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I am a HVParent: Christine DerOhannesian



Soaring above it all

Unless you’re a trucker, Christine DerOhannesian has worked in more states than you.

After graduating from high school in Pine Bush, she began a career in retail at Woodbury Commons. That brought her to the corporate side of retail, and a life on the road. “I went to 43 states and lived in every major city,” she says. “Yet I always said that I had a city mind but a Hudson Valley heart.” She returned to the Valley in her 30’s to settle down, leave the workforce, and start a family. 

But just as her teens and 20’s were marked by the occasional disaster - a severe car accident right before graduation, a stolen moving van outside Boston - DerOhannesian found herself in her 30’s, divorced with two children: Marcello, now 12, and Rosalia, now 10. Just as she had in the past, she sought to flip this new negative experience into a positive one, and to turn what people perceived has her weaknesses into strengths.

First came BumbleFly, a community cafe and meeting spot, named after the way people viewed her. 

“People always put labels on me and said I was free spirited because I’m spontaneous and outgoing, but I’m also very diligent,” she says. BumbleFly, a combination of a whimsical butterfly and a hard-working bumblebee, was created to reflect that duality. Then, in response to people who told her that she was “too wordy,” she founded a writer’s group. 

For the group’s first meeting, she brought a draft of something she created Christmas Eve when her children, who had transitioned from the big farmhouse they had lived in before with both parents to an apartment with just mom, asked her how Santa could visit them when they didn’t have a chimney anymore. In response, she created a story about a magical drawing of a chimney that children could hang anywhere so that Santa could visit them. 

When DerOhannesian read her early draft at that first meeting, the response was so positive that she never went back to the group. Instead she focused on creating the book Santa’s Magical Chimney, which comes with its own chimney poster and is available now in independent book stores throughout the Hudson Valley and online at santasmagicalchimney.com. 

“All of this comes out of my experience as a single parent,” she says. “Everything I do is channeled through my own personal life lessons. My mission is to make a difference and provide some inspiration for children to understand that things are ok, but also for parents to be motivated. No matter what age we’re at, we all want that confirmation that this is ok.” 

DerOhannesian is currently working on two follow up projects that also reflect her family’s experiences. One of them, Home Is Where The Heart Is, is a story for children who live in split families and will come with a backpack with plastic pockets for pictures on it. 

“The book instructs kids to put pictures of people that they love inside the pockets so when they're traveling over the weekend or back and forth to other houses, the book and the bag reminds them that home is where the heart is,” she says.

Like their mother, DerOhannesian’s children have learned to adapt to the changes life throws at them, thanks to the way she emphasizes a positive outlook and takes the time to explain the things she does to deal with the day’s challenges. That also means setting an example for her children by including them in everything she does, including the business as well, as BumbleFly has transitioned from a space that’s open to the public to a PR firm that DerOhannesian uses to host business meetups and expos. 

“My father always said ‘Success is not found in clothes or personal belongings, but how your children speak of you to your friends,’” she says. “So for my children to tell me that they’re proud of me is, for me, the biggest accomplishment. It tells me that they recognize what life is really all about.” 

 

Brian PJ Cronin is a freelance writer whose work appears throughout the Hudson Valley.