09 December 2014

The Kitchen Remodel

I've told you about my father in past posts.  He was a wonderful musician and played the violin.  When Babajan would come home from work, he would get comfortable, and if dinner wasn't quite ready yet, he would grab his violin, stand in the center of the kitchen, and play...sometimes Vivaldi, sometimes Bach, sometimes just some amazing gypsy violin, but it would be in the kitchen.  Inevitably, my mom would tell him he was underfoot.  "Varouj," she'd say, "go play in the dining room.  You're right in the middle of everything!  Vodkee dag es!"  To which he would say that the kitchen is the soul of the house.  It's the center.  "This is where it all happens, Anne!"

If you own a home, or even if you don't own a home but are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, the chances are great that you have a kitchen, right?  What makes this room of the house so important?  It's where the food is prepared to nourish the family.  If you happen to have a table or counter or counter to eat on, it's often where the family gathers for meals, sharing what happened in their day. And that's also the table where the children gather to do their homework too.  Growing up, the kitchen in our old California craftsman home was always the warmest room of the house.  Something was always cooking in the oven in the evenings.  In the morning, my father would make chai in a pan (even before Starbucks made it popular), steeping a tea bag in water with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and orange peel.

Growing up as an Armenian daughter....and granddaughter, the kitchen was always where I would have to work helping my mom or my grandmother.  There was always work to do there.  Whether I was washing dishes, or folding the clean laundry on the table, or rolling choreg or sarmas there.  It's no wonder that the kitchen is so important to me.  When we bought the house that we're living in now, my kitchen was hardly a showpiece, but coming from living in a 700 sq. foot rock cottage as a single mom to our present home, the kitchen felt HUGE comparitively.  The counters are ceramic tile, and that had it's appeal as well.  My parents' and my grandparents' homes all had tile kitchens.  There was nostalgia there, and for a long time it was fine.  But the man we purchased this house from back in 2007 had flipped it.  Bought it, made some repairs and turned a profit on it.  What he didn't do was seal the grout in the kitchen, and over the past 7 years, the grout has been eroding to the point where ...well...let's just say the situation is not pretty.

To regrout or not to regrout...that has been the question.  I'm a pretty good do-it-yourself'er, and I started looking into tools to scrape old grout.  The problem is though, that it's not just the counters, There were some bad areas on the wall behind the sink where I could tell there was water damage. That was something I wouldn't be able to handle.  I talked to my husband about it.  "You do realize this is huge project, right?"  Yes.  I knew that.  But it was also like opening a can of worms, and that's what my trepidation was about.  Okay, so we do the counter.  That doesn't change the fact that the sink (that is so old and scratched it won't come clean any longer) needs to be replaced.  If we were going to change the sink, then we would definitely need new fixtures since the soap pump dispenser built into the sink is yet another thing that's falling apart.  And then there's the garbage disposal which no longer grinds anything but just spins stuff around...that would need to get replaced too.  So you see what I'm saying?  You start, and then it's just ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.  A money pit.

But the thing is that when you own a home, you have to maintain it, otherwise it will fall apart around you.  We can't continue with the grout situation as is.  At least I know that I can't.  And so a couple weeks ago, we started researching countertops, visiting granite yards and trying to find the best deals out there.  We narrowed it down...or I should say I narrowed it down - the granite with the matching tile for the backsplash -  because my husband was not too excited about this at all.  But to give him credit,  he did come with me as we looked at slabs and tile backsplash.   We got a price, the fabricator came over to take the measurements, we got the cost estimate, I convinced my husband it would all be okay....and then.....

"What are you planning on doing with the walls?"  That's what the contractor asked.  I asked what he meant.  I mean we just put down a deposit for them to start work in a couple of days.  "The walls...tile, paint?  What are you planning?"  All this time we were assuming the price he gave us was for the works...we were hit with the fact that no, it covered demolition of the existing tile on the counter, removal of the sink, and the installation of the new counters and new sink.  But not the cost of the tile for the backsplash nor it's installation.  This wave of panic hit me.  Hit us.  So we ask what it's going to cost to do the job the way we had imagined it.  He gives us the new price.  He must have seen the look of horror on our faces.  So he gives us options.  My husband says, "just leave the existing tile as the backsplash."  Okay, not an option for me!  The new granite counters won't match the backsplash.  It's going to look terrible, even though the existing tile is off white..still, if you know me, you know how my eye is drawn to every single detail.  "No!" I say.  We can't leave the current tile.  It's going to look terrible.  The contracter is trying to come up with options.  "We can add a 6" granite backspash and then you'll just have a couple of rows your existing tile." Right,  but what about the large areas of wall that are tiled behind the stove and washer/dryer.

My heart sank.  I mean, finally after all these years of living with it, I was this close to getting it done. And now this set back.  No pressure from the contractor.  He suggested some options.  Do the counters now....then when you can, do the backsplash.  The immediate need is the counter and sink area....do that.  But to me, the queen of impatience, it didn't make sense.  We're going to do the project half way.  Once the momentum has gone, I know it's not going to be a priority to finish the project as something else will take its place.  It always does.   He told us to think about it, and let him know what we decide and we could start work today...Monday.

So the deliberations began.   Being spontaneous, impulsive and impractical that I am, I was trying to convince my husband and myself that we need to do it all right now while we can.  It will never be the right time, and given that I do so much cooking and entertaining, it's a really important room for us to upgrade and maintain....not to mention that the lack of grout is not very sanitary, right and can lead to water damage, etc.  My husband, being Mr. Practical, was more concerned about the financial aspect of it.  Rightly so, I mean, I get it, right?  But regardless, it does need to get resolved.  He kept trying to convince me to leave the existing tile in place.  No, I told him.  "You know how I am!  My eye will go directly to that  and it will bug me."  The next day I received his text while he was at work, obviously still thinking about where we're supposed to be getting the money for all this...."King James Bible...And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee:  it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."  To which I texted back, The book according to Noonee (which is what he calls me)..."And if thy counters offend thee, demolish them and cast it from thee;  it is better for thee to enter into the kitchen with clean, smooth, hygenic counters rather than having groutless, bacteria-laden surfaces to bring the hell fire into thy stomach."  No response.

As it turned out, we found a way to make it work.  I negotiated with the contractor, he agreed, and this morning, the two guys doing the demolition showed up.  The tile was removed from the walls and the counters, and then we found more water damage.  Heart sank again.  The worker said that we should replace the cabinet as there was water damage not only behind the sink but on the walls of the cabinet.  He showed me.  It's there.  And this is where we are right now.  I have the granite guys showing up tomorrow morning, and I'm not certain if they're going to be able to even put it on the existing cabinets because of this area of damage.  The can of worms has been opened once again.  I texted the contractor to let him know about what they found.  Can it be shored up?  Will it be okay?  I have no idea.  All I know is that tomorrow, when I'm at work, the granite guys will come and we'll see what happens.  All I can do is trust.

Okay, so other than telling you this, you're probably wondering where I'm going?  Other than giving you a peak inside my home I started thinking about the similarities of the kitchen...being the center of the home....to our own centers....our souls.  As Father Vazken says, "Think about it for a moment."  As Christians, the cabinet that holds us up is our faith.  Our faith in Christ is our foundation.  If we don't properly seal that foundation...in other words, if we don't practice our faith through action, through compassion, through love and tolerance, and finally through worship, eventually decay will enter and cause erosion of that faith.  Our foundation has to be strong.  That being said, if we do have a solid foundation, we still need to maintain what we do have.  We need to nurture our faith, take stock.  When we see that it's started to wear away, we need to stop and maintain it.  How?  By checking back in with Christ's teachings.  If the problem is not too far gone, sometimes a patch job will do...just a quick fix.  But if the damage is extensive, then we have to do what we need to repair it, pinpointing the problem, closing up the gaps, and getting ourselves back into working order, right?  Oh, and it's important that we ask for help too!  Sometimes the job is just too big to handle on our own.  That's when we've got to call in the "trained professionals" to help do the job.  If we're talking kitchens, it's the contractor.  If we're talking souls...it your favorite Der Hayr, your favorite clergy.

So, we'll find out sooner than later if our cabinets will be strong enough to hold up the new granite counters.  If not, we'll need to figure out something, but I'm hopeful that we can just repair the damage, and things will be okay moving forward.  In fact, I have faith that it will all work out!  And I'm sure it will.  It always does...one way or the other.  And I'll definitely keep you posted as to how it all turns out, next week!

03 December 2014

Teaching Compassion and Christian Responsibility (Audio)

ITP #41: On Thanksgiving Eve our In His Shoes outreach delivered meals to needy families in the Glendale area. Anush and her husband and niece delivered food to three families in transitional housing. On this episode, we take a look at those families, and we talk about getting our children involved in helping out with compassionate acts and teaching them Christian responsibility. Come on in...it's all Inside the Pomegranate.
St Peter Armenian Church Toy Drive Wish List: http://tiny.cc/Yvette_Toys
Holiday Jammin' Boutique
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Teaching Compassion and Christian Responsibility

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we're only three weeks away from Christmas.  I hope you all had a blessed day filled with love and family.  Did you remember to relax and breathe when dealing with the day?  Did you do okay with the food situation?  Or did you resign yourself to the day and show up in your sweat pants with the elastic waistband??  The good news is:  that was only ONE day out of 365.  So if you happened to indulge a little more than you should have...okay a LOT more than you should have.. it's okay.  Today is a new day and a chance to start fresh.  Don't do what I used to do:  Mentally, Monday is always the first day of the week, right?  So my best intentions used to always be saved for Monday.  The new diet would start at the first of the week.  By  Wednesday, it had gone by the wayside....and then of course, Wednesday is almost the weekend, and everyone knows you can't start a diet on the weekend...and you know, Monday was right around the corner, and that's the day to start.  So essentially, dieting 2 days a week, and getting ready to diet for the other five.  I can laugh at it now...but thinking about that way of thinking....madness.  Can you relate? I know you know what I'm talking about!

My Thanksgiving day was wonderful.  I've been sharing my gratitude list with you for a couple of weeks now.  If you're just here for the first time, I've been writing down 5 things a day that I am grateful for.  I continued it up to Thanksgiving and I'm still doing it now, almost a week afterward, because it is such a great exercise in raising my consciousness about all that I have.  By the time Thanksgiving day rolled around on Thursday, I was so emotional about all that I had been blessed with.  I heart  felt so "open" and I just had the best day.  Throughout the day I was reminded of these blessings and it just added to my wonderful day.  Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, I am still in tune to the blessings.  I'm still doing my five a day! So what are today's five?
Today, I am grateful for...
  1. The great podcasts that are out there that make my morning commute so interesting
  2. My kiln that allows me to work in metal clay
  3. The rain because we really need it here in southern CA
  4. New tights to keep my legs warm (okay, not everything has to be heavy duty...I happen like new tights!)
  5. And all of you for checking in every week
Just a few of the many pews of food we had collected
As wonderful as Thanksgiving Day was, the holiday really started off on Thanksgiving eve when we got together to distribute the food collected during our annual In His Shoes food drive. If you listened to this week's Next Step with Father Vazken, he shared with us about the evening, the service, the people.  What I wanted to share with you today is about the three families that we personally delivered food boxes and turkeys to.  When I say "we" I mean my husband Neddy, my 11 year old niece Nicole, and I.  Our In His Shoes ministry was able to provide food for about 40 families.  And I was really moved because this year, I was able to get the names of three families that had just been placed in housing after living in the shelter.  Because of our work with Glendale's homeless shelter, the case worker there was able to connect us with these three families for food drop off after our Thanksgiving eve service.

Along with giving you a glimpse at these three families, I also wanted to discuss the importance of  involving our children (nieces, nephews, grandchildren) in Christian outreach.  My sister was busy with my older niece that evening, so I asked if Nicole would like to come with me.  At 11 years old, Nicole is really a good worker, and when I told her we'd be sorting and boxing food for needy families, she was happy to come.  It's important for kids to feel a part of something greater than instagram, facebook, texts and selfies, right?  And given that this was all happening at our church, my she was very comfortable with just jumping in and helping because she was with her extended church family.

Here's Nicole in full swing, sorting through
the cans with Sossie and Yn Susan
We arrived at  church at 6:00 p.m.,  and it was already this bustling beehive of activity.  The most wonderful thing, I think, is that our volunteers were all ages  We had families and children working side by side with parents and grandparents.  Nicole started bagging fresh potatos, carrots and yams. I was sorting cans.  Everyone was in a great mood, and like a well-oiled machine, sorting through the donations we received and the putting them in corresponding pews.  If you can imagine, all the various types of canned and dried foods were in their own spots, making a balanced distribution easier.   And the potatoes, carrots and yams were being bagged for each family as well.  When the sorting was done, we all started filling the boxes.  Each family would receive a full box of dry and canned foods, cereal, fruits and vegetables, mashed potatoes, pasta and rice, fresh vegetables and a fresh turkey.

After a very beautiful and meaningful service of Thanksgiving, the food was blessed and some of us had deliveries to make.  I had received the names of three families in transitional housing from their caseworker at the shelter.  We had the routes mapped out and finally found the first aparment where we met Gary.  Gary was a single father with a 9 year old and an 8 month baby.  I had called the three families earlier in the day to let them know we'd be coming over at night after church, so he was expecting us.  The door was open.  He invited us in .  The apartment was like one large room.  Very little furniture, and unpacked boxes.  His eyes were filled with emotion as he thanked us and told us how this blessing had come at the perfect time.  I asked if he knew how to cook a turkey telling him to make sure that refrigerate it overnight.  He said he would ask one of the others in the building to help.  Coincidentally, my boss had given me a bag of baby food just the other day hoping I might find a family that could use it.  And seeing that Gary had an 8 month old, his little baby was the recipient.  I'm always amazed at how God puts right where we are needed most.  Receiving the food, he was just so happy, and a look of relief came over his face.  We hugged, he blessed us, and when we left, he was smiling.

Our second delivery was to a small apartment a few miles away.  Maria opened the door and invited us in to bring in  the boxes and bags of food.  The apartment was small and cluttered.  The dishes weren't done, there was unfinished homework on the table.  Two young children came running into the living room and hid behind Maria's legs, screaming and playing.  They saw Nicole and squealed and ran off.  Maria yelled at them to behave themselves.  She said, "my granddaughter has special needs."  She explained that she was living in this apartment with 4 of her grandchildren and how grateful she was for the food.  Here's another example of "right place/right time": Nicole had no idea who we were delivering food to, but she  had brought with her a brand new purple sweater with the idea that we might find someone she could give it to.  She whispered to me if we should give her sweater to this little girl. We showed the sweater to the Maria telling her it was from Nicole....and asked if her granddaughter would be able to use it.  She was grateful and said that purple was her granddaugher's favorite color.  As we were leaving, the little girl was calling out after my niece.  "What's your name??? Nicole turned around to answer her and saw that she was holding the bottle of apple juice that we had put in the box.  "Thank you for my juice!  It's my favorite kind."

The last delivery we made was to Kim.  She and her husband lived in this small apartment with almost no furniture at all.  In the kitchen a TV tray served as a table for two.  There was a stool and a chair and that was about it.  When we came in with the food, Kim and her husband praised God.  They thanked us and blessed us.  Kim couldn't contain her happiness and came over and hugged all three of us, thanking us and giving thanks to God at the same time.  Her sincerity and faith was really touching.  She was excited about the prospect of being able to roast a turkey...something she hadn't been able to do for a while.  We wished them a Happy Thanksgiving and were on our way.

On our way home, I was interested my my niece's reaction to what she had just witnessed.  What had surprised her the most was the lack of furniture in the last home.....and living out of boxes in Gary's home.  It was good for her to see because I think our children and grandchildren are desensitized to what's going on in our country...our community.  It's good for them to see beyond their bubble.   She was surprised to see Gary's apartment with no room for much of anything...and there were 3 people living there.  She asked how they could do it?  I explained to her that whe you put it into perspective - that just a week or so ago they were living in a shelter, and prior to that on the street with no home at all -  this little apartment is a wonderful and safe home and definitely a blessing.

I know that Nicole was moved by our outreach.  Over the past couple of days. I have heard her sharing with her mamajan, her sister, and her mom and dad what she did and how she had helped.  It's up to us to teach our children about compassion and Christian responsibility.  And as uncomfortable as it might be, it's good for them also to see the other side of life and to understand ...
1.  A home is anywhere where you feel safe and secure, no matter how large or small, how cluttered or sparsely furnished
2.  You don't have to be a certain age to do God's work.  It's right there when you open your heart to it.  All you have to do is care.
3.  A simple act of kindness brings about other acts of kindness...it just kind of snowballs.  We delivered the food, they gave us hugs, we hugged back, they got to eat, we got to feel good....it's a win/win!
4. A cell phone isn't everything.  When I first picked up my niece, all the way to church she was on her cell phone, texting, posting, etc.  Once we got to church, I told her "put it away."  It took a few times of me saying it but she did.  It was only after putting it away that she started enjoying herself, working with the others for a common goal.  I think kids lose site of this.  There's so much to be done.  We just have to harness that energy.

It was an amazing evening shared with our church family.  Exciting too was that there were quite a few new faces.  Which is always good.  Love is contagious!  With Christmas just around the corner, it's a good time to get your family involved in compassionate work.  Maybe volunteer with your children at your local foodbank.  Take a group to your local convalescent home and ask if you can sing the patients a few carols.  Call your local shelter and ask ho
w you can help.  It's such a wonderful experience, and it connects our children to life and our obligations as Christians.  God is love.  And if we are all children of God, then we are children of love.  Remember that old song: "What the World Needs Now is Love"?  It's more true now that ever before!  (No, not just for some, but for everyone!)

The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is with family!!!  Here's some of our church family at
St. Peter Armenian Church Youth Ministries

26 November 2014

Empathy, Sympathy and Thanksgiving (Audio)

ITP #40: What do you say to a friend when they've shared with you something troubling they're going through? Or that they have been diagnosed with an illness? We aways try to make it better but maybe all we need to do is be there with them. In this weeks episode, Anush takes a look at Empathy, prepping for Thanksgiving, and then of course, there's the gratitude list.
Links: Power of Empathy video
Gramma's Yalanchi Recipe
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Empathy and Thanksgiving

This past Monday was a wonderful day.  How can it not be...it's my day off.  And so on Monday morning, I headed over to my daughter Ani's house.  She and her husband are hosting Thanksgiving again this year, for the third year in a row since they got married.   This year we have something new to be thankful for!  Little Arek, my grandson,  is 12 weeks old this week. Can you believe that?  And it's his first Thanksgiving...and our first Thanksgiving as grandparents.  Each time I see him there is something new he's doing.  This past Monday, while I was taking selfies of us together, he was getting a kick out of seeing himself on my phone screen,  smiling at himself.  So sweet.  He tries to reach out and touch the screen, but his hand/eye coordination is not there yet, so he either overshoots it or doesn't quite make it, but it's very fun to watch him try.

Not only did I get to play with Arek, but I got to help Ani with the Thanksgiving preparations. Growing up in Los Angeles, we were blessed to have my grandmother live nearby.  In fact, she lived on the corner of our street and was always there for us while we were growing up.    Always for Christmas and Easter, and any other special occasion, my grandma would make the yalanchi, the stuffed grapeleaves which were creamy smooth with their filling of rice, onion, pinenuts, currants, dill, allspice and cinnamon.  She would call me over telling me she needed my help, but in retrospect I understand that what she was doing was teaching me how to soak the leaves, trim the stems, make the filling, roll the sarma.  After my grandmother passed away, I took on the tradition of making her traditional recipe for family feasts. This week Ani called and said that she would like to take on that tradition for Thanksgiving.  Isn't that cool?  So Monday, we packed up Arek (his diaper bag, bottle, stroller, Mobi wrap, change of clothes, pacifier and blankie) and  took a trip to the Armenian market to buy all the ingredients.  After buying what we needed (along with a bag of chili mangos for the trip home - which we didn't need), we headed back to the house.  I watched her follow my recipe to make the filling, and while it cooked,  the two of us together stood at the sink, trimming the little stems from the leaves we had been soaking in water, setting aside the torn leaves to line the pan, just like my grandmother taught me.  It was such a beautiful revelation to see how full circle I had come.  

If you remember, last week, I posted a list of things I am grateful for.  I have been continuing my goal of thinking of 5 things a day that I have grateful for. And although I won't list all 35 for you, here are some of things I thought of this week:

Today I am grateful for...
1.  Being employed by a company that offers me full health benefits.  I have been on the flip side of that coin, and let me tell you, my stress levels are so much lessened because I have health insurance.
2.  My caregivers...the team of doctors and nurses that help maintain my health including my primary, oncologist, gastroenterologist, orthopedist, and all their nurses.
3.  Family traditions that help us remember the past and how we got here.
4.  Having family that live nearby to share the holidays with
5.  The abundance that we so easily take for granted.  Just look around.   
6.   Old friends - the kind that understand how busy my life is and so when I do end up seeing them, it's like no time went by in between visits.
7.   My relationship with God
8.   Time spent with my mom discussing her past, childhood stories, and days gone by.
9.   Good morning hugs from my husband
10. Early morning appointments that leave the rest of my day open to do things I need to do.  
11.  The ability to express myself through my art
12.  My glasses.  I never really thought about it, but I rely on them to see.  Life without them would be a blur.
13.  Our In His Shoes outreach that keeps our focus on spreading love to others

These are some of the items that made it on to my Gratitude list.  What about you? Did you give it a try?  Tell you what, try to make it a point this Thanksgiving, and all year, to be thankful not only for the beautiful family, friendships and love that we're surrounded with, but also for the little things that bring so much flavor and joy to our lives.

A couple mornings ago, a friend had posted a video on Facebook about Empathy vs. Sympathy.  If you're friends with me on Facebook, you probably noticed that I shared it because I thought it was so good.  
RSA Shorts Video - The Power of Empathy

The video brings into light our reactions to those who are struggling around us.  Have you ever been in a situation where a friend shares with you about something they're going through.  I'm talking about something tough/difficult. You want to help and be there for them...but you have absolutely no clue what to say because you've never been there/done that.  So you go into this mode of trying to make their situation seem not so bad, or silver-line their cloud.  I loved what the narrator of the video says, "Rarely can a response make something better.  What makes it better is connection."  It's true, right?  When your friend shares their pain with you, they're not looking for a solution.  What they are doing is just sharing. They need an outlet.  And there's really nothing you can do to make the situation better other than pray for them, of course, but what you CAN do is just be there for your friend.  In order to CONNECT with your friend or family member though, you have to find that emotion inside of your self and share that in that feeling letting them know you understand and that you're there for them.  

I started thinking about this concerning two things.  The first of these is our In His Shoes homeless outreach.  Why are we so successful in reaching out to those in need?  Our program has been ongoing for the past 6 or 7 years.  I think the key is this empathetic response.  Putting ourselves in the shoes of others who are suffering  We're not just there handing out food.  We are there to listen, to hug, to show love and compassion.  To give them their dignity back.  To care.  And we do this because we too have been there.  We explain quite often that we understand what they are going through because we ourselves, as an Armenian people, have been hungry, homeless, naked, afraid.  We're there to help.  It's entirely nonjudgemental but more of a change of our perspective and also in their perspective of how we are perceived.  When they understand that we have walked in their shoes, we are suddenly not offering a hand out as much as a hand up.

We can use this response when dealing with illness as well.  I know this one really well.  I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer.  It's difficult.  It was tough for me, but it's also difficult for the friend or family member that is trying to say the right thing.  I mean, you have cancer.  What can someone possibly say to you that will make you feel better.  A positive diagnosis wreaks it's havoc in your head.  Am I going to survive?  Am I going to die?  Who will raise my children? What if it comes back?  In those dark days, what helped the most were the friends and family that had no idea what to say at all (because really, what can you say?)  If you can just imagine yourself in that position and how terrifying it is, you can call up an emotion within yourself to walk in that person's shoes. And then just be there with them.  Don't try to make the situation better.  It's okay to say that you don't know what to say, or that you wish you knew what to do, but you don't...and then just be present for them.

Empathy is feeling with someone.  Sharing what they're going through.  Sympathy is the detached, version of that.  Christ was empathetic to humanity.  He didn't sit back and feel sorry for the sick, the hungry, the poor.  He brought himself to them, walked with them, held them, and He is still there for us in our time of need.  To those of us who believe, we are never alone in our suffering. 

I've posted the video here.  I'd love to hear what you think of it, so please feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  On Thursday, most all of us here in the states will be gathering together with family and friends to give thanks for all we have.  I was thinking about it today.  How cool is that?  That our country has a day where we're supposed to stop everything and come together and be grateful for our lives, and those we share it with.  For some though, it's a difficult day as well.  While the Norman Rockwell painting shows the perfect family sitting down to the turkey dinner, not all families are loving.  Not all families get along.  If this is the case, the day may be filled with trepidation or fear of confrontation. 

Or maybe you do have a great relationship with those in your family, but you have a tough time with all the food.  If you've struggled with weight issues, like me, this day and its food, it's easy to self sabotage.  So for those of you that are walking in MY shoes, I just want to invite you to take a step back this Thanksgiving, and make yourself "present".  Pause.  Breathe.  Remember that it's not what's on the table, but who's around it.  Tell your family how much you love them.  Hug your Auntie Zabelle.  Listen about Keri Hagop's trip to Chermoog...yet again.  Enjoy the day, not for the food, but for the beauty of family, togetherness, love, and happiness.  Savor your food but be mindful while eating - tasting every bite that was prepared especially for you with love.  Sounds good right?  Above all, take some time to be still and think about all that you have been blessed with and give thanks.  

Wishing you all a very beautiful, blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Here's gramma's yalanchi recipe if you'd like to give it a try:  Click Here and visit my page on HubPages.com

17 November 2014

Homelessness, HomeWalk LA, and being Grateful (Audio)

ITP #39: This week brought with it two opportunities to reach out to the homeless community. Hear about this month's homeless outreach and some of the challenges facing families in the shelter and how you can help. And then there's that Gratitude List Anush said she's share with you. Take a listen Inside the Pomegranate.
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Homelessness, HomeWalk LA, and being Grateful

Our crew for this months' homeless outreach including
Yn Susan, Me, Fr. Vazken, Meline (Harout's mom), Sonig
and Kevork (Harout's aunt and uncle) and Ani T.
If you tuned in to last week's episode of the Next Step with Fr. Vazken, or if you're friends with "In His Shoes" on Facebook, you've no doubt heard about our homeless outreach last Thursday evening.  I've talked out our In His Shoes homeless outreach quite often....in fact I feel like I'm talking about it all the time.  But it's important.  And I wanted to mention what a beautiful gesture it is when a meal is donated in memory of a loved one to those who have no way of repaying the kindness.  A couple months ago, the Hamparian family donated the meal in memory of their daughter Cathia.  This month the meal was donated in memory of Harout Mekhdjian by his family.  We've had many other donors who have donated in memory of a dear father and husband, sister or a mother.  And in all these instances, I can tell you that the families leave the shelter after a night of service feeling uplifted.  This past week was no different.

We arrived at the shelter at 5:00 p.m. to prep for a 6:00 p.m. dinner.  After unloading the car, we started cooking.  There were mashed potatoes and stuffing to be made.  Harout's mom and aunt and uncle were offering a prayer of Thanksgiving for their son and nephew's life, by preparing a Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings for the shelter residents.  Together we worked.   We all had our jobs.  I have never made such a huge pot of mashed potatoes...it was something like 28 cups of water, 14 cups of milk, 8 sticks of butter, and packet after packet of mashed potatoes!  The turkeys were prepped ahead of time and kept warm in the oven.  There was cranberry sauce and gravy to go with the potatoes and stuffing.  Salad, pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  As we worked happily in the kitchen, I noticed a little girl looking at us through the window.  The kitchen at the shelter has a glass window where we can serve and pass the meals over.  And this little girl was watching us.  If she were a bit taller she would have been able to press her nose to the glass, but she was still a little too short.  She answered with a nod when I asked if she was hungry.

The shelter is home to families...and this month we had a record number of children.  The little
girl looked familiar.  I normally remember the kids from month to month and I like to surprise them by remembering their names.  But I couldn't remember her name or when I had seen her last.  But her face stumped me.  As we were cooking, the residents starting returning to the shelter, which is closed during the day as the men and women go off to look for work, and the children go to school. Some of the children were playing together in the main room while we cooked and I saw a mother with a baby in a stroller.  I had definitely seen her before and then it all clicked.  Last year, my siblings and our families had "adopted" a family for Christmas fulfilling their wish lists for clothing and gifts.  The little girl was four last Christmas but was tiny wearing only a size 2 toddler.  Now at five, she had grown a little bit more, but was still small.  The family that we adopted - who were then in transitional housing after  a fire had devasted their home - were now back at the shelter.  The mother, who was very pregnant last year, had had her baby - Gabriel.   I went up to her and reintroduced myself.  She remembered.  After commenting on how her children had grown so beautifully, I asked what had happened.  Plain and simple, she answered the funding for housing had run out.  Without that, they found themselves back on the street.  With four children, and having nowhere to turn, she came back to the shelter.  Grateful as she was to be inside, the shelter had no beds for them, and so for the time being, they were being allowed to sleep on the floor of the waiting room on blankets.  

I really can't imagine what I would do in this situation if I couldn't rely on my family or friends.  It would be so scary and difficult to be homeless just by myself, but throw my young children into the situation?  I don't know how I would manage.  I didn't know what I could possibly say.  I asked, "What's next?  What's going to happen?"  She didn't have an answer  She was hoping for some type of program that will help them get into housing.  "Hopefully," she said.   For the time being, she was grateful that they had a roof to sleep under and were off the street.

One of the things I've noticed about Ascencia is that because of it's small size, the residents all become a part of each other's family, sort of.  It's not uncommon to see the children sitting with their friends while the mom's sit and talk together at their table over dinner.  It's intimate enough for parents to keep an eye on their kids and for the children to feel safe.   Her younger children seemed unphased by all they had been through.  I'm guessing it was because this type of trauma had become their norm.  They sat with some of the other children, eating, laughing, playing with their food like children do.  Angel, her son, remembered me and came up asking me if I remembered his name.   I needed a hint and asked what letter it started with.   Once he said "A", I remembered.  And then Chris and Lauren who have been there for the past few months asked me if I remembered their names too. Of course I did.  : )  I worry about these kids during the month.   I wonder how this will effect all of them.  The one that I fear is most affected is the teenage daughter who is about 14 but already looked mature and street smart for her age.  I noticed that she was sitting with the women, listening to their talking and complaints, learning about life from these women there who have no support systems and no one to rely on. These women who have been abused and neglected.  I think about my own teenage niece who has a loving family, is doing well in school, has interests and hobbies and parents that nurture and love her.  Even when you have everything going for you, being a teen is tough when you think about it.  So then what are this girl's odds of getting out of this situation unscathed given the emotional, psychological and physical trauma she's had to endure at a young age?

Fun pics from HomeWalkLA 2014 with
my husband Ned, niece Madi and dear
friend Nancy
I don't have the answer, but I can't sit back and do nothing either. And so we walked.  This past Saturday, Team In Her Shoes participated in HomeWalk L.A.  This is a  5K walk/run organized by United Way.  It was our 7th year participating.  And this year there were a record number of us walkers:  13,000 of us took to the streets of Los Angeles to raise money and awareness for the homeless of our city.  I want to thank those of you who donated to my walk!  This year's walk generated $1.3 million dollars to be used for helping LA's homeless population.  With the money raised, 1,300 families will be housed!!!  I hope and pray that our little family in Glendale will be able to reap the benefits of our efforts.

As we walked through the streets we learned about homelessness in our city.  There are 40,000 documented homeless men, women and children in LA.  If you count the undocumented in with them, it is estimated that there is closer to 53,000.  It's heartbreaking, isn't it?  Everyone deserves a home, a place to feel safe.  53,000 of us here in our city don't have that luxury. When you look at the even broader picture, the statistic is even more staggering. The National Center on Family Homelessness reports "One in 45 children experience homelessness in America each year.  That's over 1.6 million children.  While homeless, they experience high rates of acute and chronic health problems.  The constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experience also has profound effects on their development and ability to learn."  

So where am I going with all of this?  I don't have the answer.  Well, I guess that's not really true. What we can do...what we can ALL do is to keep them in our prayers.   AND we can extend the hand
of friendship and love to them as our brothers and sisters.  I understand.  Not all homeless people are friendly, but most are used to being invisible.  When I get off my bus in downtown, it's 6:45 in the morning when I start walking the few blocks to work.   I've got my headphones in as do probably 80% of those that I pass.  There are homeless individuals who are just waking up from a night on the street.  I can choose to keep my headphones in and pass them by acting like I don't hear them asking for help.  Or I can take the headphones off and address them.   I can't always help, but I can always acknowledge that I hear them.  I can always say hello and listen.  I can always show them compassion and treat them as I would want to be treated.  Last week, I challenged my readers to get involved in their local shelters.  Offer to serve or cook a meal, donate clothing, adopt a family for the holidays.  Remember always that without our own support systems (our family and friends), it would be very easy for us to be in their shoes.  So lets help by walking in the shoes of those that are suffering, and offer a helping hand whenever we can.  It's what we're called to do. 

Finally, last week I said I was going to share a Thanksgiving list with you.  Stuff to be grateful for.  I
What if it really happened?  What would you have?
actually started doing this last month and have continued well into this month and will take it beyond. I've been trying to do FIVE a day, and I'll tell you, it's really changed my perspective so much on all that I have in this beautiful life.  So here I will just share some of them with you in the hopes that you'll share some of yours with me!

So here;s my Gratitude List so far:

I am grateful for....

1.  This beautiful day that God has put in front of me.
2.  Our beautiful grandchildren Arek and Grace who bring so much joy into my life.
3.  The ability to swing a kettle bell and bend my knees today (I have arthritis and some days the inflammation is terribly painful...but for today, the knees are good!
4.  My mom and the relationship I share with her
5.  A boss that listened to me when I told her my job was unfulfilling to me unless I could be creative.....and allowed me to work a 4 day week and keep my benefits, so I could spend time growing my business.  Or the fact that she doesn't flip out when I tell her I'm going to be late when I have to take mom to the doctor.
6.  My faith...that teaches me love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness of others (although I'm still working on being loving, compassionate and forgiving of myself)
7.  My husband who truly is my understanding and caring partner
8.  The relationship I share with my children.  I am blessed to be close to both my daughter and son.
9.  Cloudy mornings that are so beautiful and chilly
10.  Music...and it's ability to color my life with memories
11.  Running water/plumbing:  I am always reminded of how lucky I am to have clean water, plumbing, the ability to shower and wash myself when I see my friends on the street.  
12. My sister, brothers, and their spouses.  The support and love that we give to one another makes life so much easier.
13.  Good coffee
14.  A variety of healthy beautifully colored fruits and vegetables
15.  Friendly people at the bus stop that make my wait nicer
16  My health!
17.  The ability to buy groceries and pay my bills
18.  A phone that allows me to see photos of my grandson and how quickly he's growing
19.  Bright, sunny and windy fall days like today
20.  Heating that makes my home warm and cozy on chilly evenings
21.  My kitties who love me unconditionally
22.  Dear friends to share life's ups and downs with
23.  Healthcare - I've seen both sides of this one, and life is so much easier when you have health insurance!
24.  The ability to create, visualize, and actualize a project to completion
25.  Curiosity that keeps me wanting to learn new things and figure out stuff

------I'll keep adding to the list daily and I hope it will encourage you to take a look at all that is beautiful in your lives too!
 If you'd like to share your list (or anything else with me), or if you'd like more information about sponsoring one of our homeless outreach meals, please email me at anushnoor@gmail.com or you can find me on facebook too!  Or feel free to leave your comments!

Also, we're full swing into our Thanksgiving canned food drive.  If you're in our local area of Glendale, CA and would like to participate, please bring your dry and canned goods to our church by next Sunday, November 23rd.  We'll be boxing up food and turkeys for Thanksgiving distribution on on Thanksgiving eve. 

11 November 2014

Catching Up....Has it really been Six Months? (Audio)

ITP #38: The past 6 months have flown by. Anush is back and playing "catch up " in this episode: from grandparenthood, World Adoption Day, to the illustration of her second book, tackling fears about work (and making it work!), to walking for the homeless...it's all inside! Inside the Pomegranate!
Links: Anush's email
Story of Nareg
Anush's HomeWalk Donation Page
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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Subscribe to Inside the Pomegranate by Email
Get Inside the Pomegranate on iTunes

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Catching Up....Has it really been Six Months?

What?  Is it really November already and have I truly not posted since May???  That's, like, six months! How can that be?  It's crazy how time has just flown by, but I guess it's true.  I took a break, but life didn't.  And during all these weeks that have flown by, I want you to know that I seriously did give my blog and my podcast thought.  I wanted to post and record,  but I was looking for that perfect time - the time to just sit down at my computer, collect my thoughts, and reconnect, but it just never came.  And so this morning....this beautiful morning, with last week's craft show behind me, and regrouting our kitchen sink ahead of me, I decided to put the brakes on and well, here I am!

So much has happened since we were together last.  It's hard to put it all in order, but I'll try. The
most amazing, and wonderful, and life-changing thing that has happened is that I am now Medzig to our new baby grandson, Arek!  My daughter and son-in-law were blessed with a beautiful little boy on Labor Day, September 1...and then we, in turn, were blessed as well!  And life, as we know it, has changed.  I am in love with my grandson.   My cell phone is overloaded with photos of him, and I can now understand Mamajan's (my mom's) obsession with taking photos of us all.  They are what I look at between visits with my grandbaby.  What a blessing.  He is 10 weeks old, and when he smiles at me, it just melts my heart.  

Smiling for Medzig!!!
I had always heard about the joys of being a grandparent, but until you're here, you don't understand it. I'm the one in the crowd holding my cellphone ready to show pictures of Arek to anyone and everyone.   Complete strangers even!  And although I get it....not everyone shares my excitement,.. it's hard to contain. My heart is just overflowing with love.

But it's not only about having a grandson, but there's another huge factor in this happiness:  It's  about our children.  When your child is born, you pray to God for His protection, wisdom and blessings on them.  When Ani was still pregnant, we were talking about her worries about labor, delivery, motherhood.  It's all fear of the unknown, right?  I told her not to worry (that part was totally normal) but to pray, and have faith.  And then I realized something pretty profound:  Since the day I found out I was pregnant with Ani, and since the day we knew about the possibility of adopting Nareg,  I have prayed for them EVERY DAY!  I can honestly say that other than waking up in the morning, there is not ONE thing that I can say I have done every single day other than pray and give thanks for my children.  That's a lot of prayers!!!   If you are parents of faith, you know what I'm talking about right?  Praying for our families, our children, is a daily thing....even several times a day sometimes.  We give thanks for them, we pray for their safety going to and from school, we pray that God give them the needed wisdom to focus on a test, or that they choose the right friends, make the right decisions.  We pray for their health, we give thanks for the sticky hugs and kisses.  And we pray for openness to accept God's will for them, whatever that may be.  

And miraculously, it all comes together.  It was just yesterday that I blogged about the two of them getting married, and now Ani and Eric are parents!.  There's a joy that fills my heart when I see them with their new baby.  So caring, so loving.  In just the short couple of months that have gone by since Arek was born they can't imagine their lives without him.  I had gone over for a visit (seriously, I can't go more than 3 days without my Arek fix).  Eric and Ani were sharing about their past trip to Italy and how beautiful it was.  I told them that they would just need to go back in a few years.  And that they could leave Arek with us.  And I really loved what Eric shared with me. He shared that growing up, his parents never went on vacation without them.  That his greatest childhood memories were of those vacations together.  Sitting around campfires, or traveling together.  And that's what he and Ani hoped to do with their children too.  It was beautiful to see how full circle we had come. Thinking back to when our kids were young, it was the same way with my parents when we were young.  Our modest camping vacations or trips to local beaches and mountains hold the best memories.  Collecting shells, climbing tide pools, building sandcastle, finding colorful fall leaves and acorns.  Simple things that glue us together with beautiful memories.  Needless to say I'm so proud of them both. Arek is a lucky little boy! 

But I have been blessed with two children, and I am equally as proud of my son Nareg.  Recently his girlfriend brought to my attention that this past Sunday, November 9 was World Adoption Day.  How beautiful.  A day where we acknowledge adoption and families that are made possible because of it. As I was going through my past photos, looking for pictures to share of my son and I, I couldn't help but think about Nareg through the years and how far he had come.  How much he has grown, and how rich our lives are because of the decision to adopt.  Last year I shared with you the Story of Nareg and how we were blessed with our son.  It was 24 years ago that he joined our family.  And since that day he has brought his positive energy, love, and inner joy to our family despite the adversities he has faced.  Just the other day, he had found a little school picture of himself.  I think it was his 6th grade photo so it would have been about 2 years after he was adopted.  There he was with a little gel in his wavy hair, his always warm smile.  I flashed back to him on his bike when he did a daredevil ride down the Wilkie's steep driveway and crashed into the fence across the street, or the time I got a call from the neighbor that he was setting leaves on fire in their back yard, or that he had turned trashcans over one street up.  And then i remembered the day in the kitchen when he was just our foster child prior to the adoption, when he asked us if we would adopt him.  Going to his jazz band concerts, basketball games, the uncanny way he would memorize baseball stats, I remembered all those things, but mostly his loving nature. That little boy i the picture is still in there, he's just all grown up on the outside now.  Anyways, I wanted to just share a little with you about how blessed we have been to have adopted Nareg.  He grew in my heart, and I am so blessed and fortunate to be able to call myself his mom.

I almost forgot one other big reason why I haven't been here.  Prior to Arek's birth, about 2
Panel from my new book showing the priest pouring the
holy muron into the baptismal font
months prior, I was commissioned again by the Armenian Church Eastern Diocese to illustrate my second book!  This time the book is about baptism in the Armenian church.  The format of the book will be the same, The only stipulation of my acceptance of the job was that they wanted all the illustrations done by September...and it was the end of June when they contacted me.  That's not a lot of time when you have a full time day job, have family responsibilities and want to spend time helping your expectant daughter, but I said yes!

My first book, "When I Go To Church" was illustrated with colored pencil and pen and ink. I've always worked in pencil, doing a lot of layering of colors to get the right color saturation.  This time around I used a new medium....Prismacolor markers, and it just made the job so much easier, brighter and faster...and therefore, more FUN! It was an intense couple of months but I was able to get the illustrations done on time.  Arek was born, and I had just a week to get the illustrations shipped out to New York, but I did it!   The book is off to the printer now, and I'm told it will be published in time for Christmas this year!  I'll definitely let you know when it's available.

And then another exciting thing (see, I'm filled with all kinds of exciting stuff, right?)  I had been struggling for the past few  years about my job in the insurance world.  I came into this job out of necessity.  It's not a creative job.  And for me, it's been very stifling in an "energy suck" sort of way.  After months of feeling stuck I thought of a plan: what if I worked 4 days a week and used one day to work on my jewelry and art?  It sounded good but I was sure my boss wouldn't go for it.  Another consideration was my benefits.  Given all my health and cancer issues, I was afraid of losing my health insurance.  Anyways, I just prayed about it....all the time telling myself they weren't going to go for it but at the same time asking God to please make something happen for me.   Along with my unhappiness, my attitude just kept getting  worse and worse.  I would go to work early in the morning, come home drained, deal with home and family, no creative outlet...I felt like that part of me was dying.  I had to do something.  And I did.

One morning, God gave me the courage to go in and talk to my boss.  I told her how I was feeling. Surprisingly, she was actually supportive.  She told me she didn't want to lose me and so if this was what I needed to do, that she would see what we could do to make it work.  Imagine that.  Working a 10 hour day wouldn't work because of overtime issues, but we figured out how many hours I would need to work in order to keep my benefits.  And she made it happen.  So I'm now working a 4 day work week.  And it's really amazing how just getting that extra day to be creative has helped change my attitude for the better.  The weekends have always been so full of chores and family, church and catching up.  So having that extra day has been just what I needed.  I've been able to focus my energy on making new designs in my jewelry and drawings.  And having that creative outlet has really helped my productivity at my job too.  Though my hours are longer, I try to get everything done in four days rather than five and come Friday, I am so happy to be done for the week with 3 days ahead of me.

So, take it from me, don't be afraid to dream and make it happen.  I was so sure that this was not going to be something that would be happening for me.  I had worked out every scenario in my head as to what my boss was going to say as to why my plan wouldn't work.  That was all fear.  Through prayer I got the courage to act and when the time was right, it happened.

Last month's homeless outreach, my sister
Susan and I working the sundae bar for
the residents there!!! Would you like
whipped cream with that??
Let's see, what else?  Our homeless outreach is still happening on a monthly basis.  We'll be at Ascencia, Glendale's homeless shelter this coming Thursday evening. We've been faithfully serving our homeless brothers and sisters there each month, and we are seeing more families with children.  This month is no exception.  Sadly. Want to get involved?   I'm sure there is a shelter in your local area. I'd like to encourage all of you to give them a call and see how you can get involved.  This time of year, I'm sure their needs are even greater as the holidays are approaching the weather is getting colder.  You can offer to serve a meal there, or organize your friends/family to cook dinner for the residents.  You could take it a step further and consider adopting a needy family for the holidays by providing clothing and toys for them for Christmas.  If nothing more, maybe you can drop of yused clothing or canned goods or some furniture for families in transition, I'm sure your help will be welcomed and greatly appreciated.  And if you'd like to donate to our In His Shoes Homeless outreach, please email me directly, and let me know:  anushnoor@gmail.com

This coming Saturday, our In His Shoes outreach group will be walking to raise awareness at Home Walk L.A., and annual event held to raise money and awareness for the homeless in our city.  This year, everything that we raise will be matched, so a $10 donation is like $20!  $50 is $100!  If you'd like to donate, I'll include the link to my donation page on today's show (or click this link!) . 
Our In His Shoes Team of Walkers at Home Walk L.A. 2013
Walking to end homelessness!

And finally, Given that we're in the month of November, and it's the month of Thanksgiving, I'm going to be adding something to be thankful for every day of this month....and I'll share part of it list with you next week....and we'll just keep it going for the month of November, and maybe even beyond!
Share with me!  Leave a comment on my blog about what you're thankful for.

We have so much.  We're so blessed.

06 May 2014

27 Cinco de Mayo's - 27 Years of Creativity (Audio)

ITP #37: There have been 27 Cinco de Mayos since Anush's daughter Ani was born. 27 years of creativity and memories to share. On this week's episode of Inside the Pomegranate, Anush shares some memories and the blessings of being a mom.
Produced by Suzie Shatarevyan for epostle.net
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27 Cinco de Mayo's - 27 Years of Creativity

Twenty-seven years ago today, on Cinco de Mayo, after 27 hours of labor, I was handed a little bundleand my life changed forever.  It was a defining moment.  From that moment on, I earned the title of "mama".  Today is my daughter Ani's birthday.  Last night, as we celebrated her birthday with family at their home, I was thinking about how blessed my life has been because of my children, and I was recalling some memories of motherhood with daughter, that have made my life so much richer.

My first life lesson happened the moment she was born and the doctor said, "You have a beautiful little girl." Surprise.  I don't know why, but we were convinced she was going to be a little boy.  This was 27 years ago remember.  Back before ultrasounds were so common.  I was so convinced that she was a boy that I packed a blue layette to bring her home in.  Don't get me wrong.  We were not disappointed in the least!  In fact, as soon as they placed her in my arms, we couldn't imagine her being a boy at all!  And just two days later, dressed in blue, we took our little girl home understanding full well that surprises can be beautiful things.

Our baby was born on Cinco de Mayo.  The fifth of May.  It's a big deal here in California.  And every
birthday since Ani was one, we have had Cinco de Mayo birthday parties.  The first year, my younger brother bought Ani a traditional Mexican dress in green, white and red.  We always made Mexican food.  Tacos, burritos, Margaritas for the parents, and a pinata for the kids.  Funny story:  On her first birthday, we invited our family and friends to celebrate Ani's birthday.  That year we bought a little clown pinata.  It was just about her size.  She was only a year old, and our nephew Varoujan was 9 months older.  The two of them watched as we filled the pinata with candy.  We took the pinata out on the patio, and the guests arrived.  We were all chatting, enjoying watching our kids playing in our backyard.  And then it was time to break open the pinata.  We invited Natasha who was 5 years old to take the first swing.  She was a 5 at the time, and could manage swinging the stick.  We blindfolded her, and she started swinging at the bobbing pinata.  The next thing we hear is Ani, Varoujan, and some of the other kids crying.  We're all wondering why, when we realize, they were terrified for their clown friend.  They had no idea why someone would want to be beating their friend with a stick.  After that year, the pinatas were not people based designs, until, I think a few years had gone by and we had the Princess Jasmine pinata.  By then she understood what a pinata was all about.

As our baby grew, I learned that my child would copy whatever she saw me doing.  This one's a no brainer, right?  My love for jewelry, and crazy colors in my hair, manifest itself in my little girl.  At her baptism when she was 5 months old, a friend of ours had made her a tiny gold initial ring, she also received a little gold bracelet with her baptism date on it, and a gold cross necklace my parents had made for her.  We put  them on her on that day, and she left them on.  She never took the ring off, played with it, put it in her mouth.  they all stayed put.  She was the only baby I knew that was not bothered stuff like that.  I didn't take my jewelry off, so why would she?  When she was just a little over a year old, she would hang my bangle bracelets from her ears as earrings as she toddled around the house.  This led to her sitting absolutely still when we got her ears pierced when she was a baby. She'd look in the mirror, touch her earrings, and say, "pee-ee!"  (Ani-talk for "pretty").

We always encouraged her to paint - at first I would color her baby cereal with food coloring, and have her finger paint with it sitting on her high chair.  And then when she was about 3 or 4, we would seriously go through a box of children's water colors every week as she would dip her brush in water and mix colors, sometimes painting on paper, and sometimes painting on her hands or her tummy, sometimes just watching the colors mix in the water, but always mixing and experimenting with colors.

She grew up with all kinds of music playing at the house.  It was the late 80s and early 90s.  She grew up with Joni Mitchell and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jethro Tull - music from my youth infused with The Smiths, The Cure, Morrissey, Phoebe Snow and Adam Ant.  I told this story at her wedding and probably here on the blog or podcast as well, but when she was three years old, she had made a huge mess in her room and after telling her that I WANTED it picked up, she put her little hand on her hip, turned to me and and sang - "You Can't Always Get What You Want" while waving her little finger at me.  Her dad was a Stones fan.  I remember a camping trip we took with some friends back when she was about 4.  Our friends had two little girls - one her age and one a year or two younger.  And they were playing with their buckets and shovels on the beach.  Her friend was singing, "Row, Row, Row your boat."  And our little one was singing, Morrissey's "Our Frank" - (Give it a rest, won't you?  Give me a cigarette.  The world may be ending, but look I'm only human...)

We would always buy her markers, origami paper, paints and hole punches.  She would create little pop up books, and Mother's Day coupons for me (that I have in my bible).  When she was 9, she asked for a second piercing in her ears....and then a third when she was 12.  How could I say no when I myself had my ears pierced several times?  Summers were always a time for self-expression.  Without school dress codes to worry about, summer was the time to get a pink or green streak in her hair.  When henna tattooing got popular, I was intrigued with it.  I bought henna from the Indian market, read about mixing it with lemon and eucalyptus oil and we started decorating.  It was summer, remember? Ani had intricate lacy designs henna'ed on her hands and feet.

Our children copy what we do.  Because I had breast cancer when Ani was 6 and Nareg was 12, my kids grew up with cancer awareness.  As soon as Ani was old enough to walk in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer with me, she signed up.  Walking 39.3 miles with my daughter was such an incredible celebration of life for me.  And since that time, she has continuously signed up year after year to walk or crew alongside me.  She has fasted for world hunger, and protested against the war in Afghanistan and the Darfur genocide. She has grown up a social activist.

The teenage years were memorable.  Some good memories, some not to good.  And when I say that, it's not like they were terrible...but there was the usual teenage angst, but we made it through.  By then, I was a single mom, and Ani and I were living in a tiny 1920's rock cottage together.  My son Nareg, was living with Ani's dad locally.  The rock cottage was seriously small, about 700 square feet total, and we had a lot of fun making it our own.  Every room had a "word" painted on the wall.  Ani painted her room, with the word, "Adore".  My room said, "Dream", the kitchen (with it's 6' low ceiling) and paintings and messages all over it, and the bathroom painted with, "WHOOSH!"  We spent Ani's teenage years in that house.  It was ours.  There were happy memories at our home.  And one of the most memorable was when a handsome friend, Eric, came to pick her up for the prom.  That memory is etched it my mind.  I was at the front door when he pulled up.  Ani was in her room.  I watched him walk up the driveway, then the front porch in his tux, holding a corsage.  Ani came out of her room in an apricot colored formal. Her hair was up.  She looked like a princess.  After taking a few pictures, I watched Eric open the car door for her and off they went.  I didn't know at that time, that that evening was the beginning of their lives together.  They've been together ever since.

My family has always been there for me through everything, but Ani was physically there for me.  We have
seen each other through a lot.  She was my maid of honor at my second marriage.  When she was in nursing school, I was blessed to have her by my side through two rounds of cancer in 2011.   Even though her studies were taxing, her creativity never left her.  In fact, it became her escape as she scrapbooked, cooked, baked, and collaged.   I have saved every one of her handmade cards that she's written for me.  She has always poured her heart and soul into anything she created.

She is a girl of faith.  And she knows the importance of prayer and giving thanks to God.  When I see her in prayer at church on Sunday, my heart is filled with joy.  Because I know she knows that none of this amazing life is possible without God's guidance and grace.

In 2012, she and Eric got married.  And together, they have created a home.  And now they are creating their lives together.  Last year they started a 52 soup a year project and cooked and blogged soup recipes - one a week - for the entire year.  They garden together, planting tomatoes, artichokes and plants together.  God has truly blessed us with such a wonderful son-in-law in Eric, because they take care of one another. I love that.   They've been together since the prom...and that was 9 years ago.

And now, my baby girl is 27.  Today!  My Cinco de Mayo Baby.  She's thoughtful and considerate. Compassionate and caring.  She is a loving daughter to our family, and a wife and friend to Eric.  And she is still creating.  She's in the process of creating her best work yet - our little grandson.  As I see rounded tummy, I can't help but touch her hoping to feel a kick...a connection.  I am so blessed to be a mom. God has really blessed me with life after all my health issues to see my baby become a wife, and soon a mom.  And the good part...I get to be a MedzMom!

I know that she and Eric will be wonderful parents.  And I know that the creativity will continue. There will be sunflowers to plant, and gardens to grow.  There will be messes to make, and messes to clean up. There will be sticky kisses and sweet hugs.  But for now, there's a baby room to decorate, a quilt to finish, and projects to complete before the baby comes.  I am so thankful to God for the blessings He's given me.  And for blessing me with such a wonderful daughter and friend.  Happy Birthday love bug!!!