying your enemy with something so beautiful and precious that you want to share with even someone who has done you wrong.

Another favorite of mine is this one "Beneficient Lord, commit me to a good angel that I may deliver up my spirit in peace and convey it undisturbed by the malice of evil spirtis under the heavens."  I just think that's so beautiful....when the time comes to pass, that a good angel would deliver us up....protect us and make sure we make that safe transition.  I think there's something in each one of these prayers that is so beautiful and unique.

So I know that these prayers are typically recited during lent, but I think once you know them,you'll make them a part of your everyday life.  That lenten period, years ago when I decided to make learning these prayers part of my lenten journey was an invalable gift.

I will include these prayers on my website at www.pomegranateandeye.com  I hope that you'll check it out and make them your own.

Do you have another prayer or series of prayers that  speak personally to you?  Will you share them with me?  Or which one of the 24 is your favorite?  dont br shy. Please leave your comments.  I'd love to hear from you!

Well guess what? I am officially on vacation.  I will try to blog of our travels as we head up the Oregon coast!  Prayers for good weather please!!!  Hope you all have a beautiful and blessed week.

Here's the link to the 24 prayers of St. Nerses Shorhali - The I Confess with Faith:


Here I am last year..this was around Mile 37!!!  I could hear the crowds cheering at the finish line!

And we're still taking donations for Team In Her Shoes, this time to help one of our team mates, Nancy, get to her goal.  Please visit her page at www.avonwalk.org/goto/NancyBurgos
All the money we collect goes to the same great cause and supports our team.  Thank you so much for all your prayers and wonderful support!!

Please "like" us on Facebook.  And better yet, come out and cheer us on, on Sunday, September 8 as we cross the finish line at mile 39.3!!! Click here for Event Info!  Come see us!!!  http://www.avonwalk.org/santa-barbara/event-information.html

05 August 2013

The Cancer Connection (Audio)

ITP Episode #7: Ever feel like you're in this exclusive club that no one wants to belong to? Welcome to the cancer club where Anush talks about physical and emotional connections made through this disease.
Links: www.pomegranateandeye.com
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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The Cancer Connection

One of the projects at the Sketchbook Project
was to draw a postcard to leave behind and pick up
one from another artist.  Here's the one I left behind.
This morning, our Team In Her Shoes went to a crew training day.  Last year we had 18 walkers.  This year our team has 14 members.  Some of my walkers decided to work on the crew - which is another difficult job as they have to work behind the scenes supporting the over 2,000 walkers who will need water, meals, medical services, and all that.  The crew has to wake up at the crazy early hours of 3 and 4 a.m. to get things set up for the walkers, so I'm very grateful, and totally impressed with my team.   So we met up for breakfast and then went to the training session and my crew members got their assignments today.  It was a fun morning, as it always is with our team, and in just a little over a month's time, we'll be at the Avon Walk in Santa Barbara, the weekend of September 7 & 8.  If you're in the area and want to come cheer us on at the finish line please do!  I will post more information about the route and the closing ceremonies which will take place at Carpinteria State Beach at 2:30 p.m on September 8, so do check out our facebook page.  And I've also posted photos from this morning's crew training day as well.  Check out Team In Her Shoes.

So after this busy morning with the team, we met up with my son Nareg to go to an L.A. art event.  Last year sometime, my daughter Ani and I participated in the Brooklyn Art Library's Sketchbook Project:  a mobile tour of sketchbooks from around the world that would, after touring, find their way back to become part of the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Art Library.  All participants signed up with a fee and received a small 5"x7" sketchbook which they could rebind if they chose to, and fill with whatever sketches, paintings, doodles, writings, collages - whatever they wanted to.  You mail it in by a certain set date and the book gets digitized so it can be viewed on the computer, and then it goes on national tour.  And today the tour ended in Los Angeles.  And so we went to be part of the sketchbook project and see ours, and other artists' works on display.

When we  got there, we signed up for a library card.  The mobile library was like a lunch truck set up with a window that opened to serve us.  We typed in our interest, or artist's name in the computer, and the librarian would brought us the requested sketchbook we chose PLUS a random artist's sketchbook.  The mobile library had over 4.500 sketchbooks and over the course of the tour, I have received emails from all over the country whenever someone has viewed my book.  

It was an incredibly enjoyable afternoon.  Ani and I kept checking out sketchbooks, and surrounding ourselves with all the amazing creativity that's out there, while Neddy and Nareg were looking over our shoulders.  One of the books that I came across was kind of a mixture of emotions.  All about life and death, friendship and loss.  Lots of color, and paint, collage and label maker lettering.  And as I read this sketchbook/journal, I felt such a deep connection with the artist.  Her name was Pamela.  And she was from Corvalis, Oregon.  She had been diagnosed with cancer - a non-curable form of cancer that was taking her life away, little by little, every day.  She wrote about how much she always liked her hair, and how she was going to miss it as it was falling out due to the treatments she was receiving.  She wrote about living life to the fullest.  About how much she was going to miss her friends.  And as I came to the finish of the small book, she was saying her final words as her life, and the book were coming to a close.  I stood there and all I could do was exhale a "Wow."  It left me numb.  I was holding in my hands a part of this woman's life.  The emotions were all there.  It left me wondering if she was still alive (though inside I could feel she wasn't).  

After returning the journal, I knew that my next sketchbook topic would be about my experience with this disease.  There are a lot of subjects that I could share about, but this one runs deep.  In fact, I had been asking Ani what I could blog about this week and she's the one that had the idea.  Why not blog about your cancer connections. And so here we are today.  

I sometimes liken having cancer, or having gone through cancer, as a membership in this exclusive club that no one wants to belong to.  Yet when you do belong, you are in it for life.  I am fortunate to call myself a three time cancer survivor.  As positive as I am, and as blessed as I feel, I still have to go to my appointments.  We're still looking for answers, and I still breathe a sign of relief when the doctor tells me things are fine and he'll see me next time.

When you have had cancer, other people seek you out.  People that are going through it.  Or family members who have relatives that are going through it.  You share your story with them, much like I'm doing with you.  Because you know what it's like to feel what they're feeling.  You know what it's like to get the diagnosis of the "Big C" and you know the terror associated with the idea that your health is not in your own hands.  You want to give comfort to others, and you want to give hope.  If you're a survivor, like I am, I feel there is an added responsibility to share your journey with others.  To encourage.  To share your faith and love with them.

When I got diagnosed at age 34 with breast cancer, it was difficult for me to find support.  Oh, they always tell you to seek support groups and such, but because most incidents of breast cancer are involving women that are a bit older, when you're younger, the support groups for your age aren't there.  At least they weren't back then.  I remember my doctor refering me to a support group at the hospital.  I took my mother with me and when I got there, it was my mom that was greeted by the members.  So I sought support through a cancer support group online.  And that's when I met my friend Carolyn.  She is a breast cancer survivor and a Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor, and we became friends.  It was Carolyn that first got me into walking for the cause.  We decided to sign up with Team In Training to walk the Alaska marathon, and we each trained separately - she in Kentucky and me here in L.A.  Sadly, a family loss kept her from participating in the walk.  And so I flew to Alaska myself and walked the Midnight Sun marathon there.  And then a couple years later, Carolyn and I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge together when we participated in the San Francisco marathon. Two friends who would never have known one another if it weren't for  cancer.  To this day, Carolyn and I keep in touch through Facebook. After years at one career, she went to school to become an oncology nurse, where she makes cancer connections of hope and love possible for her patients.

A year or two later,  on Christmas eve, about 16 years ago, I received an email.  It was from a woman named Diane from Minnesota.  She had read my cancer story on the internet.  As a young mother, she wrote me a letter, out of the blue.  "I just got diagnosed with breast cancer.  I'm terrified.  You and I are the same age.  I have two children just like you do.  Please tell me I'm going to survive this.  Please tell me I'm going to see my children grow up."  Diane and I became friends/penpals.  I was three years past my first round of cancer.  We would write to one another.  I would offer encouragement.  We shared a passion for drawing and gardening.  And we wrote about our mothers whom we both had close relationships with.
Diane went through surgery and treatment and she made it through.  We started corresponding through regular post, sending photos of ourselves with our children.  Christmas cards.  And then for a while I didn't hear from Diane.  Several months had gone by and then I received news that her cancer had returned.   I was numb.  But she was doing so well.  Three years had gone by since her first diagnosis.  Again we started writing, but this time she was seeing another doctor.  She wanted to go the holistic route and was traveling far to get to her treatments.  But she assured me she was doing well.  Life was busy for the both of us - but when out of the blue her husband called me one day, I knew something was up.  "I just wanted to call you, " he said.  "Diane passed away."  And he started crying.   He shared that the cancer was aggressive.  She didn't want to go through chemo.  She opted to live as much  of her life as she could with her family knowing her as they knew her.  She didn't want to be poisoned by the chemo and have her children see her that way.  And so the cancer claimed her life.  Diane was my first friend lost to cancer. For years I kept in touch with her mother, who would write me about how much she missed her daughter.  We shared that connection.  Her mom would write me about Diane's children and how they were growing, tell me about the flowers that always reminded me of her dear daughter.  Eventually, the her letters became less frequent, and then became annual Christmas cards.

There have been many others that I've shared the connection with.  My husband's boss who wrote me one day to ask for advice and prayers.  Calls from friends of friends that just want to connect...to talk to someone that knows what they're going through.   Men and women.  A friend recently reached out to me.   As her husband was getting ready to undergo chemo, she found herself filled with mixed emotions.  Fear, anger, frustration, and guilt. Things were supposed to be getting better, she said.  Life has been tough, and now this.   Sometimes you can help by consoling and offering whatever worked for you.  Other times, all you can do is listen and reassure that the feels are real and justified.  And offer prayer.

I don't know why some people get cancer and others don't.  Stress?  Diet?  Genetics?  Who knows.  What I know that I DON'T  believe is that God gives cancer to people.  But I do believe that faith can take cancer away.  I also believe that there are no coincidences in life...and that all things happen for a reason.  Sometimes the reason is very clear.  And other times, we don't understand the reason until years later.  When I got diagnosed with a second type of cancer, I urged my siblings to get checked.  It was only because of that, that my brother's cancer was diagnosed early enough to save him.  Had I not undergone cancer when I did that year, his cancer would have gone undetected.  Like I said, I don't believe in coincidence.  We are right where we are supposed to be.  We have always been close....but now we share the cancer connection as well.

Two years ago, I recieved a call from my cousin.  My childhood friend had just gotten diagnosed with breast cancer.  Through the years, she and I had lost touch basically seeing each other a couple times a year. But we now had cancer in common.  Ani and I were getting ready to walk in the Avon walk and that year, we added her name to our list of names we were carrying with us on our trek.  Because of cancer, we rekindled our friendship.  I'd like to think I helped her get through her battle in 2010 (at least a little), and come 2011, she helped me get through mine. Last year, she and I held hands together as we crossed the finish line after walking 39.3 miles in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. And this year, we'll be walking together again!  Friends together.  Survivors together.  Sharing more than just cancer.  Sharing happy, healthy times together walking for a cure!

As this year's walk is quickly approaching, I'm getting myself ready to once again go the distance for a cure.   This year there are 14 on our team, but only six of us walking.  Three of the six of us walkers are cancer survivors.  Two of us women; one a man.  Each of us sharing that strong connection as we walk with the hope that one day we'll be able to look back on cancer --  and all that we've experienced because of it -- as a thing of the past.  Til then, we'll keep walking, we'll keep dreaming, praying, hoping, and sharing the connection with those around us.

If cancer has touched your life, or the life of a friend or family member, please send me their name and I will carry them with me, every step of our 39.3 mile trek.  You can email them to me at anush@pomegranateandeye.com  or facebook message me.  And if you'd like to support our team, you can click on our Team In Her Shoes website address at www.avonwalk.org/goto/inhershoes