Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fundraiser update from Armenia

Hello dearest friends, I'm very happy to be able to share this great news with all of you.  With the help of all your great contributions, I was able to make this wish of mine a reality.  Your donations reached Armenia, found a great home and now I have received word that the playground for which the funds were to be used for is almost complete.  They have sent me some photos of the work in progress and this makes me very happy and grateful for having such amazing and supportive friends and family around me.  Thank you all very much!

Let me tell you a little about this organization that I'm very happy to have helped out.  When I arrived in Armenia I had two very important goals.  One was to have Gagik's ashes spread all around the grounds of Edjmiatsin and the other was to make sure the funds I had collected with the fundraiser reached a worthy cause.  The first part went as planned and brought peace to my heart at last...  However the donation part was becoming a bit of a challenge. Phone call after phone call to orphanages around the city left me with closed doors.  They didn't want me to do anything for the kids, they all just wanted the funds, and because I wanted to be more involved with where the funds were to be spent I wasn't happy about this arrangement.. We've all heard horror stories about donations and the corrupt way in which they are distributed, but we will not get into that now.

Through a friend I met a very humble and kind man Ashot, who is the director at a great international organization that has been providing warmth and comfort to orphans around the world since 1949.  SOS Children's Villages and the work they do blew me away... First off when I spoke to Ashot on the phone he said that they are not in need of anything, and that the organization provides for everything... this was a shocker for me.  But he would be more than happy if we wanted to spend some time and visit the kids at the village.  So this is how these villages work.. A village is built with 5 to 10 homes on the grounds.  Each home is assigned a "mother" and an "aunt", the mother must be between the ages of 30 to 45(about), single and without children of her own.  Each mother then is given between 4 to 8 kids to care for and raise as her own, they all live in this home as a family unit with the aunt helping out.  The children attend public school with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood and have a small sense of normalcy.  One of the my favorite things about this organization is that unlike other state orphanages the kids are not kicked out at 18 with no skills, jobs or homes and are forced to fend for themselves with any means possible.  SOS organization takes them through their early adult life, still providing a place to live and teaching them a trait of some kind, helping them find jobs etc.  This I think is a much better way of sending these kids out into the world to live and better their lives.

Needless to say I fell in love with this organization, the village which is built in the town of Ijevan, nestled in the hills and the staff of wonderful people who have bonded and have created a beautiful family.  The kids are mostly brought here after the family abandoned or abused them, each with a very sad story.... But they are all very well taken care of, love their "mothers" and all call Ashot uncle.  It was a beautiful family unit we saw and I knew this is where I wanted to contribute.  After walking the grounds with Ashot we realized that the kids don't have a playground where they can have fun and release some energy with laughter, as all kids should.  And that my friends is exactly what we did.... Now it gives me great joy to know that with each child's laughter on that playground Gagik's spirit will be celebrated.  It warms my heart...

Once again all this was made possible by all the generosity you have all shown me.. Words are not enough for me to express my gratitude... May you all find yourselves at one point or another in your lives with such deep satisfaction and inner peace as you have all provided me with...
Thank you my friends!

if anyone is still interested in the cards there are plenty left :)


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

learning as we go..

I have not put words down for some time now, not really sure why.... perhaps because I have more on my plate or on my mind I should say then usual, perhaps this "writing your feelings down" thing got a little mundane and unsatisfying as well... like I said I'm not really sure..  But, tonight I guess I feel I have some things to share with those of you who have been with me through this tough journey, and for those still listening.

I recently made a trip to Armenia, where both Gagik and I were born, funny we even come from the same neighborhood but never met till years after we had both moved here... small world.  The reason for my journey there was to bring some of his ashes to the Seminary where he had spent some years as a young student.  This was not part of the requests he had for us, this was something I wanted to do for him, because every time he spoke of those short 4 years he spent there... he seemed happy and had fond memories from there, so I wanted to bring a part of him back to that happy place...I made this trip with his sister, which I think was very significant for both of us, we shared something very special, and only we knew what this meant to us, how we really felt each step of the way and we each found some peace inside in our own individual way. Glad to have done this, glad to have done it this way and everything turned out perfect... exactly how I had pictured it in my mind time and time again.  Even the fundraiser I had in his honer found it's way to the perfect place to make a difference...

I then joined my family for some much needed rest and fun in Greece.  But, this trip to Greece didn't only serve as a relaxation retreat or a well spent quality time with my boys, it did a lot more for me... For a few weeks we felt like a "normal" family, and by "normal" I mean not a family dealing with loss, having to question our feelings, or figuring out which stage of grief we were going through.  Yes an important member of the family was still missing and  he was on my mind constantly, but... we were in a very different place, surrounded by the unfamiliar, a place that didn't have flashes of memories attached to every corner.. And this felt good, it gave us a sense.. as false as it was, but a sense of a different reality, one that didn't belong to us, or the past... if that makes any sense...
As much as I enjoyed that feeling, that lightened load from the pain on my heart... it scared me as well.  For several solitary moments I actually visualized moving there, away from everything that was back home, everything that reminded me of the past. It made so much sense to me, I could finally understand why people sometimes wanted a fresh start after certain events in their lives.  I even replayed different scenarios in my head of how I would live this life here with my boys next to me, and it seemed like a great idea and a beautiful picture in my head...

But let's face it, the void inside will still be there and so will the pain... so running away from it wont really fix anything, not for long anyways.  And as much as I long for the change it's possibly the worse thing for the boys right now.  I think the familiar and the routine of their life is what helps them cope with their pain. Speaking of the boys (you all know I don't like discussing their feeling here that much), they are doing ok, I think they will process all this on a different level and at different times in their lives, I don't think they have faced it or dealt with the loss of their father just yet, but they are teen boys and not much on expressing themselves through words.  But again being around family, friends and living their lives is whats good for them now.

As for me, I guess I'm doing ok too, it has been 2 years now, I still see his smiling face every time I close my eyes. I sill miss him terribly and still want to share my last thoughts for the day and still long for his warm embrace... Had an anniversary just a couple of days ago, it would have been 19 years of marriage and a great one! On this subject... I  have great memories with him, I think I was a good wife and partner and he was happy with me, I'm glad it was me who took care of him till the last days of his life.  I feel in peace about that, but as a woman I still feel very much married and still in love with my husband, who.. yes.. is no longer with us but still very much a part of my life...

So... I can't really start over, no rewind button either, no erasing the past... not even sure I'd want to... But what we can do is move forward equipped with all the strength this experience has given us.  There is no doubt that loosing him did not change me or the boys.  We'll never be the same anymore yes, but we can be so much better... These kind of things are usually called life altering because they really are, some people have a hard time surviving and loose their spirit in the chaos of it all... but I'd like to think and have actually noticed myself that the change that this brought to us made us all that much stronger and more importantly more aware of what matters most in life.  That big change we search for requires no relocation... it's already happened within us and it makes no difference where we live or what we see and feel every day... we are already living a different life!

As for Greece... that still remains my happy place and perhaps one day in the future I can call it home...

Love Peace Joy

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Project "Postcards for Smiles"

Dear friends I'm happy to announce that I'm finally able to launch this project.  My mind gave birth to the idea a little later than I would have liked but, we still have two months till my trip to Armenia.  With all of your support I'm confident that we can make this a successful fundraiser. So here is the idea behind this beautiful project...

I will be bringing my late husbands ashes to Armenia this summer, to Etchmiatsin where he studied as a young boy. I want to honor and remember his kind and happy spirit with some charitable deeds.  This is where you come in... I have put together some of my better photographs as greeting cards, I've build an online shop where you can view and purchase these lovely gifts, and also read more about the project.
Please spread the word, share this link with friends and family... with great appreciation and a humble heart, I thank you!

Mari Mansourian

Love.. Peace.. Joy..

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Now is all we have..

Life teaches us many lessons from the time we come into this world to the very last day we breath.  With all the lessons comes great knowledge, experience, regret, foresight, patience and most of all understanding.  Some lessons are harder to learn and therefore we face them a few more times than we really want to...

If I've learned anything from the years that are behind me now, is that life.. with all it's beauty and joy can also be a very ugly and painful thing.  I've learned that nothing lasts, that all the good and the bad eventually dwindle away and end..  Pure joy and utter pain don't necessarily ever leave but perhaps we just get used to it and become numb as we grow older, and with each experience and lesson we perhaps get tougher, more resilient.. and in the process loose our childish enthusiasm, imagination and curiosity.  We accept things with more ease, stop fighting with our inner demons and even take the joyous experiences with a slight smile rather than a hearty laugh..

In my case... we went from having a comfortable, warm and fuzzy life to a harsh, treacherous, painful existence, surrounded by pain and grief.  Surviving days with tears and hardship while barely making it through nights with a cold bed, wet pillows and a longing for warmth..  But as time goes by, and even though the pain is still the same... we've gotten used to it, have built an immunity to grief, and are a bit more numb to everything that comes with life..  I see it in my boys and I feel it deep inside of me..

Lessons learned?? Still figuring that part out, but the most important lesson I've learned from all this is, like I said.. nothing last forever, happiness can be lost at a moments time, and sadness eventually leaves as well... So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will say this... all we have left is NOW!  Whatever situation we may find ourselves in, that is all we have, so we may as well laugh whole hearted as well as cry from deep within.  This very moment will never repeat, and the joy or pain we feel right now is the very essence of being human, of living our lives.. however long that may be.  I think by really submerging ourselves deep into this moment we can say that we are human and at the end of our journey, as we look back at all the miles we've walked... we can say that we've lived... and learned... and experienced all that this life had in store for us..

And that is a satisfying feeling...