Am I Ready?

imgres    by Karen Topakian

When my partner Peg and I were hunting for a house in 2001, I announced we needed one with a secret hiding place for Jewish people, god forbid. Peg pointed out that the people who might need hiding would be us, lesbians.

At times, I have wished I had lived during those ugly, dangerous Holocaust years so I could test my commitment to nonviolence, my values and my inner strength. To see where I stood in the face of fascism. I questioned whether I would have summoned up the courage required to protect and defend Jewish people, gypsies, queer people, people of color, leftists and many others targeted by their government.

I have frequently read about the people who reached out during those harrowing times to help those scorned, harassed, targeted, rounded up and killed by their government, despite the great personal risk. Often, they didn’t hold important or powerful jobs, but they felt the moral imperative to act. I asked myself, would I have risked my life for others?

My better self answered, Yes!

I also wondered how good people could do nothing to stop the attacks? How could they stand by? How could they let it happen?

Up until November 8, these questions lived in the theoretical world. But no longer. Now I believe we stand on the cusp of that exact time. I see it on the horizon – the need to personally protect and defend people of the Muslim and Jewish faith, undocumented immigrants, people of color and other groups singled out by the President-elect. I ask myself, am I ready?

Am I ready to stand up, take on and resist the President-elect’s plans for incarcerations, deportations and roundups?

Am I ready to march, sit down, lockdown against threats, intimidation, increased bullying and intolerance toward the people vilified by the President-elect and his supporters?

The answer is Yes.

I’ve spent the last three decades protesting against war, nuclear weapons and environmental threats to the planet without incurring serious threats to my health and well-being. But the current climate may require a whole new commitment level. Because the ominous tone will increase once he’s in office.

Now I feel the urgency to commit myself to acting with greater fortitude.

I ask myself how much am I willing to risk? My livelihood. My home. My freedom. My life…

How will I know when to take those risks?

If I act too soon will I make myself an unnecessary target? If I wait too long will I miss the opportunity to stop the President-elect’s actions?

What do I need to do to protect others at risk? Do I even know how?

Am I ready to wear a headscarf in solidarity with Muslim women? Even though I loathe religious customs that control women’s appearances.

Am I ready to oppose the threatened Muslim registry, by registering as one, even though I’m an atheist?

Am I ready to chain myself to the railroad tracks or trucks or lie in the road to block deportations?

Am I ready to stand up to the face of fascism with all my might?

Will my actions be enough?

Am I ready?

I’m Not There Yet

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by Karen Topakian

In the week since the US Presidential election, I received several FB messages from friends and read many blog posts urging me to reach across the aisle to understand why people voted for the President-elect. I’ve been asked to put my feelings of despair and anger aside and listen with an open heart and mind to supporters of the President-elect who proposes racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, xenophobic and homophobic policies. I’m not there yet.

I’m not ready to reach out to ask why they voted for a person endorsed by the Klan.

I’m not ready to sit across the table from someone who thinks discussions about sexually assaulting women are common among men and only “talk.”

I’m not ready to inquire without judgment about how someone could support a candidate who relentlessly and without foundation questioned the birthright of the president because he is Black.

I’m not ready to offer an olive branch to someone who chose a candidate who threatens unconstitutionally to ban people of a particular religion from entry into the United States.

I’m not ready to hold hands with someone who elected a candidate who wants to punish/jail women who seek abortions.

I’m not ready to break bread with someone who voted for a candidate that proposes limits on a free press.

I’m not ready to sing Kumbaya with someone who undermined our electoral process by charging that the election was rigged, until he won.

I’m not ready to listen to someone tell me that they too found these statements troubling and disturbing but voted for him anyway because he’s a good businessman or because he promised their job back or because they hate Washington.

My Christian upbringing, upon which I rarely rely, urges me to do just this – turn the other cheek as Jesus did. But I ain’t no Jesus.

The Bible also tells me not to judge or I will be judged. But I’ve already been judged as “less than” by his voters who don’t value and respect women’s lives or choices.

My deep belief in the power of nonviolence suggests I practice compassion with my adversaries. I’m not there yet. I don’t feel compassion for people who prefer a bigot. For people who chose a demagogue.

The possibility that all of his supporters don’t feel this way doesn’t trump my fear of loss that everything I work so hard to create – a just, equitable and peaceful planet – can and will be undone by a few strokes of his pen or by votes in a one party Congress or by the soon-to-be conservative Supreme Court.

I’m not looking for revenge; I don’t wish his voters and supporters ill will. I just don’t want to talk to them. And I don’t want to understand their decision. I don’t want to feel their pain. Not yet. Because mine is too deep.

Election Disaster Preparedness

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by Karen Topakian

The Red Cross advises families to make a plan to prepare and respond to all types of emergencies from flood to flu to landslides. Unfortunately, they don’t tell you how to prepare for the disaster wafting our way on January 20, 2017 and ending on January 19, 2021.

So I will.

                                                                  MAKE A PLAN

Create an emergency plan so your family will know what to do in the crisis.

  1. Discuss how to prepare and respond to the types of emergencies that will most likely happen where you live, learn, work and play.
  • Identify people of color, Muslims, immigrants, women and LGBT type people in your household and in your workplace.
  • Decide on a course of action if assaulted or harassed. For example, enlist a straight male Caucasian friend, preferably Republican or from the alt-right to help you, go into hiding, lighten your skin, convert to an “acceptable” religion, a.k.a. Christian, try to act straight, hire a civil rights attorney to accompany you 24/7
  • Purchase a Presidential Disaster insurance plan, which will cover loss of access to abortion, a free press and sanity. Add-on miscarriage of justice insurance and former homeowners policies.
  1. Develop an action plan and assign tasks. Remember to work together as a team. Responsibilities may include:
  • Monitoring the news to see which way the political winds are blowing
  • Making protest signs
  • Stashing bail money
  • Disguising your home as a Trumpian refuge if under attack, i.e. display white nationalist banners
  • Updating passports
  • Keeping social media accounts on high alert
  • Filling up gas tanks
  • Hiding undocumented immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women and queer folks
  • Packing do-it-yourself surgical kits for the inevitable loss of access to health care
  • Digging a hole in the backyard big enough for your whole family
  • Resupplying your bomb shelter
  1. Stockpile basic disaster supplies.
  • Loose fitting clothing and running shoes required for long marches and fast getaways
  • Extra underwear and a toiletry kit in case of a round up
  • Involuntary-change-of-address cards
  • Blankets, sleeping bags and tents packed up to serve as an emergency home
  • A battery-powered radio tuned to the easy listening channel to avoid adding stress
  • Cash, cash, cash – US and Canadian dollars, Euros, Rubles and Pesos
  • American flags and extra matches
  • SPF 1,000 to protect against the inevitable rise in global temperature
  • Snorkels, fins and oxygen tanks, for coastal residents. Oh heck, even for folks in the Mid-West.
  • Anti-pollution masks
  • Fire extinguishers to douse cross burnings
  • Coat hangars to help women in need
  • Bullet proof vests, particularly for young men of color
  • Cases of Xanax, Valium, Zoloft and Prozac. In extreme circumstances, a do-it-yourself lobotomy kit

Why Women Didn’t Serve as Jesus’ Disciples

imgres  by Karen Topakian

Pope Francis recently re-affirmed the Church’s position on not ordaining women as priests. According to the Pope, since Jesus chose only men to serve as his apostles, the Church cannot ordain women.

Here’s an example of why women might not have served.

Bartholomew, a fisherman, walked quickly through his small courtyard toward the gate.

Sapphira, his wife, hung a wet sheet onto the clothesline, while watching him steal past his fishnets.

“Aren’t you going fishing today?”

“I’m going to hear the prophet, Jesus,” answered Bartholomew.

“Again?”

“Come listen. You’ll like him.”

“What about all this work?” asked Sapphira, waving at a pile of wet laundry, a young child wheezing and a stack of encrusted bowls. “And don’t give me that ‘god will provide’ business.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“But you did the last time a prophet sailed through Nazareth. I had to stay up all night cooking and cleaning.”

He shrugged.

“I don’t think your friends Mark, Luke and John want women around. When my friend Mary went, they sneered at her, ‘Show us your ankles.’ Others called her a whore.”

“What do you expect men to do when she cinches her robe so tight.”

“A woman at the well told me she believed in Jesus and wanted to follow him but your buddies wouldn’t allow her near him. She couldn’t break through the stucco ceiling.”

“Again, with the ceiling?”

Bartholomew put his arm around her and pulled her close to him. “I really think he’s the one.”

“The one, what?” she responded wriggling herself free from his grasp.

“The Messiah,” answered Bartholomew beaming.

“Is he? Probably promising he’ll make Galilee Great Again! If he says he can perform miracles, why doesn’t he get us a new oil lamp…that doesn’t leak?”

He looked at her crestfallen.

Sapphira reached for her husband’s hand. “What’s the matter with our religion? I thought you liked Judaism. What, you don’t like Rabbi Jacob?”

“I like Rabbi Jacob but how many times is he going to read from Leviticus? All those rules!”

“He’s reminding us how to live our faith.”

“Enough already about avoiding the cloven hooves and the unclean. I get it.”

Saphhira dropped his hand and resumed hanging up the wet laundry.

“You’ve changed. I remember when you enjoyed fishing, repairing your nets and teaching our children,” exclaimed Saphhira. “Now it’s Jesus this and Jesus that.”

“He says things I’ve never heard before,” confessed Bartholomew.

“You want to hear things you’ve never heard before? You’re a lousy husband. There I’ve said it. I guess my mother was right.”

“His words stir my heart.”

“I’ll give you something to stir, “ said Saphhira pointing to a pail of milk and a butter churner.

“He’s promising us a better life.”

“What’s he going to do, put food on our table, clothe us, keep us warm? You’re supposed to do that, you big lug. Because that’s your job as a husband and a father.”

Bartholomew shook his head, saddened by his wife’s negativity and walked out.

Sapphira pulled another sheet out of the pile and shook it within an inch of its life.

“What’s this one promising, the keys to heaven?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gropers Poke Trump

 

 

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by Karen Topakian

In a rare public statement, the Gropers Really Are Brazen (GRAB) officially denounced Donald Trump and withdrew his longstanding membership from this international clandestine group.

According to GRAB’s CEO, Fred Feelgood, GRAB members wanted the world to know that Mr. Trump did not “speak for them.” Its public announcement included the following statements:

Mr. Trump’s potty mouth deeply offended our members’ delicate sensibilities. We may touch, fondle, grab, prod, maul, squeeze, pinch, grasp, feel, clutch, thumb, paw and poke “lady parts” but we never say the p-word.

We remain committed to groping in public but not talking about it in public. We only retain members who can remain tight-lipped about their achievements, conquests and dalliances.

GRAB’s bylaws require its members to publicly deny their own behavior vociferously and to seek immediate protection from the organization’s rich and famous like-minded friends. Mr. Trump’s 2005 statements made public on October 7 required us to remove him immediately from the membership roster.

The group called an emergency meeting when the videotapes became public. “Our members dropped everything to attend,” declared Mr. Feelgood. “We have a brand to protect. Sure, we like to grope as much as the next guy, but we don’t boast about it. We’ve learned to zip it up.”

Mr. Feelgood noted that this incident wasn’t Mr. Trump’s first offense as a GRAB member. “When Ivana charged him with rape we put his membership on probation.” Feelgood noted that the bylaws clearly do not allow members to rape. “We reinstated him when she encased the word rape in quotes.”

According to Feelgood, the Groper-American community likes to seize life by the throat, though usually lower. As loyal Americans, they exercise their right to peacefully assemble – very, very closely together.

He uttered their motto, “You only go around once in life, so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can,” with a nod and a wink.

GRAB’s members include all racial, ethnic, age and religious groups but currently only men. Several years ago, a handful of women joined GRAB committed to groping men but the membership found the mere mention of such behavior repugnant, demeaning, offensive, distasteful, objectionable, dehumanizing, repulsive and possibly illegal. They quickly amended the bylaws disallowing it.

According to Feelgood, women may join if they agree only to grope other women.

“We’re not sexist because anyone can join,” reported Feelgood. “We even reached out to the lesbian community, assuming they might share our common interests in groping women, but our friendly overtures were met with vulgarity.”

Individuals may join GRAB by invitation only. “We can’t just let anyone in willy-nilly,” said Mr. Feelgood. “Certainly not pedophiles, exhibitionists and necrophilias. Those people are perverts.”

This century’s old secretive group, founded by men lurking in and slinking around crowded busses, trains and elevators, prefers to conduct its business behind closed doors and in the dark. Throughout the year, GRAB sponsors public events at a variety of locations, i.e. Black Friday waiting lines at Wal-Mart, tree-lighting at Rockefeller Center, Super Bowl entry gates, Penn Station, TSA lines…

“Trump’s lowered our standards,” announced Feelgood. “And we certainly never kiss. That’s ticky-tacky.”

How Hard Could It Be?

imgresby Karen Topakian

Several years ago Harvard University needed to replace its president, Lawrence Summers, who resigned after making this controversial statement, “the under-representation of female scientists at elite universities may stem in part from ‘innate’ differences between men and women.”

This Ivy League school had never selected a women president, the timing seemed right. Why not apply? But was I qualified?

A Harvard Business Review article said, “men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.” And who gets the jobs? Men!

I certainly possess 60% of the qualifications. Honestly, how hard could it be to serve as Harvard’s President?

First, Harvard draws on the greatest minds of people in numerous fields and I would access everyone of them to help me schedule meetings, make travel plans, draft speeches, disparage Yale, return overdue library books… I wouldn’t even need to learn how to pronounce Hav-vad like a local. Remember, I’m from Rhode Island!

Second, I would only have to manage the university’s finances, fundraise, lead meetings, represent the University in public affairs, report to the governing bodies and develop big-ass visions.

A piece of cake.

My credentials and qualifications would make the job a snap.

On the finance front, numbers don’t scare me. Armed only with a calculator, a yellow pad and a Number 2 pencil, I can attack any financial statement. When the numbers get too big, I just kick off my stilettos and use my toes.

Trust me, I know how to ask people for money. Just ask my mother about my teenage tantrums whining and begging for extra cash. While in graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute, I worked In the Admissions and Financial Aid offices, where I learned how to sell big-ticket tuition costs to parents who foolishly questioned the “value of a fine arts education.“ Plus I’ve honed the science of glad-handing, schmoozing and chit chatting while balancing a plate of crudités on my knee.

Fundraising also involves relating to all kinds of people. My multi-discipline business experience makes it easy to relate to the titans of industry. While working summers in a mind-numbing dead end job at the family business, General Plating, I experienced what kind of careers awaited me with only a high school degree. During my days working at a noted RI clothing store, I mastered the art of customer relations by politely telling men that I couldn’t model the lingerie they contemplated buying for their wives.

Leading meetings only requires a few skills – standing up and out yelling the other losers at the table. And when that doesn’t work, banging my shoe on the table.

Representing the University in public affairs means wearing the right garb for the right crowd – LL Bean for the New Englanders and Chanel for the sophisticates. Plus I expertly dress up any outfit with jewelry.

I also have good elective skills. While serving as the first director of the University of Rhode Island’s first Women’s Center, situated directly across from the rifle range and the turf farms, I learned to dodge speeding bullets and mastered the art of watching grass grow.

Finally, Harvard is practically my alma mater. My partner’s father graduated from Harvard Law School during the Truman Administration. In the early 1970s, I occasionally studied at the Widener library during the brief hours it allowed access to women.

In closing, I think it would be fun to serve as Harvard’s president. I could organize events and research on topics of my choosing. For example, I could invite Madonna and the Pope to speak at a symposium about religious icons in the 21st century. They would have to attend. Or authorize scientific research on the curative digestive powers of klushab, an old Armenian recipe of stewed prunes and raisins. And what about the benefits of free parking in Cambridge?

I still believe the job wouldn’t be that hard. Certainly not as hard as the US Presidency and now there’s a woman running for that.

 

 

 

 

 

Shopping with Alice

img_8812by Karen Topakian

When we’re together, my mother and I often participate in a ritual – shopping. Sometimes it’s for something specific. Sometimes it’s just to look. For decades, we’ve visited the same stores – Talbots, Chico’s, Macy’s, Banana Republic… We always want each other to look our best.

My mother’s advice on clothes remains unsurpassed. She possesses a keen eye for color, design and appropriateness.

We intend to be tactful and diplomatic. But we aren’t always successful. Here are a few examples.

I snuck into the dressing room to try on a pair of French Blue cotton pleated-at-the-waist slacks that tapered at the ankle. I glanced at myself in the mirror and liked the way they fit. When my mother took one look, she said, “That isn’t the most slenderizing garment I’ve ever seen on you.” To which I responded, “Maybe I’m not going with slenderizing.” Just to be defiant I bought the slacks, wore them a few times before concluding she was absolutely right. They ballooned at my hips and butt. Not an attractive look. I never wore them again.

Our fashion commentary clearly worked both ways. When I was a teenager, my mother played bridge one afternoon a month to which every one took the occasion to get dressed up. She had recently purchased a slate gray pencil skirt with a wide belt and paired it with a lighter gray long sleeve silk button up blouse. Instead of complimenting her on the fit, I said, “You look like a prison warden.” Crestfallen, she responded, “Once you say that I can’t wear the outfit.”

As I struggled to find a raincoat for my mother amidst a sea of ones easy to reject – hoods, ugly colors, too long or too short. She held up a beige trench coat. “Don’t you already have a beige raincoat?” I asked. “You can never have enough beige raincoats.”

While plowing through pile of sweaters at Talbots, I spied a red V-neck cardigan. “Mom, what about this one?” She smiled and said, “Theoretically, it’s a nice sweater.” Then pointed out it was the wrong color red, the V was too deep and she didn’t like the buttons.

 

Summer Olympics For the Rest of US

imagesby Karen Topakian

If the International Olympic Committee wanted to represent most Americans, they would include these real-life Olympic competitions.

Free-Style Burning

Fair skinned “athletes” lathered in baby oil spend a hot, humid day at the beach. Waving off “scientific” concerns about skin cancer, they avoid shade or sunscreen. The first athlete to break out in blisters wins the gold.

Vapid Reading

Armed with a strong Tom Collins, a player digs into the works of James Patterson, Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins. First player to find one sentence that would pass muster in a high school English class may quickly dive into the New Yorker.

Deep Napping

Laid out on a chaise lounge, hammock or lawn chair determined nappers settle in despite barking dogs, circling helicopters surveying a fast moving fire and children pleading for ice cream. Last one to bolt upright and scream, “Shut the F&%$ up!” wins.

Miniature Golf

A player uses a short club to hit a ball into a hole camouflaged by a plastic log cabin, condor-sized bird house or a leering clown face, in the lowest number of strokes as possible while avoiding pools of spilled soda, floating tufts of cotton candy and sharp-edged windmill blades. Players may not keep their own score.

Roller Coaster

After eating an extra large bacon-crusted pizza washed down with Dr. Pepper Slurpees, then waiting in a 90-minute line mid-day, each player rides with 5 nine-year olds in a metal car attached to a track that loops, climbs and 60-degree plunges at 80 mph without barfing.

Bird Watching

Teams of players spread their blankets down on a crowded public beach. Each team must protect their potato chip bags, broken cookies and half-eaten sandwiches from aggressive seagulls. Players may scream at and shoo the birds but not harm the birds or leave their blankets. Ants may be substituted for birds, if not available.

Synchronized Are We There Yet

Teams of bored 11-year old children without electronic devices, book or activities unwillingly pile into mini-vans for a long drive. Almost immediately after leaving the house, the teams begin chanting “Are We There Yet,” “I Have to Go to the Bathroom,” “She Touched Me” and “I‘m Gonna Be Sick.” Whichever van stops first wins.

Back Seat Driving

Teams of elderly nervous backseat drivers ride in hot cars, during long road trips to family weddings. Players repeatedly shout out unwanted cautionary phrases,“I think you missed the turn,” “Watch out” and “Is that a bag of leaves or a small boy?” Whichever player gets ejected first wins.

Entertaining 4-Year Olds in a Small Beach House During a Multi-Day Rainstorm

The player with the most children alive at the end of the week wins. Children with a weak erratic pulse will qualify as alive.

Red, White and Blue

Husbands and wives with divergent political views spend the entire 4th of July weekend without mentioning despairingly either presidential candidates’ names or political party. First person to call a divorce lawyer or schedule a lobotomy for their spouse wins.

Lone Wolves Anonymous Hires Public Relations Firm

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:                         June 14, 2016

Contact:            Canis Lupus, Leader of the Pack, 1-800–HOWLING, clupus@lwa.org

Lone Wolves Anonymous Hires Public Relations Firm

Jackson Hole/WY – Lone Wolves Anonymous (LWA) lashed out against the press and the public for besmirching its good name and inferring guilt by association.

For more than 40 years, lone wolves have received blame for committing random acts of violence starting with Sirhan Sirhan’s 1968 assassination of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy.

“We need to dispel the myth once and for all that lone wolves are to blame for so much carnage. We’ve had it up to here,” said Mr. Lupus pointing to his snowy white chest. “Not all lone and solitary folks are killers in sheep’s clothing.”

In response to these repeated false claims about its very nature, LWA hired the world famous public relations firm, Tooth & Nail, to burnish its falsely tarnished public image.

“We hired Tooth & Nail because they came highly recommended by the sharks who went from much feared to having their own hockey team and TV programs,” explained the pack leader excitedly.

Tooth & Nail immediately advised LWA to show the public their more fun loving and playful side. “They advocated we adapt a mantra of complete transparency. Therefore, we’ve opened up all of our activities to the general public,” announced Mr. Lupus “We’re anxious to show how everyone how we care for our young, scent mark and howl at the moon.”

Prior to hiring the PR firm, LWA tried a few less than successful image changing activities: hunting in pairs, which ended in acrimony; becoming gatherers which created packs of hangry wolves; and shifting the blame to other solitary animals, such as the Tasmanian devil, the grizzly bear and the Giant California sea cucumber.

“The bears refused to take the blame lying down,” said Mr. Lupus. “A Tasmanian devil delivered a lethal bite to a reporter seeking an interview. And the sea cucumbers let the fault wash right over their leathery skin.”

Lupus reminded the public that, “Lone wolves don’t kill people. People with guns kill people.”

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“What about chicken and pilaf?”

nanaby Karen Topakian

“Nana, I’ve decided to become a vegetarian,” I announced to my maternal grandmother one spring afternoon in 1976, as she bustled around her sunny yellow kitchen making my grandfather’s dinner.

“Why would you want to do that?” she bellowed, looking at me while wielding a kitchen knife.

“I gave it up for Lent and I’m not going to eat meat anymore,” I announced smugly.

“That’s crazy!” she exclaimed while chopping carrots for a stew.

She paused for a moment before continuing, “What about chicken?”

“What about chicken? It’s meat.”

“You’re not going to eat chicken and pilaf!” she exclaimed referring to the signature Armenian dish.

I shook my head.

“Where does she get these crazy ideas?” she muttered to herself while slicing onions.

“What about your mother’s lamb chops?”

I shook my head.

“I thought you liked the way she cooked them?”

“I do like them. But lamb is meat.”

She waved her hand at me dismissively. I fiddled with the buttons on my shirt.

“You can eat the pilaf. There’s no meat in the pilaf,” she responded proudly for finding a loophole.

“But you cook it in chicken broth,” I countered.

“Yes. So.”

A few Sundays later, my family sat down to dinner in my Nana’s dining room. She emerged from the kitchen carrying a platter of roasted chicken, which she placed on the table next to a big bowl of rice pilaf.

“Karen, have some chicken,” offered my Nana seated to my right, reaching across my plate with a forkful of white meat.

I blocked her move with my right hand. “No, thank you, Nana. Remember, I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat anymore.”

“Don’t be silly,” she responded, waving the meat-laden fork in front of me.

“Have a little. Who’s going to know?”

I shook my head defiantly.

“Why do you keep insisting she eat it?” reproached my mother.

“What will you eat?” queried Nana.

I pointed to the green beans, the salad and the looped Armenian string cheese piled next to dan hatz, Armenian cracker bread.

“That’s not enough.”

“I’ve heard enough,” announced my grandfather in Armenian.

“I don’t like the idea of killing animals for food,” I continued.

“If you think meat was once an animal, of course you wouldn’t eat it. But you can’t think that way,” Nana admonished me.

Having failed to appeal to humaneness, I resorted to her religious side.

“You’re a Christian, Nana. Doesn’t God say, thou shall not kill?”

But my grandmother had an answer for that, too. She emphatically plopped the meat back on the platter with a thud. “He didn’t mean animals.”