You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2009.

All of a sudden, it’s supposed to be ninety degrees out and I am surprised by the date on the calendar. My kids are at school taking finals, ready to finish their junior year on Thursday. Where did this school year go?

The truth is I know the answer to that question. It flew by just trying to get through each day. So we have—thank God for that! Of course it is too easy to think of regrets, instead of focusing on the successes. Some years really are teaching years, when the lessons learned come about the hard way.

There are no do-overs—you just have to take your diploma from the School of Hard Knocks and hope you don’t have to re-enroll at that school for long time to come!

So it’s time to celebrate what went right: the victories, both big and small, and the joys we did find. And, look forward to what comes next . . .

including summer, with its scheduled vacation, summer jobs, more opportunities to relax—and sleep a little more, as well as our hosting a student from Spain again for a month. Jackson and Christiana celebrate their 17th birthdays and me, I celebrate my 47th. Time to tear out the old pages from the calendar and start fresh again.

I’ve planted the flowers, now it’s time to water, feed, and weed—and enjoy. You’ll find me in the porch glider taking time to smell the roses (they always bloom in time for the kids’ birthday) and practicing remembering how to breathe deeply once more.

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Sometimes I wonder how I made it through high school. I’m sure it appears to most people that I did well, but high school wasn’t without its traumas. My traumas just don’t seem to be as big as those my kids face—or maybe everything just looks better from a distance.

I’m not so sure I would have been as successful in today’s high school setting. Oh, I busted my butt to get the grades I got, but as I’ve pointed out to my kids, some people busted their butts just as much and didn’t get nearly as good results. I think high school was more ADD-friendly back then, so a student like me could still excel without feeling like I had to spend all my time in the areas of my weaknesses. As long as I kept running to clear my mind and just did the assigned work, then I was OK.

I know my kids would disagree that having seven classes a day was ADD-friendly—they both feel really frazzled on Wednesday schedules, having shorter classes and having to carry so much more. We didn’t even use backpacks, so I have to think we had fewer things to carry—and I don’t just mean like cell phones, iPods, and water bottles.

What worked for me is that every day was the same. I knew I was always going to have work due every day in certain classes. I didn’t have to spend a lot of brain energy on figuring out where I needed to be. If certain classes were boring to me, I only had to stay awake less than an hour. The teachers knew classes were always the same length so the labs and whatever projects we had fit into the period. And, for me, getting up and walking to the next class gave me that break that helped me to focus.

Part of me thinks that by trying to train our kids to organize and do homework at a younger age when a lot of them aren’t developmentally ready, we’ve given some of them a dose of learned helplessness. What they couldn’t do when they were young might be possible now that they’re older, but all they remember is the failure of not being to follow the system. My kids began to switch classrooms in fourth grade, dividing their time and attention between three teachers and classrooms.

My daughter has found some systems that work for her and flies by the seat of her pants in other areas, mostly succeeding, although I bet she could reduce a little stress and maybe even improve her good results if she had a plan for more of the organization needed as a student. My son, however, remains like a deer in the headlights in front of organizational or administrative tasks, despite direction from me or from some of his really dedicated teachers.

Unfortunately, for kids with organizational challenges, the traditional educational system can make them appear to be the proverbial “dunces in the corner”—even when they possess above average intellectual capabilities. We’ve all heard stories about how Einstein and Edison didn’t fit into their time period’s school systems—I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have had much use for the planners of today’s school systems either!

Some of today’s brightest kids spend too much time in their areas of weakness—and if they aren’t as determined as an Einstein or an Edison, they might start to believe they don’t have strengths. I like what Jonathan Mooney and David Cole have to say in Learning Outside the Lines:

“Unlike high school, middle school, and certainly elementary school, college is truly about self-directed development and learning—ironically much more like preschool.”

Somehow we have to figure out how to keep organizationally-challenged kids sane so they can even get to the college level.

And once you get out into the real world, it’s easier to choose a profession that keeps you working from your strengths. Despite all those people who tell you that not doing things a certain way is “not the real world,” there are many versions of the real world. If we want to pursue health and happiness in our lives, we’ll try to avoid living day-to-day in the areas of our weaknesses.

But for now, my kids are busy trying to pursue health and happiness—and success—while having to use many of their weaknesses. I’m just trying to keep them sane enough so they can get to the next level—and really begin to work from their strengths.

“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” Madeleine L’Engle

Today a college-aged Facebook friend posted a plea for people to fill out a survey in order to provide her information for an assigned paper. Of course, I felt I should help if I could, but I tend to be intrigued by surveys anyway.

She’s an English major, like I was, so I was quickly drawn into her topic: book banning. I know I stand firmly planted on the liberal side of the issue, both as a writer and as a reader, despite the fact I am Christian.

Because I don’t want anyone telling me what I can think, it’s my duty to extend that courtesy to others. That’s just one way I apply the Golden Rule to living my life. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean I have to abstain from sharing my beliefs nor hide when I disagree with the beliefs presented in various works of art.

I’ve mentioned before that I have a liberal arts education. When I attended Wittenberg University, the curriculum required all students to take one religion course in order to earn a degree. I ended up in a class called “Portraits of Jesus” that was taught by a professor named Herbert Wolf. Professor Wolf didn’t teach this course from just one viewpoint, although I would see him on Sunday at the same Lutheran church I attended.

Throughout the course, Dr. Wolf was working hard to get us to come up with our own visions of what Jesus looked like. Of course, we read from the Gospels, but we also read literature and watched movies that were very secular. We were asked to ponder things like how Steinbeck’s Tom Joad could be a Christ figure in the same way as Jesus in “Godspell.”

Thanks to Dr. Wolf and my literature background, I find tales of redemption in various works, regardless of the author’s intent. As the Madeleine L’Engle quote states, it is sometimes possible to find God in the most unlikely of sources.

However, since all my reading is formed by my belief system, sometimes I reject those tales that many see as perfectly acceptable. Don’t worry—I’m always going to review any sort of media through the lens of my faith.

I just don’t want someone else to decide up front what my decision should be. That’s between me and God.

Just wanted to report that I survived my first TV appearance. This morning on “Colorado & Company” (KUSA) I met my goal of not acting like Cindy Brady did when she went on TV during a “The Brady Bunch” episode. I don’t remember much about that particular show, but I know Cindy was supposed to look at a light for focus. Instead she just stared at it, catatonic, the whole time she was on. Every time I saw that episode I wanted to shout, “Cindy, stay away from the light!”

Thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about being drawn to the light. Not only did I get to go on the show with Stacy Voss, the other local contributor to Cup of Comfort for New Mothers, but also we just had to talk with the hosts, Denise Plante and Mark McIntosh. Pretty conversational, but strange to do it in front of cameras, nonetheless. Stacy and I alternated answering questions, so that helped.

Well, I didn’t find out that I’d missed my calling or anything. Just watching the camera people, producer, and the hosts made me nervous thinking about all they have to focus on at the same time.

Which if you think of it is kind of funny—here we were promoting how to deal with motherhood—which is one big juggling act of paying attention to several things at once and just hoping you don’t drop any of the balls. But—I don’t practice my mothering on the camera—and don’t look for me to turn on my new webcam any time soon to show you that! I am not from Generation Overexposed!

On the other hand, I did stretch my writing promotional skills, for about five minutes. One step at a time, you know?

Besides, wouldn’t I have to keep my office clean if I were going to show it on a webcam? Cindy Brady’s stepdad Mike had an Alice to clean his office, but I do not! You’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer for episodes of “As Trina Turns In Her Office Chair”—sorry!

JacksonChristiana11 92I’ve been spending too much time proportionately doing my mothering job and not enough time doing my writing job, but sometimes the little things I do for my work do make a difference. Yesterday, when the phone rang, I could see from caller ID that someone was calling from 9News. It didn’t occur to me that it had anything to do with writing.

Seemingly out of the blue, Dreux DeMack, executive producer of 9KUSA’s “Colorado & Company”, called to ask if I would be able to be on the show on this coming Monday, May 11. Would I?

About six weeks ago I heard Dreux speak at the Colorado Authors’ League luncheon about getting onto television shows, including specific information about getting onto his show. Coincidentally I had brought my copy of Cup of Comfort for New Mothers to share during announcements, so I was able to show him the book as I pitched him why Stacy Voss, another metro Denver author, and I ought to be on his show.

But I didn’t get around to following up with more details, so I was pleasantly surprised when he called yesterday. Dreux asked Stacy and I to come up with about 5-10 questions for the interviewers. Stacy suggested our questions try to support the book’s goal of encouraging new mothers.

Still, what can you say in a few minutes about mothering? What can you say in a few hundred words in an essay? Enough, I guess, although it’s hard to narrow the focus.

Stacy can provide the viewpoint from mothering younger children, but I’m the “veteran” mom with kids about to move on to the next big phase of their lives. Seventeen years ago this Mother’s Day I was living the story I wrote about in Cup of Comfort. That Mother’s Day I spent resting, as I would my remaining mother-to-be weeks, taking care of my body and of those growing within me.

If you asked me what was the most important thing I didn’t know that I learned almost immediately, I’d say it was that people come with a lot of their personalities and gifts, as well as baggage. We live in a time when we think we can have so much control if we are just proactive enough, but we don’t have total control over our kids—and that’s both good and bad.

ChristianaJackson6 9 92 By the end of the first week of raising twins, I could tell how different my kids were from one another. I’m sure as a mother many of my reactions and actions further influenced who my children became, but it wasn’t up to me to mold them from scratch—nor was it possible. From their early years, that knowledge has been a comfort—it’s not all up to me. Of course, there are two sides to that coin, but just knowing that relieves a lot of guilt when things don’t go quite as I had hoped.

Another thing I learned is that we all have our individual comfort levels with the various development stages of our children—just as each child has his or her own comfort level with each stage. What might be an easy phase in our family might be difficult in yours and vice versa. And, if we stick with loving our kids in the difficult times, there will also be easier times down the road. My mother-in-law Pat always says “This too shall pass . . .” whenever we have been struggling and, for the most part, she’s been right.

One of the things that continues to frustrate me is that it’s still so hard for me to focus on both kids at the same time. Instead, my attention has swung from one to another, depending on who needed what at the time. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who does well with splitting my attention between people. I guess I thought that just because I was really good at multitasking, that I’d be really good at sharing myself between my kids. But people aren’t tasks—they just are in their own needs at the moment.

So, no matter how hard I work at this mothering job, if I approach it like a “task” all the time, I will never feel like I am good enough. Despite all the tasks involved with the job, it’s not about what I get done. It’s about providing them with their own tools and, still, in the end, maintaining a relationship with the adults they are about to become.

But, most of all, what I’ve learned is that I can never stop learning since something’s always changing . . . even when the change is that I’m the one facing something new, such as appearing on a TV show.

They won’t be watching the morning of May 11 from 10:00 to 11:00 because they’ll be in school, but I know they’ll be thinking of me—if only to worry just a little a bit about what I might say about them!

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers

“It takes a lot of time to be upset.”

Sherman thought that was a funny statement. But I was serious! This is just this logical person’s view on the chronos of emotions. Just try to quantify how much time being upset takes from your day—even if being upset’s a normal part of human existence.

Let’s say you’re rolling along following your schedule. You’re going to do this at such and such a time, that at another time, etc. You’ve got your eye on the clock, paying homage to chronos as you check things off your list. Then, boom, something happens to bring you out of your plans. And, if whatever occurs does not feel like good news, you can be thrown into kairos—and I don’t mean the pleasant side of kairos.

You may not know what chronos and kairos time are, but you’ve lived them. Chronos is quantifiable time while kairos is more qualitative, such as the times when you lose track of time. When experiences are enjoyable, we’d often rather stay in kairos even if we need to get back to reality and the inevitable marching of the clock’s hands. But when things don’t feel so well—say during childbirth or dental extractions—we’d be pretty happy for time to stop feeling so infinite to us.

In our DBT sessions, we are studying emotion regulation. Now, I might be tempted to think that I will do OK in this section because I consider myself to be a reasonably even-tempered person—except when it concerns my children. Which pretty much means I haven’t really been an even-tempered person for about seventeen years now. And probably won’t ever be again . . .

I looked at the homework for this week’s session and froze. I’m going to guess that the answers that might appear good to the world aren’t going to appear so great to a staff of therapists. The world seems to reward composure and “sucking it up”—yet those aren’t always healthy reactions, depending on the situation, of course.

Yet, my answers are what they are . . . for now. On the checklist I’m supposed to detail how easy it is—or not—to show certain emotions. Gosh, I like to keep things neutral and, a lot of times, outwardly, I succeed. That’s why when we had to draw the face we show to the world and the face we have inside, my worldly face was pretty complacent with a slight smile and a calm brow.

The inner face was neither. Christiana said, “Mom, is that Jekyll and Hyde?” Um, that wasn’t quite the effect I was going for. Then, sadly I realized it was more like that stupid doll my grandparents gave me one Christmas: Cheerful/Tearful. They said it reminded them of me! Full disclosure here: I’m not bipolar, just ADD—and people with ADD tend to be intense and reactive to their environments and others’ actions.

So maybe to avoid the Cheerful/Tearful label, I’ve learned to look neutral to pretty much everyone but those in my family. They know that I can be really happy or really unhappy—and it’s pretty much in response to something that’s going on in my life. I suppose the therapists at DBT would say that by trying to be all Switzerland about things, I run the risk of blowing my top or being really unhappy because I’m not being truthful about how I feel.

Let’s face it, taking time for emotions doesn’t seem like a very useful way to spend the kairos of my life. When will people like me learn to accept the logic that for every minute of chronos spent avoiding the kairos of the messy sides of life, down the road it’s going to take exponentially more chronos to get out of the kairos moments of facing what can never really be buried for good?

I still think it takes too much time to be upset, but maybe it’s the only way to get to the next step—and learn how to both experience and demonstrate the cheerful side within me.

Getting a new computer isn’t just about learning how to use an interface system or transferring old files. In my case, I’m transitioning from using a desktop with a bulky monitor to a laptop and docking system with a slender monitor. These new pieces take up less room—but my bulky monitor served well as a bookend! All of a sudden, I ‘m faced with finding a new, useful place for all my reference books.

I now realize that sounds pretty old school—that means I like to hold onto my references, not just pull them up on a screen. Do you know how often I grab the dictionary versus going to Dictionary.com?

This, however, is an “a-ha” moment. Is it possible I’d be less overwhelmed by stuff if I just gave in to utilizing more electronic devices and/or the resources already on my computer?

No doubt the answer to that is a no-brainer to most. Just a couple weeks ago some of my friends at book club laughed at my use of a Day-Timer. They are only about ten years younger than I am, but the gap felt like a century.

I don’t know if it’s because I have ADD or that I’m both a visual and kinesthetic person or what, but I like having my stuff in my office—I just want it all to find a home!

So, after some focused time putting things away yesterday—my office looks . . . worse. My right-brained style means I spread things out before I figure out where to put them. And heaven help me if I don’t finish the task before taking a break.

Being self-aware isn’t the same thing as using that knowledge to do things differently.

And so, with that thought in my head, I’m going to keep putting away the things that have a home. At the same time, maybe it’s finally time to do something with my knowledge and decide if other things even need a home.

I’m not a very sentimental person—usually. Then why is it I had tears in my eyes at Littleton High School’s Choir Pops Concert? Funny how Christiana always catches me—it seems the “Feeler” in her has to see this “Thinker” (Myers-Briggs terminology) using my emotions to know that I am human after all!

My kids are juniors, so I’m not really in that emotional “my babies are leaving the nest” phase yet, although I’m starting to understand that next year’s not so far away. No, it’s running into other people’s children that I knew from years ago that reminds me of the passage of time. I haven’t seen those kids go through the Wonder Bread progression with my own eyes like I have with my own children.

Last night this girl sang a self-composed number while playing a guitar that was almost bigger than she was. Yet, she sounded so grown up—like someone who could know what it was like to fall in love. I thought, “Impossible.” Then I realized, of course she could. Hadn’t we already dealt with that in our own family?

As she performed, I remembered rushing out on a too snowy morning to attend a breakfast for mothers of twins. Sensible people might have stayed home—but I had five month old twins and was far from sensible. I needed outings—away from my babies, but with people who understood my new life.

The only other person who arrived was a soon-to-be mother who had long waited for her life to change in the big way that only becoming a parent can do. Except her babies didn’t wait long enough to bring about the change—soon she became a mother at only 29 ½ weeks gestation.

I don’t know the agony of those months between our first meeting and when I saw her again, although I spent enough time scrapbooking with her and seeing early pictures to know that I will never really understand what it’s like to have your son and daughter come into this world so tiny.

Last night I saw that tiny three pound baby girl worn on her mother’s chest, oxygen a constant presence. The little girl who insisted on doing many things her own way, just as she insisted on life itself. I saw her walking through play-land tubes while bigger peers had to crawl. I saw her growing strong and intelligent—proving all the statistics wrong.

I missed so much of her Wonder Bread progression, but there she was, full of power and verve. The Girl Who Arrived Too Soon has arrived.

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(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert