The Best Birthday Gift

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When I celebrated my birthday earlier this week, I looked forward to (and enjoyed!) the special times I had with my husband, family and friends. I loved using my birthday freebies at some of my favorite places. I had a massage and manicure. Ahhh…some of the relaxing I’ve rarely had a chance to do all year.

I also looked forward to whatever verse/quote of the day I’d get that day on my email, since I subscribe. Thinking the e-subscription would perfectly select a Rah, Rah, Rah, You Can Do Anything statement for that day, I instead got this: Continue reading

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The Truth Will Set You Free: Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

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Yesterday, Armenians around the world commemorated the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire for refusing to renounce their Christian faith and Armenian culture.

There were marches of 100,000+ people over the weekend; performances of new music, films and plays; peaceful demonstrations at memorial monuments, lectures and sacred services; and a shining new tribute: the recently inaugurated Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, co-developed by Armenian and non-Armenian philanthropists, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and George and Amal Clooney — “On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors” — and awarded “to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.” The award was announced yesterday in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (click here for announcement), and will be announced there each year.

These forward-looking, inspiring events help show that the Turks and their Genocide of Armenians did not succeed in eliminating Armenians — they show that the world is starting to understand and embrace the truth of our history. But whether the world ever fully accepts it or not, Armenians are stronger and freer than ever by faith in God, and by perseverance to the values that matter most: love, compassion, dignity, spiritual commitment, regardless of what lies or horrors swarm around us. Although Turkey’s recogition would go a long way in healing many hearts and souls, Armenians don’t have to wait for that reluctant recognition to accomplish all they were put on this earth to do.

But genocides continue, as we see in today’s news. Christians and other groups keep getting persecuted for their beliefs, particularly in the Muslim world. And countries, because of their power, allies or strategic connections and resources, continue to literally get away with murder. Even today, Turkey denies carrying out the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago.

On the PR battlefront, the current Turkish goverment is also trying to murder the truth of history by funding full-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post, buying up billboards near Genocide recogition event sites, and even creating websites claiming to seek truth and peace about the 1915 genocide yet which only deny its realities.

So the fight continues to advocate for full recognition, to tell our own true stories, and to sustain our heritage, culture and faith in new ways. One theater organization, the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA), accomplishes this mission by encouraging Armenian stories and wider human-rights stories to be told onstage via playwriting contests and readings. As ADAA’s slogan reads: “It’s Time Our Stories Were Told.” We can never stop telling them.

For my husband and me, our day took place at the 31st Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration in New York, co-sponsored by the Armenian fraternal and charitable organizations we are deeply involved in, The Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

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More than 3,000 people congregated in Times Square, to hear politicians, academics, advocates, clergy and community leaders (including my husband) speak the truth and to urge everyone to participate in local advocacy as much as possible — calling your congressman to get an Armenian Genocide resolution passed; writing your State Assemblyman to get the Armenian Genocide taught in the schools, building relationships and telling our stories as much as possible to raise awareness. It was an inspiring event.

And yet, just two days before, a pro-Turkish group hired a plane to skywrite messages of Armenian Genocide denial high in the New York skies, also paying a troupe of people to dance below as the messages appeared.

Really?

The mere presence of denial and antagonism does not mean that truth-tellers should stop telling the truth, or stop advocating for it. In fact, the presence of opposition affirms our need to get the truth out there even more. Not with hatred or closedmindedness, but with an honest view toward recognition, repararation and perhaps, even reconciliation. And I think only God can change people’s hearts, if they are open to it.

But even if those things never occur, the victory is won. We were not wiped out. We are still here. And as voices young and old rang out to the heavens yesterday, our sainted ancestors heard and smiled in glory.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:38

Onward.

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For more information:

About the Armenian Genocide:

http://www.armenian-genocide.org/

http://www.armeniangenocidemuseum.org/#home

http://armeniangenocide100.org/en/

About The Aurora Prize: https://auroraprize.com/en/prize

About the Knights and Daughters of Vartan: www.kofv.org

About the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance: www.armeniandrama.org

Why I’ll Never Win an Oscar — and Why That’s Okay

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No, I’m not trying reverse psychology so that the powers that be will one day reverse course and give me one.

This is not a lament. There was never an illusion of entitlement. I’m just sharing a series of recent, interconnected revelations that have brought me a lot of peace.

I’m never going to win an Oscar, and in addition to the fact that I’m a far-from-perfect writer who’s still trying to get my ‘big’ works produced, here are the other reasons why it’ll never happen — and why it’s okay: Continue reading

Do You Hear the People Sing?

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It’s hard not to think of the heroic music and theme of Les Miserables when mourning the Paris attacks this weekend. And those in Beirut. And all the other places around the world where terrorism has hit in recent months.

In the Victor Hugo book and the musical Les Miserables, we see that France’s democratic revolutionaries in 1789 and 1832 had to endure ‘reigns of terror’ as well. They fought against awful odds for their freedom, fighting for democracy and a new way of life. Factions and divisions, political power struggles and regime changes everywhere. Young people caught in the crossfire. The same ideals as those which were attacked this past Friday, and on 9/11, and at so many other points. Some things never change, some battles seem to never end. In Les Miserables, we see this constant struggle in the checkered but redeemed life of Jean Valjean, set against the backdrop of a Paris in post-Napoleonic rebellion. On Friday, we saw it in the robbery of innocent lives taken at the Bataclan, the Stade de France, and along the unsuspecting streets of the City of Light.

Do You Hear the People Sing? Sadly, many of them have been silenced on earth. But we hear their song from the heavens, even as we saw so powerfully at the conclusion of Les Miserables, when Jean Valjean dies among loved ones ‘past and present,’ and joins the chorus of the beloved martyrs who gave their lives for France’s freedom (see the film version in the link below).

Truth can never be silenced. Truth is eternal. Good will win, evil will lose, eventually — though many consider that a naïve approach, with so much suffering in the interim, yes — but it is long stated in the oldest of texts and scriptures in one way or another. Victory will come. “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

But in the meantime, we toil. People hurt each other. Misrepresent each other. Kill each other in body or spirit or mind or heart. Our imperfect efforts to counteract such evil and mean-spiritedness never seem enough. We can only hold fast to what we know to be true, holy, integrous. We can only ask God for another chance each morning, and try our best to keep the faith and live out our values, one day at a time, until tomorrow, if we’re blessed to have it come; we can only pray and serve, seek forgiveness, and love and take care of each other best we can.

Because…“To love another person is to see the face of God…”

Onward.

“Do You Hear The People Sing?” (Reprise Finale)

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

A Glimpse of Parenthood…

Spending the weekend with my nearly one-year-old goddaughter niece was pure joy — not only because of the delight she is, but also because my two daughters helped “babysit” too. They looked forward to it for weeks ahead, my younger daughter literally counting the days. They fed their baby cousin, played with her, read to her, guided her and cleaned up after her fun whirlwinds.

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I was so proud to see them in those ‘big sister’ roles. It brought back memories of when my daughters were that age.

The whole weekend helped my girls see parenting in a whole new light. As my nine-year-old said, “Wow, Mom, babies are hard work!”

They are, indeed.

Not that she was complaining. In fact, she didn’t want to leave when the weekend was over. “How could I leave her?” the mini-adult said in the car, utterly earnest, like she had just done something tragic by going back home. She even made suggestions on how she could change her school schedule around to stay up there this week, in all seriousness. And this with her student council election tomorrow.

Although she’s babysat dear neighborhood kids before, this was obviously different for my oldest daughter. She ached for her baby cousin! My younger daughter also couldn’t stop talking about her or thinking about her, reading to her constantly and creating songs for her. Both my daughters wanted all the time they could with “the babe,” as they call her. They raced to be the first to get her this-or-that. They kept track oh-so-carefully of who was on duty for this task or that (“No, it’s my turn! – No, it’s MY turn!”). They couldn’t get enough.

Then it came.

“And just think,” my nine-year-old said to her six-year-old sister. “This is one day, or one weekend, with the baby. Mom has us all the time!”

I do, indeed.

So I told them that being a parent is one of the hardest things in this world to do — but it’s also one of the most rewarding roles they could have. And as they went to bed, I told them I was so grateful and proud to be their mom.

“So are we, Mom.”

Grateful, indeed.

Onward.