You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2009.

Today’s forecast is for increasing clouds and some possible snow showers as the day goes on. Off and on I’ve seen some of the white stuff floating in the air—in between bursts of sunshine. So, when I planned my run, I figured I better go sooner than later.

First I had to pick up my new inhaler from the pharmacy. It was already filled, but I had forgotten I needed to order Jackson’s new inhalers now that that track season is here. That meant I had to wait a bit before I could stop by the pharmacy.

Since I was already going to be out, I thought I ought to run somewhere beside in my own neighborhood. I still had to go to Costco to get salsa for the taco bar that will be feeding the kids between tomorrow’s musical performances. Why not go over to the Platte River trail?

I know it’s a work day for many, but the trail was quieter than usual for a midday Friday. Even the golfers at the course seemed to have stayed away, for the most part. Other than a couple bike-riders, the trail pretty much belonged to me—well, me and several Canada geese.

We’re so spoiled with decent winter weather here in Colorado that I think it’s easy to be a fair weather outdoor runner. Get a few clouds in the sky and temperatures in the high 30s or low 40s—mild weather compared to much of the country—and the people pounding the pavement really seem to disappear. Maybe they prefer a treadmill indoors if the weather isn’t somewhat warm, but I hate the enclosed feeling of indoor running.

I was running along, amazed at how quiet it could be just before noon on a weekday on the path. The stillness was almost enough to fool me into thinking I wasn’t really running close to some industrial businesses—including a few odoriferous landfills! The ducks floated on the calm river waters, the geese waddled across the path, and the main sound came from my feet tapping the trail. Very peaceful.

As I ran back toward where my car was parked, I realized how nice it was that the section of the trail I was on wasn’t developed. Just past the golf course, stands of trees, as well as various brush, grew along the banks of the river. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t have realized how close I was to the big new retail development where I had parked.

That’s when it hit me—as a woman runner, I can’t just assume that being alone in the great outdoors is a safe thing, even at high noon. I’ve heard reports of attacks on runners during the day in places like Boulder and southeast Denver. So I kept my eye on the man riding his bike, who was wearing no helmet or workout gear, until he rode off the path. Then I noted the one with the backpack wondering through the trees. Nature lover? Someone who lives along the river? Who can tell?

I continued toward my self-imposed finish line, trying to recover the sense of peace I’d felt. But it was gone—even if I was probably just dealing with my own overactive imagination.

It’s amazing how quickly I went from feeling at ease with being alone to feeling lonely. Somehow I have to find a way to mix the joy of solitude with just enough vigilance to keep me safe. My head may be up in the clouds when I run, but I’ve got to keep my feet set firmly on the path.

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Tuesday night the world crashed again for her. But whether she likes to admit it or not, I saw that her work with the DBT moved her towards better resolutions. When she first started talking about what was on her mind, everything was either this or that, with no middle ground. Her request not to go to school was avoidance—from work and friends.

Yet as she continued speaking, she practiced her “what” and “how” skills, probably without even knowing it. First she observed that she was overwhelmed by all the work she still had left to do. And then she came up with a plan—which she did execute the next day—for using a day home from school for a work day.

Yesterday, even with work done, she still worried about the personal problem. Once again, in her mind, it was either this or that. Although the situation didn’t begin to resolve because of her own implementation of “how” skills, she got a chance to see that maybe she isn’t always right about people—and sometimes people can surprise you—for the good.

Then she “did what works” in response. She listened when she needed to and spoke when she needed to. After that, she let go of unproductive feelings. Her “reasonable mind” and “emotional mind” met as the “wise mind”—and then gave her the freedom to enjoy the rest of the night—and look forward to today.

In that frame of mind, she could accept that I wasn’t going to read Eat, Pray, Love to her without her taking care of that hurting leg muscle. Enough talking about the pain without doing something about it.

So, we looked plenty odd lying there on the floor with our legs up the wall, each of us grimacing in pain from the stretching of our strains. We weren’t as focused on the book as we usually are since our legs were screaming for attention—that and her brother, wound from acting in the opening night of “Pirates of Penzance,” kept pointing out funny double meanings to what I was reading outloud.

Maybe by 10:30 at night we weren’t doing a good job of being mindful and effective, but I know she did when it mattered—and that’s something she could sleep on.

And so could I.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that signals the annual return to the season of Lent for Christians. Tonight, as the cool ashes are planted on my forehead, I will be reminded that I am dust and to dust I will return.

Some years those ashes seem so heavy and other years they bring relief. Lent is a time of traveling to the tomb, of imagining what Christ’s trip to Golgotha might have been, and, perhaps, taking on his cross for a few steps of that journey. The years when the ashes bring relief are those when much of the year has seemed like Lent.

Mourning loss is part of the trip to the tomb. However, in all my humanness, I return to what my own crosses have been, not Christ’s. This past year I have had to watch people I love very much deal with their own losses and have tried to walk with them on their own trips to Golgotha.

Last Lent my mother was living with us. I had been thrown into taking over her medications, medical visits, diet management, financial matters, and the prospect of finding her a new home. When she first got injured, every day I prayed that I could be what I needed to be for her in this time. I believe that prayer was answered.

Still, I was faced, daily, with the knowledge that the mother I had known was slipping away. We had moments when we thought improved diet, medication management, establishment of routines, more social contact, reduction of meds, etc. could change that situation. Turns out none of those things made the big difference we had hoped for. She knows that, too. So I still need to pray that I can be what I need to be for her, as each day she faces the loss of who she was.

Into this season of being a grieving daughter came my own loss of peace of mind as a mother. Never had I imagined how severely the loss of young love and a brain’s biological response could lay waste to my daughter’s happiness and health. This trip has meant surrendering my illusions of being in control of this process or its outcomes.

So in this other journey I can only pray that God will once again help me to be what I need to be for her and that he will help me to find her the help she needs, that he will let me know when to step in and when I need to let her do the hard work of healing on her own.

If anything, this past year has taught me that I am dust. But at the same time, if I had approached these losses as if I were nothing and could do nothing, then I would have been giving up on who God wants me to be while I am on this earth . . . and who my loved ones need me to be in their times of need.

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

Writers get good news—and then have to wait. Truth is, for me, it’s best to put the news out of mind until I get confirmation that publication is imminent. On Friday I got an e-mail that reminded me that I have a story in a book that is coming out soon—sooner than I expected.

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers (Adams Media) is set for release on March 10. That’s just over two weeks away! That’s my story, ‘The Rope,’ on page 309, according to the table of contents listed on Amazon.

I know what you are thinking—and you’re right—I am hardly a new mother. Personal writing is like that—either we write stories long after the events happened, or we find a home for them several years after we wrote them. I think I wrote this story in 1997 or 1998, so it qualifies for both.

This story is special to me because I remember the process very well. While my kids were in kindergarten, I savored my precious few hours alone for writing and exercising. I didn’t even turn on any music because for once my house was absolutely quiet. Two days a week they were picked up by their long-time preschool to attend extended kindergarten. Those were my days to pound out the words, if the words were willing.

Many days the words were willing. That year was a fruitful period in my life since I finally had a few hours alone and I no longer worked outside the home.

Two things happened that led me to this story. One was a dream I had about crossing the Mississippi River while pregnant. As dreams go, it wasn’t particularly logical, but I did see a connection between being pregnant and going across the Great Mother River of our country. Later, as I was sitting at my desk pondering this thought, I looked over at my couch and could almost see myself on that couch during my not-quite-bedrest days that lead to the birth of my twins.

So much had passed in the years since those days. Waters under the bridge, to continue the metaphor. Yet, I knew that my kids were so young and that there would be so many other bridges we would need to cross with them.

That thought spurred me to write the story, very quickly. Of course, I had to edit it after the fact, but the original words came out, in a flood, if you will. Then after I wrote the piece, I felt so exhausted I had to go over for a nap on that very couch where I had waited so many days for our family’s journey really to get started.

When I write something really emotional, I feel as if I have been out running a 10K. Somehow the process of pulling something really deep out of the heart is almost as physically challenging as literal movement.

Opening my heart is its own kind of movement, it seems.

I think too much. Sometimes I can’t make a decision for months, but then when the answer comes, I know in my gut that it’s the right one. Not bad for an ISTJ (that’s Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging in Myers-Briggs personality typing.)

 

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test several times. One thing each test has shown is that I am an extreme sensor, not an intuitive at all—I gather my information from my senses and facts.

 

Sherman used to call me H. Ross Perot, after the colorful third party candidate from the 1992 presidential election. He thought I was like Perot, mostly based on Johnnie Carson’s parodies: “I’ve got to see it, touch it, smell it.” If you remember Perot, you probably remember his twangy Texas accent—and his numerous pie charts.

 

So what seems like an intuitive decision for me is actually based on a long list of things that “prove”—to me anyway—why I make the choice.

 

When I was at the writing group’s blogging workshop, someone asked me what I wrote. Basically I stammered out what I had written in the past, but explained mostly at that time I was just trying to get through each day, due to things happening in my personal life.

 

That’s when another member—who coincidentally happens to be my psychiatrist—suggested that getting through the day might be a good theme for my blog. Yes, she knows me well, despite our limited professional encounters. And that’s why she gets paid the big bucks!

 

OK, it took me another two and a half months to realize she was right, but now I can tell myself—and you—why.

 

“Going the Distance” is the title of a Cake song that resonated with me, even though it’s about cars and mixed-up relationships. That phrase always spoke to me about running. No matter that some years I haven’t run at all, but I have been running off and on for over thirty years. When I was sixteen I ran thirty to thirty-six miles a week. I wasn’t the fastest runner, but I did go the distance—often.

 

Over the last couple of years I’ve slowly returned to running, now that yoga and Pilates have helped realign my body so I can run again. My distances are much shorter than they were in my early running days, but I set goals—time, visual, and/or distance—and I mostly meet them these days. I cross-train with the hope that I will be able to continue to run, even as I age.

 

But running is also a metaphor for life and how I want to live my life with faith—faith that there is a God whose Son came to bring this world new life, that He has a plan for me, and that He will see me through whatever I need to do in this life.

 

. . . but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31, NIV

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1, NRSV

 

I might get weary, but I plan to keep running this race. I am . . . going the distance.

 

And yes, I did just throw Myers-Briggs, H. Ross Perot, very secular—but often biblically aware—music, and Bible verses together into one post. Those are just a few of the grab bag of influences that led me to, this, my final answer.

This past Christmas my kids were hired by the next door neighbors to care for their dachshunds, Peaches and Ralph. We’ve always been a big dog family—we are on our third English Springer Spaniel. Fordham is the biggest—and messiest—one we’ve had. Although I grew up with Pekingese, I understood Sherman’s fascination with bigger dogs.

Of course, maybe falling in love with Duncan, his first “baby,” was what changed my mind. Duncan could run and hike with us. He could sleep outside. He only needed to eat once a day and his bladder lasted all night (well, I won’t get into his Springer bladder from his younger years!) He didn’t spend time on the furniture (not if Sherman knew about it anyway!) Soon after we got married, I convinced him Duncan needed a friend. That’s when we got Chelsea, a dog that put the hyper in the Springer image.

Duncan and Chelsea were part of our family until the ends of their lives. When we wanted to adopt another dog, we didn’t even consider another breed. Springers are friendly, happy dogs that love their families—but not the mail carrier, it seems. OK, they are also fond of mud and weeds, can have too much energy at the wrong time, and don’t possess the daintiest eating or drinking habit, but they suit us.

However, Christiana fell for Peaches and Ralph for all their small dog traits. They love to cuddle, no matter the time of the day or night. Fordham, on the other hand, considers 8:00 p.m. his bedtime and is pretty much off duty on the love sponge scene until at least dawn. Christiana considers after 8:00 prime love sponge time, so she was wishing she could steal Peaches and Ralph—but that would not go over too well with Jen and Don!

She was all set to adopt her own dog, until we reminded her that college is a short 18 months away and I don’t think they’re going to take kindly to dachshunds in the dorms! So, we compromised and let her volunteer to foster an older dog.

We picked up Abel Saturday from the Plum Creek Dog Show. He is a very happy guy, especially for someone who is in his elder years and is basically homeless. Fordham, however, is not accessing any feelings of charity—Christian or otherwise—for this usurper of his attention. Abel is also not afraid to check out Fordham’s chew flips (rawhides)—which may matter even more to Fordham than our love does!

If you want to adopt Abel or check out other dachshunds, go to the Colorado Dachshund Rescue site for more information. Unless, you’re still a big dog person, then check out the English Springer Spaniel Rescue of the Rockies.

So now while Christiana is at school, I spend my time keeping the two old boys apart as well as I can.

And, shh, don’t tell Fordham, but Abel is on my lap right now while I write this. That’s just not something you can do with a 65-pound dog. The big dogs may get the porch, but they don’t get the lap!

Eating—in any place—is not easy for our family, but eating out is even more difficult. Both Sherman and Christiana have celiac disease, which is an autoimmune response to gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley, and some oats. It’s hard enough to avoid foods that you know contain gluten without adding in the factor that gluten is often used as a filler.

Celiac disease is one of those underdiagnosed diseases since only about 10% of the population exhibits the classic symptoms—you know, feeling sick to the stomach pretty quickly after eating gluten. When a person with celiac disease doesn’t follow a gluten-free diet, he or she is opening the door to much more serious diseases, such as the other autoimmune diseases or even colon cancer or lymphoma. If nothing else, people who eat gluten when they shouldn’t are prone to depression, mood changes, irritability, and attention problems.

Part of the problem in getting a diagnosis is that symptoms are so varied. Sherman was diagnosed in his mid-40s because he was rejected as a blood donor a couple times for anemia. Since anemia in men is often related to a serious health condition, like colon cancer, he was referred to his doctor. Long story, short, he was diagnosed about 3 ½ years ago. But looking back, he’s pretty sure he’s had this for much of his life (celiac disease can go into periods of remission but it never goes away for good.)

Christiana was diagnosed last year at 15—and it’s been a very long year for her. She’s had to give up many of the foods she’s loved. But sometimes the bigger factor is how little access there is to food, unless she’s at home or has really planned ahead.

What teenager wants to be at home all the time or think ahead all the time? Spontaneity is what that period of life is often about. And that includes eating with friends without planning ahead—and often without thinking about calories or any other factors. Kids share things like pizza, donuts, muffins, cookies, and cakes, often on a whim. School groups and sports teams get food together for rewards, motivation, or relaxation.

Just in the last couple weeks Christiana has had a couple of her out-to-eat options pared down. Last weekend we struck out twice. First, Deby’s Gluten-Free Bakery and Cafe had just gone to wholesale operations only. And then Noodles & Company told her that the cheese sauce she’s had on her rice noodles there includes gluten.

Just as doctors are becoming more aware of the various symptoms of celiac disease and are doing a much better job of diagnosing more individuals with the disease, we need more dining options, not fewer.

There must be business benefits to providing food for this growing market. In the past few years a Colorado restaurant, Beau Jo’s Pizza, added a gluten-free menu (thank to a partnership with Deby’s products) and draws many “mixed” families, feeding both those who need gluten-free food and those who eat from their regular menu.

So, on Saturday when once again Christiana was faced with going hungry, as another restaurant did not offer something simple like corn tortillas, we walked over to Beau Jo’s for a little comfort food. She got a huge slice of cake (made by Deby’s), which put some smiles back on her face. But it wasn’t the meal she wanted or needed—all she wanted was a quesadilla made from corn versus flour tortillas.

I do hope that the pen (keyboard!) is mightier than the sword because it’s time for me to do battle, nicely, of course, in the name of my family members and all those others who just want to be able to do something most of us take for granted.

Finding something to eat shouldn’t have to be so hard.

It’s taken me a very long time to join the blogging world. I have been journaling pretty consistently, by hand no less, for over ten years. I am a belly-button gazer extraordinaire. However, as a writer who has published both research-based objective works, as well as very personal essays, I wanted to make sure any public blogging made sense for my professional reputation.

When members of my writing organization met to discuss blogging, we held varying opinions on how personal a professional writer should get in a blog. That night we brainstormed on how to categorize ourselves.

I’ve been stewing about that for a couple months, but what I realize now is that I am first and foremost a writer of personal material. I do write about life, so it suits me to blog about my life—even if there are millions of other people who do the very same about their own lives.

Good personal writing is a gift. When it works, a personal writer can express for us what we can’t seem to express for ourselves. As readers, we find ourselves amazed to discover that somehow somebody else seems to know exactly what we think or can relate to just what we went through.

But personal writing can even go beyond that. I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love out loud to my daughter. My book club read it last month and I knew within chapters that my daughter should hear these words that are woven together so well.

Wednesday after school as I was reading to her she caught the emotion in my voice.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

I croaked out, “Nothing—I’m just an empathetic reader.”

I may be an empathetic reader, but it takes a really good writer to pull me in that deep. I’ve never sent e-mail from an Italian Internet café to say goodbye forever to a guy as Liz Gilbert did. However, her words took me to that place and in that moment I might as well have been her.

Her belly-button gazing in Eat, Pray, Love certainly touched me. I don’t promise my words have the power hers do, but I know I’m a lot happier for getting them out of my head and into a journal, blog, or some form of print.

And, if perchance my words do reach someone else, then they are no long just all about me. As David Whyte states in his poem “Loaves and Fishes”: People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.”

Let my words be that bread.

Life is slowing down and smoothing out. That feels so good—and yet, so odd. Some days I can give in to possibility and either be in the moment or look to the future. Back to normal sounds so good.

But this is a new normal and somehow I still have to relearn how to relax again on a more permanent basis. I am so used to running on adrenaline that I have almost forgotten how to operate without it. Sometimes the adrenaline kicks in for no apparent reason and I get what I call the jitters. Even though . . .

there is no crisis. There is no deadline.

And thank God for that!

So I practice calming myself down. I breathe deeply, listen to music, give in to the workout’s rhythm, put things back where they belong, and look for order again. If I can’t find it in my heart and head yet, maybe I can find it in my home and life.

Although it isn’t quite order that I seek, since chaos is somewhat my norm. It’s just I’m looking to experience happy chaos on a more regular basis. No more reacting with flight or fight, but with joy and laughter.

More “ja, ja, ja” (sorry, I can’t resist throwing in Spanish here!) and less taking in breath without remembering to expel the toxins.

So I follow the yoga teacher’s instructions on poses that work on my locked thoracic region, knowing that despite the pain I might feel the day after class, it’s just a sign that my body is letting go and—soon—my mind will follow.

I’m back from hiatus. Just got busy and didn’t take time for my personal writing—which is not a good thing!

My work with the book is finished. On Friday I handed over my comments on the printer’s sample copy—the author can now get ready to order his print run. Woo, hoo!

I’ve been working with him on his project for a few months short of two years. It’s a joy when you can get to know an author and enjoy working with him, as well as enjoy doing the work on his book.

My yoga instructor, Dr. Dennie Dorall, believes in the philosophy of helping people with their professional work, as well as with their physical and emotional health. Thanks to her, I got a call from another one of her students who wanted help formatting his family history book, as well as some editing and coaching throughout the process. We met—and the rest is part of our histories now!

I know this will sound a little bit “out there,” but soon after our first meeting, I had a dream where one of those whose story would be in the book asked me to help get his story out there. I didn’t know but the bare bones of just a few of those stories at that point, so I don’t know why the name “John” stuck out enough for me to remember in a dream—other than that is a really common name in both the family and throughout the English-speaking world.

Since the family’s story spanned 1,000 years, the author only had rudimentary information about many of the earlier family members. He realized that although he would be using the existing facts from documentation, as well as information from family tradition, in order to create true personalities for each person, we would need to fictionalize some dialogue and incidents that could have been typical for a person who lived in a certain time during a certain place.

That process helped me to get pretty close to those featured family members in each of the twenty chapters. As I worked, I found myself calling each chapter by the person’s name, as in “Today I’m going to work on Robert.” I would immerse myself in the history of the time period to try to imagine how life would have been when Robert lived.

Those 1,000 years were a whole lot of history to verify, so sometimes we worked on removing details that would be too easy to get wrong. Our real goal was to create scenes that were accurate enough so they would not distract from the story’s narrative, but would keep the focus on the featured person of each chapter.

Early on I found out that not all of the family oral traditions have been proven by modern genealogical practices. Were the stories created by someone with a good imagination and a desire to increase social standing or were the documents just missing thanks to age?

We may never know that, but the author strove to come up with good reasons why the documentation may have been missing and to imagine how Henry, the known ancestor, could have come to the New World anyway. There is no doubt he existed, as the records are clear that from his early youth he was in the New World—when the New World’s settlement was still quite young also. Somehow he did get to these shores, even if so far the how has not been proven.

Long after I first heard of this family, I now realize that Henry’s father is supposed to be named John. Records are sketchy, but what did happen to his father? What was John’s story? We’ll probably never know, but I hope he’s happy that in the end we didn’t forget the man behind the acknowledged progenitor of ten generations—so far.

Now that the book is part of my history, what will I write on the clean slate of my tomorrows?

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert