Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strike a Pose, There's Nothing to It

"Some people say that I copy her, but show me one girl my age who was not influenced by her." 
(Gwen Stefani)

With my sister and some friends at youth group ~ 1990
AEYF Talent Show ~ 1990

My room, ca. 1991.  Cynthia is not impressed.

My best friend Talin's birthday party ~ 1992.  Like my tights?  That was everyday garb for me.

With my friend Veken in his dorm room at Tufts.  We Vogued up and down his hallway.  ~ early 90s

Vogueing with my Dad at my wedding ~ 2001
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dinner Scene

In 2000 Jayson and I traveled to Armenia.  On our way there we had a short layover in Amsterdam.  We met up with a friend of mine who took us out to dinner.  I was busy chatting and catching up with him and didn’t realize how much time was passing until Jayson gently nudged me and whispered, “When are we going to order?”  So I asked my friend if we could order and he flagged down the waitress.  He told us that the servers there leave you alone; when you’re ready to order, you have to call them over.  They don’t rush you in and out – they leave you alone to enjoy your time and conversation.  The meal is secondary.  We probably spent four hours there talking, eating and laughing.  I don’t remember what we ate, but it was one of the best meals of my life, because it was quality time spent with good friends.

My in-laws came over for dinner last week.  The table was full of food, the kids were happy, the conversation flowed.  Silas served the salad.  James put enough food on his plate for six people.  After dinner I cleaned up while the boys had popsicles.  They were at the dining room table with Papa, slurping on their popsicles.  My mother-in-law played the piano, sending music throughout the house.  As I stood at the sink washing dishes, I glanced over to the scene in the dining and family rooms.  I saw smiles, heard laughter and piano music – the love was palpable.  I’ve never felt so blessed.

I always think back to that night in Amsterdam, and how much fun we had.  But now it takes second place in my memories.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Mother’s Voice

I can’t remember her voice.

Most of the time.

I strain my ears
into my memory,
reaching all the way back –
back 16 years.

I can hear her.
It’s faint, but it’s there.

I laugh with her,
seeing her eyes crinkle
and watching her throw her head back,
and I hear her voice get louder.

Loud, uproarious laughter;
the kind that makes your belly ache
and shake and quake.

It gets louder and wilder
until it comes running
and jumps
into my arms.

My boys’ laughter,
filling my ears.

Filling my heart.

A mother’s voice,
reflected back
in her grandchildren’s laughter.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sheep Herders

Before moving out to the country, Jayson gave me a warning.

“Silva,” he said, “there are bugs.  Big bugs.  You can’t freak out.  It’s just how it is.”

I’m happy to report that I haven’t freaked out.  (Too much, anyway.)  Well, there was one incident with a grasshopper, a toy butterfly net, and sweating elbows, but that’s another story.  For the most part, I’ve managed well, making Jayson kill any creepy crawlers I see (and killing them myself if he’s not around).  And I won’t just take his word for it that they're dead – I have to see the carcass.

We’ve got spiders – some as big as the palm of my hand.
Stinkbugs.  They’re huge and alien-looking and ugly.
Wasps.  Don’t make them mad.
Red ants.  They bite.
Black wormy caterpillary things.  I’ve killed at least 30 of these in our house in the past week.
Roly-poly things.  (I don’t know all the official names.)
Mosquito eaters.  They’re big, but we like them.

Add to this assortment the following:

It’s a nasty menagerie.  And Jayson wonders why I stay indoors most of the time.

Recently I was informed that we would be adding a sheep to the mix in the near future.  “To get rid of our weeds, honey.”  So practical, isn’t he?

In college, my friends and I would joke about the type of guy we’d marry.  My basic requirements were that he must have a firm grasp of the English language and two distinct eyebrows.  We would laugh on and on about dowries and being set up with sheep herders.  Now I guess the joke’s on me.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Huh? What Was That?

I’m officially old.

We went out to dinner with some friends last weekend to celebrate a birthday.  The restaurant was packed and rowdy.  It was dark.  And it was loud.

When I say loud, I mean it in its loudest sense.  It was nerve-shatteringly, eardrum-piercingly, body-shakingly loud.

I didn’t used to mind loud restaurants.  When I was 18 or 19 my girlfriend and I used to go to Hard Rock Café in downtown Boston every single Friday night for dinner before going out.  It was really loud in there, naturally, and it never bothered us.  In fact, we’d go dancing after where it was even louder.  Fun times!

But now, it was just irritating.  We couldn’t have a conversation.  We couldn’t hear each other.  We were screaming across the table.  There was a lot of “huh?” and “what was that?” going on.  We left with sore throats.

We still had a fun time, as we were out with good friends enjoying good food.  But the excessive noise was a reminder that our idea of “fun” has definitely changed.  I’ve become the old lady who says, “Turn that noise down!”  And I’m okay with that.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Let People Change

I established in my last post the rule of Siranoush:  Siranoush is Siranoush.  People are who they are and I can’t change them (try as I might).  We can’t change others; we can only change ourselves.  But what if people do change themselves – how quick are we to accept them?

In Sunday school yesterday we studied Rahab the prostitute.  She took in two spies sent by Joshua to scope the land.  She hid them, protected them, and in return, asked them to spare her life and her family’s lives when the Israelites took over the land.  Although she was an Amorite living in a vile, evil culture, she acknowledged God and feared Him (“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath”).  The spies kept their word and spared her and her family when everything and everyone else was destroyed.  Rahab went on to marry Salmon, a descendant of Abraham.  Her son was Boaz, who married Ruth.  Jesus was a direct descendant of Rahab the prostitute.

Rahab is mentioned twice in the New Testament, in both Hebrews and James, for her faith.  In both accounts, she is noted as “Rahab the prostitute.”  Poor lady can’t get a break!  She risked her life to save the spies, and yet the negative moniker remains to this day.

Obviously this is for our benefit – God uses broken, fault-filled sinners for His purpose.  We are all worthy of His love, and we can all be used for greatness, despite our poor life choices.  It’s also a reminder to keep our pride in check.  We’re not better than anyone else.  We’re not better than prostitutes.  We’re all sinners.  We all deserve death.  We are all saved by God’s grace if we choose to believe.  The cross is for everyone.

Sometimes I don’t want to accept that people have changed.  I don’t want to believe that they’re different – better – than they used to be.  I hold their past against them.  Shame on me.

I often say that I’m glad I’m not who I was 20 years ago.  We shouldn’t be the same now as we were a decade or two ago.  We should constantly be growing, improving, maturing, developing and refining ourselves.  We’re still sinners regardless, but we should be a work in progress with our eyes straining upward, our arms reaching outward, and our minds stretching Wordward.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Siranoush is Siranoush

My Siranoush medzmama (my dad’s mother) was a real character.  She was the matriarch of our family and showed her love with bastukh and Juicy Fruit gum.  She was also a source of constant entertainment.  Here’s just a sampling of her zany eccentricities:

  1. Back in the 80s when we all had answering machines, she would attempt to leave messages in English (which she barely spoke), thinking the machine didn’t understand Armenian.
  2. Between all the uncles, aunts and cousins, she had a steady supply of visitors.  But for the two minutes in the day when no one was over, she would complain that we all abandoned her and no one ever visited her.
  3. She lost her eyesight toward the end of her life and once ate laxatives out of her fridge thinking they were chocolates (in her defense, they WERE wrapped in foil).
  4. She wouldn’t let any of us edge her out of a conversation (Beedee khoseem!).  Or tell her what she could or couldn’t eat (Beedee oodem!).  Or tell her what not to do (Beedee unem!).
  5. Although she was a rather large woman, she didn’t quite view herself that way.  My cousins once offered to go shopping for her, and asked her what size dress she wore.  She looked at my svelte cousins and said, “I don’t know.  Probably whatever size you are.”

Siranoush medzmama was awesome.  She was a lot of fun to be around.  Whenever we got together she would have us push the coffee table aside, put on some music, and have a dance party.  She loved being with family and she loved to have fun.

There was no changing my grandmother.  She was who she was – you took the bad with the good.

There are some people in my life I wish I could change, and I’ve tried.  I finally got it through my thick skull that I can’t change anyone.  Now the rule of Siranoush regularly comes into play:  Siranoush is Siranoush.  People are who they are, and you take them as they are.

Especially if they eat laxatives and love dance parties.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Broken Sentences

I speak in.
Broken sentences.
It’s the.
Only way I.
Can seem to have a.
Conversation these.

Annoying, isn’t it?  I was at a birthday party for my friend’s daughter last weekend.  She did an absolutely gorgeous job with the decorations, food and favors.  The kids had a blast and I got to see a couple of good friends.  But our conversations were severely lacking.

We kept starting conversations, and then would get cut off when one child or another would start crying, need help with something, or ask a question.  Then we’d forget what we were talking about.  We’d start over, only to get interrupted again.  And again.  And again.  It was dizzying.

After a while I just stopped.  Why bother trying?  It’s futile to attempt to chat with little people around.  It does get easier as they get older, but they’re still very needy.  And that’s okay, because my kids are my priority and my conversations with big people can wait.

So these broken conversations are just another way of developing patience.  And patience will help me wait until next week when the mommies are meeting for coffee after the kids are asleep.  And then we can have all the uninterrupted discussion we want.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two-Headed Monster

I have an opinion on just about everything, and I feel compelled to share it.  I’m constantly working on this.  I’m working on listening more and keeping my mouth shut.  I cannot overstate how difficult this is for me.

When Jayson and I were engaged, the topic of submission was a big one (second only to whether or not we’d have pets one day).  I was a “very strong independent woman” (see previous post), and he took his headship of our family very seriously.  Not wanting a two-headed monster invading our future, we tackled submission and family roles head-on.

There were many discussions (read:  arguments) about roles and capacities and abilities and who-gets-to-decide-what and why-should-you-get-to-decide and you’re-not-the-boss-of-me.  I couldn’t humble myself.  God forbid I be “less.”  I didn’t get it.  I didn’t want to get it.

My mother-in-law mailed me a book called “Liberated Through Submission” by P.B. Wilson.  It transformed my entire way of thinking about submission.  I was also praying about it, and the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind to understand what submission meant biblically – by God’s definition, NOT the world’s.

God says man and woman have unique roles in a marriage.
The world says man and woman are equal in every aspect.

God says man is the head of the home.
The world says whoever makes more money has more pull.
The world says whoever is loudest or strongest gets the final say.
The world says man and woman can both be the head of the home.

God says wives are to submit to their husbands.
The world says wives who submit to their husbands are weak.
The world says husbands who “make” their wives submit are controlling.
The world says wives who submit to their husbands are living in some 1950s “Leave it to Beaver” fantasy.

God says wives are valuable, important and worthy.
The world says wives are valuable, important and worthy when they’re calling the shots, working a high-powered/paying job, and living the false, damaging “superwoman” stereotype.

An important factor to remember is to choose a spouse who is spiritually equally-yoked.  Marrying someone who does not understand the Bible makes submission (and a healthy marriage, really) extremely difficult.  The husband has to understand his role in submitting to God and the weight he carries of answering to the Lord for his family.  Without that understanding, he will not have compassion on his wife’s role in submitting to him.

I put it this way:  I chose to marry a man of God.  He loves me.  He respects my mind and my opinions.  Every decision he makes for me and for our family is made out of love and with our best interest in mind.  Why would I argue with someone who is always putting God first and his family second?

I would much rather answer to Jayson.  Jayson has to answer to God, and that’s not a responsibility I want on my shoulders.  He has so much more weight to bear for our family’s spiritual journey.

That doesn’t mean I keep my opinions to myself.  It just means I don’t fight to the death to get my way on every decision involving our family.  It means I trust my husband.  It means I’m obedient to God’s word.  It means I focus on the many other responsibilities I have as a wife – as the eyes, hands and heart of our family.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Beaded Pants and White Harleys

When I was engaged and wedding dress hunting, I found a beautiful wedding outfit in the pages of Vogue.  I say outfit because it wasn’t exactly a dress.  It was a stunning, hand-beaded top and pants.  Since I wanted to ride in on a white Harley, I thought pants would be perfect.  They were definitely dressy enough, in my opinion.

I shared my enthusiasm for this outfit with my best friend, who immediately shut me down.

“You don’t wear the pants,” she said.  “The man does.”

This didn’t sit well with me at the time.  I was a very independent woman, raised by a very strong mother, and surrounded by many strong women – my sister, cousins, aunts and friends.  I took so many women’s classes at Boston College I could have had a women’s studies minor.

I grew up observing the couples in my family.  My parents were an equal partnership.  My father respected my mother’s opinions and always took her feelings and thoughts into consideration – but he made the final decisions.  However, I noticed that in many relationships, that wasn’t always the case.  Those strong, opinionated Armenian women always seemed to have the last word.

I don’t know if it was because the men were passive or if the women were especially cunning, but those Armenian wives always seemed to get their way.  At least that’s how it seemed to me.  Maybe they were just louder, or maybe that’s how they wanted things to seem when talking with the other women.

I don’t know that it’s just with Armenians, either.  Watch any sitcom on tv and the wife is the smart, organized one while the husband is the clueless oaf who can’t even put his pants on without her help.  Forget about taking care of the children or running the household.  The husband is made out to be a bumbling idiot, and the wife is a shrew.

I find it odd that women find this empowering – that they’re proud to “wear the pants.”  Biblically, this is not how God designed families.  It took me a long time to understand this (still working on it!).  Submission is a hot topic, especially for an independent woman like me.  I’ll have to continue my thoughts on this in another post.

I’m grateful for my best friend who convinced me to wear a wedding dress.  It didn’t make me any less strong.  I should have stuck to my guns about the white Harley, though!

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Months

My father died two months ago today.  In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago.  In some ways it feels like yesterday.

My sister and I watched him take his last breath.  It was as if that final gasp sucked all of the oxygen out of the room.  My chest was tight, my heart was heavy.  I gasped, too.

I took his hand.  His skin was cold.  I shivered.

His body leaned to one side in the bed.  I felt limp.  I sat down next to him.  I hugged my sister.

I could hear his voice in my head.  Singing – deep, powerful, filling the room.  He never needed a microphone.

I could hear his words, his advice, his laugh, his jokes, swirling through my head – my pounding head.

I hadn’t left the hospital in five days.  It felt good to finally go outside and take a breath of the crisp winter air.  It filled my lungs and brought a flush to my cheeks.  Unlike my father’s collapsed lungs and sallow face.

But that’s not how I will remember him.  I will remember his twinkling green eyes behind his glasses.  His soft hands.  His voice.  That voice.

Always singing to me.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Smelling the Begonias

I was in a café recently and caught myself dancing and humming along to the tune playing on the overhead speaker.  What was the song, you ask?

It was NOT Madonna, Gotye, Wiz Khalifa, The Wanted, or any early 90s R&B band.  No, it was “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead.

Why on God’s green earth would I be bopping along to a Grateful Dead song?  Do I look like a dreadlock-sporting, unshaved, high-flying, patchouli-smelling, barefoot hippie?  Not even close.  (At least I hope not.  No offense.)

On my first visit home after getting married and moving to California, I made the “mistake” of wearing flip flops.  The feedback was not good:  “What happened to you, Silva?”  “You’ve changed.”  “Jayson’s controlling you.”  “Flip flops?  Seriously?”

Yes, flip flops.  It’s 112 degrees here in the summer.  My feet get hot.  It’s called “adapting to your environment.”  Sheesh.

So what do flip flops have to do with the Grateful Dead?  Not only did I adapt to my new environment, but I adapted to my husband.  I married someone with whom I share Christian beliefs, family values, and life priorities.  But we are opposites in most other ways.  He’s outdoorsy.  I’m not.  He cooks.  I don’t.  He likes hippie music.  I like dance and R&B.  He does extreme sports.  I do extreme reading.

We can’t help but rub off on each other.  And most of the time it’s ideal, because we expose each other to new things and bring out a side of each other we didn’t know we had.

Because of Jayson I’ve tried wakeboarding and rappelling.  I’ve gone to Phish and Leftover Salmon concerts.  I’ve loosened up (a tiny bit).  And I’ve embraced flip flops.

It goes both ways.  After 10 years of marriage I finally got Jayson to buy a pair of dark wash straight leg jeans.  Yes, it took 10 years.  I’ve improved his spelling.  And he went to a Madonna concert with me (and liked it).

Love is
bringing out the best in each other
discovering new pieces of yourself in their light
surprising yourself
breaking your mold
and smelling the begonias.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fear and Calm

When I was eight months pregnant with Silas, Jayson decided it would be a good time to start his own business.  Really, Jayson?  NOW? I remember thinking (and probably saying).  Despite my initial concerns, God filled me with His peace about our future, our financial provision, and our family’s well-being.

Whenever Jayson looks at the upcoming months on his work calendar and stresses that there are no projects on the schedule, I am filled with that same peace.  I pray confidently, knowing that God will provide work.  And He always does, usually within days, if not hours, of our prayers.  The phone always rings.

I tend to worry, instead, about irrational things.  The boys getting kidnapped.  SIDS (when they were babies).  Jayson getting into a car crash.  I worry about these horrific catastrophes that, in all likelihood, will only happen in my useless imagination.

But the real stuff?  I give that over to God and breathe a sigh of relief.

So why do I waste my time giving myself anxiety attacks over ridiculous never-even-happened situations that I think up for no good reason?  I have no idea.  I’m a flawed, fear-filled sinner.  But fear is the opposite of love, and God is Love.  And I love God.  It doesn’t add up.

I remind myself to Philippians 4:8 my thoughts.  It always stops me dead in my mindful tracks:  Whatever is TRUE BOOM – right there, Satan’s attacks on my mind and heart get shut down.  Pushed out.  Buried.  Stay down, I tell Satan.  You don’t own me, you don’t belong in my thoughts.  My heart is already occupied.

And the calm returns.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Blume, Dahl, Juster

I confess.  When both boys are at school, and I have a few hours to myself, I sneak away to Starbucks, grab a bagel and hot chocolate, and read.  It’s such a luxury, this guilty pleasure.  To read without distraction, without interruption.

It used to take me weeks, even months, to get through a magazine, let alone a book.  But lately I’ve made an effort to read more – to make the time.  I carry books around with me and try to get a few pages in while waiting in line at the bank, waiting in the car for the boys, waiting to pick up a prescription.

It’s nice to escape into a book for a while.  To get to know the characters, make new friends for a time, invest in their lives.  (And it’s fun.)

Lately I’m reading lighter books.  I don’t have the mental or physical energy to invest in anything heavy.  I’m currently reading “This Is Where We Live” by Janelle Brown.  I recently read “The Social Climber’s Handbook” by Molly Jong-Fast, “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress” by Rhoda Janzen, and “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

My favorite books in high school were “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

As a child I loved “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume (anything by Blume, really), “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl, and “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster.

“Night” by Elie Wiesel affected me profoundly.  As do the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and C.S. Lewis.

I may have to revisit some of these titles.  Because there’s always a wait waiting to be filled!

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Legos and Non-Things

My boys love building things.  They have Magna Tiles, PlayStix, Legos, Tinker Toys…  They must have their Daddy’s genes!

They recently asked me if I played with Legos growing up.  I didn’t.  I thought back to what my sister and I played with when we were young.  Mostly we read books and played games.

We played Sorry, Trouble, Lite-Brite, Life, Hungry Hungry Hippos.  I remember some Barbies, but we weren’t obsessed.  One thing I had that I loved was Fashion Plates.  (See it here:  I just LOVED it – the pink plates, the different designs, the endless possibilities!

This got me thinking about other fun childhood memories.  I remember watching Duran Duran videos and the making of Thriller on MTV.  I remember when Love Boat and Fantasy Island were on television (Saturday nights) and Dance Fever (Saturday mornings).  I remember my Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag and Halloween costume (the plastic face mask with tiny eye holes!).

And then there were the non-thing memories.  Putting on our bathing suits and playing outside under the warm rain.  Sweeping the garage with my grandfather.  Dragging aside the coffee table, putting on some music, and dancing with my cousins every time we got together.  Memorizing Armenian poems for school presentations.  Driving to New Jersey at least once a month to visit my cousins.  Sleepovers with all my girl cousins at Grandma’s house.  Making snowmen in our backyard.

I hope my boys remember their non-thing memories more than their Legos.  Even so, I may ask for Fashion Plates for my birthday this year!

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yoda Legacies


This is an Arabic word that my mother would say when she saw something that disgusted her.  I most clearly remember her saying it when she saw pictures of Yoda from Star Wars.  She must have thought he was the nastiest, ugliest little thing she had ever seen.

My mother was a happy person.  Everyone remembers her with a smile on her face, her laugh, her joyful spirit.  She was a peacemaker.  She disliked conflict (though she wasn’t afraid to tackle it).  As a hairdresser, she loved to make people happy on the inside by making them pretty on the outside.

But Mom experienced a lot of pain in her life.  She lost her dad when she was a teenager.  She was forbidden to marry my father (after waiting six years, she arranged a secret engagement and married him anyway).  One of her brothers died.  When I was around 2 years old, there was a horrific car accident – she lost her only sister, her sister-in-law became paralyzed, and my cousin (5 or 6 at the time) needed surgery on her skull.  Coming to the States and adjusting to life here was difficult as well.  She started taking classes to earn her high school degree via correspondence school – all while working full time and raising two children.  With just a few credits left to graduate, my grandmother broke her leg and Mom left her studies to care for her.  She never ended up getting her diploma.

My mom never showed her pain.  I don’t know if she processed it and let it go, or if she just internalized it.  But she was always a genuinely happy person in my eyes.  She would say, “Don’t expect anything from anyone, or you will be disappointed.”  She wanted us to make our own happiness, not seek it from others.  And she wanted us to make others happy.

I was thinking about this yesterday morning.  On the drive to school, I was talking with the boys about what we could do that day to make God happy with us.  Silas said, “Don’t sin.”  James said, “Obey Mommy and Daddy.”  We talked about being kind to others, and how little effort it takes to make someone happy, with just a word or a smile.  A note of encouragement.  A genuine compliment.

My mom knew that making our own happiness could only happen by making others happy, because ultimately that would make the Lord happy.  It was a nice legacy to leave to me and my sister.  One that we can pass on to our kids.

And thanks to Silas’s current Star Wars obsession, I don’t have any “wuh-jaaah” moments when I see Yoda.  The little bugger has grown on me.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The moon is whole
I stare my pain into it
It absorbs it like a sponge

It stares back at me
Like a wall
I can’t scale

Its craters feel familiar
An abyss in my heart
Wallowing in empty

The moon is comforting
Rising over me
My heart levels

Illumination reaches me
Its glow softening
A glimmer communicates

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.