Is It Still Mother’s Day?

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Ah, it’s a week after Mother’s Day.

Still celebrating her? Still bringing Mom flowers or breakfast in bed? Still doing the dishes for her? Still listening to what she has to say? Still telling her you love her?

Or is it back to normal?

Just like my Mom has always told me, I told my girls: if you listen to me, respect me, help me out with the little things each day — then every day can be Mother’s Day. Those would be the best gifts of all!

So yesterday, one of my daughters cleaned her room. The other one collected and took out the trash. Both of them set the table for family dinner. They didn’t do it without being asked — I still had to ask them. But today they listened; they did what I asked. Right away. And it was as great a gift as the beautiful picture frames they made and gave me last weekend…

So at our Family Movie night last night where Mommy, Daddy and the girls watched The Peanuts Movie (great movie, by the way), I finally noticed a bit of Meghan Trainor’s lyrics to her song that plays during the final credits, “Good to be Alive” (great song, by the way):

Gonna wake up every day like it’s Christmas
Gonna celebrate this life I’m given
From now on (from now on)
Gonna tell my mother every day I love her
And tell her “thanks for being such a good mother”
From now on

Oh, it feels so good to be alive
Oh, it feels so good to be alive

It does feel good. And what gifts we have each day — in each other. Let’s celebrate while we can.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

And thanks, girls, for the continued ‘gifts’!

Onward!

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The Best Laid Plans…A Mother’s Day Reflection

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On this Mother’s Day, at least for a moment, I think about all the unrealistic things I once planned to do (and be) as a mother:

I’ll never have them watch TV until they are 5.

I’ll never lose my patience.

I will teach them to make their bed and keep their room clean.

They will never snap back at me.

All the things that I hoped would make them ‘good,’ ‘normal’ children.

My mother was (and is) a bedrock of patience and humility — the most inspiring mom a girl could have. So I will be too — right?

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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.

What Writing and Parenting Teach Me about God

Being a parent and being a writer have combined to teach me about what I call The Care, The Fair and The Fire – three ideas that God hit me over the head with recently. These ideas have encouraged me to realign how I think of the roles I have.

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My Star…

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A bright spot of our year so far was my nine-year old daughter, Ani, winning a story contest at her school. Her prize? Having the professional theater group, Imagination Machine, perform her story at a school assembly for everyone to see.

Her story, “My Imaginary Star,” is about a lonely young boy who wishes on a star for an imaginary friend — until the star himself comes down from the sky to be his friend on earth. But when the chief star comes down to remind the star that he has to stay up in the sky to attend to his duties, he realizes he can’t stay with the boy forever, so the star and the boy decide to remain best friends — from afar.

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True, they added a few theatrical touches and funny lines for the young crowd that were not hers…

True, when introducing her, the troupe mispronounced her Armenian name until it was literally unrecognizable — my daughter’s first Idina Menzel/John Travolta moment….

But it was still my daughter’s story, her characters, her spirit all over it. And the joy on her face, her excitement in seeing her story come to life, is something I’ll never forget.

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And this forty-something playwright, herself pretty lucky to have had her first play production at age 18, found herself amazed that her eldest daughter was having her first play production in 4th grade!! I couldn’t be more grateful or thrilled.

Not only did it fill my husband and I with such pride and joy to see her creativity, faith, humor, talent and maturity so evident in the story, but it also taught me three things as a writer, a mom and a mom of a young writer:

1. Let It Be. Though some have assumed I pushed my daughter into this writing opportunity, into “my” world, I can proudly and honestly say I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Ani wrote the story in class as an optional assignment and turned it in at school, and I only knew about it and read it after the fact. There are so many times as a parent (and writer) that we try too hard to make things happen for our children. But this was a beautiful lesson to me — give her space to imagine freely, try things herself and find success in her own way and time.

2. It Will Never Be Exactly as We Imagine. Ani saw that her story looked and sounded a bit different onstage than she first envisioned and wrote it. She loved it and what the performers did with it, but she also kindly expressed some surprise or commentary about some of the changes that were made (that she was not privy to). But that is par for the course, I told her. And I think it was good for her to see how a story can change depending on who is telling it and how it is told — but that a story’s true spirit and voice never go away.

3. We Are Not Meant to Stay in a Vacuum. Stories are meant to be told, shared, and celebrated. Perhaps “My Imaginary Star” won’t be winning the Pulitzer anytime soon, and my girl will write countless diary poems and narratives that will, thankfully, never see the light of day. But eventually, we are called to live and create outside of ourselves: in relation to others, in community, with partners. We are best served by taking the constructive input and collaboration of others to make us and our writing better. In life and art, we will experience so much more that way, and I look forward to seeing how Ani lives out her creativity in the years to come, both on her own and with others.

As I continue to gently but actively encourage both our daughters in writing and creating across various art forms, I look forward to more of the lessons they teach me every day — and discovering all the ways in which the greatest inspiration can come in the smallest packages.

Onward.

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True That: Fiction vs. Nonfiction

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I can’t believe how much this issue has come up in my life and work.

Acquaintances and distant relatives of mine still say, “Yeah, I prefer nonfiction because it’s TRUE!” And I wince.

Sometimes our kids ask, when they read a book or watch a movie: “Mom, is this real? Is this true? Did this really happen?”

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Or in the wonderful film Sideways, when Paul Giamatti’s character meets his friend’s future in-laws (Armenian, I’m embarrassed to say) and they tell him they prefer nonfiction to novels like his, because nonfiction is true, based on real life.

And fiction isn’t based on life?

What is true about anything a writer writes?

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What’s in a Name…

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The kids and I made ornaments this weekend that I have a feeling will be favorites for a long time.

I saw a lovely and creative Christmas tree recently which, in addition to regular ornaments, had the various names for Jesus/God written on colorful, shaped paper. Simple and powerful words. So we did our own version on our tree this year.

Apparently, there are 100 such names in the Bible, all capturing a different quality or essence of God. Some, especially at this time of year, are very familiar: Immanuel, God with Us, King of Kings.

You can almost hear Handel’s Messiah, where the names soar forth in unison: “Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God! The Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace…”

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The words are powerful. Christ’s 100 names, given by God, announced by angels and men alike, are a remarkable and comforting reminder of who he is — each one worth reflecting upon; and yet in his case even 100 names cannot capture all of who he is.

The 100 names also make me think of how we, as writers, often agonize over creating a name for the characters in our stories — something that gets their personality just right and subtly reflects their purpose in the story. Or coming up with the title of a work, which captures its spirit and core. So many possibilities…and we don’t want to mess it up. Do-overs are not really an option.

Similarly, I think of parents, carefully reading through name books or making lists to select their baby’s name — something which will be part of their identity for life. We want it to be empowering but not too limiting, right? Does that one sound too heavy? Is this too easy to mispronounce? Too long?

Or when a scientist discovers a cell or a star, a protein or a process; or when an inventor creates a new gadget or patent. What to name the thing that’s going to be one’s legacy? In textbooks and registries for decades to come?!

It’s not easy to name something. Scripture and literature, from Adam to Romeo and beyond, are full of references to the power and burden of names and naming. Maybe if we could have 100 names it would be easier too!

But one thing that all of these situations have in common is that it is a privilege to be the one who gets to name something. Or to title something. It is a heralding, a cementing-in of meaning.

The next time we name or title something, we can remember what a special opportunity it is. The words we choose are not only a reflection of what we are naming — they are a reflection of us as well.

Like the Virginia Woolf quote I saw mentioned on Twitter recently:
“If your life was a book title, what would it be?”

Onward!

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