25 November 2013

Peace Anniversary (Audio)

ITP #22: On this week's Inside the Pomegranate, Anush shares a special anniversary. Also, news about In His Shoes participation in Homewalk - a 5K to end homelessness, but more importantly, about empowering our youth to stand up for the causes that they believe in. And the conclusion to the Thanksgiving list of "Little Things to be Thankful For". It's all on Episode 22 of Inside the Pomegranate
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: 

Peace Anniversary

Add caption
This past Saturday, our team - In His Shoes - participated in an annual 5K that we've been involved in called HomeWalk.  I want to tell you all about it, but first I wanted to share with you a little bit about a journey that I've been on - because it's time! And then,  I promise, we'll get back to the Homewalk, and then of course my new list of the little things I'm thankful for.  Deal?

I wanted to share that this weekend was my anniversary!  No, not my wedding anniversary. It's my peace anniversary! Peaceaverary?  Now what, you may ask, is a peace anniversary?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  I haven't wanted to talk about this prior to this weekend to avoid sounding preachy, but this week marks one year to I can share now that's it's official.  This Saturday marked one year  that I have been a vegetarian. And what do you ask does that have to do with peace?  Well, I'm so glad you asked.  Because all of this came about through a prayer.  A prayer   for peace. Here's how it happened.  I always pray for peace.  So last year, sometime around June, during my prayer for peace I received an answer.  And it came through with such clarity.  The message was this:  If you want peace, be peace.  Live peace.  Breathe peace.  Work for peace.  I actually heard God (with my voice) tell me this message.  And I remember then, just being still with it, and trying to digest what had just been sent to me.  I remember one of the first thoughts that came to me after that was about vegetarianism.  I told myself that God had told me something profound. And  how can I live peace and be peace if something has to die in order for me to live?  But then, the little Armenian devil on my shoulder tried to chime in.  "You can't be Armenian and be a vegetarian!  What about kebab?"  Ooo...now there was something I didn't think of.  That's right,  there's kebab involved. 

Around that time we were training for the Avon walk.  I remember the prayer staying with me.  And so when Linda Z and I were walking one afternoon around the Rosebowl, I shared the peace message with her, and I my thoughts about vegetarianism and the kebab struggle.  Now this is what's funny: in all reality, we hardly ever eat kebab, so I don't understand why it was such a big deal to me, but it was.  The whole thing about inconveniencing people who's home you were going to for dinner also played into the equation.  Or beingout on a business lunch, having to explain, y'know?  So I remember Linda telling me that maybe I was interjecting that message into it.  Sure, you have to be peace, breathe peace, work for peace, etc.,  but there are other ways to do that that doesn't involve giving up meat.  It made me think about it at least.  And continue on as is for a few months at least.  But I couldn't.  The message was a strong one and it kept revisiting me always there in the back of my mind.

And then one afternoon, when I was researching something on the net, I came across a movie on YouTube called Earthlings.  Have you heard of it?  Let me tell you right now, that if you have no intention of giving up animals, then do NOT watch this movie.  The idea is that we are on this planet Earth and we think of ourselves as the only Earthlings.  But we're not.  The animals that share this planet with us are also Earthlings. And then the movie goes on to talk about the animals that we consume, how they are penned, fed and treated, and what they go through during the slaughter.  The pain and suffering.  That movie was a 9-part series, and when it was over, I was a vegetarian.  I mean, how many of us even think about what we're eating.  It's all packaged up for us at the market - clean and neat.  My intention here is not to convince you to convert or tell how you should eat because this is my journey and it works for me.  But I ask that you just consciously think about what it is that you're eating. Okay? So anyways... It's been a year now, and no regrets!  I haven't eaten anything with a face or a mother.  It's been a good year.  And the whole Armenian part hasn't been as big a deal as I thought it would be. And there are so many great vegetarian and vegan recipes that are part of our Armenian cuisine that I don't miss the meat at all.  So that's it.  It's been a year of peace.  And I am going to continue on this peaceful journey for years to come.

Okay, so now I wanted to share with you about this weekend's Homewalk.  Every November for the past 7
Team In His Shoes
years, the United Way organization puts on the Homewalk.  This is a walk that helps the homeless, raising money for housing and programs.  This year, Team In His Shoes was 9  walkers strong.  And I posted some of the photos on our In His Shoes facebook page so please check them out.  But what I specifically wanted to write about today was not just the details about the walk, but about walking with our younger generation....and about teaching them, at a young age, to align with a cause that speaks to them...and then to work toward the betterment of that cause by fundraising for it.  Or giving  time and energy toward it.

Last year I asked my niece Madi to walk in the Homewalk with Neddy and I.  She did it, and we had a great time.  But more importantly, she saw all the other kids that were out there, just like her. She saw what a difference a bank of like-minded people can make.   And she also got the chance to get educated about the homelessness problem in Los Angeles.  There are families out there, mom's pushing strollers, homeless people that are walking and sharing their stories, young and old.  We're all out there walking to end homelessness. There are organzations and schools that bring groups in to walk. So anyways...the registration for minors is free.  So it's easy to sign up to walk.  You don't have to fundraise, although that's what is hoped that you'll do.   But last year we registered, adults paid their fees, kids were free, we got our tshirts, and we walked in solidarity.

So this year, when it was time to register, I asked Madi if she'd like to walk again.  She told me she was looking forward to it.  Again, we signed up except this year I told madi she needed to fundraise. "What? Who am I going to ask?"  Now think about that.  Valid point, right?  At 14 you don't have friends that have money and/or jobs.  So the idea of fundraising was a scary one.  Still, I set a goal for her.  $50.   That was doable.  And then nothing happened.

A couple weeks ago, I bugged her.  "Madi, you need to fundraise.  I see that your website is not even up yet."  "I will."  And another week went by, still nothing.  Okay, now we're just 5 days from the walk, and it was time to start getting serious. I called, FB messaged and finally, the Monday prior to the walk, the webpage was personalized and she was ready to go.  And to make a long story short, she raised the $50 and actually surpassed it.  Who did she ask?  Family, parents of her friends, but she made it happen.

My adorable niece (and God-daughter), Madi
Okay, big deal, you say.  But it IS a big deal.  Along the routeMadi and I got a chance to talk.  We took photos along the way.  There were areas along the route with questions to ask yourself.  "If you were suddenly homeless and could only carry with you three things,"  said one sign, "what three things would you take in your shopping cart?"  Madi's answer, cellphone/charger, guitar and laptop.  My three? photo album, flute, and Madi (since she can play her guitar and sing to create some revenue for her dear sweet aunt.  right?) But seriously, we did have a good conversation about the importance of commiting to a cause.  And then discussing it with others.  Being prepared to work for the outcome of that cause.  Even if it meant asking people for money.  Because remember, I told her, you're not asking for it for yourself but for the cause.

So that's the jist of it.  Back when I was a kid, the norm was protest.  We would picket, and walk, and align ourselves with issues and causes.  But I don't see it like that today.  So that's why by registering for these type of walks, or getting our children involved in volunterring, we teach them important lessons about giving and seflessness.  It's important that we teach by example too.  When our children grow up seeing us do these things, they will learn by example.  But they also need to learn by dialogue and goal setting as well.  They need to be pushed.  And they need to know that all these things come with a price.  Yes, signing up as a minor is free, but there is the cost of the tshirt, the advertising, etc.  If we can all do our part to help, more of the money raised will help the cause.  After walking the 5K HomeWalk and having raised $80, my niece felt accomplished and proud of herself.  And you know what?  I am very proud of her too.

I just want to say though that it's up to us to guide our children in these area.  To push them toward the things that matter, because the outside influences are too great.  If you believe in a cause, then you should support it.  And the same goes for our church and our ministry.  If you believe in the message and the good works that are coming out of it, then show your support!  Enough said?

And now, here's this week's list of the little things that make my life more beautiful:

Little Things I'm Thankful For: 
1.  Think about the smell of Palmolive soap and onions when your grandma first opens the door of her house and you walk in.  Think about smelling the roses blooming in the garden, or your favorite perfume.  My first item to be thankful for is my sense of smell.  Imagine going through life with a cold in your nose and not being able to smell the delicious smell of a newborn, the spicy smell of a carnation, or the incense in church.  We're blessed with this sense of smell that makes our lives so full.

2.  Scented candles.  Yep.  They're so good.  Especially arount the holidays when they come out with their winter fragrances - especially the pine, cranberry, apple spice.  I love lighting candles and having my house smell great during the holidays.

3.  A garden.  I'm thankful that I have a small patch of garden that I can grow - or at least attempt to grow - vegetables, flowers and plants.  Gardens reassure us in the hope for tomorrow and new surprises.  I'm grateful for my garden.

4.  Social Media.   I'm thankful for being connected, and for the wonderful frends I've met through Facebook, Twitter, and my blog.  There are good and bad aspects of it, but in general, I like being able to keep in touch with friends and family.   Think about it.  If it weren't for social media, I probably would never have met you!

5.  Flowers.  Whether they are sent to me at work, or it's the wild geranium that's growing in my front yard, I am thankful for the beauty and fragrance of flowers.  The colors, shapes and sizes...varieties are unlimited, and like I always say, God is the best artist!

6.  Fridays!  I'm always thankful for Fridays. It's been said that the first five days after the weekend are the hardest.  And I always find that my work week gets better and better the closer we get to Friday.  It's really my favorite day of the week, even though half of it is spent on being at work.  Saturday is always filled with all the chores.  Sunday there's church, and then by the time you have lunch and clean up, it's time to finish up projects and start planning for Monday again.  But Fridays when work is finished....that's the day that's filled with fun and hope for a great weekend.

and finally 7.  YOU!  Not that you're a little thing, you know...but I am thank you for each of you .  Thank you for reading, listening, commenting and praying for me.

Finally, I want to take this time to wish all of you a very happy and blesssed Thanksgiving.  I hope our little exercise in the little things has helped you appreciate all that you have, large and small, and help you to understand how truly blessed we all are.  God bless your families this Thanksgivig and always.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

18 November 2013

All Under One Roof, Under One Sky (Audio)

ITP #21: Ever get asked for help by someone that you know is not helping themselves? If you say no, do you feel guilty? We talk about that this week, and also reflections at the homeless shelter, and continuing on with the little things to be thankful for. Anush covers "All sorts of stuff" on this week's episode of Inside the Pomegranate.
email: anushnoor@gmail.com
link to blog: www.pomegranatenadeye.com
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: 

All Under One Roof, Under One Sky

Last week, my friend suggested a topic for me to cover. He said, "How about when we feel guilty when we stop to help people that always use us when they're in trouble...over and over again, without them doing the right thing for themselves. How does this make sense?" That's a big one, right? I'm sure all of us can relate to this - and it doesn't just pertain to the homeless but to anyone in need. Some people are just needy. Always making the wrong choices, asking for help just one more time. We help, and then the next thing we know, they're in trouble again. Sound familiar? It does to me. I have people in my life like this - who have been like this their whole lives. What do you do when it's someone in your family? More than likely, you'll not turn them away, but help them, albeit, help them knowing it's not the last time, right? Of course, because family is family. But let's take it a step further, because I think my friend was talking about people on the street. Do we just continue to help the same people on the street - even though we know they are not doing the best for themselves? Do we give money to the homeless guy who asks for money to buy something to eat knowing he's going to buy alcohol or a fix? I want you to hold on to this for a little bit, while I tell you what happened to us on our homeless outreach on Thursday evening because it was very special, and beautiful, and because even though 4 days have passed since then, I still can't stop thinking about it.

Last Thursday, it was our night to prepare food for the homeless shelter in Glendale - Ascencia. For the past 6 years, our In His Shoes outreach has been feeding and clothing the homeless of Skid Row, and earlier this year we expanded our outreach to cook dinner at the Glendale shelter. From the very start of the evening it was magical. Late Wednesday evening, I received a text from my sister asking when we'd be going to the shelter since she had girls' clothing to donate. She has great timing. I dropped by at 6:30 Thursday morning for pick up. When I got to Ascencia that afternoon after work, I was the first of our group there. This was the first time for us at the new facility which opened last month. And I noticed a lot of people out front. I guess the rule maybe that the doors open at 4:30 for the evening, and the residents had started to gather. Within the group, I noticed quite a few children in the group, and along with them, tired parents. I rang the bell, my arms filled with groceries for salad. A few minutes later, they opened the doors and everyone came in. The kids went into the common area, some watched TV, other's played, a saw one teen doing homework. It was very homey. I went to the kitchen to get started. And then I remembered the clothing. 

Edward - the resident manager - helped me with the bags in the car. I told him I had clothing for little girls and some adult clothing that I had collected as well. We brought the clothing in and put it in the dining area and I saw Edward give the "come here" hand signal to a middle aged woman. He told me, "She has 7 kids. She'll be able to use these clothes." Seven kids. Wow. She came over and I told her about the clothing and that my sister had said there was a duffel bag as well as a child's sleeping bag. She thanked me, and I went on to the kitchen to tend to the salad. But I was able to watch what was happening from where I was. The next thing I saw were two little girls that she had called over. (Later in the evening I got to meet them). These two little girls were so excited. It was like Christmas. They went through the bag of clothing, the woman holding the shirts/sweaters/pants up to size on the girls. The older girl got the pack. The little girl got the sleeping bag. They left the clothing that wouldn't work for them, and they in turn called over another couple of girls, older this time. And they were able to use some of the clothing. And this went on with more and more gathering. each taking only what they could use. I wished that my nieces could have been there to see the joy that this simple act of giving brought to this group.

Fr. Vazken came next, and I put him to work chopping tomatoes for the salad. And we talked while working - enjoying the time together before the rest of the group showed up. Next Yvette came. I had asked her to bring fruit to fill the fruit bowl. She had brought beautiful apples, oranges, bananas and pears,and they were brimming out of the large stainless steel bowl. It was really beautiful, just like those Thanksgiving cornucopias that symbolize abundance. As we took the bowl of fruit out to place on the table, I noticed the faces of the children as they were using the communal space. And then slowly they made their way over....taking an apple or a pear. The sparkle in their eyes as they were so happy to have such beautiful fruit. It made me remember stories my mom used to tell us when we were kids. Always at Christmastime, when we had finished opening our gifts on Christmas morning, amid the torn wrapping paper and the toys that we had just opened, she would tell us about how little they had growing up, and that always on Christmas morning, Santa Claus would bring them an apple. An apple! As a kid I remember thinking wow..what a gip. Right? I would think, she must not have been a very good little girl if that's all he brought her. But there and then, standing there watching these children enjoying something to basic that we take for granted, it made me understand what my mom had shared so long ago with us.

Next, Suzie and her mom came. They had prepared the main meal for the evening: chicken tikka, basmati rice, spiced lentils, rolls and butter. Lida and Jenny came to join us and brought with them dessert and juice, and there we were, working side by side in the kitchen, preparing the meal, getting things ready for the feast. I have always felt comfortable with the homeless. I've written before about how our parents would share our food with the homeless of our community. We grew up understanding that they are no different than we are. All of us created by God, who loves us all. Equally.

One of the residents there is a man I've seen for the past 3 times we've been there. He's got long hair, a wild look in this eyes, and wears a lot of jewelry, some of which is intricately beaded. I was admiring his bracelet as a fellow beader, and he told me he made all his jewelry himself. A fellow artist, he told me he had made some bad choices in his life and ended up on the street strung out on heroin until Jesus Christ saved him. He had been clean for 22 years. He shared with me that he wanted to put on a show/exhibit for the community, to give back, and had spoken to Fr. Vazken about talking to our teens about his story. He was so open and honest and ready to share his message with those who will listen. I was glad for the opportunity to talk to him and hear his story.

Dinner was served. Such abundance. Our friends lined up on the one side of the glass, with us on the kitchen
side, customizing their plates. No rice? More chicken? Sure you can have a plate for your brother. So many beautiful faces, but the most beautiful of all were all the children, so hopeful, so excited. Once everyone has been served, we get a chance to make a plate for ourselves and join the residents in the dining room. At this time, we brought out this large sheet cake. Suzie had chosen this cake with pretty autum colored icing roses in the center. The little girls came over, "Who's birthday is it???" I said, "No one's birthday. We just wanted to share with you!" They watched as I cut the cake, eyeing it but not taking a piece. And then I connected. It took me way back to when I was a little girl. Watching the cake being cut and waiting, patiently, until the icing flowers were near so I could ask for a flower. These little girls were no different than I was. I stopped cutting, "Would you like a piece with a rose?" Punch stained mouths said, "Yeah!" I took the knife and cut into the center of the cake asking them which rose, what color. They were so happy! These two little girls were Shalyn and Lauren. Sisters. I could tell without asking from their beautiful blue eyes. I asked where their mother was? They told me their mother didn't live here. I asked if they lived at the shelter with their father. No, they said, they were here with their grandmother. All seven of them.  

A cute little boy came over to the fruit bowl. Same pretty blue eyes as my two little freinds. Eyeing the fruit, he was digging deep into it and pulled out a pear. "I love pears!" He said biting into it. A little while later, I saw him finding another pear. I asked his name. Nathan. We talked a bit. When I commented that he was pretty smart, he said that yes, he was smart, and his favorite subject was science. And he confessed this was his fourth pear! I told him to save one for his lunch tomorrow and asked if he had gone to school today "Not today," he said, "The district didn't give me permission. But I'm going tomorrow." I'm not sure how school works when you're a homeless child, but from what he said, I guess he had to have some sort of clearance to attend.  

The mood was so comfortable. We were enjoying just being there. Shalyn had become Suzie's new best friend, and was happy eating her cake and chatting her. As I was walking over, Nathan came up and tapped me on the arm. In a soft voice he said, "I really loved dinner." It was so sweet and heartwarming. I could't help but hug him. I told him how special he had made us all feel and that it made us so happy that he loved it. I asked if he'd like to meet the person who cooked the meal and took him over to Suzie. He told Suzie the same thing. She was touched, as was our whole crew. When I introduced him, he extended his hand to shake hands with us. Such a gentleman. Later, I found his grandmother who I noticed was probably close to my age. I wanted to tell her how sweet her grandchildren were, and how polite. When I first approached her, I felt her guard was up. But as soon as I told her how sweet Nathan's comment was, and how much we had enjoyed talking to him and her other two grandchildren. Her face softened and she got a little misty eyed. "Thank you," she said. "They can be a handful." I can only imagine how difficult it would be to raise 7 grandchildren on my own. God had blessed this woman with Love, strength and patience to raise these children so beautifully.

We were all so touched by the evening. There was so much good going on. During last week's bible study, Fr. Vazken talked about the family and explained our Armenian word, "Undaneek". Family. Literally translated this work means, "under one roof." Our brothers and sisters at Ascencia are family to one another. Sharing a home. Sharing life and themselves with one another. And once a month, sharing their live and love with us. God bless them all, and God bless the staff at Ascencia for the important work that they are doing.

So now back to my friend's original question, about feeling guilt when you don't help someone that continually asks for your help because you know they aren't helping themselves. I'll give you my take on it, and you can tell me if you agree or disagree.

I have found, that there are two types of people that ask for help. The first are those who really need help, and the second are the scammers...those who take advantage of a soft heart. These are the ones that scope us out in the parking lot at the grocery store and tell us the story about how they need X amount of money to get a busride home because their car broke down, blah, blah, blah. Or that they can't afford diapers for their babies, and could I just spare $20. I know, I know. It could be true, but in these cases, I know they're lying because I fell for it, and then was approached by the same person a couple days later with the exact same story. Regarding the scammers, I don't contribute to them.  But I do help those that are in need. Regardless of drug and alcohol addictions. But one thing I do, rather than just hand them a passing dollar is stop and talk to them. What is their name? And what is their story? Believe me, most of these people are so used to being "invisible" they're often surprised when I stop to talk.  

If you want to help but think your money will go toward drugs or alcohol, then you can ask if they're hungry and get them something to eat. If you work in the city or some place where you see the same person on a daily or weekly basis, maybe you can offer them something to wear. Ask if they can use some socks (this is something we always get asked for on our homeless outreach). If you have nothing to give, you still have something important you can contribute. A smile. A conversation. Offer to pray for them. But don't give up on them. Because God NEVER gives up on us. As Christians, it's not our job to judge anyone. We will be judged the way that we judge others. Think about that. Is that what we want for our final judgement? Uh, I don't think so, right?

As far as feeling guilty for not helping them -- I understand how that feels too...and that's why I started talking to the homeless. Because I can't always give money. But I can smile or say hello. On those days, I just say, "I'm sorry, I can't today. But how are you? Are you doing okay?" At least you have acknowledged their presence rather than ignoring them as you walk by. And always, always, imagine that that person is Jesus. I saw the face of God in a homeless man when I was about 12 or 13 when my father had me take a plate of food to him on Christmas day. His eyes were piercing, blue, and kind and etched in my memory forever. I knew it was Him. And that's when my ministry started. I am doing it for God. Because of God. And because I follow the teachings Christ. To love and care for my brothers and sisters. If my God commands me to do it...then I do it, right? So that's how I view it. What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, so please leave your comments for me below.

So that's pretty much it. But before I finish up, I just wanted to share with you this week's list of the "little things I'm thankful for." As you know, I'm focusing on being thankful for the little things that make life so beautiful. And I'm hoping you're doing this along with me. So there it is:

1. Mobility! I think I take for granted so much that I am able to walk. And I walk A LOT. But I view it as a given. I am blessed with mobility. I can get around and not have to rely on someone else to get me there. You know, I often complain about my weight, or my legs, but these legs have carried me through life. I'm so blessed to have them to get around.

2. Clean water. All we have to do is turn on the faucet and we have clean water. Do we realize how fortunate we are? We're spoiled. The water is clean coming out of the tap, yet how many of us have to drink bottled water because tap water doesn't "taste good." Did you know that 3.4 million people die each year from water related disease. tthat's about the size of the population of los angeles!) And every 20 seconds a child dies from it? Check out Water.org

3. Popcorn - I love popcorn. Have you ever thought about who thought about popping corn first? And then who thought of putting butter on it??

4. Compassion. I am thankful for compassion and the ability to help others. Some get defensive. "They're milking the system," they say. But "they" is really "we". We all belong to one another. We're all part of the same family and it's up to us to take care of one another. I'm blessed with a compasionate heart and would rather be this way than any other.

5. Saturday morning coffee. It really is the small things. Saturday morning. Relaxed coffee at home. The best ever! One cup before breakfast when I'm cooking. The second cup with breakfast. The third cup about a half hour later, after I've cleaned up the kitchen. Coffee always tastes so much better when I'm at home.

6. Beautiful colors in nature. Look around. In my front yard the leaves on my tree have changed to bright vivid
yellow. Last Saturday, I took a basketmaking class and the colors in the pine needles were so subtle and beautiful. Be aware of the way the sunlight affects nature at sunrise and then at sunset. The palette changes right before our eyes.

7. And finally, this is a big one for me...

I am thankful for the ability to create. My life is happy because I get to create. Basketmaking, crocheting, jewelry, cooking, drawing, blogging. Creativity is happiness for me and I am blessed that I have the ability and means to create.

So I showed you my list...now you show me yours!! Oh come on....at least list a couple in the comments section below!! Okay, give me one! When we focus on the little things that bless our lives, we'll appreciate each day a little more fully. I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

11 November 2013

Taking Inventory (Audio)

ITP #20: Have you ever taken inventory on the job? Checking to see what you have or what you need more of? This week on Inside the Pomegranate, Anush talks about taking personal inventory to make sure we have enough of what we truly need for success.
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: 

Taking Inventory

Last week, I wrote about being thankful for the little things - saying that I was going to jot down one per day of the things that make our lives more beautiful and full.  So I thought, I'd start off this week by sharing with you some of the things - the little things - that make me happy.

Choices:  Ever think about how blessed we are that we have choices?  I mean, just think about all thechoices that we so fortunate to be able to make.  Like what shoes to wear, what form of transportation to take (to drive or take the bus), where to shop, how to spend our time, what to eat, what to drink.  How many of us have ever thought about what it would be like to not have a choice. I have a lot of friends on the street that don't have that luxury.  That's really a true blessing when you think about it.

Warmth: As you know, I take the bus in the morning.  At 6:30 in the morning, it's cold out on the street. Usually, on those cold mornings when the bus pulls up, the driver's got the heat on, and it reminds me of how fortunate I am to be warm.  I have a jacket, a home and family to keep me warm.

The foothills:  I live in the foothills in Sunland.  They're so beautiful, especially in the late afternoon when I'm getting home from work.  The sun is hitting them just so, and they have this beautiful color to them.  It always reminds me of the words in the song America the Beautiful.  The "purple mountains majesty above the fruited plane".  I always wondered about purple mountains when I was a kid singing that song in elementary school (and once, when I was about 8, drew a picture of a fruited plane...a jet airplane with fruit trees on it...but I digress). Anyways, in the late afternoon sun, my mountains have this beautiful warm, rich reddish purple to them.  And when I see my them, it reminds me that I'm almost home...and lucky to have a home to return to.  It also reminds me that God is the best artist of all.

Opportunity: As tough as the economy is, and as difficult as it is to start a business, I am thankful that we live in a land of opportunity.  I have watched this one corner in my neighborhood change from a vacant lot, to a small produce stand, to a very nice "farmer's market" type of store where I buy my produce.  This little store is owned by Armenian immigrants who started their fruit stand, and then were able to build it into a better store because of this country and the opportunity it affords. I'm grateful to live in a land of opportunity, where with some VERY hard work and the support of your community, dreams can become reality.

A sturdy bus bag - Okay, this really is a "little" thing...though not so little at all.  As minor as this sounds, my reinforced bus bag helps me to carry my reading, my lunch, a scarf or sweater when I get too warm,  my produce on Thursdays when I shop at the farmers market.  This bag has big flowers on it, is white/black and blue, and it's sturdy,  and saves my hands from getting the circulation cut off. I just throw it over my shoulder with my purse and I'm ready to go.

Beets! - Need I say more?  What's not to appreciate about beets!  They're beautiful, and pink.  Filled with vitamins and iron.  They keep on giving you "pink" if you know what I mean.  And I love them.  And I even love the golden ones too!  I'm grateful for beets!

and the last one for this week...Morning Kisses from my mom - My mom has been living with us. Every morning when I'm ready to leave for work, I go into her room.  It's early.  She's asleep, but I have to tell her I'm leaving.  It's the rule.  As soon as I walk in, she wakes up.  It's always, the same, "Gertas?  Already? Gimme a bachig.  Asdvadz heded."  (basically, "You're leaving?  Already?  Give me a kiss.  God be with you.") And I get my morning kiss  from mom. As old as I am, I will always be her baby.   I love her, morning bachigs and her daily blessing.

So there it is.  One week's worth of the small stuff!  I hope you think about things that make you thankful. At first I was trying to write them down, but it became to cumbersome to carry a notebook with me, so I justed used my memo app on my phone and put them down as they came to me.   Then I could look at them and build on it later...(which I did).  Like I said last week, I'll be doing this for the month of November, so I'll have a fresh list for you next week.  Please share yours with me as well.  By the time Thanksgiving comes, we'll have a whole new perspective on those little things that make our lives so beautiful.

Okay...so on to this week's topic.  It's been a busy week! Just a week ago I was working so hard on jewelry for a harvest craft fair that I participated in.  My friend  and epostle producer extraordinaire, Suzie and I were vendors at a craft fair.  I had my Pomegranate & Eye line of jewelry for sale and Suzie had her crocheted creations and her amazing homemade jams.  Things were slow for the first few hours, and thank God we had each other. (which reminds me that I have to add Suzie to my list!)  We kept each other company, talked, laughed....I mean, the worst day of craft fair is better than the best day of work, right?  Oops, what happened to my new positive attitude about work???  : )  No, no, it's still there.  But it was nice to be able to do what one loves.  Anyways, the day was a huge success though thanks to Facebook...and there's that power of social media again.  I had posted the address of the fair on Pomegranate & Eye's facebook page and some of my fans came out!  It was great to meet Carmen, Sonia and some of the others that stopped by that day!

So last night, I was talking to my mom.  I was wondering what I could blog about this week.  I had hit this wall and just had no ideas at all.  My mom started thinking...."Write about your cat that escaped and how Ned had to shower with it."  As true and funny as that sounds, uh, no.  Although I'll tell you about it a little later.  So mom had all these suggestions but none of them felt like a good fit.  I told her not to worry about it, because everytime she would walk from the TV room to her room, or the kitchen, she'd offer more suggestions.  Finally she said she was going into her room to do her nightly prayers.   I gave up...I played a few rounds of Candy Crush....answered a few emails. It was getting late, and mom came out to say goodnight.  "Did you find something to write about?"  When I told her no, she said,  "You will.   I prayed about it."

Even though it was getting late and I should have been getting ready for bed, I had this idea to go through the jewelry that I had brought home from the fair - and compare it to what was on the website.  Right after the fair, I had made some sales online, and unfortunately what was purchased online  was what was also sold at the fair that day.  I had to create new pieces...and I wanted to make sure that I cross checked my inventory so this kind of thing didn't happen again.  .  So there I was at close to midnight, checking actual pieces against the site when the topic came to me.  Divine intervention perhaps?  The topic for today is Inventory!

Most times when I have my items for sale, people come by and either look or buy.  But sometimes I get people that stop and talk.  And they offer suggestions.  Not that I asked for them.  But they tell me what I could do, how I could change things, what would look good, what would sell.  Unsolicited advice.  Sometimes when I'm in the mood, I chat them up. But other times, it's kind of a "yeah, whatever" (mentally, of course).  So last night as I was going through my inventory, I was thinking about all this.  And change.

Although I make bracelets for the most part and handmade silver, copper and bronze pomegranates, what sold out at the craft show were my copper wire sweater/scarf pins.  It was a total surprise to me too since they are not really the main focus of what I make.  So I was making a note of what I need to make more of, what supplies I have to buy in order to increase my inventory in those areas and then assessing what I have in stock,  and I started thinking about how so much of this inventory process was also pertinent to life.

Think about it.  God has given each of us has a life to make the most of.  Somethings about us "sell" or are desireable, yet other things "sit" on the table.  That desireable trait that we have is usually a talent or something that sets us apart from others.  Something that God has given us...whether it's artistic ability, sense of humor, musical talent, the ability to speak, create, parent, etc.  That is what makes us unique. When we use those talents to glorify God, others will naturally gravitate toward us wanting what we have.  Not because we blatently profess it and say, "Hey look what I've got. Don't you want it?"  But because the love in us - God's love - shines through and makes those that are searching sit up and take notice.

Then there are those things about ourselves that we THINK will be appealing to others.  We showcase them, dress them up, package ourselves nicely.  Sometimes we're accepted, and other times not.  If we're rejected more often than not, then it's time to assess. Do a little self inventory.   Do we need to bring ourselves down a notch?  Make ourselves more approachable.  Are we being the best we can be from God's standpoint?  Are we loving, giving, caring and compassionate? or are we too concerned with the package and not the incredible potential inside?  What about the suggestions made by the outsider?  Are we too proud to take constructive criticism? or can we listen with an open heart and mind and then decide if the suggestion makes sense for us?    How can we accentuate the positive qualities that God has given us?  And how can we make them shine on others so that they see the beauty of God within us?

The responsibility of Christianity is a big one.   I love the quote that says, "At all times preach the gospel.  When necessary, use words."  We have a responsibility to carry Christ's message of love and light in the world to all - taking inventory of ourselves, adjusting attitudes and approaches, so that we can preach that love and light to all, not with words but with actions.   So that they'll know we are Christians by the love the that we have toward all.  And it's definitely not easy, but something to work toward.

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  I'd love to hear from you.   So leave a comment and let me know what your thoughts are, or share your "little things" with the rest of us.

One last thing.  As promised, I'll share with you the cat story.So we have two cats, Mati and Zelda.  Mati is my big bad boy kitty weighing in at a whopping 23 pounds.  And Zelda is the demure and beautiful black
The sleeping Mati - the bad boy kitty!
cat.  Both kitties are indoor cats, and not allowed outside.  But once in a while, if Neddy leaves a door open while he's checking something outside for a minute, one of them will escape.  Inevitably, they always end up under the house, and this means one thing only?  They must be bathed.  Okay, so have you ever bathed a cat?  Maybe.  But have you ever bathed WITH a cat?  No, I didn't think so.  Yet my fearless husband will shower with the cat, shampooing and holding him down at the same time while hearing the cat meow and howl in complaint.  But his justificiation is a good one.  I mean, the cats are allowed on the couches, and on the rare occasion when they've "escaped", they come back pretty dirty!   Anyways, needless to say it's a traumatic experience for Mati, and he had to go through that today.  And usually, they remember. Zelda has learned her lesson.  It's only happened once for her, and once was enough. So if the door happens to be open, 9 times out of 10 they will both just sit in the doorway and not venture out.  But sometimes the call of the wild is too much for poor Mati, and he has to endure the 'wrath of Ned' and have a shower. And then of course, sadly, when he is finally released from the shower to my open towel, after drying him off, the poor cat is so humiliated.  Hardly the toughy that he looks like when he's dry. Live and learn, Mati.  Live and learn.

04 November 2013

The November Challenge (Audio)

ITP #19: It's November. As we get ready for Thanksgiving, it's easy to give thanks for all the major things in our lives, but what about the small stuff? That's what the November Challenge is all about: Focusing in on all the little things that make our lives that much sweeter. Tune in for a look Inside the Pomegranate.
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: 

The November Challenge

Before we get started on this week's topic, I wanted to take a moment to thank all those of you who commented on my blog about my son Nareg and the divine intervention that brought us to each other.  Whether you liked and shared it on  Facebook, left  a comment on the blog, or sent me emails, I was really moved by your responses.  I especially love it when you leave your comment on my blog because it ends up being a little more visible than when it's up on facebook for a quick minute.  But either way, I am grateful for all the love.

And that's what I wanted to talk about today. Being grateful.   It's November, and you know what that means. Here in the states, the grocery stores are stocking up with the frozen turkeys and the sweet potatoes as we get ready for that one day of the year where we count our blessings and give thanks to God for what we have.  I love Thanksgiving for this reason, and also because it's a family day.  There's no work (YAY!) and  I love it even more because there's no gift giving involved, so it's not like it's all commercialized.  Other than the food issue - which is a big issue - it's a day to get togeher with our families and spend time together.  Visiting, eating, and just being!

In our daily prayers, we're used to giving thanks to God.  But how many of us give thanks for the little things - the little ticket items - that make our day that much more sweet?  Being thankful for small everyday things keeps us happy, or at least happier, than if we just focus on the larger things...or what we don't have.  Case in point - I've been consciously trying to be more positive about my work.  Whereas just two months ago, when Neddy would ask me, "How was work today?"  I would sigh and say in my most defeated voice, "Work is work." I decided that I needed to stop being such a Debbie Downer because all the negativity was just dragging me down....and my family with it.  So I started small.  I told myself that my response was going to be more positive.  So I started answering, "Work was okay."  Because truly it was.  Sure, it's not what I went to school for.  And it's not what I had hoped I would be doing.  BUT my job affords me the ability to help others, sponsor my two children in Chad and Malawi, and very importantly, it provides me with health insurance, which given my past medical history is HUGE, right?  So I've been trying to look at the situation through more mature glasses.  Basically putting on my big girl panties and saying, "It is what it is, and I'm blessed".  I am grateful for what I have because it allows me to do all the other things that are so important to me.  And because of my new approach I've understood a change.  The more positive I am, the more grateful or in tune I am to other smaller things to be grateful about as well.  Incidentally, when I was talking to Neddy about this  just this morning, I asked him..."Have you noticed that I have been a lot more positive with my responses lately?  I haven't said "Work is work!" for a couple months now." And you know what he said?  he said, "That's true.  But that's because I stopped asking you how work was...now I ask you "How was your day?"  See, so he was getting pretty tired of it as well and decided to pull a fast one on me!

So I started looking into the concept of being thankful, being grateful.  I read about a study done at the University of Utah.  They found that people who are grateful are more likely to take better care of themselves physically and mentally,  They get more exercise and eat a healthier diet.  They cope better with stress and daily challenges.  They feel happier and more optimistic and have stronger immune systems.  And they maintain a brighter view of the future.  Who doesn't want all that?  All from being grateful.  The reality is that if we're more positive about ourselves and the situations that come up in our lives, then we can focus our attention outside of ourselves.  It's just more healthy to be grateful.   Sure, we may not have everything we want, job, car, clothes, etc.  But it's not how much we have, but how we feel about what we have (and what we do with it)  that makes the difference.

I think if we change the way we think, we have the potential to change the world.  We just have to use the challenges in life to learn, and approach all things with love.  Even the stuff that hurts us or gets us upset or uncomfortable, because there's a lesson there.  We may not know what that lesson is at the time, but if we think about it (once we've allowed a little time to calm us down), it's there.

It's like this really scary teacher I had in college.  This professor's name was Mr. Walden and he was sooo intimidating.  I was an art student...this is back in the day where we had to actually draw with a pencil or pen...without computers  And I had taken a class in graphic signage.  I had chosen this very cool font and we had demonstrate our skills by creating a sign with our chosen font.  I spent so much time creating my project. Back in the day you had to look up the font in a book that had the alphabet created in that typeface. You had to trace the small letters on tracing paper to form your word, put your tracing under the lucigraph and project the desired size on the wall where you had another piece of paper taped to trace the projection...then use graphite on the backside of the tracing paper to then transfer your art to the board you were going to use for your final artwork.  Then refine your sketch, and with a very steady hand, you'd start inking.  You get the idea.  It was painstaking.  So I had this artwork ready to present....and Mr. Walden takes a look at it, asks the class for a critique.  It was all favorable.  BUT his eye found that I had a little too much space between one letter and the next.  Well, it had already taken me forever to get to where I was.  I asked him how I could fix it.  Should I extend this side this way?  Or possibly, increase the line width here?  He just brought his scary, giant face really close to mine...and went off on a rant about how we had to put our best foot forward and present the best work  possible.  How we couldn't take shortcuts and turn in work that wasn't the best when we knew it could be better.  Blah blah blah.  I was so upset.  At the time, he was my most unfavorite and despised teacher EVER.  But in retrospect, of all the teachers that I have ever had, I learned the absolute most from Mr.Walden.  Not only about technique, but about myself.  And about work ethic, and doing my best. I am grateful that I had him as my instructor because I learned so much.  But at the time...well, I couldn't see it.

If we can just flip the switch, we can turn the negative into a positive that we can be grateful for. Here's another one.  You're waiting for a parking space.  There's a car pulling out and you're waiting for the spot.  When the car pulls out, the jerk who just pulled into the lot from the other entrance pulls into your spot.  Don't you hate when that happens?  Okay, two choices.  Honk, get out of your car, tap on his window, yell... confront and just allow it to ruin your day.  Or you can still be upset....it's okay, but move on.  And be grateful that God has given you patience and kindness.  Be grateful that you are a child of peace.  And then flip it.  Maybe there's a reason that person needed the parking space.  Maybe they have a child screaming in the car maybe?  A health issue?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.  But the reality is that these things happen.  There are always the jerks in the world.  Are you going to allow them to ruin your day?  or are you going to think about all the other things that are going right in your world?  Maybe there is a reason you were meant to park a little further?  Maybe it's God's little way of giving you a little exercise?  It's all about how we see it.

Try to focus on the little things that bring us joy...like hummingbirds that whirr by when you're picking pomegranates in the garden.  Or your fat cat that rubs against your leg to show you love.  What about beauty?  Have you noticed that the leaves on the trees are starting to change color...and how beautiful those leaves are?  How about scented candles and how good they make the room smell.  When I think about these kinds of things, it's like a chain reaction.  Scented candles make we grateful that I can smell at all. You get the idea.  The little things.

So this is the challenge for the month.  I don't want November to go by with just Thanksgiving day as the day we ACTIVELY think about all we are thankful for.  So I've decided that this month, I'm going to be jotting down all the little things that I'm thankful for and sharing them with you, and I'd love it if you'd try it along with me.  Use the comments section on my blog to share your list.  If you've got young children, or even if it's just you and your loved one, when you sit down at dinner, how about sharing the best part and the worst part of the day.  And then turn the focus to the best part and see if you can find a lesson in the worst part.  How will you learn from it?  How will you deal with it?  Embrace it, learn from it, and thank God for the lesson.

So today is the 3rd of November...and I'm going to start with 3 things that I'm thankful for - one for each day:

November 1:  I'm grateful for being able to do the laundry at home.  Because I remember how it was when we were going to the laundromat.  I'm grateful for the convenience.

November 2:  I'm thankful for the terrible headache that I had nearly all day because it reminds me that 99.9% of the time, I don't have a headache and I'm not in pain. I'm thankful that most all of the time, my head is painfree.

November 3:  I'm blessed with an amazing church family.  I'm grateful for them because we really are like a family.  We are happy together when times are joyful, and we cry together, when we're in pain.  We pray together always.  And I love them.

So that's it for the first three days of November.  I'm going to be jotting down the little things every day this month, and hoping that by doing so, it will make me more in tune to all of life's blessings that are part of my life.  I'll have more little things to share with you next week.  So what are you thankful for?  Let me know.

Have a beautiful week ahead, and remember to focus on the little stuff.