Love from the Inside Out

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Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see the wonderful and insightful Pixar film, Inside Out, which premiered in June and is coming out on DVD in early November (already out on Amazon Prime Video).

If you haven’t seen it, feel free to skip this blog. But if you have seen it, I wonder if you might journey with me a bit in this blog post.

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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.

Keep Calm and Take a Walk — Guest Post by Yvette K. Harpootian

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I gratefully welcome back to the blog writer Yvette K. Harpootian, whose first guest post, “Finding Joy,” (June 30, 2014) was the most popular and widely-read entry on this blog last year. Thank you, Yvette!


Keep Calm and Take A Walk

Go go go! Do you notice that our lives can be so hectic, scheduled and busy that sometimes we don’t stop until we collapse in bed? Even our breathing can be short and shallow. Do you mindfully decompress on a regular basis? Maybe you paint, play an instrument, bike, knit. I enjoy taking a walk to unwind and was moved to write about it when Lisa invited me back to contribute to her blog.

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Find Joy

It’s a pleasure to introduce freelance writer Yvette K. Harpootian to my blog.  I thank her for writing a guest post today about finding joy — and for being such a remarkable influence in my life.

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FIND JOY

Thank you, Lisa, for inviting me to contribute to your insightful blog!

In this entry, I encourage you to know, find and live joy, both in your creative and daily life. To some that may be simple; to others it could be a real challenge. How often do stress, frustration and worry take over our day? We have deadlines to meet; we get impatient with the traffic. We worry about finances, get busy with our children, are hurt because a friend was inconsiderate; we rush from appointment to appointment and end up being grumpy, stressed, frustrated, preoccupied, and upset. These feelings monopolize and consume our being more than we realize. I challenge you to get rid of those roadblocks that can interrupt joy, and find joy in the midst of the stress, disappointments and pain of life.

GET SET UP FOR JOY

In order to be aware of joy, it helps for us to be rested. Everything looks bleaker when we are overtired. Also, eating healthy, not skipping meals, drinking enough water, and exercising, all are important for a healthy, receptive state of mind. Build in some quiet or alone time during the day. Be still. No music, talking, emails, Facebook, texts, Twitter. Quiet. Whether laying down for five minutes, enjoying peace in the car, or meditating/taking a yoga class, the quiet will center and calm you, making you more receptive to joy.

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My Word for 2015

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My word for 2015 is SHED.

Shed.

Not the noun; the verb.

Get rid.

Of a lot.

I looked at what the dictionary says. There are actually several definitions of SHED, but this one resonated with me the most:

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Surfing, Writing and Life: What My Daughter’s First Lesson Taught Me

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Yesterday, I took our oldest daughter to a friend’s birthday party – a surfing birthday party. Okay, okay, it’s a SoCal thing.

 

Helped by professional instructors, the girls got wetsuits, boards and surfing lessons, many for the first time (like for ours). The girls studied posture and technique on the sand, then spent the rest of party going out into the water with the instructors, rotating constantly after three waves each, trying to stand up on the board and ride their first wave.

 

For two hours, basically, I stood on the sand watching and taking pictures of my girl falling. Falling. Over and over. Trying to get up but falling over, and over. Wipeout. Same with many of the other girls, though it seemed (for this typically oversensitive parent) that it was happening more to my daughter.

 

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Again and again, the patient instructor took her out, even farther out, into the water, got her positioned, and they tried again. And again.

 

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After what seemed like a long time — BAM! She was able to get up, WOO HOO!

 

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But she fell off after not even a second or two.

 

And then more and more of this. Over and over. Getting up and falling, up and falling. So many near misses are on my camera, where I anticipated a great moment or shot, only to capture one of her falling either right before or right after she got her footing. I didn’t want to show my feeling to her, but I wondered: how could this possibly be fun for her?

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The Proudest Day of My Life

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This past week, on the eve of Election Day, I learned without a doubt that nothing I accomplish in my life will ever be as satisfying or fill me with the same depth of joy and pride as when my children accomplish something special. There is no comparison.

Over the last few months our local Armenian community has been trying to get approval for a new church facility to better accommodate its needs after 35 years in a sweet but outdated and undersized facility. My family’s connection to the church is deep, complex and multifaceted. But suffice it to say that despite various community dramas over the years, it is where we grew up, where we are still involved and where our children participate, and we’d always like to see the church — its people and its place — progress spiritually and physically in the years to come.

A month or so ago, we decided to take our girls to our local planning board meeting to see local government in action. For four hours (yes, we brought the ipad), our nine-year old and five-year old daughters listened to this board debate our church project. The girls wanted to get up and speak but couldn’t. But when the vote finally came in favor 6-4, they were so proud and excited that they were there. I told them: “In years to come, when the church is built and you are walking on its blessed grounds, you’re going to remember that you were there the day our local community first approved it.” And they nodded vigorously before falling asleep on the car ride home.

Then, this past week, the project had to pass through another hurdle — the city planning commission, before going to the state coastal commission. Many in the community wrote letters, so we felt it important that our girls write letters too, to share their feelings about why we need a new church.

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They were very intent on doing a good job, and they did.

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At the commission meeting, I sat in the same chamber where I, as a junior high student years before, twice pleaded with our city council to save our school music education funding for orchestra and band. Those were experiences I never forgot, and I believe they fortified me early on to be more involved in my community and to speak up for what’s important to me.

And here we were in the same room, years later, hearing about another heart and soul issue — not the arts, but the faith community and its gathering place — now being debated before a new set of officials.

The architects, consultants, and some of us leaders in the community all spoke, gave it our best and did well.

But when the commissioners gave their various comments, concerns, and preferences, one commissioner said that he was very touched, and quite impacted, toward the yes vote, because of two letters that came in — from two young girls…

I looked at my husband.

“From…Mari…?” the commissioner said. “And her sister…Ani?…”

Our daughters. He was talking about them! There, in front of everyone. On local TV. And when he cutely mispronounced the latter’s name, our entire community entourage in the audience corrected him in unison. (“AH-nee, not Annie!”)

The commissioner went on to say how the letters were the most compelling thing he came across in more than two hours of discussion, and that our girls’ words were what convinced him to vote yes — reminding him what civic engagement is all about, what community is all about, what the life of a young person is all about, and….

And I don’t know what else — because I was crying. Crying that our girls had tangibly made a difference. Our little ones, who were probably running wild at school recess, had no idea their names were being spoken and placed in the city public record, having a forever impact on the vote, and thus on our community.

I became a bumbling mess. When the commissioner finished thanking the girls, he immediately made the motion to approve the project.

When the vote came out unanimous, I looked again at my husband, and all I could say was “Our girls, lovie. Our girls…!” He and I were both overcome.

I hope that on the crazy days when the girls try my patience, I’ll remember that on this day they filled me with more humbling pride and joy than I’ve ever experienced. No Academy Award, Pulitzer Prize, Drama Critics Circle award, or anything could even compare.

When we got home and told the girls, they were so excited that their letters made a difference. Our youngest asked, “Did you talk to Mr. Golba?” even remembering the name of the commission chairman she addressed her letter to. And I said that yes, I did speak with him (which was true, afterwards.) We told the girls the rest of the details and even showed them the webcast where the commissioner acknowledged them, and they simply beamed.

One day, our girls will be able to vote, like I hope we all will this week. One day, they will take leadership positions and impact their world. And one day, when they’re grown, I hope to show the girls their letters again, to remind them that at any time, at any age:

Yes, your voice matters.

Yes, you can make a difference.

And yes, your writing has power.

Always.

Onward! And don’t forget to vote!