Friday, November 21, 2014

Lark Rise to Candleford

Lately I find myself watching long, historic, and old fashioned BBC produced Masterpiece Theater series or HBO specials. They have titles such as Lark Rise to Candleford, Downton Abby, Little Dorrit, Wives & Daughters and The Duchess of Duke Street. Most of them are about life in rural England in eighteen and nineteen centuries.  

These stories are mostly about the English society's cast system and the consequence of that unjust social order on peoples lives.  The stories are gripping tales of love, deception, intrigue, war, and  rags to riches tales. I watch them almost none stop, season after season, episode after episode until I really have to tear myself away to do something important like sleeping or eating.  

I started to wonder why I like them so much, what is it about these stories that captivate me so? I have been thinking about this for a few days now. In my mind I go over the details, like the scenery, the settings, the costumes, the storylines, and the morality.  It's true that I like all of these things. There is an abundance of stunning landscapes, charming homes and grand mansions. The women's dresses are intricate and ornate, traditions are honored beguiling. But after contemplating  all of these I found that none of these could make me so enthralled that I couldn't stop watching. 

Then I started watching them with more scrutiny. I started to take note of the dialogue, the emotions and all the hidden meanings. Of course most of these movies are works of literary fiction by great authors and that's the main reason they are so good. But it is more than that. 

I noticed that in these stories even the villains are not evil,  at some point its reviled to us the source of their bitterness and we understand and forgive them.  In these stories everybody is caring, loving and they often make allowances for the others mistakes.  If there are injustices done, the wrongs are made right.  Even the most uneducated and uncultured peasant is capable of expressing profound thoughts. People in these stories are less selfish and think of the common good more often than not.  The insecurities and the peculiarities of people are explained in modern physiological terms and insights. At the end of each story all the misunderstandings are cleared up, all lovers are united, all the orphans are adopted, and the forgotten celebrated. Within these stories life is simple yet rich,  people have very little but they are appreciative of what they have. The rich share their fortunes with the poor, and the poor are not beggars but proud earners and providers. These stories have friendships that are true and neighbors that are friendly. In these stories people are close to nature and they love and protect it. 

These stories tug at your heart and change your mind about the human race and they give you hope. 

And that is why I like them so much. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Solitary Confinment

I feel like I’m in solitary confinement but I’m not. I’m in my home by myself. I have two dogs but they don’t speak my language. In 3 days I haven’t spoken with anyone for any length of time. I talked with my sister on the phone for a few minutes, while shopping I was greeted and I answered back, and that’s all. It feels strange not having anyone around to talk to. But it’s also very calming. I watch TV, listen to the news and think. Of course I do other things too, like reading, watering the plants, sewing, and cleaning.

Since the news is saturated with what’s going on in Iraq and Syria and ISIS I can’t stop thinking about these issues. What I think of the foreign fighters who have joint ISIS, is that they are power hungry losers who were nobodies in their country, they have no ideology and are just attracted to the attention, the weapons and the sense that they can do anything they want and no one will stop them. Well, so far they have succeeded but as they kill more and more journalists from the West, the western countries will start dong something.  Meanwhile Putin is sneaking into Ukraine while denying involvement with a straight face, Israel is doing what it has been doing for decades, which is land grabbing, occupying and killing. Iran is putting young women in prison for wanting to watch sports. Here in America people are still pouring ice water on their heads even on a 18 month old baby, in India they are still killing girl babies and advertising for brides. Ebola is racing through Africa unchecked killing hundreds of people. Today Joan Rivers died, which is sad because she was a fearless woman. I think she would still be with us if she didn’t undergo yet another cosmetic surgery. The dad who forgot his toddler in his car has been indicted with first degree nuder with malice and could face the death penalty which he deserves. 

The Earth still orbits around the Sun and the Sun rises each morning like always.

Every human being is a story, some stories are told and billions untold. Babies are still being born, people die in their beds, in car crashes in the battlefield, in the hands of ISIS or their parents.

 Despite everything life is still beautiful, the sky is blue the oceans powerful and the seasons come and go as they should.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

When They Were Children

My mother and I circa 1988 Encino CA. 

Both my parents have passed away. My father died in May 1991 in Tehran, Iran and my mother died in March 2008 in Glendale California.

After my father's death my mom moved to the United States and settled in Glendale. At the time I was dealing with a difficult situation in my own life so one of my older sisters and my younger brother helped mom with her needs. When she arrived she already had her Green Card so they applied for a social security number, medical benefits, and SSI income. I don't remember when it started but suddenly I was the one who was taking care of my mom's needs such as shopping for groceries, clothes, furniture, and doctor visits. I also took care of her bills and hired and paid health care aids when she became bed ridden with Alzheimer's. When I started taking care of her I had an eight year old daughter and a 16 year old son. I was working full time and taking night courses for my bachelor's degree. I don't know how I did it but I did. 

In 1987 my in-laws moved to America and after living with us for 4 months they found an apartment in Pasadena. During their stay my husband and I took them everywhere they needed to go. Visiting family and friends, shopping, and looking for a place to live. Both my father in-law and mother-in-law had significant health problems, so my husband often spent entire days in hospitals. From the time they came in 1987 to the day my mother in law passed away in December 31, 2011 both my husband and I helped her with everything. It was as though we had to live two lives, one our own and one that was theirs.  

When older people migrate to a new country they usually don't speak the language, they don't know about available resources, they don't drive, they have limited income, they don't have the support systems they had back home, so their children become everything to them. Specially when they have just arrived, every issue is pressing, because they want to establish their life and get on with their living.  

Never mind that their adult children have families of their own to take care of, never mind they work full time, never mind they have their own health issues, never mind they are struggling with finances. Parents come first. 

In Armenian culture and most middle eastern and far east

countries parents have a esteemed place in their children's life. 
We have seen our parents take care of their parents, often living under one roof. We would never think of abandoning them and moving away for a better climate or better job opportunities. We feel that after raising us, we have an obligation to help them in their old age and do all the things they can't do for themselves. 

Sure it was difficult managing two households,  sure we felt resentful sometimes, often the one day off we had would be spent doing something for either of our parents. We were young but we were always hanging around older people. We tried to include them in most of the things we did but sometimes it was not fun.  At times it seemed our lives revolved around them instead of our children or our needs. The word "no" was not in our vocabulary as far as our parents were concerned.

I know that having the responsibility of taking care of our parents and our children at the same time has taken a heavy toll on my health.  I lived with anger and resentment so long that I became bitter and disengaged. From time to time my sisters and brothers  helped, some more than others but I felt most of the responsibility.   

I have often wondered how could they think that it was okay for one person to take on so much without cracking under the pressure, I still don't know but all that is in the past now. 

My husband had no choice and no one else to share his responsibilities. His brothers live in another state and could not help in any way. But even now my husband says he wished he could have done more for his mother. She was a great mother and mother-in-law and she deserved the best.

These days the conventional wisdom is everybody for themselves. As long as the individual is happy the hell with the rest.  Most young people often barely tolerate their parents.  I don't know what goes through their minds, I'm not a mind reader but it seems they think sharing will lessen their enjoyment.   

I didn't write this to toot my horn, it's not meant to endear me to anyone, and it certainly is not to say I was a good and dutiful daughter. Millions of sons and daughters in the world have done and are doing the same. Someone coined the phrase "the sandwich generation" for this phenomena.  I also wanted to note the differences of expectations in different generations. 

As parents we love our children no matter how old they are, we miss them, we want to witness their happiness, their success, and celebrate their life's milestones.  I'm grateful and fortunate that I can share and witness my adult children's precious moments and important occasions. But not all parents are so lucky.  Like poor, old and hungry baggers they shuffle along hoping for morsels of love, for a brief  glimpse through the window of their children's life and an occasional nod to the memory of a life they shared when the  children were young.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Lately I've asked myself more than a few times if it's the end of the world.  

Too many bad things are happening these days. Too many kids are dying, kids dying in Gaza, in shot down air plaines, in sinking boats, in hot cars. Thousands of children fleeing their homes and countries to escape violence, risking their lives. Russia is putting his paws on Europe again,  radical Muslims are setting up Caliphates, burning churches, historic holly sites, running thousands of people out of their home and country. There are civil, religious, and sectarian wars in Syria and Iraq.  There are millions of refugees with uprooted homes and lives not knowing when they will return home if ever. The Ebola virus is killing hundreds in west Africa. 

These are the big stories but there are much much more, appalling and horrific things happening around the world every day. Girls raped and hanged in india, newly married couple stoned to death in Afghanistan or Pakistan I forget which. Human slavery and trafficking rampant around the world. Which catastrophe should I tell, which should I leave out, all are tragedies, all cause endless human suffering. Add to all these, suing the president and or impeaching the president and that is the whole catastrophe. And "thanks" to the internet & social media we all are witnesses  

I know that some people are more tuned in to the news than others, I know some people care and most don't, maybe a lot of people are not effected by any of these situations, but I'm not one of them.  Everything awful that happens around the world effects me in a harmful way. I have lost any respect I had for humanity, I have no hope for anything getting better,  I feel powerless and I'm profoundly saddened.

I listen to the news when I'm driving because I get bored, but at home I check different online sources a few time a day to see what's happening in the world.  I understand that blanket coverage of any news story is a ratings killer specially if the viewing audience is not vested or emotionally involved with the story. However it's ridicules to have a story about the civilian casualties in Gaza and a new album release by some obscure artist in the same hour or worse yet, yesterday there was a story about a sports team introducing a new team member and he went on with a 20 minute talk about God and his beliefs and how people should get close to God. I kept tuning the radio off and on but he was still going strong. To me that was so irrelevant. 

It's very difficult to live in a world were all of these things are going on and still be interested in The Kardashians,  or a new movie, or Justin Bieber, or Pinterest. 
It is tough to reconcile all the realities of the world. I think it's hellish, I think the world may be coming to an end, I think we would be better off with another cleansing flood or a nuclear blast.   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mandatory Parenting Classes

There are two very important jobs or careers that no formal training are offered.
One is the job of a president and the other is parenthood.  I will leave the problem of training presidents for more qualified people to worry about, but as far as parenting is concerned I have some definite ideas.  

I should confess that I did not have parenthood training myself. When I had my children all I know was what I had learned from my mother and my mother was a very good one if not the best.  Of course in preparation for my first child's arrival I read books, subscribed to Parents magazine, and after the baby's birth I ask a lot of questions from the pediatrician. 

But all the information available in books or magazines was not a guide for being a good parent, rather it was a haphazard collection of related subjects. Subjects such as breast feeding verses formula,  babies developmental stages, how to deal with sleep problems, fussy eaters or colicky babies.  All the other issues concerning the life of a growing child were left out.  Even if I was able to gather all the information in one place it would still not be a coherent book about good parenting. Also remember we did not have good old Google either. People with common sense or people who have good parents would learn by observing or just experiencing their upbringing. Unfortunately people with common sense are not so common anymore  and good parents are a rear and endangered species.  If you are a good parent and are reading this, don't protest, this is written for not so good ones. 

What prompted me to write about this issue is yet another story of a dead toddler who's father "forgot" about him and left him in his car for 7 hours in scorching 90 degrees heat. Good parents don't forget their children anywhere, because their first priority is the child. If you are a good parent and are driving you talk to the child, you know if he is sleep or wake, if it's his bed or feeding time. You are aware of his presence all the time.  Only horrible or stupid parents would forget to drop off their children at the day care before going to work, only those parents would not remember for 7 hour what they had done.

I have seen and heard too many stories of bad parenting and I have had enough. If it was up to me I would not let anyone get pregnant before passing an intense training for parenting. There should a law that makes this a requirement. As soon as a woman goes for her first doctor's visit for pregnancy the doctor should register her and her partner for classes and refuse to see any one who is not attending these classes.  Parenting classes should be offered in high school as a requirement for graduating.

There are parents who verbally and physically abuse their children. Parents who give cookies to their kids for lunch,  or give them fast food everyday for breakfast, lunch & dinner.  There are parents who put coke or pepsi in their toddlers' bottle instead of water or milk. I have seen too many tired, hungry and frustrated kids in strollers in stores while the idiot mother shops like there is no tomorrow.  I hate it when a kid says mom for tens of times and mom doesn't respond or a child is crying and no one asks what's the matter. These examples are bad but there are lesser degrees of bad parenting that we witness very day. There are parents who have no set bed time for their children, parents who don't wake up with their children to give them breakfast, parents who over indulge their kids with junk food, toys, clothes, gadgets,  parents who use curse words including the F word in the kids presence. The list could go on and on but you get the picture. 

There are hundreds of compelling reasons why there should be parenting classes for people before they have children, these examples are just a few.

But the most important reason of all is because parents raise the next generation of humans and they should make sure they are raising emotionally and physically healthy children. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day Nightmare

 Last night before falling sleep I was reading a historical novel about ancient Rome. In the story a nobleman was going to feed his slave to blood sucking lampreys because he had broken a valuable goblet.  Maybe because under that unpleasant image I had a very disturbing dream. My dreams are often movie like.

     In this one a hospital was besieged by a terrorist group. The electricity was cut off. Anyone coming to our aid or going out of the hospital would get killed.  At some point a nurse, a few doctors, and some security guards decided to go out together and disarm the terrorists. In the total darkness we couldn't see outside, we only heard loud voices and gun shots. Finally a gurney was pushed inside the doors and on it a bloody body.  Whoever it was started talking telling us what was wrong with him. It turned out that it was one of the doctors.  He was rushed to the operating room. We found one of the security guards, he had a sex change operation done and was bleeding heavily and about to die. The nurse came in walking, in no better shape then the previous victims.

     It seems this whole time I had been sobbing hysterically and my husband would try to wake me up to stop me from crying.  I would wake up feeling very sad and fall sleep again to continue the nightmare. I have no idea why I have such dreams nor can I interpret them in any way, I wish I could. Finally I woke up and today being Mother's Day my husband treated me to breakfast in bed,  a cup of strong coffee and my favorite pastry.  I had a headache from my restless night so I tried to sleep again.

     This time I dreamt it was my wedding day. Everyone was at the reception sitting around big round tables having a sumptuous brunch, everyone but me that is. I couldn't find my wedding dress.  I actually did't have a wedding dress. I remembered ordering one but I didn't remember ever going for fittings. I couldn't find the dress maker's name or the phone number.  My mother was blaming me saying I didn't care for anything as important as my wedding. I was crying again in my dream.

     I woke up and decided I had enough for one day. I thought I would treat myself to reading a short story in the New Yorker.  But then I got bored and I thought I should indulge in my loved pastime, shopping.

     When I got up to get ready, I noticed the pile of laundry waiting to be done, the unmade beds, the dogs, the floors, the plants and flowers the needed watering.  Last week I was too busy doing things to please others so I hadn't had time to do my own work. The guilt that I always feel if I don't include my daughter in my outings which I never do. I decided against going out. You see I'm still a mother, Mother's Day or not. Other people's needs always come first. No I'm not a saint, nor do I want to glorify myself or put mothers on a pedestal. It's just thats how I am and I know a lot of mothers who are just as bad as I.